Running for Overweight Beginners – the Easiest to Follow Guide

8 min read Christine Ellis

Christine Ellis
Written by
Christine Ellis
Head of Nutrition - enjoys long and steady pace runs 🏃‍♀️

Is running bad if you’re overweight? Not at all. Health benefits of running include fat loss, stronger bones and muscles, and better cardiovascular fitness.

Running is one of the best and most enjoyable ways to lose weight well, manage extra weight, and boost your overall health. Achieving your weight loss goals simply becomes easier if you’re a runner.

Running when you’re overweight may seem challenging at first, but once your workouts have structure, the results can be outstanding. And the best part is that you’ll feel great.

Having extra body fat makes you more likely to get short of breath and may give rise to other issues, but this doesn’t have to deter you from running. These issues are manageable, and the benefits outweigh the cons.

In this guide, we’ll cover things to consider before you start a running program when you’re overweight and running techniques for overweight people. We’ll also share with you a running plan for overweight beginners to help you get started the right way. 

So, let’s get started!

Important Steps Before You Start a Running Program

First things first. Your running journey starts with a shift in mindset. This may include a new approach to losing weight in a natural way, and eating healthier so that you’ll use the right food as fuel.

Before you tie your shoelaces, there are a few important steps you don’t want to skip. Your long-term health and the success of your running journey may depend on them. 

See Your Doctor

A regular checkup is a good idea before you start running, especially if you haven’t had one in a while. Share with your doctor your running goals.

You want to pay attention to a few things:

  • Any history of a heart condition including blood pressure
  • Kidney health
  • Any respiratory diseases (including asthma or lung diseases)
  • Joint issues (such as arthritis and trauma history)
  • Current medication
  • Any other pertinent issues in your medical history

If you have pre-existing conditions, discuss them with your doctor. In most cases, these will not prevent you from running, but your doctor may make useful suggestions. 

If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, you could do an exercise stress test for your peace of mind.

Get Proper Running Kits

Having the right gear makes running easier and more enjoyable. Proper running shoes in particular can make a big difference when you are overweight as they can lessen the stress that your body puts on your feet and leg joints.

Activewear is also important as it allows your skin to breathe as your exercise. It can also prevent chafing.

Tip: Another advantage of investing in running gear is that it provides a psychological cue. When you put it on, you know it’s running time, and that triggers running mode and motivates you to run more often.  

Here are some other things to consider:

  • Get a pedometer if you don’t have one already.
  • Use a fitness watch & apps that make it easier to track your running distance and times.
  • Have your gait checked to choose the right running trainers.
  • Look for shoes that feature great arch support and optimal cushioning.
  • The rule of thumb is to replace your running trainers every 300-500 miles. Your running form, weight, and the surface you run on can all influence how fast you need to change your shoes.
  • Don’t forget about fitness & hygiene: deodorant, antibacterial body wipes, powder for keeping feet and other areas dry when you run, and a trimmer for shaving off excess body hair.

Understand Hydration

Running means sweating, and sweating depletes your body of electrolytes, which are essential minerals.

When you become dehydrated, it’s not just your performance that suffers. You can get muscle cramps, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms that can be demotivating.

Plain water takes care of hydration, but sports drinks and/or running supplements provide electrolytes as well.

Staying hydrated on the trail gets easier if you get a handheld running bottle or runners’ vest or waistbelt with a bottle holder.

Eat Healthy Food

Healthy choices in the kitchen—and outside it—will make your running journey easier. This doesn’t have to mean going on a strict diet.

Ideally, you want to help your body lose weight while providing it with enough fuel, nutrients, and proteins to become stronger. As a runner, you have higher protein and nutritional requirements than a sedentary person.

