If you’ve just decided to take up running, give yourself a pat on the back! You deserve high praise for taking this important step in your life.
How to Start Running When Overweight
Running is a great way to stay fit, lose weight, and build lean muscles. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety while increasing the body’s ‘feel-good’ hormones. Still, as with anything worth doing, it’ll require some discipline on your part.
You’ll have to put in the work every day, and over time, you’ll be able to build your fitness and feel fabulous doing it. Once you reap the rewards of your hard work, there will be no stopping you! You’ll be dying to squeeze in some runs, even on your busiest days.
So, without further ado, here’s our guide on how to start running when overweight.
Let’s get started.
7 Fitness Tips to Help You Start Running When Overweight
As with any regular exercise, running is an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular health, strengthen bone mass, and improve overall fitness. In addition, it helps with weight loss, which is why so many people have taken up running.
However, the problem with running is that you can injure yourself if you’re not careful, especially if your body isn’t used to regular exercise. Therefore, to make the most of your runs and reduce the risk of getting injured, check out these helpful fitness tips we rounded up below.
Master Your Thoughts
Just because you’re carrying some extra pounds doesn’t mean you have to hold yourself back from living a fulfilling, healthy life. It all starts in your mind.
You have to get rid of the ‘overweight mentality’ and start picturing yourself fit and in good health. Once you shift your mindset, you can imagine yourself doing the work. After that, everything else will come naturally.
Remember, weight loss isn’t just about dieting and exercise. It’s about getting in the right mind space.
Check out these factors that can help change your outlook on weight loss for the better.
- Understand why you eat and start building a good relationship with food
- Don’t categorize foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’
- Work on your self-discipline
- Slow down when you’re eating and savor each bite
- Stop eating before you feel too full or stuffed
- Eat everything in moderation
- Don’t make any foods off-limits
Once you’ve set your mind to ‘running’ mode, it’s now time to get your body ready. If you’re overweight, chances are, your joints aren’t used to the wear and tear that comes with regular exercise.
Plus, the heavier you are, the harder it’ll be for your joints to carry that weight. Thus, it’s vital that you start out slowly. Set realistic goals and give your body time to adjust to the difficulty of working out.
Remember, the only person you’re trying to beat is yourself. So, your personal safety should be your number one priority.
Pick a soft, smooth surface, and make sure you keep your steps short and relaxed. Trying to overextend your legs may lead to a pulled muscle or a leg injury.
Here’s a sample training plan you can try out to prevent any overtraining or injuries:
- Warm-up and stretch for at least 10 minutes before your workout.
- Start walking at a fast pace for about 15 minutes to begin building endurance.
- Repeat three times a week.
- Increase the time over the upcoming weeks until you can walk for 30 minutes non-stop.
- During week 4, walk for 5 minutes, then lightly jog for one minute.
- When this starts to feel easy, increase jogging time by 10% per week to boost stamina.
- Stretch to cool down after each session.
Wear Comfortable Gear
Ask any seasoned runner, and they’ll tell you, it all starts with the right gear.
The trick is to choose clothes made of breathable, light materials that allow your body to cool down as you’re running. The most common material used for exercise gear is moisture-wicking.
This magical fabric, such as high-tech polyester, makes use of a handy little process called ‘capillary action.’ This is the same action plants use to transport water from the roots into the stems and to the rest of the plant.
Through this process, the fibers of your clothes move the sweat away from your body and to the outer layers of the clothes. Then, it evaporates into the air, leaving you relaxed and comfy.
You can find shirts, shorts, and even socks made of moisture-wicking fabrics. They’re super comfortable and easy to care for.
What you wear on your feet when you’re out running is probably the most vital of all the running gear. Luckily, the market is flooded with all types of footwear, from the arched to the high heel drop to the roomy toe box. There’s a lot to think about when looking for your next pair.
However, finding running shoes that offer proper cushioning is one crucial feature to consider. This is for both your comfort and safety because cushioned midsoles are a great way to absorb shocks as your feet constantly pound the ground.
Find Your Foot Type
Some beginner runners speak with a running shoe professional, an orthopedist, or a podiatrist before buying their first pair. Then, try a test run and see which brand and model are suitable for your feet.
You can also do a gait analysis to determine your feet type. Feet usually fall into two categories: supination and overpronation. For a quick assessment of your feet, find a pair of your old running shoes and look at the soles.
Do the inner sides show more excessive wear than the outer sides? Then, you typically overpronate when walking or running.
If the outer edges show more wear, that means your feet tend to supinate.
Knowing which category you fall into can help you get the right shoes that offer the best support. Here’s a quick overview of each type.
