If you’re looking to lose excess weight, these training tweaks can help you reach your goals. – By Jennifer Van Allen and Pamela Nisevich Bede
When you first start running, if you increase your mileage and speed steadily and give your body enough opportunity to recover, you’ll witness the minor miracle of just how amazing your body is at adapting to new stresses, and becoming stronger and leaner. That’s a very good thing. It helps you achieve paces and distances that at one point you didn’t think you’d ever be capable of. Better still, running at easier paces no longer causes sweat to spill down your face, your heart to pummel your ribcage or your lungs to feel at the point of explosion. And aside from being rather more comfortable, that feels like a huge victory. Which it is.
But adaptation does have a dark side for anyone who wants to lose fat. Once your body becomes more efficient at a certain distance or pace, your kilojoule burn starts to stall and even decline. ‘If all you do is run the same distance and terrain at the same effort day after day, you will adapt to that,’ says exercise physiologist and running coach Janet Hamilton, founder of Running Strong. The key to building your fitness – and to continue losing weight – is to keep adding intensity to your running routine.
Ramping up the intensity of your workouts, however, doesn’t mean you should run as fast as possible every single day. The cardiovascular system adapts to new stresses much faster than the muscles, bones and joints do. It’s important to balance tougher workouts with rest days and easy running so that your body has a chance to adapt and get stronger. It’s also important to have a variety of more-intense sessions to build full-body fitness. By mixing up the type of sessions you do, you’re stimulating different parts of your physiology. Use the other days to recover with rest, easy running or low-impact cross-training (such as cycling, yoga or strength training), and you’ll build full-body fitness more effectively and without raising your risk of injury.
Each week, do at least two of the following workouts, designed by Hamilton. On the other days, rest, cross-train or run easy. Don’t do any of these workouts back to back, as that could lead to injury.
1. Tempo run
What it is: Sustaining a faster-than-usual pace without breaking into an all-out sprint.
Why it matters: Tempo work improves running efficiency so you can run faster over a longer distance with less effort.
What to do: Warm up with an easy kilometre and gradually speed up to your 10-K pace for one kilometre. Recover with three easy minutes and repeat twice more. Cool down with an easy kilometre.
How it feels: You should feel like you stepped just outside your comfort zone.
Keep it honest: Every two or three weeks, lengthen the tempo segment.