How To Start Running When Overweight: Our Complete Guide

One of the best things about running as a sport is that it’s “come one, come all.” Although many people think of runners as being tall, lanky, sinewy athletes, runners come in all shapes and sizes. 

If you’re clinically considered overweight, starting running can feel daunting, but not only are there many great physical and mental health benefits to be gained by committing and taking that first step of your first run, but you can also absolutely do it.

Starting running can be difficult for anyone, and there are special considerations for how to start running when overweight to ease the process, minimize your risk of injury, and help you fall in love with the sport even as you navigate the challenges of building stamina as a runner and getting in shape.

Can I Run If I’m Overweight?

Absolutely! Individuals with extra weight can totally be runners and should not allow negative voices, shyness, or uncertainty to convince them otherwise. What is essential to consider is not if it is feasible, but how to initiate running when you are overweight.

If you are morbidly obese and have pre-existing medical conditions and musculoskeletal discomforts, it’s advisable to start with walking to build some fitness, kickstart some weight loss, and prepare your body for the demands of running. But be patient; you’ll get there.

Before You Start Running When Overweight

Preparation is part of having a successful start with running. Before you head out for your first run, make sure you’ve done the following:

#1: Consult Your Doctor

If you are overweight, it is recommended that you visit a doctor for a full examination before beginning to run. Share with your doctor what your plans are to start running so that they can ensure your cardiovascular health and measure your pulse, breathing, and hypertension before you start exercising.

Your doctor might require an exercise stress test, and provide guidance about managing any pre-existing conditions, injuries, and medications in your medical history in the context of starting running.

#2: Get Yourself Proper Running Shoes

The other important step before you start running is to get the right gear. Many people think it’s fine to start running in old tennis shoes or sneakers you’d wear to the gym, but this is not a good idea, particularly if you are overweight. 

Old sneakers and athletic shoes that aren’t designed for running lack the support and cushioning you need to minimize injury risk. One of the few heightened concerns for overweight runners is the increased risk of joint pain, so buying the right footwear before you start running when overweight is essential. 

Using the right shoes that fit you well and adequately support your feet to help your body move correctly will lessen the force of impact on vulnerable parts of your body and reduce the chances of getting hurt.

It’s a good idea to visit your local running store where a shoe expert can analyze your gait and recommend the best shoes for your body. There are also shoe considerations for overweight runners. 

For example, some overweight runners prefer to run in a more cushioned shoe to help absorb the impact, while others need a more supportive shoe or an orthotic or insole to ensure the arch of the foot doesn’t collapse when you land.

#3 Dress Like a Runner

It is also helpful to get running clothes. Performance apparel is made from moisture-wicking materials, so it will keep you cooler, drier, and more comfortable than heavy cotton clothing. 

It is perfectly acceptable to go to the gym in whatever clothing or apparel you already possess, however, wearing running clothing specifically designed for athletics will help you to fit in and keep you feeling comfortable and prevent skin irritation.

For example, if you’re running outside in cold weather, sweatpants or yoga pants will suffice, but if you have the means, buying some running tights or breathable running pants will probably feel much better. 

The fabrics are designed to regulate your temperature and resist wind and moisture, while the fit or cut minimizes restriction, excessive flapping as you run, and most importantly, skin rubbing and chafing.

Depending on the climate in which you live and the season, you’ll want running shorts, tights or running pants, moisture-wicking tops (with short sleeves and long sleeves), performance socks rather than cotton socks, and accessories like a winter hat, running gloves, and a running jacket or vest.

The Exact Training Strategies

Walk First

It might seem like the simplest exercise in the world, but to become a runner you’ll need to walk first. In fact, walking is the perfect stepping stone to the world of running. Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be done without making a huge commitment.

It helps you build the endurance and strength needed for intense exercise. It’s also perfect for revealing any underlying issues. For instance, if you experience knee pain while walking, take it up with your doctor, or at least be aware that something might be amiss.

Action Step:

Start out by walking three to four times the first week and work your way up. By four weeks in, you should be able to walk five to six times a week, each session lasting 50 to 60 minutes.

Progress at your own pace. Remember, you’re not competing with anybody other than yourself. Just don’t give up.

Start Run/Walking 

Once you can briskly walk for at least 60 minutes pain-free, start adding running segments to your sessions. That’s what’s known as the run/walk method.

Action Step:

Start your session with a 10-minute brisk walk to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to the working muscles. Next, jog for 20 to 30 seconds, then walk for 30 seconds to one full minute. Repeat the cycle for 15 to 20 minutes, then wrap it up with a 5-minute walk as a cool down.

Once you’re comfortable jogging for one minute, increase your jogging time to 90 seconds. When 90 seconds feels like a breeze, increase it to two minutes. Continue adding on in this manner. 

Whatever you end up doing, make it a rule to gradually increase the time you spend running while taking less and less time for recovery. Your goal is to be jogging for at least 20 minutes without too much huffing and puffing.

