10 Tips for Overweight Runners

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Yeah, that's me up there in the green shirt. 205 pounds of meat chugging through the finish line of my first 70.3 Triathlon! Phew! Makes me tired just looking at it!

I wanna make this clear...I'm not an elite runner. Hell, I'm not even a fast runner! But I absolutely love running and I want you to love it too.

I know firsthand the agony, pain, suffering, and gut-wrenching misery it can bring. I've experienced an unbelievable amount of physical pain, emotional anguish, and mental turmoil through running. I've rolled so many ankles, nursed so many stupid injuries, and puked more times than I can count.

But more importantly, running has given me so many moments of absolute joy, I can't begin to think about who I would be without it. I know it might sound crazy, but it's true. I've relied on running for so many things during so many different times in my life. No matter where I am, what the weather is like, what I'm feeling like or what my mental state is like...running is always there to make things right.

If everything is going wrong, a run helps me find a bit of peace.

If everything is going right, a run helps me realize how fortunate I am.

If I'm anxious, running calms me.

If I'm defeated, running helps me find my drive.

These are some of the reasons why I want you to love running as much I do. I understand the effect that running can have, not only on your body, but on your mental health and I don't know if there is anything more important than that.

I want to begin with the idea of mental health because I know how important it is, especially for people struggling with their weight or other body issues.

I'm not trying to get too deep here, I know this is just a silly blog about running, but I just want to take a minute and warn you. This post is not going to include tricks or hacks or shortcuts to losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks by running your ass off. It's not going to prescribe new runners to start doing sprint workouts or HIIT sessions to shed "belly" fat.

That's not what this is about and that's not what I'm about.

What you will find in this article is how to start running when you are overweight, how to create a healthy relationship with running and how to enjoy yourself while you're doing it. Yeah, we will talk a little bit about losing weight but that's not what this article is about either. This isn't 10 tips for losing weight!

Alright you've been warned let's get into it!

10 Tips for overweight runners

1. Don't compare yourself to other runners

"Don't compare your Chapter 1 with someone else's Chapter 20". "Everyone starts somewhere" There are 1,000 sayings like these so just pick one and run with it! (See what I did there...run pun!)

The reality is, it's easy to get caught up comparing yourself to other people. You see someone absolutely crushing it on the treadmill next to you while your holding on for dear life, praying you don't fall over and get shot into the wall behind you (been there).

But every time you compare yourself to someone else, you're losing sight of your own running journey.

Learning about running, working on your form, building your endurance and strength can be super fun, but you have to approach it with the right attitude. Come into it with a fresh and open mind, ask lots of questions and embrace the fact that you're new to all of this.

This approach will relieve the pressure to perform well and open you up to just enjoying the process of learning.

2. Have a plan, be consistent

How many people do you think start each year saying "I'm going to get in shape this year!"? A lot. Like for real...a lot! Exercising more and losing weight are always among the top 3-4 new year's resolutions every year. And then about 80% of those people fail to maintain that resolution! There are super smart people out there who can explain that, but for me having a plan and being consistent has always helped me stay on track of running, writing, lifting, eating healthy and lots of other aspects of my life!

You could start by creating a plan for the week. Write down how many miles you want to run this week and how many times you want to run. I firmly believe that getting in more frequent, lower mileage runs is the key to success. I'm not saying that this is the best way to build stamina or strength, but I think it's the best way to build a relationship with running.

Remember this, the best exercise is the one you can maintain! When you are excited to do something you are more likely to continue to do it! Try to figure out something that gets you excited about running and capitalize on it!

You like watching TV when you run? Treadmill time!!

You like being out in nature? Trail run!!

You like running fast and passing slower runners? Head over to that high school track!!

The key is to make running a part of your life just like you did with brushing your teeth or showering!

3. Don't be afraid to walk!

Nobody likes walking when you know you're "supposed" to be running. You feel like a failure. You think everyone is judging you. And worst of all, you're judging yourself because you know that walking is not what runners do!

But you'd also be wrong. Walking is just part of the game. And having the wisdom to know when you need to dial it back will keep you from injuring yourself by pushing yourself too hard.

If you ever lift weights in a big gym you've probably seen what many people call the "ego lifters". These are people who are lifting weights not to build their muscles but to build their ego! They throw 405 pounds on the squat rack and yell at themselves in the mirror and pound their chest...just to do a half rep. They aren't actually capable of squatting that weight, but they don't want to squat any less because they would be embarrassed that people would think they are weak...

This is the exact same thing as running even when you know need to just have a quick walk. Walking does not mean failing, get that out of your head early on!

4. Keep your mileage low and your pace slow

If you're like me you might let your emotions get the better of you when you're running or writing up your training schedule. It's easy to do, especially if you're able to hit that famous runners high! But here's a little scenario for you...

You're supposed to be doing a 5 mile slow run today, but your legs are feeling super fresh, you got your tunes pumping, and it's a beautiful day so you just decide to go for it! You blast through those 5 miles and hit a new PR! Killed it!

Until later that night when you notice your calf is a little tender, and the next morning you notice it kinda hurts to walk. Then two weeks later your calf is still killing you and you have to stop running for 3 weeks to let your strained muscle heal!

This has happened to me a bajillion times, and I can't tell you how annoying it is.

Not only is it annoying, but it can be detrimental to your progress, especially if you're just starting to get into, or back into, running!

Trust me, I know it's boring but follow this advice. Keep your mileage low and your pace slow. You have to gradually work your way up in both weekly mileage and in pace.

The 10% rule in running says you should not increase your weekly mileage more than 10% from one week to the next. So if you run 10 miles this week, you should not exceed 11 miles next week (because you can only increase your total mileage by 10%).

