Top Ten Ways to Reach Your Ideal Running Weight
By Rick Morris
Athletes in nearly every sport talk about feeling and performing their best at their “playing weight”. As a runner you also have an ideal running weight. There is much more than weight involved in your ideal level as a runner. It’s more related to body composition, including both pure muscle mass and the ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat. The term “ideal running body composition” is more accurate but is also much more cumbersome and confusing, so I will stick with the more accepted term “running weight”.
Does your ideal running weight really matter? Does your weight affect your running performance? Yep – it does! The effect of body weight on running performance varies wildly from runner to runner but an accepted rule of thumb is that every extra pound of non-productive body weight (body fat) decreases your running performance by around 1%.
The trick is how to reach your ideal running weight without compromising your health, fitness and strength. As an active runner it’s critical that you eat sufficient quantities of high quality carbohydrates, protein and essential fats on a daily basis. If you let your nutrition fall below the required level your body will break down and your running performance will plummet. So, how do you reach your ideal running weight? Just make some increases and changes in your weekly training routine, eat the proper portions of quality foods that are high in nutrition and avoid high calories, low nutrient junk foods.
Here are our top ten tips for reaching your ideal running weight.
Extend Your Long Run
Running burns more calories per minute than nearly any other activity. The exact number of calories you burn will vary according to your running speed and how efficiently you run. Most runners will burn somewhere around 110 to 120 calories per mile. Extending your weekly long run by just 3 miles will burn an extra 300 to 400 calories each week and give you a nice assist on your way to your ideal running weight.
Add a Mid Week Long Run
At one time is was a very common practice to do a mid week, moderate length long run in addition to the normal weekend long run. That practice has become rather uncommon recently with only a small number of advanced runners still doing the mid week long run. Adding in an extra long run can pay great dividends in helping you reach your ideal running weight. A moderate mid week long run of 12 miles will consume around 1400 to 1500 calories per week.
Running hills has two weight loss benefits. Running uphill burns many more calories than running on level ground. Of course, the steeper the hill, the greater the calorie burn potential. Running uphill also builds more metabolically active muscles in your legs. More muscle equals a higher metabolism and more calorie burning potential. These intense workouts will help you reach your ideal running weight.
Running hills will help build more muscle in your legs, but if you really want to increase your muscle mass and metabolism you should be performing both upper and lower body strength training. Try to add in two to three strength training sessions per week. Not only will you increase your metabolism and lose weight but you will also improve your power, speed, injury resistance and running performance.
Running at fast or high intensity paces increases your calorie burning exponentially. Include one interval training session and one lactate turn point session each week. You will burn a lot of calories during those high intensity sessions but more importantly will improve your fitness so that you can do all of your runs, including your easy runs, at a faster pace.
Do Longer Tempo Runs
For some reason many runners tend to limit their tempo runs to workouts of between 2 and 4 miles. Consider extending your tempo runs to 8 or 10 miles. The additional 6 miles at tempo pace will burn an extra 700 to 800 calories and will improve your fitness level and help you achieve your ideal running weight.
Increase Your Overall Weekly Mileage
I always emphasize the importance in avoiding junk miles. Junk miles are miles that you run for no reason other than padding your running log. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t increase your weekly and/or daily mileage for weight loss purposes. Try running longer on your easy/recovery days. Instead of doing 3 to 4 mile easy runs go for 6 to 8 miles. You can double your calorie burning potential on those days. They aren’t junk miles if you are running them for a reason.
Avoid Simple Carbohydrates
Low carbohydrate diets are the worst diet a distance runner could possibly follow. Carbohydrates are what provides your muscles and brain with the energy needed to fuel your running. If you don’t eat a sufficient amount of carbohydrates you won’t have the energy to run and your body will break down.
But all carbohydrates aren’t created equal. Some, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits are complex carbohydrates that are very high in nutrient content. Others such as white breads, candy, cakes, table sugar and many processed foods are simple carbohydrates that are very high in calories and low in nutrient content.
Avoid the simple high calorie, low nutrient carbohydrates. They do very little for you other than increase your calorie intake and weight. The only time that simple carbohydrates come in handy is in the last miles of a marathon or ultra marathon when you need very quick carbohydrate replenishment. Other than that try to avoid simple carbohydrates.
Eat Proper Portion Sizes
I was at a popular restaurant chain the other day and nearly passed out when the server delivered my food. The plate was the size of a large hub cap and it was piled with enough food to feed four people for a couple of days! Looking around I saw some fellow diners quickly work their way through the entire plate of food.
This is not an uncommon site. Portion sizes have become out of control in today’s society. A very easy way to reduce your daily calorie intake and reach your goal running weight is to eat proper portion sizes. If you eat at home prepare the proper portion size so you aren’t tempted to over eat. If you eat out make a conscious effort to stop eating after a reasonable amount. Take the rest home; you’ll probably have leftovers for the rest of the week.
Remember that your brain sometimes lags behind your stomach. Eat slowly so that your hunger level can catch up with your mouth and stop eating when or just a bit before your hunger is quenched.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
It’s fairly easy to monitor your food intake when you are trying to reach your running weight, but there is one type of calorie intake that kind of sneaks up on you if you’re not careful. I’m talking about the calories that you may be drinking. Carbonated beverages are the biggest problem among liquid calories. Most 12 ounce cans of soft drinks contain around 150 to 200 calories. A recent study estimated that calories from carbonated beverages make up 7% of adult calorie intake and a shocking 13% of the calorie intake of teenagers. To make things worse, these are completely empty calories with no nutritional content. Eliminating your consumption of this “liquid candy” is one of the easiest ways for your to reach your ideal running weight.