Running for weight loss? Prepare to be patient

Davis added that a one-mile run, which takes a new runner 10 minutes, does little for weight loss or cardiovascular health, though it’s a positive start.

“In order to get full health benefits, you need at least 30 minutes each time,” he said.

Longer, slower runs

Statistics from the Weight Loss Control Registry, a research group that studies people who have successfully lost weight and maintained their weight loss, point to the need to consistently burn 2,800 calories through exercise each week in order to successfully lose weight. Rather than fast, exhausting runs, weight loss at this level requires longer, slower runs — about 25 to 30 minutes — spaced three or four times throughout the week.

In other words, a longer run at a slower pace will burn more calories than a short run at a faster pace.

Rate of weight loss declines

Starting weight also plays a substantial role in how many calories are burned during a run, according to research from Elizabeth Sadler of Vanderbilt University. For example, a 220-pound man who goes for a two-mile run will burn about 150 calories, while a 120-pound woman will only burn 82.

In order to lose a pound, the body needs to burn about 3,500 calories. A 180-pound person running for five miles each day will lose around five pounds per month. However, as runners lose weight, they begin to burn fewer calories per mile and weight loss begins to stabilize.

Put simply, it begins to take more time to lose more weight.

“The biggest problem for new runners is that you can’t just wake up and do it,” said David Patt, chief executive officer of the Chicago Area Runner’s Association. “It takes time and training like anything else, but people don’t want it to take forever.”

And Patt should know. He lost 60 pounds over the course of three years when he took up running and began to change his lifestyle.

“You eat differently when you start running,” he explained. “Your body doesn’t crave the same foods you ate before. It’s a process and your body gets used to it, but there is no magic pill.”

Highway 22 – the Cowboy Trail – is a lovely drive through ranching country, interesting rock formations and rugged scenery.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

“Now this is what Canada is supposed to look like,” the young German woman seated behind me said to her friend.

After almost three hours on a bus bound for Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, we had left the big-city qualities of the GTA behind. The view out the window was now small towns, farmers’ fields, livestock and lush bits of woods.

I swivelled around and, in a friendly way, asked the visitor from Munich what exactly she meant by her comment. What had she expected from Canada? “Big wide open spaces. Lots of green. More natural.” All the things she hadn’t seen during her time in Toronto, basically.

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Ontario’s Lion’s Head Provincial Park offers spectacular views of Georgian Bay.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

I was headed up to Lion’s Head Provincial Park in Georgian Bay in search of the same. It was a fair chunk of time to spend on a bus – especially since I was coming back the same day after just a few hours of hiking – but worth it, I decided. Because here is my completely unscientific theory, developed over decades of travelling at home and abroad: Three hours by car is the perfect length of time for a quick escape that actually feels like one. It’s not so long that the journey is daunting, but it takes you far enough away that you’re removed from your everyday surroundings and experiences. And if you’re short on time and need to squeeze everything into a single day, you can.

If I drive two hours in any direction from Toronto, I’m still in Southern Ontario. It all feels familiar, thanks to years of school trips and weekend jaunts. But after three hours, I’m on the Bruce Peninsula. And even though it’s still technically Southern Ontario, it doesn’t feel like it, as my new European friend can attest.

Clean air flows through the forests of Lion’s Head.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

Lion’s Head delivered as I expected. The trails – made rocky by the Niagara Escarpment – were challenging in parts but still manageable. Clean air flowed through the forest, past the pines and birch trees. The views were absolutely spectacular. Eating my lunch on the namesake promontory, I watched kayakers paddle along the shore to tucked away beaches. They glided over Georgian Bay – clear and blue and in some parts even that particular turquoise associated with much more tropical destinations. For a split second I forgot where I was, thinking I was staring out over the Atlantic Ocean. I was transported.

The turquoise waters of Georgian Bay evoke far more tropical destinations.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

The three-hour rule works in most places. Head south from Montreal and you could end up in the dramatic landscapes of Vermont’s White Mountain National Forest. From Halifax, you could end up in Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton or Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick. (If you think all the Atlantic provinces are the same, you haven’t explored them properly.)

One of my favourite examples: If you drive down from Calgary, as I did late this spring, you will end up at Waterton Lakes National Park. This mountainous beauty is practically a hidden gem when compared with Alberta’s better-known parks; while Banff and Jasper brought in, respectively, 4,181,854 and 2,425,878 visitors last season, only 568,807 people ventured to Waterton. It’s so off the radar that even a friend of mine from Calgary hadn’t heard of it.

