Run Less, Lose More

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by Liz PLosser photographs by Williams & Hirakawa
Run

This simple but strategic running programme will help you shape up and shed kilos with minimal mileage…

If you walk into a gym anywhere in South Africa, you’ll see rows of women sweating it out on treadmills. Stop in again months later, and many of those same women won’t look that much slimmer, despite the countless hours they’ve spent pounding away on that moving belt.

Here’s why: most people operate under the assumption that the more they run, the more weight they’ll lose. That’s true, but only to a point. Running is an incredibly effective and efficient form of exercise for burning kilojoules. (You burn about 35.5 kJ a minute when moving at a comfortable pace.)

The problem is, your body adapts to the training load and becomes more efficient, which translates to fewer kilojoules being burnt, says Dr Paola Wood, biokineticist and lecturer at the University of Pretoria. In other words, you’ll initially drop a few kilos, but your progress will flatline as soon as your body adjusts to your exercise regimen. Plus, running long distances on a regular basis takes a physical toll (in the form of injuries, like runner’s knee) and can seriously dampen your enthusiasm.

Ultimately, all that pain and boredom can cause many people to burn out and give up. Thankfully, there is a better (and easier) way. By learning how to make your runs more efficient at burning fat (by running with more intensity and by making your body stronger), you can get more benefits in less time, says running coach Andrew Kastor.

You’ll still need to run three to five days a week, but rarely for more than 20 minutes a pop. That’s not so bad, right?


  1. Sneak In Some Speed
  2. Head For The Hills
  3. Strengthen Your Stride
  4. Go Long In Moderation

Sneak In Some Speed

If you work out, you’ve probably heard of intervals – short bursts of intense exercise with periods of recovery in between. Here’s why they work: when you chug along at a comfortable pace (as most people do), your body gets energy easily from the oxygen you inhale. But once you switch to high gear, your muscles start working harder to process that O², so they expend extra energy recruiting other chemicals in the body (adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine, in case you’re interested) to get the job done.

"When you're moving at your usual pace, your body tries to conserve energy by being economical and efficient in moving," says Wood. "When you kick-start it with interval sessions, it becomes less economical and uses more kilojoules to complete the interval. These short but effective bursts in your pace will translate to more kilojoules being burnt in less time, both while exercising and during your recovery periods after each session."

Your metabolism logs serious overtime after your run too. In a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, women who ran hard for two minutes followed by three minutes at a low intensity torched more kilojoules in the 24 hours following their sweat sessions than those who did slow, steady mileage. They also lost four percent of their body fat in the weeks that followed, while the continuous-pace group didn't lose any. That might not sound like a huge number, but "it's enough to see a noticeable change in the mirror," says lead study author and exercise consultant Dr Craig Broeder. "To ensure the most effective kilojoule-burning recipe, combine short, medium and long intervals in each training session," says Wood. "This will keep your body guessing, ensuring it doesn’t become too efficient."

Devote one day a week to one of the kilojoule-crushing regimens below. Warm up and cool down with five to 10 minutes of slow jogging or fast walking. For the most slimming results, vary your workout – don't just stick with the interval routine that feels easiest.

Quickies Find a flat section of road, or hit the treadmill, and speed up to a hard but sustainable effort (really huffing and puffing) for 15 seconds. Jog or walk to recover for 60 seconds. Repeat six times. BEGINNER: Build up to 10 intervals over eight weeks. SEASONED RUNNER: Build up to 12.

Short repeats Find a flat section of road, or hit the treadmill, and speed up to a hard but sustainable effort for 30 seconds. Jog or walk to recover for 60 seconds. Repeat four times. BEGINNER: Build up to 10 intervals over eight weeks. SEASONED RUNNER: Build up to 12.

Long repeats BEGINNER: Run 400m on flat or rolling terrain at a hard but sustainable effort, and recover by jogging or walking for two minutes. Repeat four times, building up to eight. SEASONED RUNNER: Change the distance to 800m.

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