The 2 Running Workouts You Need to Drop Pounds Fast!

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The 2 Running Workouts You Need to Drop Pounds Fast!

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Like most runners, I run first and foremost because I enjoy it, and only secondarily for the many health benefits that come with it. But those benefits are nothing to sneeze at. Running is proven to boost cardiovascular health, keep the brain youthful, and reduce the risk for chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes. Running also happens to be the most effective form of exercise for weight loss. Studies show men and women who run shed more pounds than those who spend an equal amount of time walking or swimming. Still, many runners don’t lose as much weight as they could because of one simple mistake: they’re not training at the right intensity. Fortunately, you can avoid this trap with heart-rate based workouts.

According to research, there are two types of runs that are especially effective for weight loss. The most powerful program is one that combines the two: fat-burning runs and high-intensity interval runs. Fat-burning runs are slow, steady runs undertaken at the intensity where the muscles rely most heavily on fat for fuel. This type of run torches more fat than any other type. High-intensity interval runs feature multiple short bursts of very fast running. These workouts promote weight loss by keeping the body’s metabolism elevated for hours afterward.

If you’re like most runners, you spend very little time running in either the low-intensity zone that maximizes fat burning or the high-intensity zone that boosts post-exercise metabolism. More than likely, you’re running between these zones, at a moderate intensity that is not as effective for weight loss. Why? It’s probably because most of us tend to run by feel, and it just so happens that the natural running pace for a majority of runners falls in the moderate-intensity range.

Heart-rate based workouts offer a way out of the moderate-intensity trap. With a heart-rate monitor, running in the maximum fat-burning zone or the high-intensity zone is as easy as targeting your correct heart-rate range. In the five-zone system I use as a coach, for example, the zones are based on lactate-threshold heart rate (not maximum heart-rate), and can be established by running a 30-minute time trial and noting your average heart rate during the last ten minutes, or by using the Pear mobile app. The zones break down like this:

Zone 1: 75-80% of lactate threshold (LT) heart rate (HR)—Very easy effort; use this for warming up.
Zone 2: 81-89% of LT HR—The fat burning zone! Comfortable enough to hold a conversation.
Zone 3: 96-100% of LT HR—“Hard-ish” effort; you can still speak in short sentences.
Zone 4: 102-105% of LT HR – Hard effort; the pace is sustainable, but talking is not.
Zone 5: 106%+ of LT HR—The high-intensity zone! This pace can only be kept for a few minutes.

Here are two simple workouts that tap into the power of heart-rate based training to add to your weekly routine:

Fat-Burning Run: Warm up with 5 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 1. Next, increase your effort slightly to Zone 2, which is where the maximum rate of fat burning occurs. Stay in Zone 2 for at least 20 minutes and then cool down for 5 minutes back in Zone 1

High-Intensity Interval Run: Warm up with 5 minutes of easy jogging followed by 5 minutes of comfortable running in Zone 2. Next, increase your effort to Zone 4. After 2 minutes, reduce your effort to Zone 1 and recover for 3 minutes. Repeat this pattern—2 minutes in Zone 4, and 3 minutes in Zone 1—four times. Finally, cool down with 5 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 1. [Note: Your heart rate will climb through at least the first half of each 2-minute interval, and it may not reach Zone 4 until near the end. Don’t try to run faster to get your heart rate into Zone 4 sooner. Instead, run at the slowest steady pace that is sufficient to elevate your heart rate into Zone 4 before each interval is complete. Likewise, your heart rate will steadily fall during each 3-minute recovery period. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get all the way to Zone 1 before the next Zone 4 interval starts. Just run slow enough so that your heart rate would reach Zone 1 eventually.]

What do you say, ready to try heart-rate based running? What’s your favorite running workout? 

