If it is always regarded as one of the top cardio workouts, then there must also be some top notch running exercises to lose weight.
Our body is like a well-functioning bank that wisely utilizes portions of the currency that comes in to energize the whole system and increase its value, and then, safely stows the surplus money for future use. In our case, the currency is in the form of calories, which our system breaks down, process, and distributes to our muscles, bones, organs, and everywhere else they can be used in our body.
Like an astute banker, our body also has a way of holding in reserve the surplus calories. They are deposited in our natural storage units called adipocytes or fat cells that act like minuscule moneybags. Sadly though, most of these cells are located in our midsection, thus producing a paunch when grossly accumulated and left unused.
How can you actually lose weight and body fat?
The only way to deplete overstuffed fat cells in your body is by utilizing their content through increased physical exertion. That is where running and other forms of exercises come into play. However, if you keep packing yourself with excess calories that your body cannot put to work, they will likewise end up in storage.
To actually end the vicious cycle, you have to make sure that your caloric intake is proportionate or lesser than your burning rate. That is why causing caloric deficit is highly advisable to people who are aiming to reduce weight and body fat.
Running is one of the most convenient weight-reduction tools at your disposal. As long as your lower limbs can move and there are solid grounds around you, there is always a way you can make it work. Whether it is a rubberized track, a concrete or asphalt pavement, grassland, a dirt road, or a mountain trail, they can all be a part of your vast gym.
What are the best running exercises to lose weight?
While it is true that any form of running burns calories and even stored adipose fats if you hit the right intensity, there are actually ways or techniques you can employ for optimum results at a shorter amount of time.
But first, a little word of caution: Do not skip doing at least 5 minutes of warm-up exercises before running. I highly recommend that you do a series of dynamic stretching movements such as lunges, squats, high-step marching, and other callisthenics that will activate the muscles, bones, and joints you need for running. This will signal your body to increase blood flow to your lower extremities, thereby energizing them and lessening their risks for getting cramps or injuries from sudden bursts of physical exertion.
Secondly, do another 5 minutes of static stretching after the workout to relax your muscles and reduce fatigue and soreness.
Now, here’s a couple of running programs you should try:
Originally called by its Swedish term “fartlek”, speed play was first developed by Sweden’s cross-country team coach in the late 1930’s. Its basic mechanics that involve continuously alternating short distance sprints with longer distance slow runs was found to burn a lot more calories than a steady pace run. In fact, it was proven to have a strong “after-burn” effect that causes your body to continue metabolizing stored fat long after your workout.
Here’s how you do it:
- After the warm-up session, run a slow pace for 45 seconds.
- Run a 15-second sprint for at least 85-90 percent of your best effort.
- Continue alternating 45-second slow runs with 15-second sprints until you completed at least 10 times of each segment.
- Considering that you will take a 5-second breather after each sprint, the whole workout will only take about 20 – 25 minutes including the warm-up and cool-down phases. Do not rest for more than 10 seconds in-between each sequence.
- Do this for 3 to 4 times a week. If the workout starts to get easy for you, you can gradually lengthen the time of each segment or add more repetitions. For example, you can do an alternating 30-second sprint with 1-minute slow jogging for 12 complete sequences, and so on.
This workout is best done in a track field for ease in measuring distances. If you don’t have one accessible to you, a city block will do. Just google the total distance around the block and see if it is close enough to the standard 400-meter size of a track field. The work out is pretty simple:
- After doing the necessary warm-up, you will run 5 to 6 times around the block or track field at a marathoner’s pace. Perhaps you can place it between your normal jogging pace and your all-out sprint.
- Rest for 2 minutes after each complete circle around the block or track field. You can likewise walk in place or do light stretching during this time to keep your heart rate up.
- Do cool down exercises or stretching.
- You can add more rounds as you go along to keep on breaking through your limit.
Agility & Footwork Drills
Every professional, collegiate and high school basketball, football, or almost any other athletic teams do footwork drills of some sort. Besides improving players’ running techniques, agility, and lateral movement skills, these drills increases strength and stamina too. Even if you are not a part of any sporting unit and just training on your own, there are running exercises to lose weight that you can steal or borrow from many teams’ training programs.
Since there are lots of different exercises out there, some more complex than the others, let’s just discuss a few ones. While the following sets are best done in an unoccupied basketball court, you can likewise perform them on a relatively flat and basketball court-sized portion of a park expanse, a beach, a plaza, or a spacious lawn. You just need to be resourceful and use some kind of improvised markers like plastic cones, packaging tapes, etc. But for the sake of uncomplicated discussion, we will assume that you can work out on a basketball court.
Note: Make it a point to do a few minutes of dynamic stretching or light jogging as a warm up before doing any high-intensity running drills.
5-Points Touch Running Drill
- After the warm-up, stand in the middle of the circle of the half-court line facing one of the hoops.
- Run backward until you reach the point under the hoop behind you then touch the ground with one or both hands. And then sprint back to the starting circle and touch the ground there.
- Bend your knees a little and shuffle along sideways until you reach the intersection point of the sideline and the end of the half-court line and touch it. Sprint back to the starting circle and touch it again.
- Do the same side-stepping run and ground-tapping sequence towards the opposite side, then run back to the starting circle and touch the ground again.
- Run forward until you reach the point under the hoop of the basketball goal in front of you, touch the ground then sprint back to the starting circle. You just completed one set.
- Do at least 3 to 5 sets of the entire sequence, with 30-second rest in-between sets.
Skip and Run
- Your starting position will be on one of the basketball court’s corner points and your running path will be along the sideline.
- Do a skipping run towards the half-court line. Actually, there are several skipping techniques you can use such as high-knee skipping, bounding, foreleg extension marching, or even the one most of us did for fun when we were kids. The point is whichever technique you use, it should have moments wherein both your feet are off the ground at the same time, thus incorporating plyometrics into your training.
- Once you reach the half-court mark, run or shuffle briskly in place with slightly bent knees for at least 10 counts, and then sprint the rest of the distance to the other corner point.
- Rest for few seconds, and then repeat the whole sequence back to the direction of your original starting point. That makes one complete set. Do at least 5 to 10 complete sets.
Walking Lunges, Straight Leg Run, and Sprint
- Again, you will be starting from one corner point of the basketball court and will move along one of the sidelines.
- Do a series of forwarding lunges with alternating legs as you gradually move along the line until you reach the point that you are about the same distance as the free-throw marker.
- Shift to straight leg running, a technique wherein you will not bend your knees at all while running until you reach the half-court line.
- Sprint the rest of the way until you reach the opposite lengthwise end corner of your starting point.
- Repeat the whole sequence, but this time you are going back to your original starting point. The entire-back-to-back laps make one complete set. Do at least 6 to 8 sets per workout.
Note: you can combine these three drills to make a complete circuit training. Do one set of each exercise in rapid succession to make one full circuit. Try to do at least 3 full circuits regularly and you will not only lose weight and body fat, you will also gain some lean muscles and significantly increase your stamina in the process.
Remember that the most important factor in running to lose weight is not the length of time you spent or the total distance you covered in each excursion. It is how much effort you exerted to stretch your physical limitation. Just like in resistance training, you need to keep shocking your system by adding weights or repetitions every time you hit a plateau. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more you felt spent after a workout, the more calories you actually burned.