You can get to the park in less than three hours, but better to lengthen the journey by taking the scenic route – Highway 22 – aka the Cowboy Trail. It’s a lovely drive through ranching country, interesting rock formations and rugged scenery. As you approach Waterton, big peaks appear to rise out of nowhere: Here, the Rocky Mountains meet the prairies, with no foothills in between.

The Prince of Wales hotel in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

Once inside, Waterton Lake itself immediately commands attention. In the sun it sparkles; when the low early morning clouds roll in, it impresses with moodiness. Take a boat ride and you’ll pass into Montana’s Glacier National Park in the United States (no need to bring your passport). Together, the two parks form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, created in 1932 and the first of its kind in the world. Keep an eye out for the 49th parallel – yes, it’s visible! It’s not a fence but a clear-edged swath of land cut through the forest. Pretty neat, right? And definitely not something you see every day.

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To take in the park from above, tackle the Crypt Lake hike, a definite challenge (allow a minimum of six hours) that was named one of the world’s “most thrilling” trails by National Geographic. The adventure begins at the boat-accessed trailhead, then continues for 17 kilometres – including almost 20 metres through a mountain tunnel. Shorter hikes abound, although some trails are still closed due to the 2018 forest fires that came right to the edge of town. On the upside, as the locals pointed out, on some of the routes that are open, the views are better than ever.

What most sets Waterton apart from its more famous counterparts though is the genuine small-town vibe. Population: 105. Everyone here truly does know each other – and you’ll find bios of most of the families in the visitor’s guide. You can order a pizza with bison and Saskatoon berries at 49 North Pizza, owned by the Kretz/Robinson family, or get outfitted at the Tamarack outdoor store, which has belonged to the Bakers for six generations. Dine at the Wieners of Waterton (depending on just how immature your sense of humour is, you may be sorely tempted to buy a hat) owned by the Lows.

You won’t find any chain restaurants here beyond a Subway and a BeaverTails: no Chili’s or Old Spaghetti Factory or Tony Roma’s. That fact alone is enough to make you feel like you’ve left the “real world” behind.

One of my other travel theories is that an adventurous attitude comes more easily when in a new place, because we’re already out of our comfort zone. Also, you might never have a chance to try that zipline or eat that dish or jump off that cliff again. It’s now or never.

A ride with Alpine Stables takes travellers up wildflower-covered hillsides.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

So it was that I – a complete horseback newbie – saddled up with Alpine Stables (owned by the Barrus/Watson family) for a ride through dense, deer-filled forests and up hillsides covered in purple wildflowers. Josh Watson (fifth generation) put me instantly at ease. It probably did not hurt he looked like a cowboy straight out of central casting.

“Do you wear that jacket to look good in the tourists’ photos?” I asked, referring to his oil-skin duster coat.

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“No,” he replied with a laugh. “I wear it because it’s practical.” In other words: He’s a man who knows what he’s doing.

The ride culminated on a rise with a spectacular view of the park. Josh obliging took pictures of me against the stunning backdrop as I tried to keep my horse from bolting off. I almost felt like a proper cowgirl. Had I been wearing a Stetson, I might have fully fooled myself.

Still, even a partial cowgirl transformation is pretty good for a mere three-hour drive.

The writer’s Alberta travels were subsidized by Travel Alberta. It did not review or approve this article.

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How Far Do You Have to Go to Find Happiness?

In Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, the author dedicates one of his final chapters to the issue of happiness. If the past five centuries have produced a remarkable surge in innovation, economic growth, cultural advancement, health and wealth of humankind, are we as a species happier than we were in earlier times? While it may seem, on the surface, that the luxury of a roof over one’s head, access to medicine, food, a family unit, gainful employment, minimal to no worry about getting eaten by an animal or killed by an angry neighboring tribe should clearly make us a happier bunch than our ancestors, this may not be so simple.

