running = weight loss?
June 15, 2012 2:16 AM   Subscribe

Previously. Now I'm running 20 miles a week. Now what?

Thanks to you, I'm off medication. I completed C25K in April and now I'm on to 10K. I bought a HRM thinking it would help, but I'm too thick to understand it.
My goal is to lose all the weight I put on during my horrible depression of last year. Please tell me what kind of training is best for this purpose.
I'm confused: should I run really slowly to stay in the fat burning zone? It's kind of counter-intuitive. I also read somewhere that one has to "teach the body to burn fat". How do I do that?
(I'm 32, F, 30 lbs overweight)
posted by buck:fuller to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused: should I run really slowly to stay in the fat burning zone?

The general theory is that you want to deplete or stress your body's glycogen stores so that it favours fat burning. There are several schools of thought: some more controversial than others.

I personally found I lost the most weight when I did a lot of speed sessions (I run 10Ks and halfs generally). This forces the body to burn extra fat as it burns through your glycogen. One focussed speed session a week: either running one of your scheduled runs at race pace or (better) or doing repeats at a running track (run one lap at high intensity, then jog one lap and repeat).

If you favour more long distance runs, you might consider doing a longish run (maybe 5-6 miles if you are doing 20miles per week) before doing a mile or two at a quicker pace.

I also read somewhere that one has to "teach the body to burn fat". How do I do that?

Again, this is controversial, and is a school of thought advocated by proponents of low-carb diets. It basically involves going on long runs without carb loading. The theory is that this will train the body to favour fat metabolism over glycogen. I am/have experimented with it, and while I have had some success: it isn't pretty and i think can be a little demotivating for the novice.

In all honesty, just keep doing what your doing. I lost virtually all of my excess weight by just following basically running plans and sticking with it. All the self-experimentation with more esoteric theories only really augmented what I was already doing.

So Throw in a few pace sessions if you aren't doing so already and the weight loss will come.

Godd luck!
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:39 AM on June 15, 2012

Shorter runs - no more than 20 minute - more often (even twice a day) are what helped me. You get the metabolism tail-off (as your body goes from Expending a Lot of Energy back to base rate) twice instead of once.

Also, look at what you're eating.
posted by notsnot at 3:04 AM on June 15, 2012

The fat burning zone is a myth, or it is as a good way to burn fat. When you run faster a smaller percentage of your energy comes from fat, but you burn more overall calories, so you end up burning more fat. If your goal is fat burning then speed work is your friend, unless you're going to be running many more miles than you are. However, diet is really the most important constituent of a fat loss program. If you are using exercise to lose weight you have to be careful not to increase your calorie consumption due to increased hunger.
posted by OmieWise at 3:10 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Running 30km/week? Well done!

In my limited experience, the best kind of training to teach your body to burn fat is the kind you keep doing year after year. If you keep running a 5-10k every other day your body will slowly reconfigure itself. There might conceivably be a way to speed up the process, but over the medium-long term you're certainly on the right track to a leaner self.

My advice would be to prioritize finding things to love about running over finding a running fad to follow. If it's a chore, eventually motivation will flag. That's particularly dangerous because giving up on running could be a prelude to giving up on other things.

I keep running because when I see a cyclist lazily coasting up ahead I tell myself that I can catch that guy, and I switch my mental soundtrack over to Mission Impossible. All that time I spent figuring out that a 5/4 time signature gives me an optimal breath-to-step ratio on a five minute sprint is about to pay off. Yeah, I motivate my ultimate goal of losing weight by having the proximate goal of playing like a dog chasing cars.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:14 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First off, congrats on the running achievements.

However, don't run to lose weight. You'll see some results, and it has other benefits, but you'll want to change your diet to significantly lose weight. Just look at how far you need to run to burn off a hamburger, and you'll see why diet is the way to go.

That said, you should look at HIIT for your cardio, but seriously, work on your diet - it'll make losing weight easier.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:21 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

First of all, congratulations on your achievement so far.

Weight loss is primarily diet: it's a lot easier/faster to say no to a chocolate bar than to run long enough to burn an equivalent amount of calories. Many people seem to have had great success by logging everything they eat or drink (and I do mean everything) and keeping track of calories using sites like myfitnesspal.

In terms of fat burning and running, my philosophy is that, other than for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), everything else is just tinkering with the edges: the main thing is to run in a way that you enjoy it so that you can keep at it.
posted by aroberge at 4:28 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Twenty miles a week is great, but maybe you need to do more, enough so that you're getting at least 45 minutes of exercise a day. I'm assuming that you run less than that because I walk three miles in 45/50 minutes every day and eat whatever I please. A while ago I was doing yoga a few times a week in addition to the walking and was losing a pound every two or three days, which I really could not afford to do.
posted by mareli at 5:53 AM on June 15, 2012

Nice work! To echo some of the comments, your diet will need to be adjusted if you are running 20 miles/week and not losing weight. I also agree that mixing up work outs and including speed sessions will be helpful. Maybe try running on hiking trails or a track if your only running on pavement and running the same routes all of the time.

