Couch to 5K Weight Loss
Running is a great sport to take up. It’ll clear your mind and boost your cardiovascular health, but is it enough to shed the extra weight?
If a 5k race is coming up, it might be just the perfect opportunity to start up your journey as a beginner runner.
Yet, most 5k plans aren’t focused on weight loss. They only work to get you to the finish line, and that doesn’t always mean dropping on the scale.
Wouldn’t it be better to hit two birds with one stone by working on a 5k program that helps you achieve your weight goals?
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to customize your very own couch to a 5k weight loss training program.
Let’s see how you can get that double win!
What’s a Couch to 5K Weight Loss Program?
A Couch to 5K Weight Loss Program is a training plan that helps people with zero background in competitive running prepare for the race day.
Since the 5k isn’t a particularly long race, the training plan is all about building endurance for beginner runners. More advanced competitors might use it as a chance to work on their pace.
Another twist on the couch to 5k program is running for weight loss goals.
As it happens, running is a very basic and affordable workout to get rid of the extra fat layers. It’s also a compound exercise that engages a bunch of different muscles all at the same time, making it even more efficient in burning calories.
That’s why running a short race, like the 5k, is a good choice for a beginner who’s looking to lose weight. It’ll get you started on a fat-burning activity with a rewarding rush at the end of the finish line!
As a plus, you burn calories after the run. That’s because of excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC) that people commonly refer to as the after-burn effect.
The after-burn effect happens because your metabolic rate takes a while to drop, so your muscles keep on burning energy at a high rate even after you are all done with your cardio session.
However, you’ll have to customize your training plan a bit to make the most out of it. To do that, you’ll need a mix of dietary changes, track monitoring, and some strength workout sessions.
7 Tips To Achieving The Couch to 5K Weight Loss Program
Assuming that you’re coming directly from the comfort of your couch, the first week of running will be a challenging feat.
But the good news is that it gets easier with time. The key is to pave your start.
Let’s take a look at seven tips and tricks that can help you lose weight while training for the fun run:
1. Make the Commitment to Running First
Getting started is always the hardest step. So, if you’re contemplating using the 5k as a chance to work on your body fitness goals, don’t leave yourself to the nagging doubts!
All you need is a few seconds of courage to sign yourself up and commit to making the finish line this year.
Losing weight itself needs huge willpower, but let’s take it in baby steps. Sign up for the race first, and then work on all the other aspects of running for weight loss.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Once you’re all signed up, figure out how much time you have left before the race day. This will significantly help you when you’re setting the 5k plan.
For some people, a week or two is enough, while some people might need months. Either way, the structure of the training plan should be more or less the same.
Ideally, every week will have two rest days, two easy run days, one high-intensity workout session, and two days for cross-training.
What’s going to differ according to the time you have left are the goals you can set. The longer you have, the more ambitious you can get with your pace and weight loss goals.
For starters, to lose just one pound of fat, you’ll have to burn 3,500 calories. That’s around four or five hours of jogging per week for someone who weighs 160 pounds.
That’s not a standard measure, though. It all comes down to your current weight. Check the American Council’s guide on the effect of each exercise on calories. Do the math and set realistic goals that you can work your way up to.
3. Prioritize Dietary Changes
When you get started on your 5k plan, you might be a bit surprised by how much weight you can shed without bothering a lot with the diet.
However, as you progress, fixing your nutritional balance will only get more important. So, if you’re serious about losing weight, there’s no way around some crucial lifestyle changes.
Yet, you can’t just maintain a regular calorie-deficit diet and call it a day. You’ll need to incorporate some runner-specific nutrition into the mix.
For instance, start by reducing your intake of fat-rich foods. Fried food, midnight snacks, and soda will all have to go, too. Do these changes gradually from week one if you have to.
Doing a meal prep at the beginning of each week can help you stay on track. It’s also a good reminder to stock up on light carb-based ingredients for your pre-run meals, especially for workouts longer than an hour.
We get that it can sound a bit counterproductive to carb-load when you’re trying to lose weight. However, running takes a toll on your body, and you have to fuel up for it. In fact, it can even boost your after-burn effect!
4. Don’t Overdo the Fasting Runs
While it’s true that running on an empty stomach might initially give you better results in terms of weight loss, it can soon fire back.
At its core, running is an anabolic physical activity, but it can impact your hormonal balance and waste your muscle mass if you’re low on protein.
That’s why it’s much safer on the long haul to fuel up with a light snack before running. Even banana, peanut butter, and a whole-wheat toast could do. After all, it’s probably fat that you want to shed, not muscle mass!
Unfortunately, not everyone can tolerate food in their stomach as they run. That’s usually the case for the typical beginner runner.
If you really want to try out running without a pre-run meal, do it on a treadmill. This way, you can stop whenever you feel lightheaded. It’s also better to keep it limited to one session under 20 minutes per week.
No matter what you do, don’t cut out the hydration. Losing water weight creates a quick but false drop on the scale.
5. Use a Workout App
Once you have a good estimate of how many calories you take on along the day, you’ll have to compare it to the amount you burn during your runs.
To avoid miscalculations, use a running app that’ll follow up with your mileage and pace every week through GPS services.
It’s not exactly an error-free method, but some apps can also give you a good enough estimate of how many calories a certain exercise helped you burn.
All in all, it’ll be a good idea to keep you on track with your 5k plan, especially if you use an app that shows you a streak of your workout days.
6. Don’t Focus On Speed Too Much
When you’re still starting out, you don’t have to worry all that much about your pace. If you’re going from the couch straight to the training program, you can expect your 5k time to be around 30 minutes.
The key takeaway here is that weight loss isn’t all that dependent on speed. For instance, the number of calories you’ll burn by going at your top race pace for a few minutes isn’t far off from a 2-mile slow jog.
It takes a lot of time to see improvement in speedwork and muscle endurance. Odds are, the week or two you spend preparing for your 5k run won’t be enough.
So, don’t feel discouraged if you can’t maintain your peak pace for a long sprint. Just go at a slower pace and extend your workout time to make up for it.
7. Make the Most of Cross Workouts
While running is a great activity for weight loss, you might do better by mixing in some cross-training sessions into your program. Besides helping with your fitness goals, they can break the monotony of running all week long.
Other cardio sessions can be a good change of pace. An hour of swimming, rope jumping, or cycling is a fitness booster, and they happen to have an after-burn effect, much like running.
Incorporating strength exercises won’t only help you build muscle mass, but it can also burn calories. In only 30 minutes, you can burn around 100 calories by general weightlifting.
What to Do After the 5K?
The 3.1-mile track might look daunting, but the rush you get once you cross will make it all worth it.
You might have gotten to your weight goal, and you might have not. Either way, you’ve made it to the end. So, celebrate the win and rest for a couple of days, but don’t stop there.
The key to staying in shape is to get back on track. You can either work on pumping up your pace, mileage, or a mix of both.
Maybe you’ll even realize that running isn’t your cup of tea and shift to a different activity. All are good options as long as you don’t get back to the sedentary couch lifestyle.
Final Thoughts On The Couch to 5K Weight Loss Program
While the typical 5k program isn’t necessarily a weight loss program, it’s still a good chance to change your lifestyle.
With some diet changes and calorie calculations, a customized couch to 5k weight loss training plan can get you started on your weight loss goals.
All it takes is a bit of commitment, dietary changes, and a whole lot of steps forward. Before you know it, you are already a regular runner with a fit body!