“Just imagine what it would feel like to go running tomorrow with 10+ fewer pounds. How much lighter would you feel? How much more efficient would you be? How much more confident would you feel?
If your goal is weight loss, you can accomplish it with running…
… even if you’ve been running for years and have seen no progress.
… even if you’re getting older and think it’s “all about hormones.”
… even if you’re a woman and always struggle with those last few pounds.
If you train the right way, it’s entirely possible.” – Jason Fitzgerald
In part 1 of “Running for Weight Loss”, we had the chance to get some great tips from Olympian Marathoner Shalane Flanagan and Chef/Runner Elyse Kopecky. In part 2, we will get some great workout and training tips from expert running coach Jason Fitzgerald. Jason is the founder of Strength Running where he publishes running content and offers personalized running plans as well as online coaching. His coaching philosophy is based on a set of training principles that help runners race faster and prevent injuries. He has an extensive collection of client testimonials from the years he has been coaching, including a number of runners who have lost weight (in a healthy way) while training with him. This past week I had the chance to catch up with Jason and learn his training and diet tips for running and weight loss.
FitRX: Hi Jason! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview! I’ve read a lot of your blogs on training and nutrition. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Jason: I started running almost by accident. Actually, I totally despised running as a kid but I thought I could high jump on the cross country team my freshman year in high school. I quickly learned that all you do is run in XC! After I could barely finish a 20 minute run (with a lot of walk breaks), somehow I stuck with it because the team was a lot of fun. I went on to run cross country, indoor and outdoor track in high school and at the collegiate level at Connecticut College. I never stopped and went on to focus on longer distances up to the marathon. Over my 18+ years of running, I’ve managed to run a 4:33 mile, 54:50 for 10 miles, and a 2:39:32 marathon.
In 2010, I started Strength Running because I felt like I had something to share with the world. I had recently recovered from a 6-month It Band Syndrome injury after my first marathon. I knew that if I wanted to continue improving, I had to restructure my training. And I’m happy to say that since 2009, I’ve only had one (relatively minor) injury! Along with my USA Track & Field coaching certification and the 10+ running coaches I’ve learned from, this experience lets me help runners set monster personal bests while staying healthy long-term.
I’ve also published several books, with my latest being Running for Health and Happiness. It debuted as the #1 best seller in the running category on Amazon and helps beginner and intermediate runners structure smart, well-designed training for any race.
FitRX: You do quite a bit of coaching, and have some awesome testimonials! Where did your passion for running come from, and what do you hope to help your clients with most?
Jason: Ever since I first got addicted to improving my own finish times, I’ve been an admitted running geek. I’ve read nearly all the major training books out there (for fun…). Most of my clients want one of three things: to get faster, to run more consistently, or to stay injury-free. My training programs are geared toward these major goals.
FitRX: As a runner, I’d have to agree with those 3 goals. I’m also really interested in your take on running for weight loss. I know you’ve had several clients who have lost a lot of weight while training with you! Do you have one client that stands out in terms of their results?
Jason: One of my clients, Lydia, has an incredibly inspirational story. Lydia came to me in the fall of 2010 and decided on a whim to hire me as her coach. She had never been coached, wasn’t particularly fast, and didn’t run consistently. Lydia had run a few half-marathons but was frustrated with never knowing how to train. Her running was off-and-on and her motivation levels were all over the place. The stock training plans she followed didn’t seem to take into consideration that she was overweight and she always felt like she had been run over by a truck.
Lydia challenged me as a coach to make running enjoyable and a lifelong passion that she would continue far after our coaching relationship ended. Finding joy in running is a huge goal and one that eludes many runners who slave away on the treadmill hoping to lose a pound or two. But Lydia’s second goal was a bigger challenge: lose her unwanted weight safely while still running races. I used a three-pronged strategy to keep her healthy: no intense workouts, mostly easy mileage and strides, and a lot of body weight exercises. My goal was to injury-proof Lydia so that she could run consistently – the key to her weight loss.
We used [cross training] in Lydia’s training… Her more intense sessions were done in the pool or bike. Cross training can be a valuable tool to build fitness and increase weight loss without the risk of injury. Over the course of 2 years, Lydia transformed from an inconsistent, overweight 2:35 half-marathoner into a lean running machine, posting a recent PR in the half-marathon of 1:41. She lost over 80 pounds.
FitRX: That’s incredible! Congrats to Lydia and you… From a strictly training perspective, what do you think is the biggest key for achieving weight loss goals with running?
Jason: Runners need to focus on three main aspects of fitness for weight loss: a long run (to promote fat loss), a fast workout (to rev the metabolism), and strength workouts (to build lean muscle mass).
FitRX: From a nutrition perspective, what do you think is the biggest key? I know, for me, after a fast/interval run or long run, I am starving!
Jason: Nutrition is definitely more important than exercise for weight loss. But I despise “diets” and the many Registered Dietitians (including Nancy Clark, arguably the world’s most prolific dietitian who advises the Boston Celtics) I interviewed over the years agree that no single diet is mandatory and calorie counting is not necessary. Instead, focus on whole foods, eliminate processed foods and refined sugars, and eat for satiety.
FitRX: Great tips! Do you have a favorite recipe that you make or recommend after a difficult training session?
Jason: I love these energy bites for during a long run or right afterward for quick fueling. Easy to prepare and delicious!
Makes 16 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes active + 1 hour in fridge
Cook time: none
*vegan, gluten free with GF certified oats
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor; process until very finely ground and mixture holds together when pressed.
2. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving excess plastic wrap hanging over the edges of the pan.
3. Place the mixture in the pan in an even layer, then cover with the excess plastic and press down very firmly to pack the mixture in.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour to set, then turn the bars out of the pan onto a cutting board, peel back the plastic wrap, and cut into bite-size squares.
FitRX: Those look delicious! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and sharing your expertise with us. What is next for you? Do you have any of your own races coming up? Any books/projects you are working on?
Jason: For my personal running, I’m getting back into shape after some down time (having a second baby is tough!). I have two major projects lined up that will be announced soon, but for now they’re a secret! But I can say they’ll be focused on beginners and advanced weight training. Runners on my email list will hear about them first.
FitRX: Awesome! Thanks again and good luck with all your upcoming projects!
For more on Jason:
Other: Email is where I give out some of my best stuff for subscribers: strengthrunning.com/newsletter/