How Often Do I Have to Run to Lose Weight? Plus: 6 Helpful Training Tips

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Do you want to lose weight? Then give running a try! But the question is, what’s the best way to go about achieving optimal weight loss? Running expert Sascha has several great tips for maximizing your training so you’ll actually see results if you’re running to lose weight.

How to get started

Every beginning is hard. That’s why Sascha recommends, “Regular, short sessions at low intensity are ideal for  getting started running.” These build the base for your running performance. Plus, they keep you from overtaxing your body: it must learn to get a higher percentage of the energy it needs to run from your fat reserves. At the beginning, it will take most of this energy from the more accessible carbohydrates  in your muscles and liver. The widespread belief that you won’t burn fat for the first 30 minutes of exercise is not true: “The body burns fat and carbohydrates at the same time. But of course longer runs burn more calories than shorter sessions.”

“Later, after your performance begins to improve, your runs can start to get longer. You should also supplement your running training with strength training to build muscle,” advises the running expert. This not only boosts the fat burning process, but strength training helps correct muscle imbalances caused by running.

How often do I have to run to lose weight?

After the abovementioned beginning phase, you should change the content, length and intensity of your training: during the first stage, which lasts between 3-4 weeks, the focus is on slowly getting you used to working out on a regular basis. After your body has built up a certain base fitness level, you can and should increase the training stimulus.This will really ramp up the fat burning process.

6 training tips from the running expert:

1. Run regularly

You should start out running three times a week and then increase the volume to four or five times a week. In general, the more you work out, the bigger the results will be. “But make sure to listen to your body. If you need a break, take it,” emphasizes the running expert. If you don’t, this can lead to acute or overuse injuries.

2. Focus on strength training

Unfortunately, it’s hard to reach your goal weight with running alone. Sascha explained that “the higher the percentage of muscle in your body is, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be.” Therefore, in addition to your running training, you should include at least one strength training workout per week either with free weights or your own body weight. The adidas Training app is a good way to strength train using your own body weight.

3. Mix up your training

“At first, a beginner can get good results with short, easy runs. However, your body will quickly adapt to this training stimulus and build up reserves. This presents a problem for more experienced runners: over time, the fat burning gains will grow smaller.” To avoid this situation, you need to incorporate as much variety as possible. “Don’t give your body the chance to get used to your workout,” said Sascha. By switching up your training, you force your body to keep adapting. This, in turn, improves your performance and boosts your metabolism. “Make variety your routine: in addition to your long-distance runs, work in some intervals, fartleks, sprints, technique drills and strength training.” A good rule of thumb is never do the same workout twice back to back!

4. Increase your intensities

“An engine running at full speed burns a lot of fuel!” This is a good way to picture the fat burning mechanism during an intense running session. A strenuous interval workout requires a lot of energy. While it is true that the percentage of fat burned in the metabolic process is quite high during long slow runs, the total daily energy expenditure, and thus the number of calories burned, is relatively low due to the low intensity of the workout. In the case of high-intensity running workouts, like intervals, the percentage of fat burned in the metabolic process is significantly lower, but the total daily energy expenditure and the calories burned are many times higher.
Furthermore, the “afterburn” effect is much higher during your recovery from a high-intensity workout than a low one. “But be careful: intense running workouts are very hard on your body. For this reason, you shouldn’t do more than one per week.”

5. Give yourself breaks

Your body needs time to adapt to all the different training stimuli. Therefore, treat yourself to at least one rest day per week. Make sure you get plenty of sleep: it influences all the metabolic processes in your body.

6. Afterburn effect, nutrition and recovery

If you are interested in burning fat while running, you need to make sure that you burn more calories per day than you consume. Running expert Sascha explains that “it depends on a good ratio of exercise and a moderate diet.” If you only focus on one of the factors, it is going to be pretty hard to achieve or maintain your ideal weight (i.e. yo-yo effect!).
Athletes often eat lots of carbohydrates to build up glycogen stores in their muscles. “Generally speaking, this is important for your body’s ability to perform physical exercise.” However, the consumption of carbohydrates can interfere with the metabolism of fats. This means that if you want to reduce your fat stores, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything containing sugar after your workout. Your body must recover after your workout. “It wants to return to its normal state and it requires energy to do this. This is why your body continues to burn calories even after you finish running.” This is known as the “afterburn” effect. This effect is highest after interval training or intense strength training.

Sascha’s bottom line: “The best way to lose weight is a combination of running, targeted strength training and proper nutrition.” Get out there and use the running expert’s tips to optimize your weight loss!


Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld