When it comes to starting a running program, being overweight can be a major obstacle.
Nonetheless, just because you are heavy does not mean that you barred from the sport.
The fact is, running isn’t reserved for thin people with no weight problems. If you are overweight, then running (the way I’m going to be prescribing it today) might be the right thing you need to shed the extra pounds and keep them off for good.
Running is awesome. In fact, running is one of the best exercises out there. It’s simple, convenient and burns mad calories.
And all you need is a pair of good shoes and off you go.
For more on the benefits of running, check my two here posts here.
Enter The Beginner Overweight Runner Program
With that all being said, there is a dark side to running.
In fact, this sport is high impact and can take a toll on your body—especially if you are really overweight and/or out of shape.
The good news is by following the training guidelines below, you’ll be able to take up running, lose the weight, then keep it off for good.
But it does require a huge commitment on your part.
Success comes to those who are willing to persevere beyond what they thought possible (and doing it in a realistic manner of course).
Without further ado, here are the guidelines you need to start from zero as an overweight person and become a regular runner in three months or less.
1. See your Doctor
Running (and exercise in general) is the best thing you can do to lose weight, strengthen your whole body, improve stamina, reduce the risks of serious diseases, and improve overall health and well-being levels.
But if you haven’t done much exercise in the last few years, then you have to start with a doctor visit before taking your first few steps on the running path.
The truth is, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I cannot stress this enough—especially if you are morbidly fat (sorry for using that word), or have serious health problems.
So, consult your doctor before getting on the below running to ensure that you can safely exercise without hurting yourself.
In fact, the last thing you want to do when starting a running program is get yourself hurt by doing something you are not supposed to be doing.
As a general guideline, during the doctor’s visit, expect to go through an extensive physical assessment.
Some of the items you need to get tested for include (but not limited to), your heart condition history, kidney health, respiratory diseases such as asthma or lung diseases, joint issues such arthritis, current medication, and your whole medical history.
Also, be sure to be thorough with your doctor and tell them the reasons you want to start running as well as your training and weight loss goals. Also, Ask them about any joint pain and/or injury you are more likely to suffer, their tips and recommendations, etc.
If you have severe mobility issues, then you might need to start with physical therapy or opt for another exercise program if you have to.
Then, once it’s fixed, reconsider taking up running again.
2. Start Walking
After getting the green light from the doctor, it’s time to get rolling.
If you haven’t run before, the best course of action is to start WALKING.
Walking is relatively low-impact and can be done without a huge commitment on your part.
Why is Walking So Awesome?
First of all, walking can help you build the endurance and strength needed for more intense exercise while, at the same time, avoiding injury from the get-go. In fact, getting hurt is the reason number one why many overweight people shy away from running.
Secondly, the low impact nature of walking is going to help build the habit of daily physical exercise without it leading to serious trouble.
Furthermore, walking is also perfect for uncovering any underlying problems or issues you might have while running down the road. So, for instance, if you experience knee pain while walking, you might need to take it up with your doctor. Or at least be aware that something might be amiss.
Start out by walking three to four times the first week. By the fourth week, you should be walking five to six times a week, with each session lasting more than 40 to 50 minutes.
Here is the ideal walking session.
Begin your session with a 5-minute slow walk as a warm up.
Next, increase the intensity to a brisk walk pace and stick with it for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Last up, slow down and walk slowly for 5 minutes to bring your heart rate down.
And please, do not start running until walking feels comfortable and relatively easy. Make pain-free training and consistency your ultimate goal.
Note: Stay at this stage for as long as you like. No need to do too much too soon here. Progress at your own leisured pace, and compete with nobody other than yourself.
3. Start Run/Walking
This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to running.
I’m a huge advocate of the run/walk method, and I believe that it’s the best way for getting fit without getting hurt.
So, what is the run/walk method all about?
The brainchild of Jeff Galloway, a legendary running coach, the run-walk method is a beginner runner friendly training method that entails alternating between LOW INTENSITY running intervals and walking recovery breaks for a set period of time.
Start the session with a 10-minute brisk walk to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to the working muscles.
Next, while opting for a slow and controlled running pace, 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. And that’s it.
The Exact Progression you Need
Here is an easy pattern to follow:
Once you are comfortable jogging for one minute, increase it to 90 seconds. Once 90-second is a breeze, up it to two minutes. So on and so forth. You get the picture.
Not good with numbers?
Well, then you can jog slowly for one-half block, build it a whole block, then two blocks, so on and so forth.