 

Matt FitzgeraldMatt Fitzgerald is an award-winning endurance sports journalist and bestselling author of more than 20 books on running, triathlon, fitness, nutrition, and weight loss, including Brain Training for Runners and Racing Weight. His byline appears regularly in national publications including Men’s Journal, Outside, and Women’s Running. An experienced running and triathlon coach and certified sports nutritionist, Matt serves as a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. His FREE One-Week Weight-Loss plan is available on the PEAR Sports app in the Channels section. Get the PEAR Sports app on iTunes or Google Play

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80 responses to “The 2 Running Workouts You Need to Drop Pounds Fast!”

  1. Avatar laurarussell says:

    i have tried running but my legs won’t let me so i’m just walking 2-3 miles a few days a week. my goal is to eventually be able to run.

    • Avatar Sara Harrison says:

      Try running 1/4 to 1/2 a mile at least twice during those walks. That is how I learned how to run, and I’m still at it almost 5 years later. Good luck!

    • Avatar Marilyn says:

      I did the Couch to 5k program and it really worked. I’ve never been a runner and I did it last summer. I have to start all over again since I didn’t keep it up over the winter. Also, I just turned 60 so we’ll see how it goes this year. Good luck!

      • Avatar Cristina Davis says:

        I did the Couch to 5 K program thru our local Y and loved it too. I am also playing catch up as winter was not so good for my running routine. Good luck to you and hope the best for both of us!

        • Avatar Jamie Moreland says:

          I started the couch to 5k program in November and completed it In February. I loved it. I just bundled up and ran lol. I’m still running and I’m up to 3.5 miles.

      • Avatar yasmin says:

        Where can i find tue couch to 5 k program?

        • Avatar Sharon says:

          I use the Couch to 5k app by RunDouble for Android. I’m not sure if there is one for Apple, but there probably is. Just search “C25K by RunDouble”. Hope this helps! 🙂

        • Avatar Fiona Martin says:

          There are a few C25K programs, some are free, some aren’t, just look on the app store. I use Zen labs one, they donate money to breast cancer research for each user.

        • Avatar me says:

          also look up Run For God. It’s a couch to 5K with Bible Study….Highly recommend. I did it this spring and had never ran in my 43 years and loved it!

      • Avatar Jazzy says:

        Thank you!

      • Avatar Emma Bethel says:

        Marilyn, age is just a number, what matters is your determination. At least that is what a 72 year old jogger told me. I use that to inspire me. You can do this, you did it before!

    • Avatar Bob Ripperdan says:

      You will get there, I did 🙂

  2. Avatar Loretta5ue says:

    So how do you find your LT HR?

    • Avatar atx7 says:

      “the zones are based on lactate-threshold heart rate (not maximum heart-rate), and can be established by running a 30-minute time trial and noting your average heart rate during the last ten minutes”

      • Avatar Loretta5ue says:

        With the 30 minutes at conversation pace or at race pace?

        • Avatar IndyJess says:

          Some places offer a more scientific test to find your LT. I went to Lifetime Fitness and did the active metabolic assessment. You wear a mask that measures oxygen levels as you run on the treadmill while the technician increases pace and/or incline to get you to reach LT or Anabolic Threshold. It’s not a pleasant experience (because AT hurts) but you gain a lot of insight to your specific HR zones.

      • Avatar OldGunny says:

        So I have my average HR, now what? Where is the reference?

        • Avatar Moyote says:

          To use the modalities presented here you’d need to train with a hr monitor. Establish your max hr (which you’ve done) and then take the percentage values listed above to establish your zones.

          • Avatar OldGunny says:

            Ok, I see that part. I was referring to the LT HR…I see from another comment/reply the question was answered though. Thanks.

  3. Avatar IndyJess says:

    This is my biggest downfall. Been running for two years and haven’t dropped a pound. I routinely run at zone 3 & 4 because I’m always training for the next event. Unfortunately my metabolic test showed that my fat burning zone was a very VERY small range and to maintain that heart rate zone was easier by walking uphill or on treadmill incline than by running.