While one definition of happiness could be ‘subjective well-being,’ how can this be accurately measured? Psychologists and biologists have studied this very question, using interviews to assess the correlation of happiness to financial situations, marital status, social status, and health status. Surprisingly, while there is some correlation with wealth, being married, living in a democracy as opposed to a dictatorship, and being healthy, with being subjectively happy, minor improvements in any of these parameters does not lead to higher degrees of happiness. What’s more, happiness is more readily noted when one’s situation is tolerable, not necessarily phenomenal. A farmer in today’s world may be surrounded by automated farming technology, computer-generated lists of buyers and distributors, and large-scale shippers of goods to streamline bulk sales, while a 17th century farmer may have had to work the farm manually, carry the goods to market, unload these goods, and sell them himself, the latter may have been just as happy as the current day farmer. A physician of today may have access to lasers, robots, electronic medical records, fine-cut radiologic imaging and medicines which did not exist several centuries ago, yet the physician of the 16th century may have been happy spending priceless time with patients, pondering pathologies, and trying new techniques without the burden of current-day restrictions and oversights.

I recently traveled to a mountain community in the Andes, which brought to light the question of happiness. Indeed, it felt as if this were a society from another time. The simplicity of life at 15,000 feet was astounding. The children played frivolously as children are wont to do, but unlike children of today’s more modern societies, there were no electronics, no battery-operated toys, no manicured fields of artificial turf, and no adults watching their every move. They played stick ball, soccer, tag, and hide-and-seek. They were happy. Adults were working, cooking, talking with one another, and occasionally playing with the children. They were happy. In these small villages, to say the resources were limited is an understatement. Small, rudimentary homes with dirt floors, windows without panes, and many without running water speckled the mountain. A small school house for all ages, community farms, community kitchens, and visiting doctors were the norm. As a city-dwelling person of this millennium, one could flippantly say that these folks had nothing. On the contrary, they needed nothing, but had everything they needed. Families were large and tight-knit, villages worked as a community to build homes, schools, and farms. The food of the farm was for all. If a nearby village was in need, the neighbors would help. It was not communism, but there was a sense of community rarely seen in modern society.

Some of these Andean villagers go to the nearby city around the Christmas holidays to sell their wares. The city dwellers see them as beggars, and give them money, oftentimes oblivious to the fact that they are not begging; they are selling. They come dressed in simple clothes, have rough, rosy cheeks, and are not as coiffed as the city set, so many assume they are in need. Some of the villagers find this phenomenon not only interesting, but enticing–”I go to the city, and they give me money.” Some end up staying in the city after the holidays, as the notion of receiving money without working is new and tempting–they unfortunately end up as they are imagined to be–beggars. Many become hungry, homeless, and most definitely unhappy.

While individual happiness is, indeed, individual, one’s life situation may look one way from the outside, but, as with many facades, things are not always as they seem.

What really matters is subjective well-being, the definition of which is quite subjective.

You Don’t Have to Run Very Far to Reap the Benefits of Running

Corbis Images

If you’ve ever felt embarrassed about your morning mile as you scroll through friends’ marathon medals and Ironman training on Instagram, take heart-you may actually be doing the best thing for your body. Running just six miles a week delivers more health benefits and minimizes the risks that come with longer sessions, according to a new meta-analysis in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. (Surprised? Then you should definitely read 8 Common Running Myths, Busted!)

Research done by some of the world’s most foremost cardiologists, exercise physiologists, and epidemiologists looked at dozens of exercise studies spanning the past 30 years. Combing through data from hundreds of thousands of all types of runners, researchers discovered that jogging or running a few miles a couple of times a week helped manage weight, lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar, and lower the risk of some cancers, respiratory disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Even better, it lowered the runners’ risk of dying from any cause and extended their lives an estimated three to six years-all while lessening their risk for overuse injuries as they aged.

That’s a lot of return for a pretty small investment, said lead author Chip Lavie, M.D., said in a video released with the study. And all of those health benefits of running come with few of the costs that people often associate with the sport. Contrary to popular belief, running did not seem to damage bones or joints and actually lowered the risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement surgery, Lavie added. (Speaking of acges and pains, check out these 5 Beginner Running Injuries (and How to Avoid Each).)

Plus those who ran less than six miles per week-only running one to two times per week-and less than 52 minutes per week-well less than the federal activity guidelines for exercise-got the maximal benefits, says Lavie. Any time spent pounding the pavement more than this didn’t result in any increased health benefits. And for the group that ran the most, their health actually declined. Runners who ran more than 20 miles a week did show better cardiovascular fitness but paradoxically had a slightly increased risk of injury, heart dysfunction, and death-a condition the study authors termed “cardiotoxicity.”

