How to start running when overweight

This question “How to start running when overweight?” popped into my head, and it got me thinking, what if it can change my life in a good way.

I was tired of being ashamed and unambitious in life for simple things like taking a trip to the grocery store or getting dressed for a job interview that did not boost my confidence the way I wanted. I did not even bother with dating because being overweight does have challenges.

But where do I start? Running is not something I really did regularly, and I did a little research.

This post will hopefully give you the tips needed to start running and seeing results.

This article will be for those who are ready to change their lifestyle, wants to succeed in life, and feel great doing it. The best advice is to always start one step at a time. 

How to start running when overweight? 

Equipment and gear:

The first and most important gear I got was proper running shoes. Having the right running shoes and easing the possibility of discomfort or injury was important to me. I went for shoes with a bit more support and cushioning.

I also made sure to go to a shoe store specializing in running shoes and to get some advice from a professional working there. I am still planning on running for the foreseeable future. Due to my weight, I also had to realize that I will wear out my shoes much faster than someone that has been running for years because of the overweight factor.

Finally, when I started running longer distances and seeing great results, I was now at the stage to take this more seriously and monitor my workouts with a smartwatch to check my heart rate and distance. There are always more affordable options like downloading a fitness or running app like Runkeeper or Pumatrac, both available on Android and IOS.

A thing that also makes a huge difference is the clothing. I went for shirts made of good wicking material as it pulls sweat away from the body and help it dry faster than your normal cotton shirts.

In the summertime, I would wear a short tank top or even better is flowing long sleeve shirt as it helps shield more of my skin from the sun, which keeps me cooler longer. I would wear this with short pants. During the winter I went for a beanie to cover my ears, a medium-weight base shirt, running jacket, and long-running pants.

Aside from the shoes, another very important piece of gear is a water bottle, to keep me hydrated during my session.

I wanted to make sure not to keep many items in my pant pockets while running so I got myself an arm wallet. I kept my phone in here while running as it kept me focused on my form. Having a phone in pockets can pinch, overheat, and bounce while running.

Where to run:

I started running outside and I still prefer it to this day. because it does contain some benefits including Vitamin D (from the sun), it works more muscles, and you burn more calories. There is the treadmill route, should you have one available or part of a gym membership. I prefer jogging in nature and experiencing the wonders of the world. I started at my local park.

Stretching before a run:

I learned the hard way, don’t just start running. It is important to stretch before and after a run, especially the first few months. I did some stretches at the beginning, typically around 5 – 10 minutes, and started mixing it up with basic stretches(like side lunges, arm swings, and bent-knee forward swings),  going up and down on a stairway, or even something like yoga.

The best time to run:

The time is also something to look at, will I go early mornings or late afternoons? I tend to be very tired after a long day, so I find the best time to run is early in the morning.

Running in the middle of a hot day is not a very comfortable experience. I feel that early morning is when I have most of my energy, which means I can give that little extra push to reach my goal faster.

Research suggests that running early in the morning or late in the afternoon is the best time. The research even goes further as to say that running in the mornings are better for sprinting while the late afternoon is more suited for running longer distances. I mix my morning running session with both short and long-distance running.

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Start simple by walking:

The first step is to take it slow and get a feel for the intensity and my body’s limitations in the beginning. I will not be able to run very long without gulping for air. The solution was to do 30 – 45 minutes a day but by walking 10-15 minutes and running slowly the next couple of minutes and ending in walking again.

This will help with limiting injury and me puking all over the payment because I started sprinting in the first 5 minutes.

Increasing the intensity slowly:

After a couple of weeks of doing the same walking and running combo, I started noticing that my energy lasts longer compared to when I started. My next plan was to increase the running time and then decrease the walking time. I even started running more days, from 4 days a week to 6. Everything takes time to build, this includes your body. Take it slow and increase intensity when you feel your body is ready.

At the moment I am enjoying doing sprints for about 10 minutes and then taking a run for the remainder of the 35 minutes daily.

The tracks to consider:

I could not decide on my environment and which route would best fit my needs. In the beginning, I just took normal runs around the blocks of the neighborhood. I have a flat route planned every day and that is something I would recommend when starting. Running 45 minutes up and down slopes is not something I was ready for.

I won’t suggest trying the beach or steep roads in the beginning.

