Interval Running for Weight Loss: 3 Easy To Follow Plans

Interval running for weight loss is an exercise technique that allows you to receive more aerobic improvement (such as better endurance and a stronger cardiovascular system) by increasing the workout intensity.

At the same time, you get to cut down the total time of each workout.

Today, we’re sharing a complete guide to interval running from its practice to frequency to additional tips for maximum efficiency.

How Do You Practice Interval Running?

According to the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommendation for healthy adults between 18 and 65 years old.

Interval training counts as vigorous aerobic exercise, which you should do 3 days per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per day.

Practicing interval training as a runner involves the following stages:

The key here is to run the high-intensity periods at a faster pace than you can keep up for 30 minutes. Between each high-intensity running period, you should lower your pace for a short while to allow for recovery.

The high-intensity runs typically last between 10 seconds to a full minute.

The same duration range is applied for the recovery period. Each high-intensity running interval coupled with a lower intensity active recovery interval is called a duty cycle.

The length of a duty cycle differs from one runner to another, and so does the ratio of the time spent in high-intensity running vs low-intensity recovery (known as the work-rest ratio).

This is due to variations in physical fitness goals, body composition, muscle mass, and how much time you can invest in a workout.

Compared to traditional running plans, interval running prompts you to move at high intensity for a longer time within the same period of exercise.

How Many Times Should You Do Interval Running Workouts?

The ACSM recommends a maximum of 3 days per week of vigorous aerobic exercise. But we recommend you stick to 2 days of interval training per week for the first few weeks.

It’s not like we prefer that your intense exercise is less, we’ve just encountered too many runners that work themselves too hard and end up burning out or even hurt.

Practicing such strenuous activity as interval running too frequently can easily cause injuries. It can also lower your motivation as you become too tired to meet your training goals.

Beginning your high-intensity interval training at a moderate pace is essential to avoid overtraining. It’ll also help you keep up with your weekly training goals, boosting your motivation.

We also recommend changing up the duration of the high-intensity and low-intensity intervals within the same workout session to prevent it from getting boring.

For example, don’t run all your high-intensity intervals for 20 seconds then recover for 10 seconds every duty cycle.

Instead, try running at high intensity for 30 seconds and resting for 15 seconds in the first duty cycles then switching to 15-second work intervals and 5-second rest intervals in the last duty cycles.

How to Plan Interval Running for Weight Loss

interval running for weight loss:running on treadmill

Planning your high-intensity interval training as a runner differs depending on your fitness level, weight loss goals, body composition, and so on.

The following schedules are created according to the running experience.

Interval Running for Weight Loss

Beginners

There are so many ways we could go about this, but the general theme we like to implement for beginners is a 1:4 or 1:3 work-rest ratio.

Here are our 3 most favorite interval running plans for beginner runners:

Plan 1

  • Warm-up by lightly jogging for 5 minutes
  • Run at a high intensity (75 to 80 percent effort) for 20 seconds
  • Jog at low intensity (20 to 25 percent effort) for 60 seconds
  • Repeat the above cycle 3 times
  • Perform this interval workout 2 days per the first week, then add an extra cycle every week for the following 3 weeks
  • By week 4, you should be doing 6 cycles per interval workout

Plan 2

  • Warm-up by lightly jogging for 5 minutes
  • Sprint at a high intensity (85 to 90 percent effort) for 15 seconds
  • Jog at low intensity (20 to 25 percent effort) for 45 seconds
  • Repeat the cycle 5 times on 2 days per week
  • Add an extra cycle every week for the following 3 weeks

Plan 3

  • Warm-up by lightly jogging for 5 minutes
  • Sprint at a high intensity (100 percent effort, also known as sprint interval training) for 10 seconds
  • Jog at low intensity (20 to 25 percent effort) for 30 seconds
  • Repeat the cycle 6 times on 2 days per week
  • Add an extra cycle every week for the following 3 weeks

Intermediates

For intermediate runners, we recommend a 1:2 then 1:1 work-rest ratio for their interval running exercise. This should happen after you’ve completed the beginner phase.