    • Avatar russell says:

      try some type of cross training. biking, aerobics, weight training, etc. anything to give your body a new challenge. I run five and six days a week while training for marathons, however if all i do is run I feel very little weight loss benefit. Your body will adapt to any exercise you do and eventually the benefits become less evident. I am sure you have seen the overweight fast runners with no muscle tone at some of your races. It is easy to fall into that rut if you love running as i do, but you have to make yourself try something different from time to time. Don”t get too hung up on heart rate ranges because they are simply a guideline, everyone is different. My wife’s best friend is having the same struggle that you are although i do not feel it is my place to give her exercise advice as she has not confided in me.

      • Avatar IndyJess says:

        I do cross train. I currently supplement with HIIT and strength training, as well as cycling to train for my upcoming duathlon and sprint triathlon. I’ve had several tests done with an endocrinologist along with a professional examination of my diet and the doctor actually said they don’t know why I can’t lose weight.

        • Avatar Adrian Markwell says:

          I’m no doctor, or expert (nor do we know your particular circumstances)… but seems to me as though you’re trying to lose weight (through running) and building bulk (through strength training).

          Perhaps I’m over-simplifying?

          • Avatar IndyJess says:

            Strength training isn’t about building bulk. It’s developing muscle and tone. Muscle burns more calories (even when at rest) and revs your metabolism, not to mention strength training is important for endurance running. None of that has to do with the topic above of heart rate training with running to lose weight. I was simply saying that due to the majority of my training being running, my cardiovascular system has adapted to a point where it has become efficient at running, but very much more difficult to hit that fat burning sweet spot because of its efficiency.

  4. Avatar JT says:

    Walking is just fine. Calories burned walking 4 miles are almost equivalent to those burned in a 4 mile jog or run. You just get done with the jog or run a lot sooner.

    • Avatar Joe says:

      Thats not true at all…

    • Avatar Jonathon Quigley says:

      Yeah, that’s not true at all. You burn calories when your heart rate is elevated for a period of time. Running 4 miles at a particular pace is always going to burn more calories than walking. It’s simple math and physics.

      • Avatar Rich says:

        Nope. Running 4 miles probably uses up a maximum of 5% to 10% more calories than walking 4 miles. This is because the time it takes to run 4 miles is (hopefully) a lots less than the time it takes to walk 4 miles. However, if you ran for one hour, then deducted the calories that would have been used by your body, just for rest, or light movement in that same period. and compared that with walking for one hour, and deducting calories, had you been at rest for one hour, then the difference will be substantial, and significant.

        • Avatar Brian Sharpe says:

          Wrong, wrong wrong………running burns over double the net calories as walking (,63 x weight in lbs x distance in miles vs .30 x weight in x distance in miles – source Runners World)

        • Avatar jema99 says:

          It is true running 4 miles burns the same amount of calories as a 4 mile walk. It is actually due to the fact walking takes longer so therefore it doesn’t just burn up one source of calories. you will burn more calories over a longer time of exercise as the body will dip into more resources to help the muscles. However if you run for the same amount of time (not distance) as someone walks yes you will always burn more calories. Running will get you fitter quicker than walking though.

        • Avatar Julie Lynn Collins says:

          Sorry – that’s not accurate. There is more involved than simply calories in/calories out and time/distance. Elevation of heart rate, and the metabolic changes that occur during and after, also must be factored in.

  5. Avatar Stacey Kaylor Butcher says:

    Can you use a Polar FT4 with this app? I’d love to use the app but I don’t want to buy a new HR monitor! It would be a lot easier if I had the “coach” talking in my ear than trying to keep an eye on my HRM watch for my HR and times and stuff.

  6. Avatar Melissa says:

    where do you get the bluetooth HR monitor?

  7. Avatar Patricia Powers-Williamson says:

    Thank you for your post. I will try this. I am a jogger/runner when my body allows it.

