Q&A: How to Run and Lose Weight

David Hylton runs because ... he can!

Before walking down the wedding aisle, David Hylton pledged to drop some weight in 2004. At 220 pounds, he made the life-altering decision to start running on a regular basis.

Since that time he lost 30 pounds and has participated in numerous marathons. He blogs about his athletic experiences at Running … Because I Can, where he has shared his ups and down starting in 2007. He joined us via email to chat about his diet regime, his blog and #runchat, a twice-a-month live Twitter question-and-answer session.

Just as the title of your blog says, you run because you can. Why else do you run?

I started running to lose weight for my wedding in 2004. That same year cancer hit three of my family members. Losing weight and going through all that was a major wake-up call for me to live a healthier lifestyle. That alone is enough reason to keep me going all the time.

You mention you were “naturally” athletic as a kid. What happened in college that caused you to stray from your athletic ways?

I use the word “naturally” loosely. I was active — rec league basketball, playing football on the neighborhood street, riding my bike for no reason and even some track in high school kept me in shape without realizing it. With college those things went out the door, and I was introduced to buffet style meals every day for every meal, easy access to pizza and, of course, beer. It all got gradually worse with each passing year.

I wasn’t completely lazy; I would play tennis every so often my last couple of years after taking a tennis class. But I really got to loving beer. As for the easy access to pizza, my college had a direct line to Dominoes –*37. That would be *DP.

What advice can you give to once-athletic folks who want to get back on track?

It’s amazing to me how easily people give up and think things happen overnight. Our society makes it seem like it can happen like that. It’s cliché, but true: Take it one day at a time. Don’t make it a goal to run a marathon if you haven’t even made it a mile yet.

The photo that sparked Hylton to start running on the road to weight loss.

I think it’s important that you’re mentally ready. I kept putting off “tomorrow” day after day, week after week, month after month. I don’t know why it clicked when it did, but I just had that feeling that I knew I was finally ready. People who want to lose weight or get in better shape or quit smoking can do it … when their mind is ready.

We often hear that running is the best method of weight loss. Would you agree with that? Is there any particular regime you follow when looking to drop a few pounds?

When I started running, I didn’t just run. I changed my diet — more fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of things. Initially when I ate out, I would take half my meal and put it in a to-go box. If I wanted a burger, I still got a burger, but I got vegetables instead of fries.

To answer the question honestly, no, running is not the best method. The best method is a combination of things. For the last question, I really struggle to answer that as I’m still looking to lose those “final” five to ten pounds. I know in order to do that I have to get back to basics.

After Hylton's first half marathon in 2006

Tell us about #runchat. When did you start it?

The idea of #runchat came up about a year ago after Scott from iRunnerBlog.com (and @iRunnerBlog on Twitter) and I crossed paths on #fitblog — an awesome weekly chat held Tuesday evenings where everything about fitness is discussed. Scott and I had exchanged comments on our blogs before, and we both launched our dotcom running sites about the same time. I had already been blogging for three years but switched to a dotcom last April.

After several emails, thoughts and research, we launched #runchat in June. It was initially held on Thursday evenings, but we soon discovered that there many other chats at that time, and our schedules kept getting in the way of things. So we took a small break and then relaunched #runchat on the second and fourth Sundays every month at 8 p.m. ET — it’s taken off since then. We have between 200-300 people participating in each chat; the #runchat tag is now used dozens of times a day by other runners just asking questions, using it to post to their blogs or using it to just talk about running in general.

Who can participate?

#runchat is open to anyone. We have runners just starting out, marathon veterans, middle of the pack runners, barefoot runners — you name it. Everyone has been there. I can’t stress enough how much we want to keep #runchat open to anyone.

We usually ask about five questions in that hour and try to form the question in a way that everyone can participate. As we approach #runchat’s first anniversary, Scott and I have some things going on that will continue to improve the #runchat experience.

What is your favorite running shoes brand?

I love Brooks. My last few pairs of shoes have been Brooks Ravenna. Now that the original Ravenna is on closeout and harder to find, later this year I am probably going to go back to square one and get refitted and analyzed to make sure I get the right shoe. If that happens to be Ravenna 2 or some other brand, I am fine. I would love to be brand loyal, but I also want to get what’s right.

What other running gear has helped you along the way?

There are so many things I really like a lot — like toe socks, my Garmin, my iPod a few times a month — but with running it comes down to being comfortable. Back in 2006 when I was in a training group, I was encouraged to buy non-cotton clothes. I made the transition that year to everything non-cotton and haven’t looked back.

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