It’s a good idea to optimize your diet before your first run—that way you can improve your health and lose more weight faster once you start moving. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Trade your bagel sandwiches for eggs at breakfast. An egg breakfast can enhance weight loss when paired with a low-calorie diet.
  • Eat a high-protein diet to improve blood glucose levels and better control them if you have type 2 diabetes. Increase your protein intake up to 30% of your calories by eating low-fat yogurt, lean meat, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat fruits instead of soft drinks.
  • Use the plate method: ½ fresh vegetables, ¼ lean protein, and ¼ carbs such as whole grains.
  • Replace unhealthy fats with oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as olive oil.

Set the Right Goals

Unrealistic running goals mean you may quit the strain after only a few runs. But you don’t want to set lazy goals either. Push yourself enough to see constant progress while avoiding injuries and other health problems.

A good approach is not to set any running goals until you consider running plans and define your workouts. That way you can create quantifiable, realistic goals.

The right running goals are:

  • Realistic
  • Quantifiable
  • Easy to track
  • In sync with your weight loss goals
  • Visual – you need to be able to visualize them

Running Plan for Overweight Beginners

So, now that your preparations are done, you may wonder how to start running. 

Following a 6-12 week running plan for overweight beginners or couch to 5K plan will give your runs the structure you need to see results and keep you motivated.

At the same time, this type of plan won’t be as demanding as longer plans. You can walk first to get in better shape and then mix run/walk sessions before moving on to full runs.

Your running plan can include cardio exercises, yoga, swimming, cycling, weight training, strength training, Pilates, and different workout routines for endurance and stamina.

Recovery and cool down should be built into your plan as should rest periods. Why taking a rest day is important? Because it prevents injuries and helps your body adapt to your workout. Your muscles become stronger, too.

It’s a fact: you can’t take running to the next level without rest days.   

While following your plan, aim to lose weight and add lean muscle mass to improve your running performance

At the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits all running plan. The right plan will depend on your weight, activity level, and other factors. A personalized plan will help you maximize results while enjoying every run. 

With our app, you can create a personalized running plan for overweight beginners in minutes.

Getting Motivated

You know what often makes the difference between someone who runs and someone who doesn’t? It’s not the BMI. It’s motivation.

Where can you find the motivation?

Finding enough motivation to start and keep training means looking beyond the physical results you expect from running. Maybe you want to lose weight and become faster and more agile. That’s great. But don’t stop there.

Think of the person you want to become. Running has great transformative power, not only on your body but on your confidence, mental health, and approach to life. 

Running is the opposite of sitting and feeling bad about things. It’s being active. More than that, it’s a process of understanding your body—its strengths, its weaknesses, its potential. 

Don’t compare yourself as a runner with anyone—not even with your friends. Do it for yourself. Do it for the wonderful journey that running is. Because each time you run, you run toward a stronger, fitter version of yourself.

When you start out, visualize your goals the same way that champion athletes do. See yourself at the finish line, and beyond it. See yourself stronger, faster, fitter, healthier. See yourself running with a smile on your face.

Running Tips for Overweight Beginners

Now that your motivation is building up, let’s get practical with some essential tips to help you get started.

Lose Some Weight First

We’ve touched on this already but it’s worth repeating. If you can make changes to your life that enable you to lose some pounds, go for it.

A lower BMI means less pressure on your leg muscles and joints. It means you can go faster and farther earlier with a lower risk of injury.

Seek help with this if you have to, whether it’s talking with your doctor or downloading our app and joining our online community.

Do Proper Warm-ups

A warm-up is a must before every run whether you’re a beginner or a pro. You can warm up with a 10-minute brisk walk.

Run & Rest

Avoid going all in at once. Run no more than 2-3 times a week so that your body becomes accustomed to your new activity levels.

Give yourself a day of rest between runs. Also, depending on your workouts, you can build rest periods into your runs. But that depends on the specific plan you follow. Either way, stay relaxed.

Increase Run & Decrease Walk

The Galloway Method alternates running periods with walking periods. When you first start, you can run for 1 minute and walk for 2 minutes in five or more intervals. 

