Running to Lose Weight

We're using the phrase 'running to lose weight' to refer to any kind of intense cardiovascular (cardio) exercise that you can do 2 or 3 times weekly as part of a weight loss program (or choose any other brief intense cardio exercise if you prefer.

This exercise will not only help you to burn fat. It will also improve your cardiovascular fitness, which has numerous important health benefits.

Proper intense cardio fitness training will strengthen your heart, which is a muscle.

It doesn't really matter which exercise you use to get your heart beating faster in a precise way for a limited amount of time.

This kind of intense cardio fitness training does not have to be running. If you prefer, you may use some other form of intense exercise.

There's no one best way that works well for everyone.

So, let's find out more.

There is no one best way

It's can be done on a motorized treadmill, using a stationary bike, or using some other piece of gym equipment such as a Concept II rowing machine, a Versa Climber, or an elliptical trainer.

Intense fitness training is always brief. It must be.

Although there won't be much time required, you may prefer to listen to music during your exercise sessions; any up tempo music will do. You may prefer to watch television.

There are three kinds that are all effective: graded exercise protocol [GXP], classic high intensity fitness exercise [HIIT], or progressively accelerating cardiopulmonary exertion [PACE].

Assuming that you are not already doing any intense cardio, we recommend starting with GXP. If, after a few months, you want to switch to either HIIT or PACE, excellent.

[For more information on classic HIIT, just search the worldwide web; different variations are very easy to find. For more information on PACE, see either of Sears's books listed near the bottom of this page.]

GXP is based on research done by Dr. Robert Otto. It was developed by Ralph Carpinelli, Ed.D., and promoted by Richard Winet, Ph.D., in his "Master Trainer" newsletter.

Ideally, do your running to lose weight two or, better, three times weekly in addition to two strength training sessions weekly. That's less than two hours of exercise weekly. If you want more, and more is optional, do mild fitness training by, for example, going for a brisk walk for half an hour or an hour once during the week.

See our strength training and walking for weight loss pages. Alternatively, see our free weight Loss exercise programs.

GXP simple and precise

GXP is a very simple, precise, and effective program. It's the minimum you'll need to sustain a satisfactory level of cardiovascular fitness.

If you want a higher level for athletics or overall conditioning, you'll need to do more than the plan presented on this page.

However, if you do more, please realize that doing more will make more serious inroads into your ability to recover from physical training; in other words, you'll increase the risk of overtraining.

A running to lose weight plan has three phases: overall warm-up, the training itself, and a cool-down. Do not rest between the three phases.

The overall warm-up lasts about three minutes. Using a heart rate monitor while running, pedaling, or doing whatever exercise you've selected, get your heart rate to between 80 and 85% of its predicted maximum.

The training itself is simply keeping your heart rate at that steady state for, eventually, at least three minutes.

The cool-down reverses the warm-up and should take about three minutes. It is very important that the exercise not be too severe, so that your recovery can be relatively quick. So do not exceed 50% of your predicted maximum heart rate by the end of the cool-down.

Remember: this is a training program. This exercise or GXP program is precise, which is an important advantage since it's easier to improve a practice that can be measured than to improve one than cannot be measured.

Getting Started for Intense Cardio Exercise

Introduce this program slowly

Here's how to introduce this program slowly: after securing your physician's approval and using a three-minute warm-up, begin with a training phase of just 15 seconds before you cool-down. Simply increase the duration of the training phase by 15 seconds each time you exercise until the training phase lasts for three minutes.

It is critical to use a heart rate monitor to ensure the effectiveness of your training.

Never use this exercise protocol without monitoring your heart rate.

Do not use it without obtaining your physician's blessing in advance. Never exceed 85%.

How should you determine the 80 and 85% numbers? If you happen to know your actual maximum heart rate based on standard exercise testing, use those numbers.

If you don't (as it likely), there are different ways to calculate your age predicted heart rate. The most common method involves subtracting your age from 220. Taking 85% of that number yields the maximum pulse rate, and taking 80% of it yields the minimum pulse rate. During the 3 minute work stage, simply keep your pulse rate between those two numbers.