Here’s what plan 1 would look like:

  • Warm-up by lightly jogging for 5 minutes
  • Run at a high intensity (75 to 80 percent effort) for 30 seconds
  • Jog at low intensity (20 to 25 percent effort) for 30 seconds
  • Repeat the above cycle 3 times then rest for 60 seconds
  • Repeat the above cluster 2 extra times
  • Perform 3 clusters in 2 days per the first week, adding an extra cycle every week for the following 3 weeks
  • By week 4, you should be doing 6 cycles per cluster

Advanced

For advanced runners, we recommend a 2:1 then 3:1 work-rest ratio for their interval running exercise.

They’ll do the same cycles as above, running at high intensity for 30 seconds and low intensity for 15 or 10 seconds.

They’ll take a 1-minute rest after 4 cycles, and then repeat each cluster 3 days per week.

Extra Weight Loss Tips for Runners

In addition to your interval running for weight loss plan, the following are a few essential tips to support your efforts and help you reach your goal:

1. Avoid food-related treats

A lot of runners do this without realizing its negative effects. We’re talking about treating yourself to a food or beverage item after a run.

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make if your goal is weight loss.

Think about it — consuming something fatty or sugary after running is simply you taking back the calories you’ve just burned.

In most cases, the “treat” actually contains more calories than you torched in your run, so you end up gaining weight despite exercising.

This goes to show how crucial a healthy diet is and how certain food choices can dismiss your efforts.

As such, you need to do your best to stay away from high-fat or high-sugar foods and drinks after going on runs.

Instead of a donut or some fries, you can treat yourself to a pair of running shoes or a massage appointment.

2. Calculate your calorie intake

One of the most important things to do as part of your weight loss program is to calculate your calorie intake.

We don’t mean that you should obsess about what you’re eating and count every single calorie that you consume.

What you need to do is keep track of the number of calories you eat per day so you can create a calorie deficit using your diet and workout plan.

Burning calories is key to burning fat, but this is only possible if you torch more calories than you take in. To do this healthily, you should first know how many calories you need per day.

According to its dietary guidelines, the USDA recommends a 2000-calorie diet for the average person. If you want to get more specific calculating your caloric intake, check out this Daily Caloric Expenditure calculator.

calorie calculator

3. Keep a food journal

If you’re trying to build healthy dieting habits, it pays off to plan what you consume throughout the day.

Scheduling and monitoring your meals and snacks guides you toward making healthier decisions because your choices are more deliberate. This is where a food journal comes in.

A food journal helps you log the types of food you’re eating and the beverages you’re drinking, as well as when you consume them. Judging and modifying your diet is a lot easier and more effective this way.

Your food journal can be a conventional notebook or a digital one depending on your preference.

4. Review your weekly mileage

Reviewing your mileage can be the difference between weight loss and weight gain in many cases.

If your total weekly mileage isn’t enough to torch the extra calories, you may end up not losing weight or even putting some on.

Increasing your weekly mileage every couple of weeks or so can help prevent this from happening.

5. Break up your meals into smaller portions

One of our favorite dieting strategies is dividing big meals into several smaller ones. Not only is this effective in weight loss plans, but it’s also a generally healthy practice to follow.

Breaking up your total caloric intake into 5 or 6 small portions instead of 2 or 3 large meals will help you feel full for a longer time. It can prevent you from overeating and boost your metabolic rate.

6. Don’t eat right after running

As a runner trying to shed a bunch of extra pounds, you need to avoid the mistake of eating right after your runs.

This often leads to overeating because we usually feel hungrier than we really are right after physical activity than if we were to wait 30 minutes or so.

Overeating means loading your body with more calories than it needs and burns, resulting in weight gain.

7. Choose healthy snack alternatives

Snacking can waste all your dieting and exercising efforts if your idea of a snack is chips, sweets, candy, and junk food in general.

Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t snack, we’re simply encouraging you to make healthy choices. Contrary to popular belief, snacks can be healthy and tasty.

Cucumber slices, kale chips, berry smoothies, mixed nuts, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate are just a few examples of healthy snacks you can munch on without feeling guilty.

Final Words On Interval Running for Weight Loss

There you have it, a complete guide on interval running for weight loss.

The most important thing to remember is to start your high-intensity interval training at a moderate pace to avoid overtraining, which is usually associated with burning out and injuries.

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