 After about 3 weeks I decided to tackle the more inclined slopes and difficult routes. I took a short drive to the forest and took a route through nature’s gift. This is my normal routine now and I have come to love nature and the outdoor scene more and decided to also do my running session in the forest as it provides both flat and elevated slopes.

Breathing techniques: 

Breathing while running is a skill that can be learned quickly. The first thing to always make sure of is to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth or chest.

Being relaxed and breathing through my nose takes much less air. When your heart rate rises and breathing slowly increases, breathing through your mouth can make the session a lot more difficult. When I felt the need to breathe through my mouth, I automatically started slowing down a bit and focused more paced breathing through my nostrils. 

Now just to note, when I went on slow running sessions, I did my nose breathing but when it came to intense sessions the mouth is preferred as it helps you exhale and inhale much more volume of air.

Hydrate when possible: 

Most of our body consists of water, and when you start running you start sweating which releases a lot of water. I always remember to take a water bottle. See water as having the same importance as remembering to take your shoes before jogging.

Staying hydrated early as possible is a good start. I drink about 350 ml of water 30 minutes before my first warm-up and keep on drinking sips of water through my entire workout. 

 Another option to help you keep hydrated is consuming a bit of electrolytes. What are electrolytes? The definition of electrolytes according to Google is a substance that produces an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water.

When I was looking for sports drinks, I always had a look at the sugar content. Sports drinks containing no sugar were a better option for me as I was already overweight and consuming sugar and running was kind of defeating the purpose.

Just remember, the best thing to drink when starting is just a nice bottle of cold water.

Taking breaks in between: 

The good thing to always know is that if I needed to take a short break, this would help me run longer distances than just trying to run to push through. In the beginning, especially, I took more breaks than what I am currently taking now.

I have gained much more endurance and I still take breaks in between but I do run a longer distance. In the end, the amount of time you run is important. Take a break (15 – 30 sec) and start running again.

Using music as motivation: 

Music is another great way to aid in pushing limits. I went the one day without any music and I could feel that my endurance and intensity limit was way less compared to listening to music.

 Music plays a big part in my life and going for a jog, walk or run on my own is something I don’t want to go without. Music truly helped me overcome challenging days while running and feeling tired. 

Science has proven that music affects the way we exercise and influence our psychological state.

Music is what gets me up in the morning and makes me visualize the run before I even start. It is better to run with upbeat music instead of slow music.

What to eat and when: 

Knowing that what we eat affects our overall weight, health, and recovery time, it is best to plan what to eat before and after a run.

Types of food play a big role and I added the foods that would be best for running and what times they should be consumed. 

Foods to eat can be any of the following: nut butter like peanut or almond butter, nuts and seeds like almonds and pumpkin seeds, lean protein like salmon, tofu, or tempeh, and eggs. Fresh fruits like berries, bananas, and oranges are great options. Another great option is whole grains like bread, quinoa, pasta, and one of the healthiest grains oats.

Foods to avoid are sugary drinks, spicy food, lactose-rich food, high fiber vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli as well as legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and black beans. 

Pre-meals include a bagel with peanut butter, banana, and energy bar, a bowl of oats and berries, or turkey with cheese on wholewheat bread.

Having goals and achieving them gave me more motivation and I started visualizing new goals I want to achieve.

Set the right goals: 

Setting realistic and ambitious goals is a step in the right direction to succeed in this journey.

One of the main goals of course is losing weight and maintaining fitness levels with a consistent running plan. Looking into long-term goals is as good as setting goals for anything in life. I have a long-term goal to lose another 30 pounds and run a 5k marathon without taking a break. When I do accomplish this goal, I will set a new goal for another 5k marathon but this time finish in the top 20.

Maintaining realistic goals and holding myself accountable will make this journey even more worthwhile in the end. A good way to keep me on the right track is to sometimes make my goals known to friends and family.

 I have a goal and being committed to that goal made me give more attention, time, and effort to achieving those goals. One thing to also remember is that making a mistake is fine, everyone does make mistakes. Keep going and you will see results at the finish line.

Build a habit: 

It has been said that it takes about 3 months to learn a new habit. My habits include the following which has helped me greatly over the past few months. First thing was to ensure I make it past the first 5 minutes and that was not to sprint and deplete my energy at the beginning. Another part to succeed in a habit is to not increase the intensity of my running by more than 12%. 