As you continue training, you can progressively increase your run time while decreasing your walk time in 15-30 second increments, e.g. running for 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute. 

Use Proper Form When Running

This takes practice, so don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect from the start. Run tall with your torso upright and keep your head balanced on your shoulders.

Keep your shoulders relaxed and your gaze straight. In other words, stay calm. You’re a beginner runner, not a 100-meter Olympic sprinter! 

Engage Your Core Muscles

Your core muscles provide the foundation for your every movement plus stability and strength. 

You can engage your core muscles by contracting your abs as you exhale, pulling your belly button inward, and then releasing it when you inhale. Next exhalation, contract at 50% the intensity and then at 25%.

Make Gradual Additions

Don’t run too much too fast. One basic rule is to increase your weekly distance by not more than 10 percent each week. This helps you build endurance while reducing the risk of running injuries.

Take Part in Parkruns

Parkruns are free, timed events organized by volunteers. They’re a great way to meet other runners and stay motivated. 

Try Trail Running

Think of trail runs as mini-adventures. They’re a great way to connect with nature. Plus, they’re usually not as hard on your feet as running on the pavement. 

Common Issues

As you begin your running journey, it’s important to listen to your body. It will tell you when you need to take it slower or stop. 

In addition to issues common to all runners, carrying extra pounds can lead to a few other problems. The good news is that these are for the most part not serious.

Preparing for your running journey and starting slow can help you avoid many of the common issues that come with running with extra pounds. 

Intense Chest Pain

Running too hard too soon can cause intense chest pain because of spasms in the airways. Other causes include chest muscles cramping, which causes sharp, localized pain. 

The usual suspects are electrolytes becoming depleted. Heartburn, lung conditions, or heart problems could also be the culprits. Talk to your doctor if chest pain is serious or if it reoccurs.

Nausea & Vomiting

Running may cause nausea and vomiting if you take in too much fuel before or during running. Acidic foods including citrus fruits are often to blame.

Being very dehydrated and stopping abruptly without a cooldown can also make you feel queasy. 

If you experience nausea and vomiting frequently when running, tell your doctor about it. It may be gastroesophageal reflux disease, a common condition among runners.

Severe Muscle or Joint Pain

Running can strain muscles and joints, with the foot and leg ones being most often affected.

To reduce the risk of running injury:

  • Wear the right running shoes
  • Train your feet to land midfoot
  • Run tall (see above)
  • Eat healthy and take a recovery supplement

Confusion

Confusion occurs when the oxygen saturation reaching your brain is below normal. Slowing down can help you deal with it.

Loss of Balance

Carrying extra pounds can affect your posture and motor patterns, leading to loss of balance. Other causes include core strength weakness and inner ear or visual problems.

Don’t push yourself too hard too soon. Work on your form before going on a long and demanding run.

Heart Palpitations

When you run, adrenaline levels increase. They stay high for a time after the run, which may cause palpitations.

If you experience heart palpitations during a run, slow down or stop and tell your doctor. It may be a sign that your heart has difficulties coping with the intensity of the exercise. 

Dizziness or Vertigo

These issues can be caused by dehydration, low blood sugar, or low blood pressure. They are more likely to occur during long runs. You may also experience them if you go on a run on an empty stomach.

Staying hydrated and eating healthy a few hours before your workout can help. Consider also runners’ supplements.

Running with It

Running is one of the pleasanter ways to get moving if you’re overweight. It’s not as taxing as other forms of exercise. It also encourages you to spend more time in nature. 

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. But it’s the right kind of hard. 

Start slow with a personalized running plan and listen to your body—with this approach, you can begin your running journey while limiting challenges.

Pairing your running with a healthy diet and the right supplements can have a transformative effect. Because running is not just a way to exercise and stay fit. It’s a way of life.

Don’t let a few extra kilos keep you on the couch. Get a personalized running plan and start running!

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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