“This certainly suggests that more is not better,” Lavie said, adding that they’re not trying to scare people who run longer distances or compete in events like a marathon as the risk of serious consequences is small, but rather that these potential risks may be something they want to discuss with their doctors. “Clearly, if one is exercising at a high level it isn’t for health because the maximum health benefits occur at very low doses,” he said.

But for the majority of runners, the study is very encouraging. The takeaway message is clear: Don’t be discouraged if you can “only” run a mile or if you’re “just” a jogger; you’re doing great things for your body with every step you take.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen

Why Too Much Running Is Bad for Your Health

Kate Gosselin feels best when she runs 10 miles every other day, according to Us Weekly. But what the 37-year-old mother of eight doesn’t know is that when it comes to vigorous exercise, more isn’t always better. Turns out, people who work out too hard for too long may be less healthy than sedentary people, and are more likely to die than moderate exercisers, according to an editorial recently published in the British journal Heart.

The editorial authors reviewed decades’ worth of research on the effects of endurance athletics. They found numerous studies that showed that moderate exercise was good, but excessive exercise was damaging. For instance, in one German study published in European Heart Journal, researchers compared the hearts of 108 chronic marathoners and sedentary people in a control group. Surprisingly, the runners had more coronary plaque buildup, a risk factor for heart disease.

More: How Does Exercise Affect Your Heart?

In another observational study, researchers tracked over 52,000 people for 30 years. Overall, runners had a 19 percent lower death risk than non-runners. However, the health benefits of exercise seemed to diminish among people who ran more than 20 miles a week, more than six days a week, or faster than eight miles an hour. The sweet spot appears to be five to 19 miles per week at a pace of six to seven miles per hour, spread throughout three or four sessions per week. Runners who followed these guidelines reaped the greatest health benefits: their risk of death dropped by 25 percent, according to results published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (Are you ready to start running, or start again after a long layoff? Use our 4-Week Beginner Running Plan.)

Forget about chafing and sore muscles: excessive exercise can cause even more serious wear and tear on your body. During a strenuous workout, your body works hard to burn sugar and fat for fuel. And just like burning wood in a fire, this creates smoke. The “smoke” that billows through your system is actually free radicals that can bind with cholesterol to create plaque buildup in your arteries, and damage your cells in a process known as oxidative stress. (Eating antioxidant-rich foods like berries can help you recover from hard workouts. That’s why they made our list of The 10 Best Fitness Foods.)

More: Recovery Foods That Ease Muscle Soreness

“Your body is designed to deal with oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour,” says cardiologist James O’Keefe, MD, Director of Preventative Cardiology at the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, and author of the Heart editorial. “But prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems.”

However, O’Keefe insists that this is no excuse to trash your running shoes and take to the couch. “Exercise may be the most important component of a healthy lifestyle, but like any powerful drug you’ve got to get the dose right,” he says. It’s true: exercise–in moderation–can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, obesity, and premature aging. Regular workouts can also promote muscular health, skeletal health, and boost your mood. Overdo it, though, and many of these health benefits practically vanish.

More: 6 Benefits of Running

An important abstract presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine attracted a lot of attention because it added fuel to the “excessive endurance exercise” hypothesis that was gathering steam at that time. Now the paper has appeared in its full-text, peer-reviewed form in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and it’s, well, quite different.

The new paper is receiving wide coverage and being heralded as a landmark study on the benefits of running. It concludes: “Running, even 5-10 minutes a day, at slow speeds, even slower than 6 miles per hour , is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.”

In other words, it takes only about 4 to 5 miles a week of running at 11:00 to 12:00 minutes-per-mile pace to gain considerable benefit. The authors state: “This study may motivate healthy but sedentary individuals to begin and continue running.”

The paper places the reduced risks for runners at 30 percent for all-cause mortality and 45 percent for cardiovascular mortality. A sub-group of “persistent runners” who maintained their running programs for an average of 5.9 years enjoyed even greater reductions in mortality risks. As with similar reports, women appear to accrue substantially more benefit than men.

The analysis is based on more than 55,000 adults (average age: 44) who were enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. The mortality risks were calculated from an average 15 years of follow-up on the subjects. The key comparison was non-runners vs. runners of different speeds and weekly running mileage and frequencies.

When the same basic data was presented in abstract form two years ago, the authors concluded: “Running distances of .1 to 19.9 miles a week, speeds of 6 to 7 miles per hour, or frequencies of 2 to 5 days/week were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, whereas higher mileage, faster paces, and more frequent running were not associated with better survival.” In other words, mortality rates increased if runners ran more than 20 miles a week, faster than 8:30 pace, or more than 5 days a week, the researchers claimed at the time.

