A blog by runners. For runners.

How to prevent weight gain when you cut back on running

With no big races scheduled until the fall, I’m currently in the middle of an off season. I keep my runs short, ignore my pace, and aim for “only” about 20 miles per week. After running three marathons last fall, I’m really enjoying this break!

However, there’s one thing I’m not too happy about. It’s a side effect I didn’t plan for, but should have expected. Guess what happens when you cut your weekly mileage in half and forget about speed work? You burn fewer calories … which results in weight gain.

Scaling back on training doesn’t have to result in added pounds, though. I’ve been following these fitness and diet-related strategies to help keep weight gain at bay:

  • I’m bringing speed back to my runs. No, I’m not trying to hit fast tempo paces or doing 800m repeats around the track. But I am picking up the pace several times during most runs. It’s no secret that interval training burns more calories than steady state runs – the varying pace keeps your body guessing and revs up your metabolism. So, whenever I think about it, I increase my speed for a few minutes and then return for an easy pace.
  • I’m seeking out hills. Nothing gets my heart pumping like running up a steep hill. Hill repeats aren’t my favorite, but there’s no question that they’re effective, calorie-scorching workouts. I purposely run hilly routes or do a few hill repeats at the end of runs.
  • I’m adding in strength training. I’ve never been good at making strength training a habit, but I’m giving it another go. Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so I need to get stronger now. I’ve been doing body weight exercises, like planks, push-ups, and squats, several times per week.
  • I’m being more active throughout the day. Since I’m not burning as many calories now during my workouts, I’m trying to be more active the rest of the day to make up for that deficit. There are a couple of playgrounds within two miles of my home, and I’ve been pushing the stroller there instead of driving the car.
  • I’m watching my portion sizes. I basically ate whatever I wanted during marathon training, which isn’t going to fly now. I’m being more mindful about my portion sizes, and only going for second helpings of vegetables if I’m still hungry after a meal.
  • I’m making an effort to drink more water. During marathon training, I was always thirsty, so I had no problem hydrating. Nowadays, I’m not as thirsty and I’m not sure that I’m drinking enough. It’s not uncommon to mistake thirst for hunger, so I always drink a glass of water before reaching for a snack, to see if the drink satisfies me.
  • I’m cutting myself some slack. I worked really hard during marathon training, to the point of wearing myself out. I need to rest now, for both my physical and mental wellbeing. Taking it easy on the workout front may result in a few extra pounds on my body. But you know what? In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. Those pounds will (hopefully!) fall off when I resume training again, so I’m trying not to stress too much about it now.

Written by Jen Matz.