Running to Lose Weight: The Best Strategies to Get Fitter and Faster

Many people lace up new running shoes with a main goal of weight loss at the start of their running journey–before they inevitably fall in love with the sport. And for good reason–running to lose weight is a high-intensity, cardio form of exercise that burns a high number of calories in a shorter amount of time than many other sports.

Plus, if you’re running to lose weight you’ll be burning body fat and building muscle mass, so it’s one of the best things you can do to raise your heart rate, burn calories, and reach your weight loss goals.

How to Lose Weight Through Running

Let’s tackle this one head-on. It’s all about consistency and moderation. If you bust out of the gates sprinting on your first run excited about your new weight loss plan, you’re going to burn out quickly or get injured.

runner lacing up shoes

You need to have a plan–especially if you haven’t been working out or generally have a low activity level. It’s all about to change but start slow and consider joining a running program for motivation and support from other runners in the same boat as you are.

If you’re just starting out, you should also incorporate rest days or cross-training. Running is an impact-heavy sport on your body, so make sure you mix it up with other sports like swimming, the elliptical, yoga, or pilates.

Examine Your Diet

Even if you’re running three to five times a week (or more), it’s still not a license to eat whatever you want. I’ve seen so many new runners get discouraged when they start running and start seeing the number on the scale creep up.

It can be tempting to put proper dietary habits aside because you feel like you “deserve” that big bowl of ice cream or plate of nachos, but it can sabotage your efforts.

Pro tip: Consider relying on measurements or how your clothes fit rather than the scale. Muscle weighs more, but it definitely helps your body burn more fat!

Consider this: an average five-mile run burns roughly 500 calories–depending on your size. A burger and fries, a milkshake, fried onion rings, or a massive sandwich can all easily come in WAY over 500 calories. Plus, it’s not going to make you feel good; it’s going to weigh you down!


Keep this mantra in mind–calories in, calories out. Yes, it’s still important to fuel your workouts and overall day with healthy eating such as lean protein, veggies, and fruits, but if you’re consuming more calories than you are burning, chances are you’re going to gain weight.

salad, fruits, and eggs

So, you should aim for a calorie deficit where you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning. Consider keeping a food journal, using an app, or even consulting with a dietitian or nutritionist to help you track your calories burned vs. calories consumed. It takes a little practice–but it will make you super aware of where you’re allocating calories.

Incorporate Strength Training

Remember, muscle burns more than fat. So while hitting the trail or track burns mega calories, you should still incorporate some strength training to build up your muscle mass, making your runs even more productive if you’re running to lose weight.

Even if you aren’t big on lifting weights, you can still weave in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like this one to use your own body weight to become a stronger, fitter runner.

This workout incorporates four movements in just 15 minutes.

1. Jump Squats

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and point your toes out slightly.
  • Sit back into the squat, keeping a flat back with your knees over your toes.
  • Sit down into the squat for two seconds, and explode up for one second–landing nice and light on your toes.
  •  Make sure you don’t lock your knees–we’re going for a fluid movement from squat to jump and back.
  • Aim for 15 jump squats per set–as many as you can fit in about three and a half minutes.

2. Russian Twists

  • Sit on the floor with your knees in front of you, keeping a tall, flat back–without hunching forward.
  • Lean back just a bit, balancing on your butt bone with your feet slightly off the ground.
  • If you want an extra challenge, hold a medicine ball or weight in your hands.
  • With your hands together (or a ball or weight in between them) touch your hands to your left side, come back and pause at center, and then touch them to the right side.
  • If it starts getting too intense, you can touch your feet down to the ground, but keep bringing them back up slightly as you feel able.
  • Aim for 30 total twists (15 per side) per set–as many as you can fit in about three and a half minutes.

3. Speed Skaters

  • To start, stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • With your right foot, take a big set out to the side.
  • Cross your opposite (left) leg over behind your right leg and sit back until you can feel a good stretch in your right hip.
  • From here, tap your right hand down to the ground before moving to the other side.
  • Bring your left leg back into the same stance you had at the beginning, but stay low.
  • Keeping your hips nice and square, repeat on the other side.
  • Alternate sides, adding a small jump in between each “skater” if you feel up to it.
  • Aim for 30 total speed skaters (15 per side) per set–as many as you can fit in about three and a half minutes.

4. Burpee Challenge

  • Stand with your feet just a bit over hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly, making sure they stay right over your toes.
  • Bend forward and put your hands to the ground in front of you, shoulder-width apart.
  • Either step or jump back your feet while keeping your hands in place, extending the legs fully, ending in a tight plank position with your hips tucked under and your body in a straight line.
  • Once your body is in that straight line, lower yourself down like you’re doing a push-up, keeping your elbows tight to your sides.
  • When you come back up, you can take a wider stance to push up to your feet–making sure your knees aren’t going over the top of your toes.
  • Raise your hands above your head, and repeat!
  • Aim for 15 burpees per set–as many as you can fit in about three and a half minutes.

Are you ready for more workouts that can drive weight loss through running? Check out our “Running For Weight Loss” YouTube page dedicated to helping every runner reach their fitness and weight loss goals.

The Bottom Line

Running to lose weight is like a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, dedication, consistency, and proper nutrition. Don’t forget to check out our new mobile app for coaching advice, daily video workouts, injury prevention tips, and complete training programs.

You can even keep track of your runs with our GPS Run and receive community support. Think of it as your own personal running coach, right in your pocket. It’s available for download now on the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.