You don’t see many overweight runners, and there’s a good reason for this. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is the best way to shift excess kilos. An average 70-kilogram person running at steady 5:37-per-kilometre pace burns a pizza-absolving 3238 kilojoules in an hour, compared with, say, 2062 kilojoules when cycling.
And, according to a study at Yale University School of Medicine, US, running’s metabolic boost means that if you run for four hours a week, you’ll melt more kilojoules than non-runners, even when you’re not running.
But lacing up your running shoes can do more than shift numbers on the scales – fine-tune how you run with our plans and you can reshape your body with tailored perfection.
Can’t run yet? More than 18 kilograms to lose?
Follow Plan A to build strength, prep your body for running and lose six kilograms in six weeks.
New(ish) runner and want to burn belly fat?
Follow Plan B to leave your belly behind (and run your first 5K race).
In each plan, you’ll run three times a week and do two circuit sessions. A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that a mix of cardio and strength training offers the greatest reduction in body fat. You’ll also hit new running targets, and by the end of each plan you’ll be ready to progress to the next (see Part 2 in the March 2012 issue of Runner’s World) to meet your evolving body goals.
KICK-START YOUR FAT BURNING
Coaches have traditionally started with the softly-softly approach with overweight runners, but research shows that short, hard bursts are more effective for weight-loss and building functional strength.
The high intensity burns more subcutaneous fat (the stuff close to the skin’s surface), stimulates your metabolism and creates an excess post-exercise oxygen consumption that increases kilojoule burn for 48 hours after the session. Translation: bye-bye doughnut gut.
Make it Short
But too much running, too soon, is bad news. “Getting an overweight person to run a kilometre equates to around 1066 strides, and each stride loads around three times their body weight,” says James Dunne, sports injury rehabilitation specialist from Kinetic Revolution (kinetic-revolution.com).
“In an overweight individual, the return in kilojoules burned through running one kilometre definitely does not justify the cost in terms of impact loading and overuse of certain muscle groups.”
It’s a case of short and sweet. If you have any health concerns, though, consult your GP before embarking on an exercise program.
PLAN A: THE RUNS
The good news is, it’s only 20 to 30 seconds at a time. The bad? It has to feel hard. The power walk sessions will boost your exercise tolerance without high impact.
Run 1: 6 x 30 sec, 2 min rest
Run 2: 6 x 30 sec, 2 min rest
Run 3: Power walk 30 min
Run 1: 8 x 30 sec, 90 sec rest
Run 2: 8 x 30 sec, 90 sec rest
Run 3: Power walk 40 min
Run 1: 8 x 20 sec, 1 min rest
Run 2: 8 x 20 sec, 1 min rest
Run 3: Power walk 45 min
Run 1: 10 x 30 sec, 2 min rest
Run 2: 10 x 30 sec, 2 min rest
Run 3: Power walk 50 min
Run 1: 10 x 30 sec, 90 sec rest
Run 2: 10 x 30 sec, 90 sec rest
Run 3: Power walk 55 min
Run 1: 10 x 20 sec, 1 min rest
Run 2: 10 x 20 sec, 1 min rest
Run 3: Power walk 60 min
PLAN A: EAT RIGHT TO LOSE BIG
Skip Carbs Pre-Workout: Unless you’re very athletic or looking to bulk up – which you’re not. “Having a carb drink before a workout teaches your body to depend on carbs rather than body fat, for fuel,” says sports nutritionist Laurent Bannock (guru performance.com).
Time Your Nutrients: “One to two hours after exercise is the best time to consume your energy-rich food,” says Bannock. “If you consume most of your kilojoules (especially carbs) after exercise the fat-loss effect is better. At other times, eat protein and nutrient-rich fruit and veg.”
Fuel Your Liver: “The efficiency of your liver is crucial to weight-loss and fat metabolism,” says sports nutritionist Lucy-Ann Prideaux (simply-nutrition.co.uk). “Foods that support liver function include broccoli, rocket, mustard, onions and garlic.”
TARGET YOUR BELLY
You’re in decent enough shape to start training your body to take full advantage by building your ‘aerobic base’ and time on your feet.
If you’ve progressed from Plan A, you may feel aiming for longer runs at lower intensity contradicts the high intensity interval training (HIIT) work you did to kick-start fat-loss, but without that initial HIIT, you wouldn’t be light or strong enough to reach the required ‘low’ intensity of the longer runs here.
Preparing Your Body
If you plan to progress further, this stage in a periodised approach to your training will prep your body to run at higher intensity for the time required in the next phase. Prepare to use the belt holes you haven’t troubled since discovering the joys of fine dining.
PLAN B: THE RUNS
Keep intensity ‘easy’ – in other words, no more than 75 per cent of your maximum heart-rate, or running at conversational pace, or six out of 10 on the scale of perceived effort.
Week 1: Run 2 min, walk 1 min, x 7
Week 2: Run 5 min, walk 2 min, x 4
Week 3: Run 8 min, walk 2 min, x 3
Week 4: Run 12 min, walk 1 min, x 3
Week 5: Run 15 min, walk 1 min, run 15 min
Week 6: Run 30 min
PLAN B: EAT RIGHT TO LOSE BIG
Feed Your Recovery: “Pineapple, mango and turmeric all have significant anti-inflammatory properties, so they’re ideal if you’ve upped the intensity of an exercise program,” says nutritionist Suzie Crabtree.
Carb Right: “Body type is very influential, a ‘skinny-fat’ runner with thin legs and a spare tyre is probably having issues with carbohydrate because of insulin sensitivity,” says Bannock. Two tricks to have up your apron here: “Swap to low GI carbs such as all vegetables, quinoa, berries and apples,” Prideaux says. “And have half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily. Easily sprinkled on your porridge or yoghurt, it mimics the action of insulin, helping you use carbs and sugars for energy.”
Avoid Processed: Higher intakes of refined grains are associated with higher levels of abdominal fat, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.
If you’re already a runner and want to shift that final 3kg or tone your tummy and bum, don’t miss the March 2012 issue of Runner’s World for Plans C and D.