Beginner's Guide to Running for Weight Loss

A breakthrough plan to lose weight and start running—no experience necessary!

May 13, 2011
couple running outside

Given the choice between moving a lot more or eating a lot less, it's more fun to do the former. When running is going well, it does feel great. The miles fly by and the calories are torched, roughly 100 for every mile you run.

Dieting? Well, it's a drag. It's all about deprivation and what you can't have. Cut this, eliminate that. It's about subtraction, saying no.


Learn everything you need to know about running for weight loss. Find out more!

With running you're adding a new sport, new friends, and new experiences to your life. You're engaging in something human beings have done since the dawn of time. According to evolutionary biologists, the first humans were long-distance athletes, running across the grasslands, stalking dinner. Dinner being some form of lean meat. And there was no pulling in at the Dairy Queen for dessert afterward.

Dieting, at least among the masses, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Some 47 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight at any given time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when two out of every three adults in America is overweight, that's somewhat understandable.

So think of how you would rather lose weight and what you would like to tell people. What would you rather tell yourself? That you're learning a new sport? Or that you're on a diet.

6 reasons to start running

This plan uses a gentle buildup. It starts with walking only, building up to 30 minutes at a time. The plan then includes some running. One minute at first. When you're ready, 2 minutes. Then 3, 5, 7, minutes. At a rate you determine those 30 minutes of walking morph into 30 minutes of nonstop running. In other words, take as long as you need to become a runner. We've found that although it may take some time, once you're a runner, you will want to stay a runner.

STAGE 1: Get moving!
This program starts with walking. Before you can try running, you need to be able to complete four walks, each one 30 minutes nonstop, in a week. You might be able to do that this week without a problem. In that case, once you've done four walking workouts, you're ready to proceed to the next stage.

Or you might need to start at less than 30 minutes, depending on what kind of shape you're in and how much extra weight you're carrying around.

Pick something that's comfortable — steady, not aggressive. Aim for a pace that's a little faster than your stroll-down-the-driveway-in-you-slippers-to-get-the-newspaper walk but slower than your might-miss-my-connecting-flight walk. Don't sweat the pace, just get out and do it.

You do not want to be huffing and puffing. If you're panting, you're going too fast. Remember, this is punitive. You're not supposed to finish each workout feeling like you need a nap. Your breathing is an instantaneous check of your effort level. Take the "talk test." If you can get a few sentences out, you're fine. If you need to pause for a breath between words, take your foot off the gas until you can talk comfortably. 

SEARCH: How do I give myself the talk test?

Stage 1 Workout

  • Walk for 30 minutes
  • Total workout time: 30 minutes
  • Do this workout at least three or four times in a week before moving on to the next stage.