Running helps you burn calories and tone muscles, but does it help you get that six-pack you've been dreaming of? Well, yes and no. The trick is to combine a healthy diet with running -- cardiovascular exercise -- and spot conditioning of your abdominals to get the best-looking stomach in town.
Let It Burn
Running does an excellent job of burning those pesky calories. According to MayoClinic.com, a 160-pound person running at 5 mph can burn 606 calories. Speed up to 8 mph and burn 861 calories per hour. This gets you well on your way to burning the 3,500 calories you need to lose 1 pound. If you want a flat stomach, you must first get rid of everything keeping it from being flat, and that means running off any excess pounds.
You Are What You Eat
A healthy diet works with your running routine to help you get a flatter tummy. Burning 3,500 calories isn't all you need to get rid of a pesky pound; you must burn 3,500 more calories than you eat. That means keeping your calories down to about 1,200 to 1,500 per day, says the American College of Sports Medicine. You burn some calories as you move throughout the day, but running gives you a concentrated calorie killer to help you work off the rest. Keep to smart foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
Although it's impossible to burn fat only in your stomach, you can tone those muscles as you run by maintaining good posture. Keep your back straight, your shoulders back and your stomach tight and pulled in to engage your abdominal muscles during your run. As the muscles become more toned, your stomach can look more shapely. To give your run more oomph, do part of the run with high knee lifts, which use your abdominal muscles to pull up your legs.
Run One, Plank Two
Make your running routine something of a circuit with additional abdominal exercises scattered throughout your route. Run up a hill and stop at the top to catch your breath. Settle in a plank position for 30 seconds to two minutes, resting your body on your forearms and your toes with your abdominals pulled in tight. After jogging up the stairs on the park trail, lie on your back for some bicycle crunches, twisting each elbow to the opposite knee as you lift. Shoot for two sets of 10. Adding these toning movements to your running routine works your abs while they're warm for maximum toning power.