Running for weight loss: Sprint and jog your way to fitness with this guide

If you’re determined to focus on your health and wellbeing in 2022, including losing weight, running can help

Two plus size women jogging in Central Park, New York during a beautiful day.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If the festive season was full of a little too much over-indulgence, there’s something about the beginning of a new year that can help you refocus on your health and fitness. Running, alongside a healthy diet, can help give you the best chance of achieving your new weight loss goals.

It probably doesn't come as a surprise that running can help you get fit for 2022 and lose belly fat. The question is, how? Surely, just heading out for a jog once a week won't do the trick? And if so, what will?

Slip into your running shoes and strap on your running watch and let's lose weight together!

The easiest sport

There are so many different activities you can take up at this time of year, from walking to swimming, cycling or something a little different like indoor climbing or martial art. Everyone is a good idea when it comes to bringing fitness into your life, to help with the challenge of losing weight. 

And yet, running sits on top of the list of the easiest sports to enter. All you need is a decent pair of trainers and, for a woman, a sports bra that fits properly. With running, all you have to do is open your front door and start moving. There are no expensive gym fees and no investment in costly equipment such as a bicycle.

You don't have to spend a big chunk of your day travelling to your nearest swimming pool, either. So, when you look at how easy it is to do, running suddenly becomes a great idea for anyone wanting to lose weight.

Group of female athletes running on a sunny day

(Image credit: Adidas)

Essential kit

Saying this, if you haven’t run before, or maybe have had a break from the sport for many years, pulling on a pair of old trainers that you bought 10 years ago from a grocery store will not help you in your quest! 

Running in non-specific running or old shoes with a lot of wear may have you on the injury bench before you've given yourself a chance with this sport. You don’t have to invest over £100 in your first pair of running shoes, but a trip to a local sports shop gives you the chance for a free gait analysis, where you’ll be advised on what type of trainer you need.

You can either choose to buy with them straight away or go home, look online, and see if you can find your shoe on one of the big online sports stores. For a woman, a good fitting sports bra can reduce discomfort while running as well as prevent irreversible sagging.

Thankfully, you can also buy running shoes for women these days such as the excellent Adidas Ultraboost 22

Channeling your willpower

At this time of year, you may find the cold weather and dark nights challenging. It's harder to get out and start running to lose weight in the winter, but if you can start your journey and create the habit of running, when the weather starts to improve in the spring you will have established what is known as a base fitness from which you will develop and grow in confidence.

The beauty of running for weight loss is that you can run anywhere at any time in any weather. You can run with a friend, you could join a club, you could set up a club, you can run by yourself. You can invest in a race to give yourself a goal, you can go from 5K to 10K to half marathon to marathon to ultra. You just don't know where this new journey can take you so it's all about getting the right kit and starting smart.

Realistic expectations

Having worked out that running is great for convenience, it’s important to create a plan or routine that is achievable for you in your current life. With the challenges you face in your life, to achieve your weight loss goals you need to create a plan that you can stick to. You’re trying to create new habits and new routines without becoming overwhelmed or feeling pressurised that you'll be judged.

One of the easiest things to do is to every week look at your daily schedule and plan your runs, so both you and your family or partner knows you've committed this time to yourself. This can feel daunting, so hold on to the fact that not only is running free and easy to achieve, it can help you lose weight as well as provide a massive boost to your mental well-being. 

Gradual, realistic steps will help you achieve your ultimate goal. Just as you wouldn't start a Couch to 5K and be expected to run three miles, you need to take small steps in your fitness journey to keep your motivation high. When you're starting out aim for three runs a week.

person running in the park, laughing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may have to start with very short intervals, whether they’re from lamppost to lamppost, or 60-second intervals of jogging, followed by one minute of walking. Gradually build up to running for longer stretches of time with shorter walking breaks for recovery. This may feel like a slow process, especially if you haven't exercised since school, but be kind to your body and remove the pressure of doing too much too soon.

It may be time to put up some internal barriers so that you don't feel judged by what you can or cannot achieve. This is your personal fitness and health journey. If you can only run for 30 seconds for 10 times in the first few weeks, it doesn't matter if other people are running marathons. Keep focusing on your movement; no one else is running in your shoes, no one else is on your fitness journey. 

It's going to take three or four weeks before your body settles and feels comfortable with running. This is the hard phase but persevere and you’ll find your body will suddenly click and start to accept this new fitness regime.

Bowl of food, a small alarm clock and a tape measure on a table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balancing calories

It’s not just about running. As mentioned earlier, for weight loss to occur any physical activity has to be undertaken side-by-side with a healthy diet. It’s easy, after a run, to initially respond by rewarding yourself by eating more than you normally would.

Try not to overestimate the calories you're burning during a run. In general, it's estimated that you burn about 100 calories per mile, so a three-mile run burns about 300 calories. At the end of this run, which may make you feel euphoric when it’s such a huge achievement, you don’t want to undo your good work by going straight to a coffee shop for a coconut latte and a massive slice of carrot cake. Even if you feel you've earned it.

A shift in mindset is needed on how you treat yourself after running (or any physical activity), substituting sweet cravings you may have with healthier options like fruit. Apps like Strava also show you how many calories you’ve burnt during a workout, to help you correctly balance your intake.

Person performing a kettlebell goblet squat in a gym

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Strength work

If you want to keep running, then an essential part of your new weekly regime should be strength training. This doesn't have to mean a trip to the gym, you can do simple 10-minute bursts of basic strength work for runners, including squats, lunges, and plank variations two or three times a week. As your running and weight loss journey blossoms, you’ll want to keep up your training, and this is where strength work helps.  

It's important to realise that you may not experience weight loss like your best friend. You may do the same amount of running and training as another person, but they may lose weight quicker or slower than you. During the initial weeks of beginning a running program, focus on getting out the door and moving.

Rest is also important, as this is when your body adapts to the stress running puts it under and becomes stronger and fitter. Joining a Couch to 5K group or running group is daunting for all people, but it's probably the best path to success. This isn’t an all or nothing journey. You have nothing to prove to anyone; consider the mantra, no pressure, no judgement, just movement. 

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This feature is part of T3's Get Fit 2022 campaign. We’ll be bringing you a wealth of guides, features, deals and news to help you get healthy, fit and ready for anything the new year can throw at you. Whether you’re a newcomer to fitness or someone with a passion for it, we’ll bring you all the best workouts, diet advice and gear to set you on the right track.

Tina is fitness editor for Women’s Running magazine and published two books in 2020, The Little Book of Zen and Reflexology: Your Personal Guide. She is a UKA running coach, England Athletics Mental Health Champion and has her own running group, #runTLC. Follow her on Instagram @runtlc.uk