The new paper presents glimpses of this data in its Figure 2, but makes only one mention of increased risks with more running. “However, mortality benefits were slightly less at the highest quintile of weekly running time, greater than 175 minutes a week.”

Lead author Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, says that runners who run less than an hour per week gain the same mortality benefits as those who run more than three hours a week.

“Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running,” Lee said in a press release accompanying the research. “Running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercise since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in 5 to 10 minutes compared to 15 to 20 minutes of moderate intensity activity.”

Most of the subjects enrolled in the study were non-runners. A sub-analysis of 20,000+ subjects who received two medical evaluations revealed the following: 65 percent were non-runners at the time of both exams, 14 percent stopped running, 8 percent started running, and 13 percent were running at the time of both exams.

The 13 percent were the ones who had the greatest reduction in mortality rates.

“The findings of this study have huge public health implications,” Michael Joyner, M.D., an endurance expert at the Mayo Clinic, told Runner’s World Newswire. “The too-much exercise story, if it even exists, is about rare events in a rare group of people, and is not important from a public-health perspective. The shift in the focus of this study has led to an important finding with big-time implications.”

In 30 minutes, you can watch an episode of Broad City, enjoy a meditation session, or indulge in a quickie facial. Turns out, that’s also the amount of time it takes to log an effective run.

“There’s a huge benefit to the 30-minute run,” says Mary Johnson, a 3:06 marathoner, coach and founder of Lift, Run, Perform, and USATF Level 1 certified trainer. “Running for 30 minutes gives you a considerable amount of benefits, including making your body more efficient, increasing blood flow to help with active recovery, and developing your heart and lungs. You get a lot of bang for your buck in 30 minutes.”

“So many runners ask me how many miles they should run. But it’s not about miles—it’s about minutes.” —Mary Johnson

But when it comes to the effectiveness of your workout, there’s really no “run size fits all” solution. Instead, determining how long your run should be comes down to your goals and what you’re hoping to gain from your time on the road, treadmill, track, or trails.

“So many runners ask me how many miles they should run,” says Johnson. “But it’s not about miles—it’s about minutes. There’s no set number of miles you should run every day. It’s about minutes and time on your feet, which is so much more important, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner training for a marathon.”

So, how do you figure out your magic number? Keep reading for the running coach’s recs for every situation—whether you’re a newbie or a competitive racer.

New runners should start slow and gradually increase their distance

Even if you’re a regular on the Pilates Reformer or you cozy up to the barre more than you hit happy hour, running is a different beast—and it can beat up your body in a totally new way. So Johnson says it’s crucial to start slowly to avoid injury. “If you have a difficult time running to the end of your driveway, that’s where you start,” she says. “Start with what you can do, and then pick an achievable goal.”

To get comfortable spending more time on your feet, Johnson suggests employing a walk-run strategy. “Do three minutes of running followed by a minute of walking, and repeat that for 20 to 25 minutes,” she says.

Make sure to get in a good warm-up before pounding the pavement. These stretches for runners are a great place to start (and finish). And adding these yoga poses for runners into your fitness routine is a good idea as well as they can help speed recovery. The first mile tends to be the toughest to get through, whether you’re a beginner or veteran. Having a killer playlist can help you power through in stride, too.

Runners who want to build endurance must up their mileage

Whether you’ve signed up for a half-marathon or you just want to be able to hang with your friends for weekend runs, the key is to spend more time on your feet. “If you’re only running three times per week, consider adding a fourth day to your routine,” says Johnson. “Just be mindful about not overloading your system, and increase your mileage gradually.”

So if you’re running for 20 minutes three days per week, bump that up to 25 minutes three days a week, or add a fourth 20-minute run to your schedule. “This is a good way to add a bit more stress and time to your body, and to increase your endurance over time,” Johnson says.

Even if you’re an experienced runner, you want to be gradual about it so that you don’t overtax your system. “For example, if I’m pretty comfortable running 50–53 miles per week, then I’ll want to start getting into 55–58 for 3 or so weeks before I cross into the 60-plus miles-per-week zone,” she says. “The adjustment period is crucial, and you’re much more likely to successfully adapt to bigger mileage if your body has progressively and consistently built into that mileage.”