If you are more serious about fitness, we recommend using the Karvonen heart rate reserve method. It yields slightly higher target ranges. Here's how to calculate it:

Where 'RHR' abbreviates 'resting heart rate before getting out of bed in the morning' and where 'THR' abbreviates 'target heart rate,' the formula is: <220 minus age minus RHR = _A_ and <_A_ x % + RHR = _THR_.

For example, suppose you are 21 and have a RHR of 70. So, 220 minus 21 minus 70 = 129. Then 129 x 80% + 70 = 173.2 (rounded to 173) and 129 x 85% + 70 = 179.65 (rounded to 180). So during the steady state training phase of running exercise or GXP, you should maintain your heart rate between 173 and 180.

For example, suppose you are 50 and have a RHR of 70. So, 220 minus 50 minus 70 = 100. Then 100 x 80% + 70 = 150 and 100 x 85% + 70 = 155. So during the steady state training phase, you should maintain your heart rate between 150 and 155.

If you are doing the strength training and mild fitness training parts of the program presented here in addition to intense fitness training, you may want to get even fitter. Even though there's no need to do so, it's easy to use this exercise or GXP program to do that.

Keeping the warm-up and cool-down the same, simply increase the duration of the training phase from three to four minutes.

Want to get even fitter? Keeping the warm-up and cool-down the same, simply increase the duration of the training phase from four to five minutes or even more.

Once you have increased it to ten minutes, consider switching either to HIIT or to PACE.

Remember, though, that your ability to recover from exercise is limited.


Don't do too much

Too much exercise can be worse than too little. Though very beneficial, intense exercise stresses your internal organs such as your kidneys, your liver, and your pancreas. It's important to let them recover fully.

So, unless there is some very important reason to exceed it, please do not exceed a ten minute training phase.

In short, you can get all the intense fitness training you need each week in two or three brief training sessions using this method!

So, the idea that you don't have the time to attain and maintain a good degree of cardiovascular efficiency is nothing but an excuse.

Once fitness exercise reaches a certain level of intensity, our bodies cannot process fat fast enough to provide sufficient energy. Therefore, they rely on glucose circulating in the blood and stored glycogen for that energy. This running exercise protocol is too intense for effective fat burning.

This cardio running exercise protocol can, however, be used for fat burning. What is the intensity level that is most efficient for burning fat? Not everyone burns fat at the same level of intensity.

The more efficient your ability to process oxygen is during fitness exercise, the greater is your ability to burn fat.

For most people, fat burning during fitness exercise occurs at a moderate intensity level, more specifically, at about 60 to 65% of maximum heart rate. Furthermore, the fewer carbs ingested before fitness exercise, the greater the fat burning.

To take full advantage of this fact (as many fitness models and bodybuilders do), you may schedule your fitness training in the morning before your first meal.

As long as you have your physician's blessing, why not try it? In terms of permanent weight loss, doing so will get your day off to the best possible start.

If you are an athlete, you'll need to make the necessary adjustments in your overall training program to accommodate specialized training for your sport.

We have developed the program presented here so that you'll be doing the minimum amount of exercise necessary to achieve lasting weight loss.

It is much more effective than long, boring sessions of mild cardio. Whether doing strength training or cardio, intensity is the key.

Again, please do not do more than the minimum until you have thoroughly integrated regular strength training and intense fitness training into your life. Once they become habits, believe it or not you'll find yourself looking forward to training!

Web pages related to running to lose weight

Now that you understand about intense cardio such as running to lose weight, see our mild cardio walking to lose weight plans to increase your understanding about exercises for weight loss.

Alternatively, use the link right at the bottom of this page to go to Fat Burning Exercises, which is the first page in this section of our website.


HIIT -- high intensity interval training cardio

This useful video demonstrates interval training on three different pieces of equipment. Twice weekly is fine; it will be intense, so it must be brief. Notice he states that intense cardio is secondary to good nutrition and strength training if you are trying to lose body fat.




Recommended books for this topic

Here are two initial book suggestions:

  • Sears's P.A.C.E.
  • Sears's Dr. Sears' High Speed Fat Loss in 7 Easy Steps


If you are now looking for more about running to lose weight, here you can search our website or the World Wide Web.
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