One of the questions we’ve received over at our Run with the Sisterhood page pertains to running when you are overweight. Specifically, “How do I start running/return to running after a significant weight gain.” Having been in this situation myself, I thought I would tackle the question.
First of all, you need to answer the question, “Can I really run?” Short answer: YES! Unless you have a legit medical issue (and, no, thinking you have”bad knees” doesn’t count unless an REAL doctor has diagnosed you with a meniscus tear or something) ANYONE can run. If you are significantly overweight or really have never exercised before, you should consult with your physician prior to beginning any fitness program. Please do that. But once you’re given the green light – by all means, go run!
After you take that first step there are a few tips that can make starting a running program (or returning to running after a weight gain or break) a little bit easier.
6 Tips for Overweight Runners
- Start slow. I highly recommend downloading one of the Couch to 5k apps. These programs will gradually introduce you to running through a run/walk program. You will increase your running segments while also reducing your walking intervals over the course of 9 weeks or so until you are able to run for about 3 miles without stopping. If you’ve never even walked a block – start off with straight up walking to get your cardiovascular and skeletal system ready for the demands of running.
- Start slow. You’re probably thinking, “Wait, Bari just said that” and yes, I did. This time I’m talking running pace. Don’t expect yourself to be able to run a 9 minute mile – or maybe even a 14 minute mile – right out of the gate. This is totally OK. When you are first starting out (or in my case, returning to running), pace does not matter. Do not compare yourself to your running friends or even your former running self. Slow and steady, my friends.
- Listen to your body. Being overweight increases some of the stress on your body so be sure to take rest days (don’t run on consecutive days) and take care of your muscles. Learn to use a foam roller, especially on your calves, and stretch after your runs. Warm up with some walking or dynamic stretching before you start to run (if you follow C25K, all the workouts start with a 5 minute walk).
- Invest in the right gear. You need at minimum a very good pair of running shoes and to be fitted for those shoes at an actual running store. I know they’re expensive – suck it up. Plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and stress fractures from running in old, ratty tennis shoes will cost you much more. Investing in a pair of shoes that are designed to work with YOUR running style and your body type will make you much happier and healthier in the long run. You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of technical clothing right off the bat, but if you can swing it, I recommend at least one tech shirt (don’t run in cotton – you will chafe and be uncomfortable) and one pair of good running socks.
- Ignore the naysayers. You will hear over and over how running is bad for you. Running will “ruin your knees”. People may laugh at you – sad but true. I first tried running in college and someone shouted something horrible out of a car window and I didn’t run again for about 15 years. I let this jerk take away what could have been something amazing. Not everyone is nice and not everyone will be encouraging. All of this is BS and the sooner you turn a deaf ear the better off you’ll be.
- Keep a positive attitude. I won’t lie – beginning a running program or coming back after a break is tough – but you’re tougher. You will have runs which feel strong and amazing and you will have runs that just plain suck. Keep telling yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS and never stop moving forward. Find whatever motivates you – inspirational quotes, a race entry, or really awesome music – use it to your advantage to become the runner you always knew you could be, no matter what your size.