Can I Run if I am Overweight? Yes!

People are often surprised to hear that I run. I don't fit their image of a runner. When I encourage them to run I often hear that they feel they are too large to start. The truth is, no matter your size, running is always a great choice for fat burning cardio. I am not a professional but I am passionate about running. Distances over 6 miles are a struggle for me and my legs are certainly not the fastest. You might see these things as a deficite, however, its my descipline and my determination that make me a runner. It really doesn't matter if you are 10lbs overweight or 200lbs overweight, everyone has to start somewhere. It has been proven that if an activitiy is too painful or too hard an idividual is less likely to complete the activity. However, with the right expectations and proper equipment you focus on your running.The following tips are for beginners of all sizes:

Go See Your Doctor 

This is very important;  get all your numbers and see where you are. This gives you a starting point. Discuss what you are about to do with your doctor and make sure you don't have any serious conditions that should prevent you from running.

Find a Shoe

The right shoe can change everything about your form, prevent possible injuries and your view of the road ahead.

First, get over any preconcieved notions of colors, styles and logos you may want to wear. This was really tough for me as I loved my pink/black/blue Nike Frees. Its not that they don't want you to look cool - you just have to come to realization that the shoe that is right for you, may not be the one you like visually. 

Sexond, have your shoes fitted . While Runner's World  and Brooks both have good online shoe advisors, they serve to primarily help you determine what you WANT from a shoe.

My personal recommendation is to go get fitted by a professional. They will be able to determine what you NEED from  your shoe. Also, the large amount of technical specifics can be a bit overwhelming to a novice. Go to your local running a store. (Not Footlocker, DSW, Zappos, Sports Authority...) Reputable local companies like Fleet Feet Sports are not hard to find. (Fleet Feet Sports Spokane is my 'go to' store.) Competitor Magazine recognizes the 50 best running stores in America and also list some great criteria that may help you determine what to look for in a shop in your country. 

Technically Geared-Up

At first I jogged in cotton leggings, cotton socks and a t-shirt. In cold weather it puts the cold moisture against your skin and in warm weather it was like carrying a wet blanket. I didn't know any better. Here are the basics:

  • Synthetic/technical fabrics are your new best friends. Besides feeling light, providing lots of stretch and fitting comfortably, they also wick away the sweat. Some even prevent your sweat from smelling (a female favorite for sure). As the tempuratures drop you can layer your clothes to provide extra warmth against the elements.
  • Sports bras are incredibly important for larger women. This is another area where having a professional fit you is very important. Minimal bounce will decrease your chance of back pain and help your keep your form while you run.
  • Compression clothing minimizes muscle vibration and increases blood flow but it does double duty for those of us with some extra weight by minimizing the fat jiggle. I can tell you that nothing is more distracting for me than my stomach jumping up and down. I wear a pair of crop pants and tank that provide compression to keep all my bits from moving around.
  • Optional items include: nipple guards (for the guys), anti-chaffing gels/creams, heart monitor, armbands/waste belts for your smart phone or water bottle and head bands (to wick away brow sweat).

Start Slow

Speed, distance, target heart rate...those are things you can worry about once you are comfortable with the basics. To get from Point A to Point B you must first start at the beginning. Aim to run 3 times per week (Tues, Thurs, Sat works best for me). Cross train for two of the remaining days and rest on Sunday or Monday. Your first workout should look something like this:

  • Warm up with 5-10 minutes of brisk walking
  • Jog for 1 minute, walk for 2 minutes. This is one interval - repeat 5 times.
  • Cool down with 5-10 minutes of walking

Increase your running by 1 minute every week for the first 10 weeks. On week 3, decrease your walking time by 30 seconds. On week 4 decrease your walking time by another 30 seconds and your intervals to 4. For example: week 5 should be 5 x 1 x 4. At the beginning of week 7 decrease your intervals to 3. In week 9 decrease them again to 2. Weeks 11 - 12 , add 2 minutes of running to each interval. Starting with week 13, try to eliminate your 1 minute of walking and run for a total of 30 minutes.


One of the biggest surprises for me was my own misconception about breathing. I always thought that you had to breathe through your nose and out your mouth, this is not true. In doing that your body takes in too little oxygen and expells even more. The best way to breathe is in and our of your mouth, expanding your lungs and belly while inhaling. I am a noisy breather but I accept that. I need the oxygen. 

Stretching and Recover

Make sure to stretch your muscles after a workout. Your calves, quads and back need to the most love after a good run. Static stretches, those held for 30 seconds or longer, are the most beneficial. They lengthen the muscles and help prevent injuries. DO NOT HOLD STRETCHES BEFORE A RUN as this will allow your muscles to perform beyond their capabilities and lead to injury.

After stretching, help your body recover. In the first 4-8 weeks you are going to experience pains and aches as you make adjustments to your equipment, form, training etc. Ice baths or epsom salt baths are beneficial to recovery by aiding your body in the removal of lactic acid. Get your 8 hours of sleep each night. Eat well. Drink water, at least half your body weight in ounces, each day. Give your body the tools it needs to provide the performance you desire.

Be Realistic. Be Forgiving.

Don't be hard on yourself. If you need to repeat any of the weeks, if you want to remain at a certain level for 2-3 weeks, do it. It takes time to teach your body to process the oxygen and adjust your muscles to your workout. Keep a positive attitude knowing that each day you are getting stronger. Don't get on the jogging path and pressure yourself into doing more than you can because you see runners who are barely breaking a sweat. Lisen to your body. If you need an extra day to rest then take the extra day.

I used to think that because I am obese that running was not an option for me. My running group changed my mind by showing me that starting out slow and buiding up to time and distance I too could be a runner. I love looking back over the last 6 months. The progress I am making is incredible. I look at my friends who crash diet or lose wieght and see it differently now. I make better choices when it comes to food and I can out-run most of them, even at my weight. The best advice - take it one day at a time. Apps for training with your smart phone: Couch to 5K, C25K, Runtastic, RunKeeper, Endomondo, Zombies, Run!, Map My Run

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