As I get back to basics with my running, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I started from and things that I wish I had known then that I learned along the way.
This post is primarily geared towards those who are overweight or obese who want to start running.
So, you want to become a runner, but don’t know where to start? Some people will tell you to just start running. I disagree! There are things that you can do to transition into running that will make the process easier.
First off, let’s talk reality. Running ain’t easy. For an obese or overweight person, it’s even harder. Running HURTS. When you are carrying a lot of weight, that’s a lot of mass to heave up and down. That being said, running is one of the PREMIER ways to lose weight and get fit. So there are a TON of reasons to give it a shot!
Where to start? WALKING. Running is a high impact sport that places a lot of stress on your bones and starts to use muscles that we aren’t used to using. Walking is the best way to get prepared for running. If you are like I was, with a low level of fitness, walking is also the way to get your heart and lungs set for extreme physical activity. I don’t know that you need to put a number on it, but until you can walk some distance comfortably, you probably shouldn’t give running a shot.
Ok, you’ve got the walking down, now what? Now you head to a running specialty store. And no, I don’t mean Foot Action or Dick’s in the mall. I mean a real and actual running store. Like Fleet Feet. Running, unlike other sports, is relatively inexpensive. BUT the one piece of equipment that you MUST spend some cashola on is running shoes!! You will be less likely to get injured and will be most likely to feel comfortable running if you have running shoes specifically geared to your feet, your stride and any imperfections you have!
At the running store they will watch and sometimes even record you walking. From there, they know what they are doing and which manufacturer and specific running kicks will fit you. They’ll have you try them on and see how they feel. Expect to spend around $100 - you can get better deals or spend more, but that’s a good price point to think of going in.
Ok, once you have those, what else do you need? Not much actually. If you are a woman with big tatas, you need to get a really supportive sports bra. Those babies are going to BOUNCE and you need to have them supported. I was lucky - with small boobies I don’t need a very supportive sports bra - but if you’ve got them, look around for ones that will be tight and hold the gals in place.
Make sure it is not COTTON. Cotton is evil when it comes to running. You don’t want anything cotton unless you want to chafe and bleed. Bleeding anything is bad. Bleeding nipples REALLY sucks. I learned this the hard way. Look for material designed for running. It won’t cost you a lot - Walmart’s Danskin brand is great. So is Target’s Champion brand, I am also fond of Fila which they sell at Kohl’s. You can get a running shirt from $10 up to $100 in a specialty store. Get what you like and what you can afford!
Other “equipment” that is nice to have but not strictly unnecessary are things like running watches, belts to carry your keys and phone [check out Marc’s review of the belt we use], good headphones for attaching to an MP3 player or phone (personally I HATE the in-ear buds and can’t get them to stay in place when running). You can get all kinds of fancy things, but really, those can all come later if you don’t have or are not ready to spend the moolah.
Ok, so you are ready. Now what? Some people will tell you that running is natural. There is even a very famous book called “Born to Run” talking about how we, as humans, are naturally, in our very DNA, ready to run.
Well let me tell you. That wasn’t the way it was for me! It felt like the most unnatural thing EVER. I felt like a newborn elephant trying to stumble my way around. Be patient, expect to feel stupid and clumsy. That’s normal.
I am a big fan of the run/walk method to learn how to run. That’s how I started. You can use a program like the Couch to 5K method that has you walk for a period of time, then run, and gradually over several weeks increases you to running a full 5k (3.1 miles). If you love technology you can even download the Couch to 5K program onto your phone. It will tell you exactly when to run and when to walk.
Do this or design your own program. Run for time (like 30 seconds) or run for distance (like to the next electrical pole). Either works fine. I personally think running for time to start out with is the better plan.
If you’re not in great shape, you will feel like you are going to die. I clearly remember the first time that I ran 2 minutes straight. I had been running for what I was SURE was 3 HOURS and I looked down at the timer, and I had only been running 45 seconds!!!
When you start to run, it will be hard to pace yourself and you will be trying to run faster than your body can handle. The absolutely best advice I got when I started was to run SO SLOW that you feel like you’re not moving. And when you get there? SLOW DOWN MORE. Trust me, you are better running slowly and being able to run LONGER then being able to sprint for a short period of time. You are not a aiming to be a cheetah chasing down dinner. You want to be the gazelle that can gracefully trot for miles. Ain’t that a pretty picture?
Be patient. You aren’t going to start running 1 day and 3 weeks later run a marathon!
If you can enlist others to run with you? That’s fantastic. Your kids, your friends, take your dog along with you! (NOT A PUPPY! Only dogs 12 months or older!)
Afraid you’ll look stupid? Put all of those thoughts out of your head. People, in general, are assholes. You will get yelled at or laughed at. People yelled nasty comments at me when I started running at 250+ pounds and they yelled nasty things at me when I was at my lowest weight of 116 and running. MOSTLY people don’t notice or care. And other runners? I have found runners to be - in general - the most non-judgmental group you will find. Runners come in all shapes and sizes and all skill levels. They’re happy you’re just out there doing it, like they are. So fuck what the assholes think - you’re doing this for YOU, not them.
Lastly, let’s address physical health concerns with running. I hear all the time that people can’t run because they have bad knees or ankles or something else. That MIGHT be true. Some people do have actual problems/injuries and those people should not be running.
BUT, most of these problems are due to weaknesses that can be overcome. Running should be a PART of your physical improvement. Your knees hurt? Mine hurt REALLY bad before I started running. OF COURSE they did. I was hugely fat and put too much pressure on them on a daily basis. Guess what? Running and weight loss ELIMINATED the knee issues. I ran into IT band problems - stretching and strengthening my hips solved this. Shin splints? Yup. Your muscles are weak in the calf and front of the shin. Start doing calf raises with weights. Lunges and squats will increase hip flexibility and strength. Crunches, planks, and other exercises to strengthen your core will greatly improve your ability to run and decrease the chance for injury. Yoga will increase your flexibility and stamina.
Research shows that runners –even those that have been running for YEARS – have LESS knee problems then the average member of the public! So when some know-it-all tells you you will ruin your knees by running, they have no fracking idea what they are talking about.
The other way to develop physical problems - which is the mistake I made - was through improper footwear AND increasing mileage too soon. Now I have an injury that I just can’t eliminate totally. As a new runner, you should be running no more than 4 days per week. And you have to increase your mileage SLOWLY - which is another great reason to use a program like Couch to 5K that increases your distances at a reasonable pace.
Do other things - swim, lift weights, ride a bike, hike, continue to walk, kayak, KEEP MOVING. All of those things will make you better at running and running will make you better at those things.
So start slow, but start. You’ll learn what else you need to know along the way. I ran my first mile outside in May 2011. The first time in my LIFE. It took me 16 minutes. I felt like an idiot and I felt AWESOME at the same time. 2 years later, May 2013, I ran a half marathon in 1:39:04 and came in 2nd place for women.
Any questions or comments? Leave them below!!