Running as a sport or leisure activity is often disregarded by overweight people due to the perception of it being too hard on an already overloaded body, with many in the medical profession supporting this view and instead suggesting more sedentary exercise like taking long walks or swimming.

Do not let this negative attitude put you off giving it a go. As long as you take some simple common sense precautions, like take things slowly and listen to your body there is no reason why you can’t enjoy running at any size.

A conversation with your doctor is always advisable though, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions that could be affected both positively and negatively by an increase in exercise.

Also conscider having an Emergency Plan in place before you head out, and review it often to ensure you are always prepared should something out of the ordinary happen on one of your runs. This blog post is a great example of that.

Please note: This section does not constitute medical advice and you should listen to the advice of your own doctor in the first instance over and above anything you read on this site.

But what if I can hardly even walk?

Then you need to start off even more slowly and concentrate on building up your fitness and strength to build up to walking for longer and longer amounts of time. By adopting the mindset of a runner, setting goals, signing up for events (walking ones of course) you will see great improvements in your health and confidence in comparison to simply giving up and doing nothing.

What should I think about before setting off?

  1. Wear comfortable clothing that is not going to rub against your skin or make you too hot. You do not need technical gear to start off with but check out our Essential Kit List for more information.
  2. Wear a supportive bra, or even two bras if you need to. Getting yourself fitted for a bra is a good idea once you start running regularly as this will give you support to prevent pain and also limit any embarrassment from your boobs bouncing about.
  3. Wear a supportive pair of trainers, again they do not need to be specialist when you first start out, but getting a pair fitted will improve your running if you are serious about becoming a runner.
  4. Think carefully about where you are going to run. A route straight from your front door is best as then there is no excuse, but for some this is not possible or is too stressful. Think about the running surface, if there are people around, and how far you need to be able to cover in one go.
  5. Make sure someone knows where you are going to run and how long you are likely to be.
  6. Carry a mobile phone and some money in case you need to get a taxi home or make a phone call.
  7. If you have any medical conditions consider wearing a medical ID bracelet to assist anyone trying to help should something go wrong.
  8. Do not eat too close to running but make sure you have something about 2 hours before so you have the energy to run.
  9. Make sure you are hydrated before you set off, and carry a small bottle of water with you too.

Keep your wits about you, run without music and in a public place so that you do not become a target

I like to run at night so nobody sees me

Many overweight people do this as a way of minimising embarrassment or potential ridicule, and sometimes because it is the only time they can fit it in or because it is too hot during the day.

  • Make sure you can be seen, especially by traffic. Wear a florescent vest and a flashing light too if you can
  • Do not take unnecessary risks by running in secluded areas
  • Stay in contact with loved ones and let them know when to expect you home
  • Do not listen to music
  • Run against the traffic so you can see what is coming

What about injury prevention

  1. Start off slow – do not try to do too much at once both in terms of distance and speed.
  2. Focus on frequency – try and get out a few times a week for a short amount of time rather then worrying about seeing improvements straight away
  3. Warm up – Do some dynamic stretches (movements like squats and kicks) to get the muscles warmed up, power walking is good too
  4. Stretch – After each run spend at least 10 minutes stretching your tired muscles.
  5. Take up yoga and swimming – Cross training to develop strength, flexibility and endurance will make your body more robust
  6. Build distance gradually – Do not increase distance by more than 10% each week

Be careful of road surfaces and for things which could trip you up

What about preventing abuse and laughter

People can be mean and hurl abuse and hurtful comments at overweight runners and there is very little we can do to prevent this. Just remember that it says more about the person being abusive than it does you.

You have the right to run without ridicule but some ways of minimising this behaviour while you are building in confidence include

  • Running on a treadmill either at home or at a gym – this is not ideal though as running outside is the ultimate goal
  • Running on a track – this limits random pedestrians and passing vehicles and most of the people at track are part of the running community so should support you
  • Avoiding busy areas like shopping area and pubs – knowing where ignorant or immature people congregate and steering clear is just common sense
  • Run with other people– bullies are less likely to attack if there is more than one of you

Is there ever a time when I shouldn't run?

This is where you need to know and listen to your own body. There is a difference between having a few aches and pains caused by a recent training session and being in excruciating pain.

Running as a beginner is always going to be difficult whether you are big or small, but it makes sense really that the more weight you are carrying the more effort and energy it is going to take and the more strain your joints need to endure.