If you’re training for a marathon, the quality of your run matters more than the distance

Just like every body is different, every marathon training plan is unique. The most important thing when you’re training for a 26.2-mile race, Johnson says, is cumulative fatigue, the idea that you’re incrementally more tired with every run you log and that the effect of all your physical exertion is carried with you over the course of your training.

And while many popular training plans have runners peaking with a 20- or 22-mile long run, Johnson says that may not be necessary—and you could be better off adding easy miles throughout the week. “People are too risky and tend to run too long, in my opinion,” Johnson says. “I like to pad the week with easy miles around quality efforts, which are usually speed and longer runs.”

If you’re going for your first marathon and aren’t concerned about your pace, Johnson says to try and keep your long run to no more than 30 percent of your weekly mileage. (So for many runners, that means peaking around 16–18 miles for a long run.) “Going above that can put you at greater risk for injury and, quite frankly, can make you feel like crap,” she says. “It’s important to stay safe so you can make it to that start line.”

If you want to run in order to improve your physical or mental health

“Honestly, if your goal is strictly weight loss, running probably isn’t your best bet,” says Johnson. “Instead, I would recommend a combination of running and weight training, which will be much more effective in reaching your weight-loss goals.”

A strength-training regimen that includes exercises like squats, lunges, and rows—“Ones that recruit the most number of muscles at a time,” she says—will amp up your calorie burn.

And if you’re hoping that a runner’s high will help boost your mood and reduce stress, science is on your side for this one: Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to help de-stress is to break a sweat. To help ward off stress and depression, researchers suggest exercising for 45–60 minutes three to five times per week, and aiming to reach 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Don’t have an hour to spare? “Just doing something is better than nothing,” Johnson says. “If you only have 15 minutes, get out for 15 minutes. You’ll probably feel better afterward.” Coupled with some gut-healthy vitamin D from the sun’s rays, a quick outdoor jaunt could be the ultimate heart-pounding daily pick-me-up. Race you down to the sidewalk?

Originally published on May 24, 2017; updated on September 13, 2019

For more on-the-road support, we’ve rounded up the 5 absolute best running apps and an expert’s take on the gear that you actually need.

Three months ago I made the decision to see what would happen if I ran four times a week, these are my results.

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  • Three months ago I made the decision to see what would happen if I ran four times a week.

    I’ve read articles about people who did Yoga everyday, did a plank everyday, gave up alcohol for a month, or did 10 minutes of strength training everyday and I once tried Intermittent Fasting for a month, so I was curious what consistency with my running could do for me. While I’ve been a runner for a very long time (17 years), I have never really ran with any consistency. Some weeks I would run only once, other weeks only twice, some three times, and VERY RARELY four times in a week. Occasionally I would “train” for races, but again, I wasn’t really consistent with my training. I’ve always had this notion that running more often would lead to injury, so I just ran whenever I felt like it, and never really pushed my boundaries.

    That said, the idea of streaking always appealed to me. Now I don’t mean the running naked kind of streaking, I mean the running every single day for months on end kind of streaking. However my family and work life has never been conducive to that kind of dedication. When I reviewed my family and work obligations I realised that running four times a week was doable.

    For the past three months I ran four times a week, this is what happened:

    I Felt Better Than I Had in Years
    The first week it was really hard to motivate myself to run the four times because every run sucked. Even though running felt hard and uncomfortable, I always felt happier after I ran, perhaps it was relief that I was finished? After a week I decided to give myself permission to run slower, walk when I needed to, and not pay attention to my GPS, pace etc. The only thing that mattered was that I got out there and ran four times every week. Even though I felt happy that first week, I felt WAY happier the next few weeks when I was running at more comfortable paces. That happy feeling lasted longer because I was also able to enjoy my runs. I even began to *gasp* even look forward to running! My happiness spread to many other parts of my life. I feel better now than I have in years!


    I Lost Weight
    While I admit that I was really hoping this would happen, I was very surprised by how fast it happened and how much I lost. The first week I lost 1 pound. The second week I lost another pound. Three months later I’m down 12 pounds! I’ve averaged 1 pound of weight loss every week.

    While I would have liked to have lost more weight faster, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there is evidence that shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or “program”. It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits. Running four times a week is is a lifestyle habit that I really want to keep.