Listen to your Body

By far, this is the most important rule to abide by when you start running or any other form of exercise. It’s okay—and expected—to experience a little muscle soreness the day after a workout, especially during the first few weeks.

After all, all good things happen when you step outside of your comfort zone. You’ll be sweating, your heart rate will increase, and you’ll find it hard at times to keep at it. But, if you’re doubling over in pain, you’re doing it wrong.

Recover Well

If you run hard every day and sneeze at the importance of rest, then you’re flirting with disaster. In fact, recovery is as important to progress as the training itself. For starters, alternate hard training days with rest days.

In case you don’t want to have a whole day off, then cross-train. Ideal options for beginners include swimming, strength training, spinning, and yoga. If it’s too much for you, simply call the day off. Take more time if you need to, but stick to your plan.

How To Start Running When Overweight

Truthfully, how to start running when overweight is not much different than how to start running at a smaller body fat percentage or lower BMI: you just have to start. Taking a gradual approach to building up your stamina is sensible, and will be addressed below.

That said, carrying extra weight can make cardiovascular exercise more challenging for your heart and lungs and the impact stresses will be higher on your bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues, so there are a few special considerations for how to start running when overweight as well.

#1: Use the Walk/Run Approach

You don’t have to open your front door on day one and run as far as you can. This can be mentally defeating, uncomfortable, and may even cause an injury.

If you want to partake in the running activity, you have to gradually progress and take it slow since it is a high-impact activity. No matter your size, if you’re beginning running, getting back from an injury, or taking a break for a long time, a mix of walking and running is a great way to improve your condition, as well as gradually acclimatize your bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues to the pressure of running.

Essentially, walking breaks give you a chance to catch your breath and slow your heart rate, and because walking is a lower-impact activity, your joints and muscles also get a break. 

#2: Follow a Training Plan

Some of the most common questions that people have when they are looking into how to start running when overweight are, “How much should I run?” and “How often should I run?”?

Following a training plan for beginners, such as a couch to 5k program, a 30-day running challenge, or a 30-day mile-a-day challenge. These can give you the guidance and structure you need to safely get started with running.

#3: Examine Your Nutrition

Now that you’re going to be a runner, it’s even more important that you’re nourishing your body with nutritious foods and avoiding processed foods like packaged sweets, excessive sugar, artificial colours and flavours, and hydrogenated oils.

If you’re looking to use running as a means to help you lose weight, consider consulting a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist who can help assess your caloric needs and devise a food plan.

A healthy diet for runners should focus on whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruits, lean protein, legumes, low-fat dairy, seeds, and nuts. Keep in mind portion sizes and the calories you’ll burn running versus your daily caloric needs.

To lose one pound of stored body fat, you have to create a caloric deficit of roughly 3,500 calories, which equates to 500 calories per day per week for a weight loss rate of one pound per week. 

This caloric deficit can be generated by consuming fewer calories, burning more calories (such as through your new running routine!), or a combination of both. 

#4: Strength Train

Strength training can reduce your risk of injury and build muscle. Increasing your lean body mass will boost your metabolic rate and help your muscles be strong enough to handle the loads and forces from running, which can alleviate undue stresses on your knees, ankles, hips, and bones. 

#5: Strengthen Your Core

A strong core supports proper running form and movement mechanics. Overweight runners are at an increased risk of lower back pain, particularly if they have a larger abdomen. 

Core workouts can improve the supportive strength of your abs and lower back muscles to ensure you have a nice upright running form with minimal strain on your lower back.

Achieving Your Weight

Loss Goals

Running does burn a lot of calories, but, as I already mentioned, it doesn’t guarantee weight loss without a good diet. In fact, a common question I get a lot from my reader is an explanation for the sudden weight gain after taking up running.

Keep Track

The number one reason for gaining weight when running is to eat too much. Here’s the truth. You cannot outrun a crappy diet—no matter how fast you can be. Instead, keep track of your calorie intake and make sure you’re not consuming excess calories.

Eat Healthily

Calories are not created equal. To make sure you’re making the most out of your food choices, make sure to eat clean. Avoid cheat meals during your first few weeks. Make sure to consume just enough complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy sources of fat.

Avoid Sugars

Sugar found in processed foods is the ultimate diet saboteur. In fact, research has linked the increased intake of sugar in the American diet to the soaring obesity levels we’re dealing with today. High intake also contributes to Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay—the list is long and terrifying.

Eat Plenty of Lean Protein

Best Healthy Foods With Protein You Should Eat | Women's Health

Research says that a higher protein intake helps maintain consistent blood sugar, which is essential for avoiding cravings. One study revealed that subjects who had protein at breakfast reported fewer cravings for junk food later in the day. Good sources of lean protein include chicken, beef, eggs, raw cheese, and nuts.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button