People who supinate have most of their weight fall on the outside of their feet when walking or running. When they push off from the ground, it’s done from the edges of the feet and the outer toes.
Supination, also known as underpronation, causes a general imbalance in the way your feet roll as they move. When your gait isn’t centered, this leads to an imbalance in the entire body’s alignment.
To correct this, you should look for running shoes that feature supportive insoles. In addition, you can buy them separately or have them custom-made to match the shape of your feet’s insoles.
The term ‘pronation’ refers to when you naturally walk or run. It’s the natural rotation of your foot and consists of three separate sections: forefoot, heel, and ankle.
Overpronation, however, happens when your feet distribute your body weight inward. This puts extreme pressure on the first two toes with each step.
Keep in mind that the heavier the load, the greater the pressure. This can ultimately lead to severe injuries, like bone fractures, twisted ankles, and inflamed tendons.
If your feet overpronate, look for running shoes that offer stability in the arch region. This prevents the ankle and arches from rolling inward, while avoiding potential injuries or pain during your runs.
Build Up Your Muscles
Right from the get-go, you should start doing strength training exercises. These are great at loosening your muscles and helping build muscle mass. Stronger muscles mean less fatigue when you’re out running.
It also means a reduced risk of injury and pain because your joints have a support system that prevents them from getting twisted or sprained during exercise.
Here are some tips and examples of stability exercises that can help boost muscle strength:
- Add one type of bodyweight training 2 – 3 times to your weekly workout routine
- Include a circuit training routine of 5 exercises done in 3 rounds for 30 seconds each
- Alternate between upper and lower body exercises
- Exercise ideas: squats, side, and low planks, mountain climbers, Superman, airplanes
Start with the Easy Runs
We mentioned above starting slowly and gradually. Yet, what does this mean exactly?
Experts recommend that when you start running when overweight, you should focus on low-intensity, easy runs.
This low-intensity steady-state (LISS) is when you work out at a level that ranges between 57% and 63% of your maximum heart rate for a sustained period. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), this period should be 30 minutes or more.
The great thing about low-intensity exercise is that it preps the body to handle more and more each time. So, you increase your endurance steadily but at a comfortable pace to avoid getting injured.
Choose the Right Terrain
Another thing you have to consider when starting to run, particularly if you’re overweight, is the surface you’ll be running on. Avoid hilly terrains and those with gravel, pebbles, or thick vegetation.
Pick terrains that are flat and smooth so it becomes less of a challenge to keep your balance as you’re running. As a result, you get to enjoy your run and keep a steady and even stride without worrying about tripping or twisting your ankles.
Speaking of ankles, choosing a soft surface to run on means less impact on your joints. During your runs, all the joints in your lower limbs are busy trying to support you, keep you upright, while managing to take quick steps, one after the other.
All that can take its toll even on the most experienced of runners. In fact, researchers discovered, through computer modeling and gait analysis, that running places a much higher load on knees than walking.
When you give your body ample time to adjust to the mechanics of running, the cartilage and bones in the knee learn to adapt. Thus, they become better at handling the strain of intense exercise.
Moreover, they become more resilient to injuries. This means that if you keep your runs progressing at a steady pace, running may lead to stronger, sturdier knees.
Increase the Intensity Gradually
When you get to that level where you master low-intensity runs, then it’s time for an upgrade. You’ve probably now gotten used to combining walking with light jogs for 30-minute sessions two or three times a week. So, it’s only natural that you take your intensity up to the next moderate intensity level.
The ACSM states that moderate-intensity workouts are when your heart rate remains at a steady rate of between 75% and 80% of its maximum ability. One way to know if you’re ready for moderate intensity is to try and carry a conversation while running.
Another way, according to the CDC, is to subtract your age from the number 220. Say, a 60-year-old would have an estimated maximum heart rate of about 160 beats per minute (bpm).
Do you feel out of breath and can’t even finish one sentence? Or is it slightly tricky but still doable? If it’s the latter, you’re in the proper intensity range.
If you’re running to lose weight and improve your fitness, then starting slow and gradually increasing the time and distance of your runs is a great way to boost your metabolism. As long as you’re eating right and hydrating, you can lose calories even when you’re not running.
Doesn’t that sound amazing!
Just as working out and getting fit is an integral part of running, so is eating right. A well-balanced, nutritious diet can ensure that your body has sufficient amounts of stored energy for successful, injury-free workouts.
To make it easier to manage, we divided our nutritional plan into three categories: before, during, and after the run. These nutrition tips are great for all types of runners, particularly if you’re learning how to start running when overweight.
When you’re starting any type of exercise routine, like running, it’s crucial that you schedule meal times around your workouts. You shouldn’t begin your training on an empty stomach. A few minutes into the run, you may start feeling woozy, and your muscles will cramp up.