5. Soft surfaces are your friend

Running is a high impact sport. That's just the nature of the beast. If you're 150 pounds you have to be careful about how much you run, how fast you run, and what kind of surfaces you run on. If you're 230 pounds, you have to be really, really careful about those things!

A 150 pound runner can strike the ground with over 1,000 pounds of force! Imagine what that force turns into if you're 200 or 300 pounds! Finding the right shoes will certainly help but another thing you can control is where you run.

If you are pounding pavement on every run it's definitely going to be harder on your body than running on grass, gravel, or dirt roads.

Even treadmills are easier on your joints since basically all new ones have suspension systems designed to reduce the stress on your body.

If you're fortunate enough to have trails, dirt roads, or decent sized parks around you, try running on those softer surfaces when you can!

6. Find the right running shoes for you

I'm pretty much going to the leave this up to another article I wrote called the Top 5 running shoes for heavy runners. I go into detail about not only some of my favorite shoes for heavy runners, but also the logic behind choosing a shoe and why it is especially important for those of us who are large and in charge!

7. Include strength training in your workout routine

Often, one of the most important aspects of running gets pushed to the wayside to make time for more running. Strength training is incredibly important to maintaining overall muscle as well as keeping your legs, core, and stabilizing muscles strong enough to withstand the impact of running.

You don't need to go to the gym and max out on your bench press or spend all day doing curls. However, stronger muscles are more efficient muscles, so it's important to make sure your body is getting the stimulus it needs to grow or at least maintain the muscle that is has.

Another benefit of strength training for us overweight folks is that having a greater percentage of lean body mass helps us burn more calories throughout the day.

That means if you weigh 200 pounds and 50% of that is muscle, you burn more calories than if you were 200 pounds with only 40% muscle. Building or at least maintaining that lean body mass is important for several reasons so make sure to add a few days of strength training every week.

8. Recover smart

I feel like "recovery" is one of those things that doesn't get enough credit in the running world. Maybe it's just me, but I read a lot more articles about gear, workouts and mileage than I do about recovering from running. I dunno, maybe I'm crazy! Either way, recovery is absolutely critical when it comes to maintaining a relationship with running.

Maybe if you're a high school athlete in great shape you don't have to worry about it so much. But if you are a little older (like me), or a little heavy (like me), or maybe not in the best shape (like me), than recovery has to be a top priority for you!

You ever get out of bed in the morning and everything hurts? You knee is killing you, your calves are sore, you've got a weird pain in your back, and the bottom of your feet hurt...well I've been there too, and it SUCKS!

In my experience this is what happens when I am too focused on running and not focused enough on my recovery!

Now, when I'm talking about recovery I'm talking about a few things...Nutrition, prehab, and rest.

Rehab. is something we do in reaction to an injury, that's a whole separate issue.

As heavier runners, you and I need to be even smarter about recovery because running is going to be harder for us! It's going to be harder on our cardiovascular system because we are lugging around more weight, and it's going to be harder on our musculoskeletal system because...well, we're lugging around more weight!

Especially if you are a beginner...you will be more likely to get injured, more likely to not eat properly, and more likely and to quit running!

We can't get into a huge amount of detail here, but I'll be posting more about recovery soon so make sure to sign up on my homepage so you get an email when those articles are posted!

9. Don't run to eat

If you haven't heard it recently let me remind you...you cannot outrun a bad diet. Listen, I'm not going to beat around the bush here...most of us who are reading this are overweight because we don't do an awesome job eating healthy.

You'll never, ever be judged by me because I'm one of the worst offenders. I love pizza, I love snacks, I love fries, and on top of that, I have a sweet tooth like you would not believe!

I've been doing a better job lately, but there's no arguing that it's hard. Really, really hard.

If you've ever been serious about working out, you know how it easy it is to fall into the trap of working out in order to eat!!

You hit the gym, or finish a big run, or blast a long bike ride and you look at your Garmin or your FitBit and you see that you burned 500 calories!! If you're anything like me you might immediately start thinking about how much Ben and Jerry's that'll get you or how many slices of pizza you just earned!

Please trust me when I tell you this is not sustainable and it will not make you happy.

Again, I'm telling you this because I've been there and honestly, it was an incredibly hard cycle for me to break. But running to be able to eat more will leave you with an unhealthy relationship with running AND with food.

Eating properly is an important part of running. You can't just run 10 miles and not take in any extra calories...you're body expects and needs more food when you're working that hard. But it doesn't need Talenti!! It needs good, nutritious food that will help repair and strengthen your body.

I'm not saying you can't reward yourself every once in a while, but if you feel like you are struggling to maintain your healthy eating habits or you need a "reward" after every workout, it's time to regain control!

10. Be confident

This last point seems like a warm, fuzzy one...and it sort of is. But there is substance here too.

As an overweight person, it's easy to be hard on yourself, especially when you're put in a position where it's easy to compare yourself to other people. You might go on a group run and be the slowest person there. You might be on the treadmill at the gym and be the only one gasping for air! You might be the only person in the weight room squatting just the bar...

Well let me remind you of something that I need to remind myself of every once in a while...

We are all trying to improve ourselves.

Each and every person you see in the gym, running, biking, swimming...they are all trying to become a better person. There is a mutual respect that is created from that.

Not one of those people were strong or fit from the start. They had to work hard at it, just like you. They know the struggle of feeling like they're going to pass out during a workout. Or pushing their absolute hardest to finish a mile on the treadmill. Or being so sore you can barely walk.

And whether they are in that place now, or they were there 10 years ago, they were still there. Everyone can empathize with the fact that they know how hard it is to be at the beginning.

So my advice to you is this...be confident that you're taking control of your life and working towards a better you. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to be healthy. The only person that can take that away from you...is you.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Please, leave a comment below and tell me about where you're at right now with your fitness journey...

Your comments are my inspiration!


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