So, whatever you end up doing, be sure to gradually increase the time you spend running while taking less and less for recovery until you are jogging for at least 20 minutes without much huffing and puffing.
As long as you are doing it in a slow and controlled manner, you are in a good place.
How long should that take?
Again, there is no wrong or right answer to that question.
In fact, there is no conclusive consensus as to how long it should take an overweight newbie to be able to run, let’s say, for a half an hour, without much trouble.
For the most part, the length of time it should take for a beginner overweight person to run for a half an hour, nonstop, depends on several factors, such as fitness level, current weight, age, gender, training experience and exercise consistency.
So, the answer is how long should it take to become a runner depends, entirely, on the individual.
You gonna have to be your own judge here.
But all in all, this whole process might take you longer than you might think.
So, expect to invest, at least, three to six months on consistent training. And that’s an estimate on the low end, provided that you don’t have a serious health issue, or gotten yourself into trouble, God forbid.
3. Get the Right Gear
The right equipment can make or break your running resolution.
For starters, run in the right clothing. This is more relevant once you start running and discovering that sweating can be a source of trouble. Blisters and chafing are topping the list of concerns.
As an overweight runner, look for technical gear (that’s clothing specially designed for runners) that’s comfortable, fits well and is within your budget.
These will wick sweat away from your body, helping you stay warm and dry and preventing all sorts of trouble, such as chafing and the like.
I highly recommend compression gear for an overweight runner. These are typically made out of lightweight technical fabric that will pull moisture away from your skin while giving you more support.
Compression might also prevent swelling in your legs and arms and reduce the risks of muscle soreness afterward.
Get a pair of tight spandex pants. These are going to help keep your thighs from rubbing together while running, which is a significant source of trouble among my overweight beginner runners.
Another item you need is a compression shirt. Get this especially if you feel self-conscious about your stomach and chest bouncing all over the place while running.
This will help put a stop to that, to some degree of course.
Running is one of the most convenient of all sports. In fact, that’s a part of its great appeal.
However, there is a catch here. You still need a pair of GOOD and PROPER running shoes. This might be the most important investment a runner can make—regardless of their size and fitness level.
If you run in improper shoes (worn-out, too tight, too loose, walking shoes, etc.) then you are flirting with disaster and setting the stage for Achilles Tendinitis, knee pain, shin splints and a myriad of other running injuries.
So before you head out of the door, be sure to have the right sole-mate on.
Here is my best advice:
Go to the nearest specialty running store where trained staff can examine your foot type and running gait and recommend the best shoe for the job.
I know that doing this can be a bit expensive, but they are worth the buck, both for the short and long term. So, suck it up.
4. Do it for yourself
You’re a big person.
In fact, you might be the biggest and most overweight person in the block.
Thus, you’ll be drawing a lot of attention, and some of it might not be very positive. Not every person out there is supportive nor should you expect them to be encouraging and nice.
Nevertheless, don’t mind the haters, because, and in the words of the “wise” Taylor Swift: “Haters gonna hate hate hate.”
However, don’t let it stop you. Don’t let the mind games and name calling interfere with the process. And please, don’t let them dictate how you should be living your life. You are your person, and you can achieve greatness—if you put your mind to it.
All you have to do is to do is to train, and keep on training, regardless. Turn a deaf ear to all the BS, and do what you have to do to get in shape.
Keep the focus on you. Nobody else. And aim to cultivate a positive attitude—no matter what happened—even if your workouts sucked—they are supposed to suck, by the way.
Always forward. Never back backward.
And the truth is, if those colossal a$$holes understood what it takes to become a runner while being overweight, then they’d think twice before mocking any runner with serious weight issues.
5. Build the Habit
Once you can run straight for 30 minutes without trouble, then you should shift your focus to making running a daily habit.
That’s how to go about it if you are serious about sticking to your exercise routine for the long haul—that’s when you start seeing results.
See, you can’t undo the damage caused by leading a sedentary lifestyle for years, even decades, overnight.
You can build the running habit by doing the following:
Schedule your runs the same way you schedule an important work meeting or a vital doctor’s appointment. Use a daily calendar, Smartphone or whatever you can to block out the time you need for the run.
Stick to the “three workouts per week” rules for at least 12 weeks. If you can work it up to 16 weeks, then you are good since most healthy lifestyle changes take that long to become ingrained into the daily routine.
Don’t run alone. Instead enlist your friends, or training buddies from the gym in your mission. Not only a training partner will help you stay motivated, but it will also hold you accountable for your actions.
Plus, we are the people we surround ourselves with, so hang out with the right healthy folks.
Do your best and forget the rest.