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It's the start of the year again and we try to look back at how much fun you had spending time with your loved ones during the holidays. You have gained yet another library of family photos, some home videos, new clothes, shoes and gadgets from gifts, and what else? A post-holiday bulge from all those irresistible Christmas party buffets, festive noche buenas, and mouthwatering media noches you just had.
Gaining weight after the holidays is actually a glaring international phenomenon. According to the American Heart Association, some Americans gain 5-10 pounds over the course of the holiday season - that is, between Thanksgiving (i.e. 4th Thursday of November) and New Year's Day (January 1). What may also be another key contributor to weight gain is the fact that many students and employees also get several weeks off from school and work during this time, so there's really less physical activity to counter the additional calories we're taking in.
If you're one of the many people who packed a few unwanted pounds and want to get rid of them, maybe it's time to start a fat burning regimen that can help you get back to your old weight in just a few weeks. It's time to start running!
Running for fitness
Running is one of the most vigorous exercises that can efficiently burn calories and help you shed extra post-holiday weight. Just to give you an example of how efficient it is in burning calories, an average 150-pound person will burn about 100 calories for every mile of running.
Running is also one of the most ideal weight loss activities because it's easy to do and it's practical. Apart from a pair of rubber shoes or sneakers (which you most likely already have), starting a running regimen won't really cost you anything! You just have to find a less busy sidewalk or a public park to serve as your jogging trail.
Running is so self explanatory that you don't need to learn any special techniques or routines - running simply means running, and almost anyone who can walk normally can also run. (If you have an existing medical condition, however, it's best to consult your doctor first).
If you make running part of your weekly schedule, it actually gives you so much more benefits apart from your main goal of losing weight. Here are some of the great things that you get from running regularly:
Increase in energy to perform daily activities
Develop stronger cardiovascular health
Decrease in chances of developing heart disease
Lower chances of developing cancer
Lowers risk of developing blot clots
Better quality of sleep and rest
Relieves stress and depression
Prevents the loss of bone and muscle due to inactivity
â€¦and much, much more! Running is one of the few forms of exercise that can be started right away, regardless of age, as long as you decide to commit to it.
Preparing for a Running Regimen
An ideal running regimen needs a little preparation before it is executed. Give yourself a day to consider the following:
Have a checkup
If you plan on starting a running regimen for the first time, we want to make sure your body is capable of performing a vigorous activity. If you know you are generally healthy - meaning you have no preexisting medical condition - then go ahead and start. It won't hurt, though, if you double check with a physician just to make sure.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, please schedule a visit with your doctor first before trying anything:
Are you 40 years old or older?
Are you overweight or obese?
Do you have breathing problems or have asthma?
Do you always feel tired and fatigued, even if you don't really do much in a day?
Do you have heart problems or hypertension?
If your doctor gives you the green light to proceed, then read on. If your doctor allows you to run but gives you extra warning, heed his/her advice at all times.
Set a plan
Before you get out of the house and start running, it would be more motivating for you mentally if you have a weight loss plan already set for you to follow.
Make a weekly chart that you will fill up as you go along your running routine. Begin with measuring your current weight and vital statistics and set a feasible weight and measurement goal. Fill up the values of your weekly weight and measurements so that you can monitor your progress.
Now that you've made a weight loss goal, set a running regimen routine. Do you plan to commit 30 minutes of running every day? If you don't have the time to run everyday, commit to at least 3 to 4 sessions per week.
Once this is set, create a detailed plan for your jogging trail - which streets in your village will you take? How many minutes will it take to finish this route? How many laps are you willing to make every session? Once this is set, you're almost good to go.
Prepare your running gear
As mentioned earlier, as long as you have a good pair of shoes and clothes that you can comfortably wear while running, you're all set. However, if you want to be all geared up for a long term running regimen, then it would be great to visit a running shop. There are so many specialized training shoes built for running and you can consult the shop attendant to help pick the right pair for you. Having a good pair of running shoes helps you move more comfortably and it also helps avoid potential injury caused by ill-fitting shoes.
Wearing an outfit specially made for sports activities (instead of your regular cotton shirt and shorts) can also make a noticeable difference in terms of running comfort and, not to mention, style. For females, there are tank tops and sports bras that support your upper body better. There are also some tops made of specialized dry-fit cloth that can wick moisture away from skin. You may want to invest in proper sports apparel if you have extra money for it.
For those who want to monitor their progress closely, you can take a look at some hi-tech running accessories such as sports watches that have built in heart rate and distance monitors. Of course, all these are just extra stuff that can help you improve your running routine, but these are not mandatory.
