Growing up, I never really liked running as a sport. I felt bored and just did not get the point of this endurance exercise. But during studies, I started having a very IRREGULAR schedule.
I also got the opportunity to go abroad for months for exchange programs or internships. RUNNING turned out to be the perfect sport for this. All I needed were my SHOES and I could practice.
Back then, my EATING HABITS were not the best, and I was still under the impression that A LOT OF RUNNING would do the job and help me STAY FIT, HEALTHY and SLIM.
What a mistake! It took me a few years and a lot of kilometres to realise that RUNNING ALONE WOULD NOT HELP ME
So, does running help weight loss? Running ALONE will most probably not help you lose weight. The most important component of weight loss remains your DIET. Some people tend to eat much more when they do more sport. However, combined with a healthy diet, running will be a good catalyser for weight loss.
I’d like for you not to make the same mistake I did. Which is why I am sharing my story with you here. Get ready, it involves a LOT of RUNNING!
Running 1 Hour A Day… Putting On 6 Kilograms in 6 Months
My story with running started over 10 years ago. From the moment I started liking running, I increased my daily amount of time and kilometres spent running steadily. Until I hit about 10km or 1 hour run per day about 6 times a week.
I kept this rhythm for a while, under the impression that it was very healthy.
Then, I went to Ecuador to help as a volunteer for about 6 months in 2008. I kept my running habit there. At 2500m altitude, lost in a lower-middle-class suburb of Cuenca, Ecuador, RUNNING WAS DEFINITELY MY BEST OPTION. Or so I thought, back then. But Ecuador was a disaster for my DIET.
With only 2,5$ compensation per day to eat, I ate what was fitting the budget. Veggies were, in fact, quite expensive compared to the rest. And I was really not good at cooking back then. So breakfast often consisted of one or two “pancitos” (bread rolls), each costing 10 to 20 cents.
We cooked our own lunch with my colleagues: rice, corn, some meat. Everything cooked with tons of oil. At dinner time, I would often eat either bread rolls again, or something similar to lunch.
Back then, I did not know all I know today about a healthy diet. 6 MONTHS of consistent RUNNING (1 hour per day, 6 days a week, at 2500 m altitude), did nothing to prevent me from putting on fat.
The result: plus 6 kilograms over the same period. I had no scale there, but my trousers were starting to be really tight. I could measure the amplitude of the disaster only when I came back.
My Experience With High-Intensity Interval Training And Muscle Building
Back home, most clothes were not fitting anymore. I felt bad and heavy. My boyfriend of the time, who knew quite a lot about sports, taught me that running 1 hour per day would not cut it.
My body, he said, had gotten USED TO THIS RHYTHM and was not “shocked” enough to make progress. He advised me to seek a fitness coach and maybe add some muscle-building activities into my sports schedule. I followed his advice. A few months later, I went on an exchange at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
This was very exciting for me. When I arrived on campus, I had the pleasure to see that they had AMAZING SPORTS AND FITNESS FACILITIES that were extremely cheap to use (around $9 per month if I remember correctly). And, since I did not know what I was doing, I invested 40$ in a fitness coach for guidance.
The training that really worked for me
He confirmed what my boyfriend had said and prepared a tailored training plan for me:
- 2 times a week: 25 minutes of muscle-building with weightlifting, using machines and free weights, or bodyweight for 2 or 3 exercises.
- 2 times a week: 20 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training. For this, I had to run on a treadmill. Starting with 5 minutes light run as a warm-up. Then running at high speed for 30 seconds and pausing for 60 or 90 seconds. He explained to me that my body would feel more and more at ease with time, in which case I should slowly increase the amount at high speed, and reduce the breaks. And he was right! After 4 months, I could run at high speed for almost the entire 20 minutes! I was astonished…
- 1 time a week: my cosy 1-hour running session was allowed 🙂
- 1 time a week (optional): since I was doing sports 6 times a week back then, my coach allowed me this 6th session with a different type of sport. We agreed that swimming for up to an hour on one day of the week.
- REST! My coach also insisted on the importance to rest AT LEAST 1 or 2 days a week. This concept was also new to me…
But just training is not enough…
Combined with this training, I also paid very close ATTENTION TO MY FOOD INTAKE. I did not really know so much about what I was doing back then. Most of the time I ate:
- a breakfast consisting of 1-2 fruits, muesli, cottage cheese,
- a big lunch consisting of fish, peas and potatoes or something similar, and
- I skipped dinner very often.
Looking back, this was all not as healthy as I thought and I would probably do it differently today.