    I Lost Body Fat
    Losing weight is a nice benefit of running four times a week, but changing my body composition is an even nicer part. I have a Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale scale that measures my weight and body fat percentage. Although I was losing weight, it was nice to see that the weight that was being lost was fat, not fat and muscle. The fat really started coming off at first, but now three months later it’s coming off slower, but is still coming off.

    I Slept Better
    Anxiety is my middle name. I am the type of person to lay awake for hours worrying about work, etc. But interestingly, when I began running nearly every day of the week I found myself completely exhausted by the time bed time rolled around. At first I could barely stay awake until bed time! Staying “up” until 10 pm is easier now, but I still fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Work stress is definitely no match for running consistently! I don’t stay awake worrying about tomorrow anymore, I can’t, I’m way too tired. I also sleep more deeply. Waking up at 5:20 am to run again hasn’t been a problem, I’m waking up rested and ready to run again!

    I Got Faster
    Now this one is probably a no-brainer, the more you do something, the better you get at it, right? What I wasn’t expecting was how much faster I got after only three months of running four times a week. Running sucked at first because when I ran the pace that I felt I should be able to run, my heart rate was in the high 160’s – every run was a tempo run. I slowed my running down to run at a heart rate of 140-150 bpm. Over the weeks my pace has improved from an average pace of 6:44/km (10:50/mile) to 5:46/km (9:29/mile). I now run over a minute faster/mile at the same heart rate!

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    That one decision to try running more consistently has been a game changer for me. Last week I added in a fifth run (speedwork) into my schedule, and this week I’m on track to run five times again (I did some speedwork this morning faster than last week). I’m surprised by the changes because at *cough* 42 I thought that the loss of speed, the weight I gained and the changes to my body composition was a normal part of aging. It appears that they are not. I’m starting to re-evaluate my future running goals… Perhaps a sub-50 minute 10k is within my grasp? Maybe I can improve my half marathon PB (1:50:40) and run a sub-1:50 half? Maybe at 45 I *CAN* qualify for Boston, wouldn’t that be something?!? I know I’ve only been running consistently for a few months but I’m willing to go for another three months of consistency to see where it gets me, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Join the conversation:

    Have you ever tried streaking? What happened?

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    How to Lose Weight Running: Essential Guide to Running for Weight Loss

    A Hard Truth About Being Overweight

    First of all, a hard truth: if you are overweight it means you are eating too much. Now, mind my words. I didn’t say you are eating a lot, I simply said you are eating too much.

    Let’s start from the beginning.

    Food is our source of energy; it is the fuel that allows us to perform every task: from basic ones such as breathing, pumping the blood around the body and walking around to complex ones such as carrying the TV up the stairs or running when you’re late for the bus.

    Our bodies are efficient machines. We come from a time when food was scarce and reducing waste was key to survival.

    Fat is the way your body stores extra energy. When you eat more than what your body needs, your brain doesn’t go “oh well, this is extra, I don’t need it – let’s get rid of it”. What your brain thinks is “Fantastic! Extra energy! Let me store this in case tomorrow you won’t be able to hunt a bison down so we can use this energy instead”.

    Your body then proceeds to process that extra food and transform it into fat, which then gets stored under your skin a bit all around your body: your gut, (man) boobs, bum, legs and face.

    You see, your brain doesn’t see fat as a bad thing. It sees it as a fantastic way to ensure survival in case you won’t be able to find food in the future.

    The Good News for Weight Loss

    The good news is: the reverse process also applies and it’s also very efficient: if you don’t introduce enough fuel (energy/food), your body will promptly go and take it from its fat reserves.

    It is good news because there is no way around it: follow this simple principle and you cannot NOT lose weight.

    Step 1: Understand The Caloric Deficit

    We keep talking about energy and fuel because it’s an easy way to picture it. In science, this has a name which is CALORIE. A calorie is a unit of measure of energy. So you can replace everything you read as “fuel” in the paragraphs above with “calorie” and it will still be exact.

    And why is this important? Because we can calculate it and plan our weight loss around it !

    A Caloric Deficit represents the amount of calories that your body doesn’t get through food and has to go and find in its fat storage… (almost) literally burning it.

    It’s actually very easy: eat less calories than the calories you burn and you will shed fat away.

    Step 2: Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate

    The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is simply the amount energy (calories) you burn each day at rest. Even when you think you aren’t doing anything, you are using energy to breathe, move around, keep your muscles active.