Starting a Running Routine
Now we're down to the running routine. Ever wonder what the difference is between jogging and running? Jogging is actually a form of running which is performed at a slow, leisurely pace. Beginners are advised to engage into a jogging routine first and move forward to faster running later on.
To begin your running (or jogging) routine, you need to do a quick warm up and some stretches first to avoid injury. A quick warm up could be simply walking from your house to the public park nearby where you'll jog. Once you're there, notice that your body temperature is slightly elevated (hence the term "warm up").
Before running, do some stretching first. Stretching is done before running so that your muscles don't get shocked or strained from the vigorous exercise you are about to do. Make sure that your leg and calf are stretched well. After stretching, you may start jogging.
Begin at a slow pace. If you didn't get to warm up with a few minutes of walking going to the jogging trail, then your first few minutes of running at a slow pace should warm you up completely. Now gradually increase the pace of your run as you go along. Most beginners try to sprint or run as fast as they can at the first minute of running - this isn't a good idea because you'll just easily get tired and end up gasping for air midway, plus it will also put you at risk of getting injured.
Your body can also last longer if you start slow. Paradoxically, the slower your pace is at the beginning of your run, the faster you can run in the end. Don't worry if you can't increase your pace at first few running sessions, your body will eventually adjust after a few weeks and you'll have the energy to slowly increase your pace.
Now alternate your running regimen between a brisk run and a steady jog for about 30 minutes. Remember that running fast requires your muscles to work harder to achieve speed. Working muscles need to burn more calories, thus making weight loss faster.
After about 30 minutes of running, cool down by walking steadily for about 2 minutes. Cooling down allows your body to slowly get back to its normal heart rate. After cooling down, do some more stretching to help relax tensed muscles that were used during the workout.
Changing your diet
No matter how much calories you burn from running, if you can't control yourself from taking in more, then you won't lose weight. The fact of the matter is, you'll only lose weight if you burn more calories than what you consume.
To lose a pound, you have to burn approximately 3,600 calories, so you need to combine your running regimen with a low-calorie yet healthy diet. Change your usual high fat diet with meals rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains.
You may also notice that while you are running more, your appetite also increases. That's because your body is sending you a message that you need more nutrients in your diet. When you get hungry, it is important to eat - but not too much as it would make your weight loss effort futile. Staying hungry also causes drawbacks on your metabolism, so eat small portions of healthy food when you feel hungry. Drinking lots of water also helps quell hunger pangs. If you eat fewer calories that what your body needs, your body will use your excess fat as fuel and you will begin to lose weight.
One way to keep track of your calorie intake and outtake is to keep a food journal of all your meals daily (Note that this is different from your weekly running chart). Try to compute for the calories you take in for each meal and log them in your journal so that you can monitor how much you usually consume in a day. You can also track the unnecessary meals you make in a day so that next time, you can control yourself better.
Up the ante, but check your pulse!
After following a particular running routine for a few weeks, your body will adapt and may slow down your weight loss rate. One way to keep shedding the pounds is to increase the intensity of your run by adding periods of fast running in between jogging speeds. Running faster makes you burn more calories so this will immediately force your weight loss rate to increase as well.
Just a friendly reminder when engaging into aerobic activities such as running: always check your pulse. Many beginners fail to monitor this as they are too preoccupied with checking their weight.
Since running is a cardiovascular activity, it trains your heart to efficiently pump more blood throughout your body in less time. If you run regularly, your heart will learn to do the job in less beats that before, lowering your pulse rate as you go along.
So include your heart rate in your weekly running chart to see if your heart rate gets lower. Make sure you check your heart rate at the same time as the previous one so your point of comparison is standardized. For example, check your pulse every Monday morning when you wake up or every Friday night before you sleep, etc. Checking your heart rate while in a state of rest (like when you wake up in the morning) is the best time to do it.
If after some time, your pulse rate increases between 5 to 8 beats per minute you're your previous rate, it means you're over-exercising. Take a day off and rest if this happens, and then check your pulse again the next day. Start running again once it gets back to its old number.
Keep the Faith
There will be times when you feel that you don't lose weight no matter how hard you exercise, but don't lose hope! Remember that muscles are heavier than fat, so you may actually be getting thinner and more toned while keeping the same weight, or even heavier. When you regularly exercise, your body replaces your flabby fat with muscles.
It would also help to just enjoy what you do. Keep a positive mindset about sticking to your running regimen by rewarding yourself from time to time. For example, after running for 2 weeks in a row, buy yourself a nice pair of shoes or an mp3 player that you can use while running. In this way, you stay motivated and determined to stay on track.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your running regimen today and beat the post-holiday bulge!