Another good habit is to look out for niggles. Niggles which is defined by Google dictionary as causing a slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety. Using apps to track my progress become a daily habit for me. This makes the whole experience more fun.

Scheduling my calendar on what days to run and what days to take a break helped me stay on track and having my running kit available when I woke up helped. I also did some time tracking and made sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep a day. 

When I struggled running on my own, I invited a friend, having a friend running with you is a great way to motivate each other. I later also joined a community running group. This was great for me as I was able to run with like-minded people all running for their purpose or goals. I could see I was not alone and every Saturday I meet new faces and make new connections.

Know that missing a workout is fine and having bad days is a normal thing. Even the professional runners experience days that are not as good as the previous runs. I just made sure that if I did skip a day, is to go for a run the next day. Consistency is the key here. When I stayed consistent everything started changing.

Common Problems for Overweight Runners

Taking the first step is one of the first problems to overcome. My first time around I had so many thoughts on the risks and efforts that I just decided not to try it. Seeing no results fast is a disappointment for most of the new runners.

Shortness of breath is a big challenge to overcome, so remember it is best when start to walk and run slowly in the beginning. Weight does determine the oxygen consumption that a person’s body can take in, and this does influence the overall recovery and energy levels.

Joint pain is something I had to deal with on numerous occasions when I started running and to think about it, losing weight was my solution in getting rid of the joint pains. The pain occurs when bones rub against each other and being overweight does influence the intensity of the irritation, pain, and swelling.

Runner’s knee is another problem. This does not just happen in overweight people but also in active runners. Underneath the kneecap, there is cartilage which is a natural shock absorber, and being overweight can put some extra strain on the knees.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will I lose weight from running? 

Yes, I did lose weight when I started running. I had many obstacles and distractions. Note that it takes a lot of discipline, time and commitment to start truly seeing great results. I saw this as an investment in my well-being. I have not been running for very long, but I cannot describe the joy I felt the first time getting on the scale and seeing a small change. After a few months of running now, I feel better, I feel more fit and ready to lose more weight. 

Is running bad if you are overweight? 

Running was not bad for me when I was overweight. I took some time just to read up about the pros and cons of running, Running is not bad for me or you. Running is doable and can make you lose weight, I just made sure I had a plan and stuck to the goals. The best thing is to plan accordingly and make sure I have my water, food, and gear before starting a run.

How much weight can I lose if I start running? 

The amount of weight you lose by running depends on the calories in and calories out. When I started running, I was still drinking 3 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee and enjoyed a sandwich for lunch. I heard about the calories and decided to find out more.

I found that I need to burn more calories during a week or month than calories that I am consuming when I am at home. Time and patience are also big factors. Most people don’t see results as quickly as expected and most decide to quit. I read up on that and mentally prepared myself to not expect results too soon.Remember that saying “Rome was not built in a day”.

Can running give you abs? 

While running can help you lose weight, and improve mental health, it is not the ultimate way to gain abs. It is however possible for running to aid in your abs building but other techniques will be needed to help build abs – speedrunning.

I found nutritionist like Kim Pearson and bodybuilder Joe Naughton advises that a speed session or high-intensity sprint session helps build a stronger core.

How to stay motivated on running? 

Like I have said in this post that getting started is the biggest challenge, keeping motivated to run can also pop up from time to time.

A lot of people I know to get started for a month or two just to give up due to the lack of motivation. I did a few tricks to keep motivated like something silly, start running on a Monday. Even though the world is changing due to the way we communicate and work because of the current pandemic, Mondays will also be considered the first day of the week.

Starting on a Monday sets the mood for the rest of the week, don’t skip this.

Another great way I found to work is to join a group of friends or family members on a community-run. Witnessing a large crowd of new runners, Teamwork is a great way to stay motivated and having a friend going through the same intensity as you, helps create a stronger bond. I always have a friend running with me in the mornings.

I found changing routes now and again was a way to keep my motivation going. Adding speed intervals is also a way to change the normal 30–45-minute running.

Final Take Away 

I hoped this post helped you and motivates you to start running. Being overweight is just a challenge that can be conquered with the right mindset, motivation, habits, and proper goal planning. So, get out there and go get the life you always wanted, you will get a lot more benefits out of this than just losing weight. 

If you are overweight and want to now start changing your life, start by running.

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