The heart rate monitor can be helpful to more accurately track the calories spent during your runs. Otherwise, it's not terribly useful unless you are seriously training or need to watch your heart rate for medical reasons.

One thing I did with my heart rate monitor was wear it for an entire day (5AM-5AM). It was a bit strange, but it gave me a good idea of my calories spent for a normal work day (office job) without strenuous exercise (~2240 C at 6'0" and 165lbs.). From there, I looked at what I was eating and could calculate if I over or under consumed. I saw the most weight loss when I was exercising regularly while eating smaller portions of whole foods, which were made up of less meat and more vegetables.
posted by bwilms at 6:54 AM on June 15, 2012

Best answer: Also echoing what others are telling you... First, congrats!! For me, running is the best way to get healthy and improve emotional well-being. Do whatever it takes to continue enjoying it.

Second, true, to get good weight loss results you probably have to be multi-pronged: diet, weight training, and speed work running.
* For diet, try changing up your macro-nutrient balance (e.g. fewer carbs, more protein, more fat works for me, without necessarily changing total calorie intake).
* For weight training, pick up some weights once a week for 5 Minutes to get yourself started, and see the quick changes that can happen.
* For running, speed work really is the key to satisfying weight loss for my body, and the bonus is I can be much more efficient with my exercise time. The latest thinking is the 10 20 30 workout where you do several repeats of sprint for 10 seconds, medium for 20, slow for 30. It's easy to do this ad hoc on the street (1/4 of a block fast, 1/2 block medium, one block jogging). Read the link--though the study was small, one of the benefits was improved mental health.
posted by gubenuj at 7:19 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From the variety of answers that you're seeing here, I think it should be clear to you that it's not really clear to anyone what sorts of exercises are any better or worse for weight loss.

If you're feeling fine with the amount of exercise you're doing, it could be helpful to do more. At 20 miles a week you are doing pretty great, so the option other than running farther is to work to do those runs faster. Training to run faster can be more than just running a lot til your faster -- speed programs (fartleks, ramping up your pace towards the middle of your run, other speed exercises) can be quite helpful. A heart rate monitor can provide helpful to push your limits the right amount, and not too far, but if you're in tune with your body and can tell when to back off and when to push harder it won't be necessary for a weight loss goal.

As others said, diet has a big impact on weight loss, and changing your exercise program without at least controlling your food to make sure you don't increase how much you eat won't necessarily give you any weight loss.
posted by garlic at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

if you want to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you take in. period. it doesn't matter how you do it, just as long as you as you are operating on a calorie deficit.
posted by violetk at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2012

Weight loss comes more in the kitchen than in workouts, unless you work out like a fiend. That being said, there's no way that running isn't helping your weight loss efforts. Many have found that shorter interval type workouts boost their metabolism more, and recent studies have been backing those up.
posted by hepta at 11:41 AM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers. One thing I forgot to ask originally: is it wrong to go out and work out every day? I've been running every other day, but during the day off I'm usually crabby and would love to go, but somehow I don't do it because all the programs I've followed say to rest every other day. I wonder how necessary is that rest.
I find it hard to diet but I'm making an effort, esp. in the pudding-cookie-cake-chocolate department.
Thanks again to all.
posted by buck:fuller at 12:45 PM on June 15, 2012

Personally, I mostly ignore that concept that it might be bad to work out every day. For me, not going every day makes me lose momentum and determination, and since working out is crucial for my mental health even going out for 15 minutes is better than zero minutes. Just listen to your body. If your joints or muscles hurt too much, then take a day off.
posted by gubenuj at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2012

If you are working out hard enough to get sore, then you do need to take a break -- you shouldn't work out so often that you're working out sore muscles. However, that doesn't mean you can't work out everyday, just have to plan accordingly. I try to run every other day, and do some circuit training weight lifting on the alternate days.
posted by garlic at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2012

First of all, congrats on your success!

is it wrong to go out and work out every day?

It depend on the intensity of the work out.

In theory, you shouldn't work out everyday because exercise actually does not make you fit, it's the rest after that follows the exercise that makes you fit. Jonathan Savage, who's an ultra-runner, wrote a good article on that topic.

Personally, I think it would be ok to run on the "rest" day as long as you are doing very light work out. I usually go lift light weight on my "rest" day. Whatever you do, make sure to dedicate at least a day every week for rest.
posted by Carius at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2012

Best answer: The notion that you shouldn't run every day is ridiculous. It's just fine, as long as you build in some rest. It's possible to overtrain and get injured, but ifnyou pay attention to how you feel you should fine. Most serious running programs call for one, or at most two days off per week. That's for programs with 50-150 miles of running. Less running requires less rest.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 PM on June 15, 2012

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