    I do want to say that people in general are getting exhausted with these studies because I saw one last week that stated that if you walk longer you will burn the same amount of calories as running, it just takes more time. I am going to ignore these types of studies from now on. Not everyone’s body is made for running – with record levels of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in this Country, walking can be beneficial for those who cannot run. They just have to walk longer (distance and time) and at a higher intensity than “sashaying”. Best regards

    • Avatar Jazzy says:

      Thank you! I get confused by all the different study results. I have actually lost weight by walking 4 miles per day.

  8. Avatar Lauren Navarrette says:

    I usually maintain 15-20 minute runs at zone 4, so does this mean I am not at a good fat-burning level and that I need to rethink my workout regime?

  9. Avatar Robert Roberts says:

    I’ve heard calories are calories, regardless of where they are burned during the exercise. If you run for the same time but increase intensity then you burn more calories and as such more fat. Interesting how you see both sides explored so much

  10. Avatar Laurie Baldwin says:

    How do you figure what your heart rate zone should be?

  11. Avatar lcm4him says:

    My doctor said I had patella tendonitis and said I needed to lose 20-30 pounds before running or jogging. I lost 6 pounds in 6 weeks doing the C10K app. First time I’ve LOST weight in 15 years. I can wear patella knee wraps and it helps but it is still very painful. And , yes , I’ve watched carbs, watched portion sizes, done pills and meal replacement shakes, Plexus and multiple other things and I’m at a loss.

  12. Avatar Lily Flor says:

    I’ll love to start running but I’m afraid I won’t be able to breathe properly, I know beginners must start slow, hopefully I can give it a try since I will love to incorporate that to my daily routine.

  13. This totally works, although the high-intensity zone really dry you out!

  14. Avatar David Wellman says:

    Hill repeats. That is all.

  15. Avatar Dave Perry says:

    Too complicated. Most people just need to get mobile. This kind of story is just more noise.

    • Avatar laurarussell says:

      That’s kinda of negative to say.

    • Avatar Julie Lynn Collins says:

      Bad attitude. For those of us who have been “mobile” for years, a bit of science to fine-tune the effort is always helpful. The author is an award-winning sports journalist. Hardly someone just spewing “noise.”

  16. Avatar Tami says:

    I’m a big girl!! I’m trying to run, but right now, I can only run about a minute-a minute and a half without getting really winded. Is there a strategy for bigger people who want to run, or do you just have to do what you can and eventually it gets easier??

    • Avatar Brian says:

      Hi Tami – Good for you for wanting to work out – its only going to get easier from here. Interval training, as mentioned in this article, will help you achieve better endurance and fast paces over time. Keep at it. Make sure you’re not taking excessively long breaks between the 1 – 1.5 minute bursts. Maybe try 1 min running hard, and 2 minutes jogging at a slow pace. Try this for 20-30 minutes. This will help you catch your breath but overtime should allow you start increasing your pace at lengthen your distance. The main thing is to be consistent. It takes a lot of training to build up cardio, and a week to lose it.

      • Avatar Tami says:

        That’s what I’ve been doing 🙂 It’s good to know that maybe I’m on the right track. It just seems like it’s not getting any easier.

        • Avatar Bob Ripperdan says:

          you are on the right track. Congrats it’s not easy i know from experience. You will get there though.

    • Avatar Crystal says:

      Hey Tami, so great that you are keeping at this. Running is hard, but so worth it. I am no expert, but I think that when you initially start to train, it is the hardest – since that first time, even when I have gotten off track and stopped for a season or two, it hasn’t been as difficult to start back (maybe has to do with muscle memory). For me it felt at first like my lungs would burst and I had such a hard time breathing, but it does get easier. You are doing the right thing by small amounts at a time. I don’t know if you run on a treadmill or outdoors, but after I had my son and was trying to get back into it, I would only run downhill. It sounds lame, I know, but it was better then nothing. Eventually I added the flat parts of the road, and then soon I was doing the small hills, and eventually the whole route. The important thing is just keep at it and don’t give up.