But after 5 months the RESULTS WERE AMAZING! Compared to my maximum weight when coming back from Ecuador, I was weighing 12 kilograms less and HAD NEVER BEEN AS FIT IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
With what I know now, I would mostly attribute these results to the DIVERSE and AMBITIOUS TRAINING PLAN, which, for the first time in my life included some MUSCLE-BUILDING, as well as to MY LEAN and STRICT DIET.
Running a Full Marathon (Over 42km) And Still Putting On Body Fat
Unfortunately, I did not properly identify the reasons for my success back then. And when I came back from the U.S. to Paris, I simply did not find as good of an offer to be able to keep having a fitness coach and amazing fitness facilities.
I slowly but steadily regained about 6+ kilograms over time. But my desire to become super fit again was still there. That’s why I accepted to train for a FULL MARATHON with a colleague of mine, about 2 years later.
There I did the same mistake I had done in Ecuador.
I was running so much that I thought I maybe even needed extra food. My colleague pointed out that we should probably eat MORE CARBS. Maybe this is the case for some people. But I am a CARB ADDICT and have been for my entire life. Eating more carbs was probably not necessary in my case.
I did it anyway since I did not know much about marathons and was following my colleague’s lead. The result? I GAINED 3 KILOS over this time period.
It was disappointing and also quite annoying to run with the extra weight. You can feel your love handles jumping with you all along. And that over 30+ kilometres at a time during the training. Not such a great feeling.
A Quick Triathlon Training Helped Me Get Super Fit
After running this FULL MARATHON, I decided that I had had enough of the running craziness. One year later, during the summer, I SPONTANEOUSLY decided to train for an OLYMPIC TRIATHLON.
That’s about a 1500m swim, 40km biking and 10km running. I had only 3 weeks to train. How did I train? Again, I did not really know what I was doing but my self-made plan included:
- Running about 10km in the morning before work
- Cycling and swimming indoors after work, trying to build up progressively to the required distance for the competition
- On Saturdays, I tried to do the full triathlon distance but without time pressure
- 2 days of REST per week.
- And I did not change my diet at all.
After only 3 weeks, I had become much leaner and felt super fit. Approximately 3+ kilos down from my average, normal weight. This was a shock to me. It only took 3 weeks of quite pleasant training to become so fit!
Lessons Learned For Me When It Comes to Running:
With all these experiences, and what I have been learning since when it comes to sports and diet, here are my lessons learned:
- After a while, always performing the exact same activity will at best maintain the status quo, at worst damage your body.
At the end of my 20s, a medical check-up revealed that my knees were over-used for my age. Keeping the same rhythm and without the doctors’ intervention, I could have completely destroyed my knees soon.
- No matter what you do, your DIET SHOULD ALWAYS BE AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT of your training program
It doesn’t matter whether you want to perform better, lose weight or become healthier and fitter. In ALL THESE CASES, a healthy diet should be the STARTING POINT.
It is great to support the effort with some additional activities. And sometimes, doing sports will give you the extra kick and motivation to eat healthily. But you should NEVER dismiss or underestimate the importance of your diet in the process.
- What I would do today…: I would START with changing my DIET and then have a training plan close to what I experienced when I was in the U.S.
1. EAT according to the Wildfit Principles, with some adaptations to what’s best for you.
There are a lot of recommendations when it comes to healthy diets out there. So far, the Wildfit 90-Day Challenge was the best fit for me. I have written an honest review about it here if you want to take a closer look at this program.
But ALL the (serious) healthy diets out there share at least one common factor: you should eat a lot of leafy greens and other vegetables. You should also reduce your intake of refined sugar.
You can read more about this in my other blog post: 7 Reasons Why I Quit Sugar (And You Should, Too). So you can start with that, and do a little research and experimentation to see what healthy diet best fits you.
2. Adding some Muscle-Building activity, at least twice a week for 30 minutes.
Here I would prefer bodyweight exercises and definitely do some Yoga as well.
There are various types of Yoga and it can have amazing side-effects besides building and toning your muscles.
It includes stretching, which has since been proven to be extremely important. But also breath work, meditation, cardio… it can be a very complete activity.
3. Adding some Cardio Activity also twice a week for about 30 minutes.
Running can be great! But I would vary the type of exercise. Sometimes steady and easy. Sometimes rather a High-Intensity Interval Training.
If possible, I would even vary the type of sport, replacing the running at times with walking, swimming or biking.
In any case, if you are to start running a lot, I would HIGHLY ADVISE YOU TO ask professionals to check your running method.
Don’t do the same mistake I did.
Running seems to us like it is so “natural” that nothing can go wrong. But it CAN. Check whether your position and running style are right.
Books That I Love… To Help You Out: