Before we start, a huge congratulations to yourself. You’re overweight, you know it and you’re taking positive action to improve your situation by running. Let’s get started!
Why is being overweight a challenge for beginner runners?
Compared to a person of healthy weight, the overweight beginner runner faces some unique problems.
Firstly, overweight people have more pounds of body fat to carry around with them. Not only will this require more energy and be extra strenuous, but it also puts a lot more pressure on the legs and joints.
Secondly, overweight people tend to be more unhealthy than average weight people. Being overweight means your more likely to have shortness of breath, a weaker heart, sleep problems and general fatigue. In addition, overweight people are more at risk of developing serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and so on. Bottom line is being overweight correlates with being unhealthy and having a lower quality of life.
Okay, sounds pretty gloomy. BUT, we’re in a great place now. We have a chance to beat being overweight with the power of running!
If running is so life-changing, it may surprise you to know that many overweight people avoid running at all costs. Why is that?
Why do some overweight people avoid running?
Lots of people think being overweight means they should avoid running at all costs. Some think they will look stupid, others worry they are too unhealthy to start, some lack motivation and some are scared of running in case they injure themselves.
Well, let me tell you all of those reasons are a load of rubbish! The only thing holding you back from running is you.
Being overweight doesn’t mean you can’t run
Anyone can run, no matter what shape or size they are. In my local parkrun, participants range from skinny & muscly runners with sub 17 times to obese people who are happy just to walk 5k and get active. Fair play to them, I say. They’re doing it.
These overweight participants are starting out on the road to running success. Proof that you can do too. It’s all about having a positive can-do mindset and embracing the challenge that lies ahead.
What do overweight runners need to consider?
Okay, we’ve established you CAN run if you’re overweight and it’s all about having a positive attitude. Now, let’s get into some of the key things you need to bear in mind before you start your running regime as an overweight person.
I’m not going to lie to you. The road ahead will be challenging & fun. The most important thing is that you get on the road to running success and stay moving on it. Your quality of life will improve exponentially if you do, believe me.
Without further ado, here are my 6 top tips for overweight beginner runners:
1. Check with your doctor before you begin running
Before you start the running regime, it’s important to check with your doctor first.
Go and see your doctor, explain what you are trying to achieve with your running and what your goals are, then discuss. Share any health issues and past injuries with the doctor, too.
Your doctor might think your goals are sensible and wish you well on your running. However, sometimes the doctor may request you shorten the intensity of the running as your current fitness and health issues may be hazardous to your health.
You might even conduct an exercise stress test so the doctor can measure your cardiovascular health to rule out any health issues. Yes, I know it is a nuisance and time consuming but it’s better to be safe when you start your running regime. Despite the title of this blog, my motto is safety first, runners second!
2. Get the proper equipment
Make sure you run in the proper equipment. Proper running shoes, suited to your feet and running style, are an absolute must. Wearing incorrect shoes can cause poor running form, put pressure on your joints and result in injury. Not a good start to any running regime.
Yes, it may be a bit of an investment but I can assure you a decent pair of running shoes are one of the best investments you can make. You wouldn’t buy a cheap car with loads of problems with it then hop in for a ride, would you? Don’t do the same for running shoes! Get quality running shoes from a quality running shop where trained salespeople can assess your foot and professionally advise you. It will be totally worth it.
A GPS Running watch is a nice piece of equipment you can use to record your runs/walks and monitor your progress. There are plenty on the market and a watch for every budget. For more information, check out the following blog post:
3. Start by walking first
Start small and walk first. The last thing you want is to try running straight away, to get tired quickly and walk home in shame and anger. Don’t do that, walk first and pace yourself!
Also, starting to run without a baseline level of physical fitness – gained from regularly walking – means you risk injuring yourself. This could delay the process of getting you running by a week to a few months. Ouch! Save yourself the hassle and start out by walking.
Begin walking outside for 10, 15, 20 or even 25 minutes at a time. Get the blood flowing, the arms pumping and slowly build up your endurance. Be consistent and walk every day. Even if you don’t feel like it and it’s raining outside, get out and walk anyway.
Eventually, you’ll have enough physical fitness and endurance to add short bouts of running to your workouts.
4. Start walking/running
Once you’ve built a baseline of physical fitness from regularly walking, you’re now ready to add short episodes of running to your workouts. This is a superb strategy to comfortably build up your running ability, which will serve as a transition between you walking/running to just running.
An idea for a session would be to walk for 5 minutes at a decent pace, before running for 1 minute continuously. Recover with a 3-minute brisk walk, repeat with a 1-minute run, and continue for 20 minutes. Eventually, you’ll be able to sustain this for much longer periods of up to 30-40 minutes and you will be ready to run without having to stop for walking breaks.
Remember to listen to your body when starting the run/walk strategy. If you experience sharp pain anywhere in your body (especially your chest area) then reduce the intensity of the workout. You may even need to reduce the intensity to a walk again. Don’t worry if you have to do this, you are probably just pushing yourself too hard. Safety first, runners second!
5. Control your diet
It’s all well and good you start to challenge yourself physically with running but it will all be for nothing if you don’t change your diet.
If you’re running regularly, 2-4 times a week, but eat crisps, doughnuts, chocolate and have 3 sugars in your teas & coffees, you ain’t going to see results. It’s simple as that.
I used to be a sucker for sweets and junk food. I should have been severely overweight but because of my job at the time I would walk over 50,000 steps daily and burn off all the calories.
Food is for fuel, not enjoyment
My attitude towards food changed when I started listening (and reading) thoughts from Jordan B. Peterson, the Canadian psychologist. He states that we should be primarily eating protein and healthy fats (eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds) for a sustainable energy source.
Carbohydrates are to be used sparingly, particularly before & during exercise but not afterwards. Carbohydrate-heavy food like pasta and bread tends to be high in calories and sugar, which causes your blood sugar levels to spike then quickly drop which leaves you feeling tired. Protein and healthy fats, on the other hand, tend to be low in sugar and provide you with a sustainable energy source.
When you stop thinking of food as a treat, something to enjoy, something to spoil yourself with, you can control your diet. You probably think I sound really boring for suggesting this, but it’s the truth. We live in a world where unhealthy food is packaged in a branded wrapper to look trendy and cool when in reality we are robbing our own health and putting money in the back pockets of certain food companies.
Once you control your diet, your running performance and recovery will improve dramatically and you will lose weight quicker. Go out and boss it.
6. Don’t give up
The only way you will fail with your running journey as an overweight beginner is if you give up. I promise you that.
It will be tough, challenging and difficult at times but you cannot give up, under any circumstances. Think about why are doing this.
Have you got kids you want to see grow up? Do you want more energy? Are you sick of looking in the mirror and seeing an unhealthy, overweight person looking back at you? Get real honest with yourself, there’s no point sugar coating the truth.
Have a powerful reason for why you want to run in the first place, write it down so it’s clear and remind yourself of that reason every time you want to give up. It will help so much.
You will be mad at yourself if you have to stop and walk because you’re out of breath and tired. You’ll be fed up when it’s raining outside and you go for your scheduled daily 20-minute brisk walk. However, you will be ashamed of yourself for many, many months to come if you give up.
Don’t throw in the towel. Stick with it and you will see the results you want. It’s only a matter of time before you achieve your running goals and make a positive change in your life!