Running Alone Won’t Cut It, Work Out Smarter For Weight Loss

Contrary to popular belief, relying solely on running is an inefficient way to lose weight. In time, if you’re not doing it right, it can be ineffective. The calories you burn while running is disproportionate to the time you spend doing the exercise, according to physiology and nutrition expert Rachele Pojednic, Ph.D. Running requires too long a time just to shed off a few pounds.

Exercise Plateau

In the early stages of your running routine, you may observe a decrease in your weight. This can happen with any new exercise you try. Because your body isn’t used to a new physical activity, it takes a great deal of effort and burns a significant amount of calories within a short span of time.

Dr. Pojednic compares the body to a machine that aims to “do things as efficiently as possible.” Given enough time, your body will acclimate, and it will take less effort to do the same task. The more you repeat the same routine, the lesser calories you burn, and eventually, you’ll hit a plateau.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run at all. You can still keep running even when you hit that plateau. Running offers several health benefits, like boosting your heart health and elevating your mood.

However, if your primary goal is to lose weight, you should find alternative ways to shed off those pounds.

Switch Up Your Routine

Challenge yourself with a new routine. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is “a type of workout where you alternate between really intense cardio intervals and rest,” according to Self Magazine Fitness writer Lauren Bedosky. With HIIT, you alternate between pushing your body to its limits and giving your body time to recuperate.

This pattern is applicable to many types of exercises, including running.

Types Of HIIT Running Or Interval Running

Interval Workouts

Set your running distance and cover it the quickest way possible. Rest in between laps.

  • Work: 800 m at an 8 out of 10 effort
  • Recover: Walk or jog 200 m
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times
  • Rest for 3 minutes
  • Repeat the whole thing 2 or 3 times

Fartlek Workouts

The Swedish term fartlek means “speed play.” This type of running routine does not have a fixed pace and duration. The key to this exercise is variation so your body won’t quickly adapt to the task, thus preventing an exercise plateau.

  • 4 miles total
  • 8 x 1 minute at a harder (8 out of 10) effort at random times throughout

Hill Repeats

Self-explanatory, hill repeats entail alternating between running on an incline and going down as your body recovers.

  • [On a treadmill, run] 1 minute at a 4 to 6 percent incline at a pace you can sustain for four minutes
  • Walk or jog for 60 seconds at a 1 percent incline
  • Repeat for a total of 5 reps
  • Rest for 4 minutes (walking at a 1 percent incline)
  • Repeat the whole circuit once more


USA Track & Field–certified running coach Alex Harrison, Ph. D., recommends that each sprint shouldn’t exceed fifteen to twenty seconds. “A sprint is an effort that is performed at 90 percent or greater of the maximum speed that it could be performed for a one-off effort,” says the running coach.

  • 6 x 50–100 m at 93 to 98 percent of max speed
  • 4- to 5-minute walk recovery between each sprint


  • 4 x 200 m at 90 to 95 percent of max speed
  • 5- to 8-minute walk recovery between each sprint

Eat Better

Effective weight loss efforts are accompanied by a healthy diet. We recommend that you consult with a registered dietitian to formulate a safe and effective dietary plan, but if you don’t have the time or resources to do so, here are a few pointers.

Know Your BMR

Determine the amount of calories your body needs per day by calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The safest and most accurate way to do this is to have a health professional do it for you, but there are also several BMR calculators online (Active and Set your ideal daily calorie count that is lower than your regular BMR.

Be mindful to set a goal that is feasible and healthy for you. We suggest you don’t do this on your own if you previously suffered from an eating disorder or if you are undergoing any treatment that requires a strict diet.

Choose Good-Quality Calorie Sources

If you are averse to the idea of counting calories, an alternative is to simply watch the quality of the food you take. Opt for calorie sources that offer a rich concentration of nutrients and can fill your stomach. You can refer to this list by Healthline.

Complement a healthy diet with a supplement like OPTML HIIT Performance Supplement.

Let us know if these have been helpful, or if you have any pointers you want to share. We’ll be happy to hear from you!