Running and Gaining Weight??

by Erica
(Montreal, QC)

I have been running for about 8 years regularly at least 5 days including weight training.

I walk about 3 minutes and run about 40-45 minutes.

I normally do this on the treadmill as I have 2 small children and I only have time really early in the morning for exercising.

I normally run at about 6.0mph and sometimes add some sprints in there at 9.0-9.5mph for about 30 seconds. The last couple of weeks I have tried changing it up to a more intense interval program. I run faster 7.0 -7.5 for a few minutes, bring down to 5.5mph, I will bring up the elevation to 6.0 run at 6.0mph etc... still for about 40-45 minutes. However I have put on 5-6 pounds in under 2 weeks from doing this without changing my diet.

I figured I was burning more calories, about 100-150 more calories than my usual program. So why have I gained weight. I had decided to change it up as it was getting quite routine. I really enjoy running but I am trying to find the ultimate weight losing program??

Should I be running longer rather than on interval??

Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your question about your running program.

The ultimate weight loss program... now wouldn't that be nice!

Steve Moneghetti, one of Australia's best long distance runners once said that it was very easy to be as thin as he is. There are two simple rules.

Rule 1. Eat absolutely everything you want
Rule 2. Run at least 100 km per week

Although meant as a bit of a joke, one thing is pretty clear, the more miles you cover, the more calories you burn.

Increasing intensity pushes up your oxygen uptake, during and after your running training. It has been proven that people doing very intense intervals for about 15 minutes burn as many calories as people doing easy runs for 45 minutes or so. Because the intense interval people burn so many more calories after their running training when they still require more oxygen.

It surprises me that the weight gain has been so much after making your running program more intense. It does not seem particularly logical to me. It gives me a lot of questions, e.g. what else has changed in your life and do you have these fluctuations more often?

Are you feeling the weight gain in the clothes you are wearing? Is your body exchanging some fat tissue with muscle which may make you gain some weight, but makes you look better?

I quite like the approach of easy running for 40-45 minutes spiced up with a few bouts of faster running. I think that is a pretty good general workout and when done five times a week in combination with weight training, I would expect that to give you some solid results.

And I like the approach you are taking with going up in intensity, but there is one element I think your running training might lack. That is variety during the week.

I would advocate still having two of your usual 40-45 minute easy runs possibly still with a few of the 9.0-9.5 mph sprints in between, also see Base Running Drills.

Then have one training session where you run for a shorter amount of time but do a lot more intervals, e.g. after a warm up of 5-10 minutes do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off or 1 minute on, 1 minute off, until you can't go anymore. Also see Interval Running.

Then I would do one run where you go faster than what you normally do (say 7 mph or so) for a longer period of time, this is called Tempo Running.

Then make one run a week longer than the others, build up slowly, but make it longer and longer.

This should give you a good mix of different running speeds and should assist in your weight loss goals. Also see Running for Weight Loss.

One area we did not talk about yet, but is important as well, is your diet. Calories burned is one part of the equation, calories in is the other part.

With the amount of exercise you do, in combination with a healthy diet, I would hope that you'd be able to meet your weight loss goals.

I am sure you are pretty conscious about what you eat, it may help to keep a dieting journal for a number of days and work out how many calories you consume. Maybe, without knowing it, you are taking in a little too much.

Even if you are not, maybe your diet needs a bit of a re-balance towards protein. Many people eat more carbs, and yes, these are important to get your energy. But runners need protein to repair their muscles.

So it could be that your calorie-intake itself is fine, but that you need to exchange some carbs for protein. Being very simplistic about it: if you take in too many carbs and not enough protein, then the excess carbs go to your hips and your muscles would still ask for more food, because they need repairing!

If all of the above does not get you anywhere, then I would suggest to consider getting the help from a nutritionist.

I think you have got a very healthy, very good exercise regime, so keep that up and I hope you shed some pounds soon so you will feel a bit better about it all!

I hope this helps a little bit.
Kind regards,

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