    The BMR varies by individual and depends on a lot of factors such as gender, height, weight, body composition (fat vs. muscle)…

    There are many formulas to calculate your BMR and you can find a good calculator here:

    Let’s use me as an example. I am a 34 year old male, 6.2” for 185 lbs weight. My BMR is 1927 calories per day.

    That means that if I do nothing all day and I eat 1927 calories, I will neither gain or lose weight. But we do indeed do something every day. Just walking around and moving will put me more more or less at 2,200 calories (use the link above to calculate your values!).

    So if I want to lose weight, I have two choices:

    1. Eat less THAN 2,200 calories
    2. Be more active and consume MORE than 2,200 calories

    Step 3: Use Running to Increase Your Caloric Deficit

    Running is a calorie-consuming activity. When you run you contract and release many muscles – in the legs, feet, arms… your heart rate goes up to keep feeding oxygen and nutrients (through the blood) to the muscles.

    Do you remember the caloric deficit? By running you increase the calories you burn during the day. This is a ballpark figure, but it’s estimated that running 1 mile burns 150 calories (it’s a very average value and depends on many factors including your weight, running efficiency…).

    So if I run 3 miles a day I will burn an extra 450 calories each day. It means if I keep eating the same I will lose weight!

    How much weight? It is calculated that 1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. 1,800 calories a week (running 3 miles a day 4 days a week) means half a pound of fat per week. This if you eat to your daily caloric need. Chances are, if you are overweight, you eat more than that already.

    Is it less than you were hoping? Don’t worry, you can lose more.

    Step 4: Avoid these Mistakes

    In the beginning the amounts of calories you will be burning is going to be low. And you will be very tired, because running is an effort that you are not used to.

    You will feel like you spent more energy than you actually did.

    Remember. One 3-mile run will burn 450 calories (approximation!). After the run you think “I need to re-hydrate, let me have a Gatorade”. A bottle of Gatorade has 300 calories. Does it make sense to run 3 miles to only reap the benefit of 1 of them? Energy drinks have a place, but when you run less than 1 or 2 hours, stick with water.

    Also, many people think “Well, I ran this morning, I can treat myself to a candy bar!”. Do you know how many calories in a standard bar of Snickers, Mars or Lion? Almost 300. Two of your three miles are gone.

    If you want to lose weight while running, don’t add calories to your diet. Not at the beginning.

    Slow and Steady wins the (weight loss) race.

    Running is an amazing way to lose weight, but you need to understand that you need to build it up. When you start running you probably won’t even be able to run those 3 miles. Most beginners’ running programs will have you run-walk 3 times a week for a month before you can run 3 miles.

    STICK TO IT! After all running is an endurance sport and as such, patience is what brings the best rewards. Don’t rush distances/speeds you are not ready for yet. They will come and it will all make it better very soon.

    More Tips for Successfully Lose Weight with Running

    As we said before, your running condition will improve with time and three things will happen:

    1. You will be able to run further
    2. In just a couple of months you will be able to run 8 miles in one session. Run 3 times a week for 8 miles each session and your weekly calorie expenditure will be 3,600 calories or a full pound of fat!

    3. You will be able to run faster
    4. Running faster will make you burn MORE calories per each mile.

    5. You will put on muscle

    Remember your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) ? It’s higher when you have more muscles. That is because muscles are alive and need constant feeding just to be maintained, while fat just sits there.
    Running will slowly but surely build muscles – especially in your legs. These muscles will consume extra calories even when you are not running, just because they are there !

    To summarize: running is very hard at the beginning and you might not see results for a while (in terms of weight loss, but of course things like your cardio efficiency will be immediately and noticeably better). But keep running and in just a few months you will be a fat burning machine !

    What to eat ?

    I am not a cook, but in our household we started cooking some of the recipes from the Metabolic Cookbook by Karine Losier. They’re easy to cook, tasty and with a decently low amount of calories – we don’t see it as a diet, just food to cook for the family. Try it out!

    Last word of advice: don’t take shortcuts.

    1. Running is a taxing sport for your body. If you aren’t patient and increase mileage/speed too fast you can get injured. This means pain, no running and no weight loss.
    2. Decreasing your caloric intake is a good step, but don’t take it too far. You can easily and healthily burn 2-3 pounds of fat a week. But if you keep underfeeding your body, your brain will start breaking down the muscles instead of the fat (the logic is “we don’t have enough energy to survive! Let’s cut down those high-maintenance muscle fibers!”).

    Running 6 miles a day to lose weight

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