This post is by guest blogger Lisa Paige, Registered Dietitian and Certified Running Coach, owner of Red Runner Coaching.

Nutritionist and coach Lisa Paige attended the 2015 Iceland Trail Running + Wellness Retreat for women.

Registered dietician and coach Lisa Paige attended the 2015 Iceland Trail Running + Wellness Retreat for women.

It’s almost spring, the time of year when women picture themselves in a swimsuit, sundress or running shorts, and feel twinge of panic. The urge to drop winter weight spurs many to start running with greater intensity and frequency.

And while adopting a running regimen–and signing up for a race to stay motivated–is a great way to get fit and can stimulate weight loss, training for a marathon is not a typical weight-loss program.

In fact, it’s much better–and here are five reasons why.

Running changes your body composition.

You need muscle to successfully run a marathon, 10K, or even a 5K. Training for a race, even if your goal is just to finish, requires running with regularity and purpose. Training runs are not, “let’s talk about the new colors for your living room” jogs, more often they are heart-pounding, leg-aching sessions that require mental focus and generate a little sweat (or a lot). All that hard work builds muscle, and since muscle weighs more than fat, you may experience a net weight gain, even when you’re losing fat.

Weight loss requires burning more calories than you consume

Despite the barrage of celebrity fad diets, TV infomercials, and health-store promises, no one product can guarantee weight loss. You simply must reduce your caloric intake. However, running with more regularity, speed or intensity causes an increased appetite. When weight loss is your goal, monitor your caloric intake to ensure you don’t replace all the calories you burned in a day.

Running improves your fitness, whereas dieting does not.

Training involves gradually increases your workload (either by running harder or longer), which stimulates biological adaptations at the cellular and systemic levels. These adaptations are what make running up a hill after three months of practice feel much easier than on day one. After 12 weeks, your legs are stronger and cardiovascular system more efficient at taking up and processing the oxygen you breathe. By contrast, a weight loss program focuses on your emotional relationship to food.

Diets focus on what you can’t have; running brings an abundance of happy hormones

Weight-loss programs emphasize which foods to avoid, which can result in feelings of deprivation and a struggle for impulse control. Running, on the other hand, often produces a sense of euphoria and achievement from meeting the day’s goal, whether it’s simply to complete a workout, reach a training milestone, complete a race or set a PR.

Running can be a permanent part of your life.

You wouldn’t want to be on a weight-loss program for the rest of your life, but with smart training and self-care, you can be a lifelong runner. Cycling periods of training and recovery (monthly, seasonally and annually) is your best strategy for enjoying an active and competitive lifestyle, whatever your age.