“I honestly believe that running makes the fat fall off faster than anything else you can do,” says Kelly Robbins Guillory, National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer at CrossGates Athletic Club in Slidell, La.
Guillory runs regularly, competes in marathons and triathlons, and consistently monitors both her heart rate and calories burned from running. “Nothing makes a higher spike in calorie burn than running,” she says.
However, if you are interested in building muscle mass, Guillory says you will have to alternate running with weight training. Running may be an excellent fat-buster, but it doesn’t build muscle very effectively.
Running: Start Slowly
You may be eager to hit the road, but taking it slow ensures safety and increases the likelihood that you will enjoy running more. Here are the steps you need to take:
- Talk to your doctor. Most people can start to train for running with no problems, but Guillory advises checking in with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. With running, people who have heart problems or have recently had foot or knee surgery should be particularly cautious, she says.
- Start by walking. Guillory works her clients up from walking to running. “If someone has never run before, let’s get you to 4.0 miles per hour walking before you start running,” she says. Walk at this pace for a week and then gradually speed up and add distance. “The rule is no more than a 10 percent increase in mileage per week,” says Guillory. Once you start running, don’t run every day and vary your routine — short, high-intensity runs on some days, distance runs on others.
- Keep a running journal. This will help you keep track of your pace, heart rate, and how far you have run each day, so you can stay on track and feel good about your achievements.
- Buy the right shoes. Expect to spend $50 to $60 for a good pair of shoes, says Guillory. Choose comfortable shoes specifically designed for running, not cross-trainers, and only use them when you are running. If you run regularly, plan on getting a new pair in about three months.
- Plan for safety. Guillory recommends carrying your cell phone and pepper spray while running outdoors. The pepper spray is helpful for dogs as well as humans, she says. Make sure the route you choose is well-lit during the hours that you plan on running.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Especially if you are running outside during the summer or in the heat of the day, you must drink water. Drink 8 ounces about 15 minutes before you run and carry water with you. A tip from Guillory: If you are running long distances and will return on the same route, hide water bottles so you can retrieve them on the way back.
- Snack on protein and carbs. A small snack with protein and carbohydrates before and after you run can be helpful. However, Guillory points out that weight loss is all about calorie math: If you only run enough to burn 200 calories and you gulp down a 200-calorie sports drink, you haven’t achieved any net loss.
If you want to start running and you are still nervous about how to do it, work with a personal trainer for a few sessions, then slip on your running shoes and hit the road.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Weight Center.