The question: I've just started to run in an attempt to lose some weight, but I've been running for six weeks now without any changes. What am I doing wrong?
The answer: Exercising on a regular basis is a huge accomplishment. Don't be discouraged by your lack of weight loss. Be proud of the fact that you have managed to make exercise a habit.
Try not to measure your success solely on the number on the scale. The benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight loss. The biggest benefits I get from running are a sense of accomplishment, joy and mental alertness. Other benefits from exercise include better sleep, increased energy and a decreased risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. These benefits may be less objectively and aesthetically measurable than visible weight loss, but they are even more significant.
That said, to lose weight, I suggest assessing your diet. No amount of exercise will compensate for an unhealthy diet. Try keeping a food journal. Journals can be a useful way to compare how one thinks one is eating with reality. Often we underestimate our calorie consumption and overestimate our caloric expenditure.
Use the journal to measure not only your food and liquid consumption, but why and when you eat. Track your emotions. Did you eat because you were hungry, sad, lonely, bored?
From a fitness point of view, make sure you are strength training. Running is a cardiovascular activity and is therefore catabolic in nature – it breaks down muscle tissue. Strength training is anabolic – it builds muscle tissue. To lose fat, you want to build lean muscle, which will increase your metabolism and help positively change the shape of your body.
Trainer's Tip: Twice per week, make two of your runs interval workouts. This will maximize your calorie burn during your running workouts, as well as your post-exercise calorie burn. Warm up for 10 minutes and then alternate 15 seconds of fast running with 45 seconds of moderate running for 20 minutes. Cool down for five to 10 minutes. Intervals are intense. To avoid injuries, don't do intervals more than twice per week.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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