    • Avatar Jana says:

      Hey Tami! Keep at it!!! I know from my personal experience that everyone progresses at different rates. Just don’t force yourself to go too fast before you are ready. I did that and injured my knee. Then was out 4 weeks and it took me forever to get back into it. Basically…push yourself, but not too much that you are gonna get hurt. I keep track of each of my workouts to see how fast I go as well as duration and mileage. It helps me compare runs as well as see the progress. Of course you are gonna have days where you don’t want to run or don’t do as good, but take it in stride. Good luck!!

    • Avatar Kersten Fitzgerald says:

      Hey Tami,

      Keep it up, it does get easier. I haven’t run since I was a teenager, and the weight has piled on in recent years. I started about 6 months ago just walking around the block and that got me out of breath, but I persevered until I could walk for 30 minutes without getting puffed. Just before Christmas I was struggling to run for 1 minute, or to even make 50m! About a month ago I managed to run 500m, including inclines, then 2 weeks ago I stretched that out to 1km, and tonight I hit the 2km mark. My aim is to be able to run 5km by September and to compete in my first 5km fundraising run, as well as lose the weight – have lost nearly 5 kgs, so it is slow going but my fitness is much improved. Don’t give up – Remember the 3 Ps – persistence, perseverance, and positivity (as well as being consistent and doing a little every day!).

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Tami

        I was a big girl and suffer with severe asthma, I did a couch to 5k program and it was so helpful! I know love running! The winter was hard being a Canuck and asthma but in the past year I have been doing this I have dropped from a size 22 to 16! It takes work and commitment but I am sure you can do it! Jus keep trying at it! Getting up and moving is the first step, way to go!

    • Avatar crista says:

      Hi Tami and Nikki. I too am a big girl and have recently started jogging (I think running is too strong a word). I was very hesitant to get into it as I had a lot of knee pain, likely from carrying too much weight around for so long combined with a familial tendency for knee problems. I found that when I tried to increase my cardio, I had knee issues. I focused first on strengthening exercises for my quads which then lead to markedly less knee problems. I wore knee braces when I did the cardio (typically elliptical or walking on the treadmill) until I was strong enough to go without them. When I went back to start running with the couch to 5 k program, I found that I could actually do it! I followed some advice from the forums and ran slowly, increasing my distance before increasing my speed. The C25k is good as it slowly builds up the length of time that you run so that your body can adjust. Definitely keep it up and it will make a difference. I also found that I could do much more than I thought I could. Keep going!

  17. Avatar andy hazel says:

    I have neuropathy in my feet. They are painful all the time so cannot run. Is there a stable exercise I can do. I also have A fib.

    • Avatar Jazzy says:

      I like swimming since it is not so stressful on my joints, esp. if my hip hurts from jogging (or take an aerobic pool exercise class). Good luck! 🙂

  18. Avatar Joni Foster says:

    Combined both of these runs today. Did intervals for 4 miles, then ran in zone 2 all the way back.

  19. Avatar Linda Taylor says:

    Love your article. 1 question for everyone, Do you burn more fat by running 4 miles or walking? I can walk 4.20 miles in 1 hour and 20 minutes. I can run a 12 minute mile…. My goal is burn fat and strengthen my heart…

  20. Avatar Kersten Fitzgerald says:

    Have only just heard about the Couch to 5K today when a friend came to visit, so interesting that I am finding it here as well. I managed to run 500m about 4 weeks ago, got that up to 1k about 2 weeks ago, and hit the 2k mark tonight. I haven’t run since I was a teenager, and I turned 48 this week, so am quite proud of myself. Am going to do the Couch to 5k as I really want to be able to run in one of the 5k fundraisers at the end of the year.

  21. Avatar Allie says:

    Sprinting has caused me shin splints, I’ve given it a rest for week, went back on the treadmill and the shin splint has returned. Bought new trainers, posture everything is correct. Where I’m I going wrong

  22. Avatar NH says:

    Loved the article although the zone descriptions are difficult to gauge. Are you able to give an average speed for each of the zones? I use a treadmill and I think this would make switching between the various zones and intensities a little easier. Thanks for a great read!