Instead, eat a small snack about half an hour to an hour prior to your workout. The trick is choosing the right types of foods.
Some foods will make you feel sluggish and out of focus. On the other hand, other types of food can energize you and get you pumped up for your run.
If you’re unsure about what you should and shouldn’t eat before your run, take a look below. We put together a quick list for you.
Foods to Eat
- Low-fat granola bar or an energy bar
- Fruit smoothie
- Peanut butter
- Low-fiber cereal
- Drink anywhere between 17 and 20 ounces of water 1 – 2 hours before your run
Foods to Avoid
- Foods high in fiber as they take a long time to digest and can cause upset stomachs
- Foods high in fat as they can lead to cramping and discomfort
- Whole grain food products
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Too much water
During Your Run
Of course, you won’t be eating during your run, but you will need to stay hydrated. That means taking frequent small sips to keep you from getting too hot or feeling dizzy.
During your first hour of running, you should take a sip every 15 – 20 minutes. Each sip should be around 5 to 10 ounces, which comes to about half to one full cup of water.
Avoid drinking too much even if you’re thirsty. You’ll only cause your stomach to fill up, and the water will slosh around as you run, leading to a stomachache.
Some people find that drinking plain old water is too dull for their tastes. They prefer drinking something with color and flavor to get them perked up. So, if you’re one of those people that get bored with water, you can opt for a sports drink or any type of watered-down fruit juice.
Although, experts recommend that you start with water and leave these flavored drinks for later. In fact, they say you shouldn’t drink anything but water for the first hour of a run or workout. After an hour of doing moderate-intensity training, you can start sipping something else besides water.
The reason? Well, sports drinks are known for their high sugar intake. Thus, if consumed early on during the run, it can lead to an upset stomach and digestive problems. Plus, it’ll spike your blood sugar level, which will only leave you feeling tired and groggy.
The other reason is that if you drink too many sports drinks, it’ll only lead to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It’ll also make it nearly impossible to lose weight. Think about it: as soon as you burn a few calories, you quickly replace them with the sugar from the sports drinks.
Having said that, however, these drinks do contain electrolytes, such as sodium, that can help keep you refreshed and energized throughout your run. Just make sure you’re drinking them at the right time and in the right quantities.
One way to prevent all the sugar is to look for sports drinks that contain few carbohydrates. The ideal amount is no more than 8%. This ensures that you’re replacing the electrolytes and energy levels lost during your run without introducing too many sugars into your bloodstream.
Every time you complete a run, take a deep breath, and just take a few seconds to take in what you’ve just accomplished! Then, after catching your breath, it’s time to refuel.
Choose post-run snacks that have equal parts protein and good-for-you carbs. Also, try to keep the calorie count under 300. It’s the best way to build mass and aid in recovery without piling on extra weight.
It doesn’t have to be a big, full-blown meal. Just a moderately-portioned snack will be fine as long as it contains the nutrients your body needs to refuel.
Proteins and Carbohydrates
The ideal meal plan for post-runs is to eat high-carb foods within the first hour after finishing your run. These types of foods help support recovery and restore your glycogen levels.
Anything rich in proteins is also a great idea. When you run, muscle tissue gets broken down due to the tear and wear of the constant pounding and moving.
So, eating a protein-rich meal helps build up new muscle tissue for stronger, leaner muscles. Furthermore, protein helps restore energy levels and helps the body adapt to the intensity of the workouts.
Check out these post-run snack idea dos and don’ts.
Do eat these after a run:
- Veggie omelet
- Whole grain bread
- Plain or fruit yogurt
- Peanut butter
- Fruit smoothies
Don’t eat these after a run:
- Processed meat
- Fast foods
- Foods high in saturated fats
Drinking water after your run will bring back fluid levels to normal. It’ll also help speed up recovery, especially after moderate-intensity runs and workouts. Sports experts recommend drinking about 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound lost during your run.
Final Thoughts On How to Start Running When Overweight
Learning how to start running when overweight is something many people struggle with. Yet, after reading our guide, you now know the dos and don’ts of a good running training plan.
Start by creating a realistic and progressive workout plan that works at your own pace. Your main goal should be to lose weight and improve your fitness, which means there’s no need to compare yourself to anyone else.
The best way to do that is to listen to your body’s cues and gradually increase the intensity each week when you feel ready. Be patient and consistent with your workouts.
After a few months, you’ll notice you’re running for longer without going out of breath. You’ll feel stronger, leaner, and happier.
It’s pretty amazing how much power regular exercise has over us. So, keep at it, stay strong, and happy trails!