How to Get Back Into Running When You Are Overweight or Out of Shape

5 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Has it been a while since your last run? Maybe an injury sidelined you, or life got in the way? Or maybe you lost your motivation at some point, and soon after, the pounds added up…

Either way, you’re here because you want to know how to get back into running, and we can help.

But before we get practical with tips on how to start running again for beginners, let’s talk about expectations.

Manage Expectations by Getting Some Perspective

Running is not supposed to be easy. It puts stress on your body. If you push yourself too much too soon, it increases your risk of runner’s knee, runner’s ankle, and other injuries. And the risk of losing motivation, too.

You can run to lose weight, to get fit, to take advantage of the many health benefits of running, to relieve stress, or simply because it’s fun. You can also run for all these reasons.

Once you figure out why you want to run, you can start setting realistic goals and following a plan. That will make it easier to run again and can do wonders for your motivation.

Good to know: Stopping running changes your body by decreasing your blood volume and your lactate threshold. Your muscle conditioning also falls, weakening your musculoskeletal system. If you’ve been running for years before stopping, going back to it will be easier than if running was never a habit for you.

Whether you want to know how to start running when overweight or how to start running when out of shape, the next tips should have you covered.

Tips to Get Back Into Running

Knowing how to start running again the right way is all about being practical and taking it slow. One run at a time will get you there. No feats of exertion are necessary.

Build a habit

Plan your runs, and show up every day, even if you run only for a short while. That’s how you build a running habit – through showing up. In the beginning, showing up for your runs is far more important than running a lot or running hard.

Important: Don’t get ahead of yourself. Return to form steadily, without straining your body.

You also want to avoid comparing yourself to others. For some people, running is easier than for others. And so is returning to running after inactivity – back to those body changes we’ve been mentioning.

The thing to remember is that you’re not running a race and are not in a competition. The only comparison you should make is between your running self and your lazy self. You’re running again, so that means you’re making progress.

Set attainable goals

It may take you a while to run as much as you used to. And that’s perfectly okay. Your running goals should be in tune with your fitness level, time, and energy you can invest in your runs. And they should be honest.

Limit your mileage, focus on form, and build a base. You want to run enough to want to keep on running more. Without feeling sore or increasing the risk of injury.

Tip: Make your running goals specific, measurable, and easy to track. Write them down in a runner’s diary or log them using an app.

Follow a training plan

With a training plan, you can start running more easily and keep yourself motivated to show up. Knowing what days of the week you’ll run and how long provides structure. Structure makes it easier to build a base and stay motivated.

Start with a simple running plan for beginners. If you want to shed pounds running, choose a weight loss plan for runners.

Idea: A simple training plan can start with a brisk walk, followed by a rest day, and then combine running with walking while gradually increasing run time and decreasing walk time. Training for 3–4 days a week is a good start.

Avoid injuries

Maintaining good form and not doing too much too fast can help you reduce the risk of injuries. It’s also important to wear the right running shoes for you.

Know your pronation type and get extra cushioning if your BMI is high. But avoid super soft soles as they may increase leg stiffness.

Important: Don’t run more than 20–30 minutes before you get back into good shape. Long runs may put too much stress on your body than it’s prepared to handle.

Cross-train and build strength

Resistance training can help you recover and prevent injury. If an injury has been sidelining you, running gently coupled with progressive resistance training are your friends.

Strength training is also important since it helps you work underdeveloped muscles and balance muscles groups. A runner with balanced muscle groups has better balance, more flexibility, and is less prone to injury.

Consider cross-training too, including swimming, cycling, and – why not – aqua jogging. Cross-training on days when you don’t run helps you build strength and endurance without straining your joints. You can become fit without risking injury.

Have enough rest

Rest days are as important as runs, so don’t forget about them. You become a better runner if you give yourself the time to rest after demanding runs.

A good running plan has rest days built into it, but you should also listen to your body. If your body tells you that you need an extra day of rest, don’t feel guilty about not running. As you get back into shape, your body will grow stronger and be able to recover more quickly.

Consider a race or join a running group

You don’t have to be competitive to run a 5K, a half-marathon, or even a marathon. Deciding to run a race can be very motivating, inspiring you to get there. It goes back to the importance of having goals and how these can wire your brain for performance. 

Another advantage of joining a race is that you’ll get to meet other runners.

Joining a running group is also a good idea. You can find plenty online or within running app communities. Look for one that includes runners at a similar level as you or slightly higher.

Tip: Run local races first as these don’t come with the stress of long-distance travel. Reserve your place in advance if needed.

Stay motivated

What does PR mean in the gym if not a new reason to celebrate? A personal record is motivating and empowering, and you want to track your runs to see where you stand.

But remember that personal records are not the end goal of training. Treat them as milestones and challenges that can inspire you to stay motivated.

Other ways to stay motivated include being part of a running community, logging your runs, and sharing your progress. Don’t forget about rewarding yourself for putting in your runs.

How Quickly Can You Get Back to Running?

If an injury has been sidelining you, you shouldn’t be getting back to running until you’re pain-free. Some injuries are more manageable than others, but even so, unless you have your doctor’s approval, wait for the pain to go away.

After a simple injury, you can go back to a toned-down version of your running plan after only 1–2 weeks of easy runs.

If it’s a question of carrying extra pounds and being out of shape, it may take a few months. It’s important to give yourself time and make a gradual return than risk injury with daily runs from the first week.

A safe approach is to start with short, walk/run sessions of up to 20 minutes 3–4 days a week for 2–3 weeks. You can then gradually increase the run time by 2–8 weeks before doing full runs. In total, it can take you anywhere from 4 to 11 weeks to feel like you’re a consistent runner again.

Takeaways

Before you’re out the door running, here are a few things to take with you:

  • Training consistently is more important than running a lot when it comes to getting back into shape.
  • Resistance training, strength training, and cross-training can help you return to form on days when you don’t run.
  • Stay motivated by logging your runs, networking with other runners, rewarding yourself, and training for a race.
  • Give your body at least a few weeks to run well again without the risk of injury.
  • Value rest days as much as you value your running sessions – they’re as important.

Knowing how to get back into running ultimately boils down to starting small and having goals and a plan. And now, enjoy your run!

Start running today

Sometimes, simply knowing how to train is not enough. You need a personalized running program and some expert guidance to get you over the hard parts. Take a 60-second quiz and meet your personal running assistant.

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