  23. Avatar NH says:

    Loved the article although the zone descriptions are difficult to gauge. Are you able to give an average speed for each of the zones? I use a treadmill and I think this would make switching between the various zones and intensities a little easier. Thanks for a great read!

  24. Avatar NH says:

    Loved the article although the zone descriptions are difficult to gauge. Are you able to give an average speed for each of the zones? I use a treadmill and I think this would make switching between the various zones and intensities a little easier. Thanks for a great read!

  25. Avatar mim says:

    Anyone can learn how to run. Start with a short distance, then gradually increase. Always set a goal for yourself. If you feel like stopping and walking before you reach your goal, just try slowing down your pace until you get to the end. I’m 54 years old, and have been running since high school. Some days are so easy, but on some days, I feel like I have lead in my shoes! Music helps me to not let the negative thoughts creep in! Good luck, and don’t give up! I used to run everyday, but with sensitive knees, I walk on an incline on the treadmill on the days in between. My legs are rested, and ready for the next day’s run. 🙂

  26. Avatar mim says:

    Anyone can learn how to run. Start with a short distance, then gradually increase. Always set a goal for yourself. If you feel like stopping and walking before you reach your goal, just try slowing down your pace until you get to the end. I’m 54 years old, and have been running since high school. Some days are so easy, but on some days, I feel like I have lead in my shoes! Music helps me to not let the negative thoughts creep in! Good luck, and don’t give up! I used to run everyday, but with sensitive knees, I walk on an incline on the treadmill on the days in between. My legs are rested, and ready for the next day’s run. 🙂

  27. Avatar mim says:

    Anyone can learn how to run. Start with a short distance, then gradually increase. Always set a goal for yourself. If you feel like stopping and walking before you reach your goal, just try slowing down your pace until you get to the end. I’m 54 years old, and have been running since high school. Some days are so easy, but on some days, I feel like I have lead in my shoes! Music helps me to not let the negative thoughts creep in! Good luck, and don’t give up! I used to run everyday, but with sensitive knees, I walk on an incline on the treadmill on the days in between. My legs are rested, and ready for the next day’s run. 🙂

  28. Avatar Danielle says:

    I have tried to run, but get severe shin splints – any suggestions?

  29. Avatar Rachel Mortimer says:

    What is the cheapest app/ gadget that I can get to monitor my heart rate?

  30. Avatar Jeffry Clause says:

    Let’s not forget that weight loss/gain comes mostly from your diet. If you eat 1000 calories over your daily expenditure for calories, that’s going to be a lot of running just to maintain your current weight, not to mention losing fat. Get your eating habits under control first, then worry about the specifics of cardio exercise.

  31. Avatar HollyASNP says:

    I use this same program to teach my patients, thanks for the reinforcement! Sadly, I have tried to run but can’t seem to get past the asthma/vocal cord dysfunction. I couldn’t get past week 1 of the C25k. Advice?

  32. These comments are pretty inspirational. Thanks team!

  33. Avatar Terri Fuentes says:

    With the high intensity interval run, how often should you do this workout and
    as your body acclimates, how best would you adjust the workout? Add a
    few more intervals or increase the speed? Or both? I love interval
    training like this. It keeps my mind busy or it’s easy enough to allow
    me to be mindless and relax.

  34. Avatar Sheri Hobbs says:

    I’m just getting back to running after having been off for over a year with one injury after another – I have gained nearly 40 pounds due to medications combined with little to no rigorous physical activity. Can these programs be done from a walk/power walk program? I am ready to start a gentle C25K program, but even that may have to start with walk/power walk intervals due to the current obesity. Any suggestions or thoughts?

  35. Avatar Chris Adams says:

    Pls, don’t forget that training has to be combined with proper meal plan. Great post as always!

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