Many runners with a weight-loss goal sign up for a race hoping to kill two birds with one stone: Train for a half marathon and shed a few pounds along the way! This sounds great in theory, but it’s tougher in practice than you might think.
While training for a 13.1-mile race can certainly help you reduce stress and gain confidence, it’s actually not the most effective way to lose weight. In fact, the two goals often work at cross purposes: A goal to complete a long-distance race means training your body to be as efficient as possible. You want to burn the least amount of energy you can to feel great at the finish. On the other hand, a weight-loss goal requires you to prevent your body from becoming efficient at exercise. You want to continuously change it up, so you can burn the most amount of energy possible and keep your metabolic furnace burning.
It’s not uncommon to see someone train for a half marathon, running hundreds of miles, while ending up actually maintaining or gaining weight. That’s because their body has become so adept at running, it burns fewer and fewer calories per mile.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have it all! You just need to tailor your training. If you want to reach a healthy weight, it’s important to prioritize that goal. This plan may not guarantee a new personal best, but it will help you lose pounds and get you across a half-marathon finish line feeling strong. Sound good? Let’s do this!
We can’t talk about weight loss without bringing up nutrition. Losing pounds requires maintaining a calorie deficit, which can be tough while you’re packing on the miles. Running far makes your body hungry! A simple solution is to keep track of your intake and shoot for a 500-calorie deficit per day. You can use a tool like Myfitnesspal.com to simplify this process.
- Eat every three hours. This will keep your muscles fueled and energized while keeping your blood sugar stable.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Staying hydrated is extremely important for your weight-loss efforts.
- During runs lasting longer than one hour, you will need to carry fluid and fuel with you to keep your blood sugar up. Use one gel or serving of chews (100 calories) per hour.
- Have a snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. This is your “window of opportunity” to start your recovery. Overall, you want to surround your workouts with nutrition by eating a larger percentage of your calories before, during and after your workouts.
Start Your Engine
Because your first priority is weight loss, this plan includes a lot of strength training and interval running. Unlike steady-state running, this is the kind of exercise your body doesn’t adapt to easily. You will execute one long run per week to build up your mileage without incorporating too much volume. For the long run, remember to build up your mileage slowly (at most 10 percent per week) to keep your body healthy and injury-free.