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How To Start Running When Overweight And Out Of Shape

Running can be life-changing. Not just for what it can do for your health and fitness: regular running gives you higher energy levels, boosts confidence, and can make you more outgoing. You also get to be part of a big friendly worldwide community of runners! So how to start running when overweight?

I’m not going to lie to you. Getting started when you’re overweight and out of shape is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. But it’s so worth it. It’s the tough things you do in life that create the greatest rewards.

how to start running when overweight

Is It Harder To Run If You’re Overweight?

The impact forces on your joints and muscles are higher when you’re running with excess weight. Extra weight means it takes more energy and you need to work harder to get your body in motion.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run but it’s important to have the right running shoes and walk or run slowly at first to ease into a running routine.

Before You Start Running

For any exercise program preparation is key to success. These tips will get your running off to the best start:

  • Check-in with your doctor
  • Get the right running shoes and kit
  • Start with walking
  • Get your support group onboard
  • Plan your nutrition

Check-in with your doctor

When you’re out of shape, it’s important to ensure you get the all-clear from your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Discuss running plans and goals with your doctor and get advice on any potential health issues or pre-existing conditions.

Running shoes and kit

One of the great things about running is you don’t need any expensive equipment or a gym membership. But you do need to invest in good running shoes that provide decent support when you run.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best running shoes for overweight runners. These shoes will help you avoid potential injuries such as knee pain and shin splits.

Aside from shoes, all you really need are some comfortable, stretchy leggings and a sports top to run in – plus, for women, a good supportive high-impact sports bra.

Start with walking

Now you’ve decided to start running I’m sure you want to dive straight in. But before you do it’s best to start with walking.

When you’re carrying extra weight, following a walking program first can be the best way to improve your fitness.

There’s very little difference between calories burned walking vs calories burned running at slow speeds, so try walking for the first few weeks.

Consistency and walking at a brisk pace is important. Start with a distance you can manage every day. Even if it’s just a 10-minute walk – you’re making progress.

When you can walk every day for 30 minutes or 2 miles a day, it’s time to start running.

Related post: Walking or Running: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

Get your support group onboard

You can’t do this on your own – or at least it will be a lot harder. Find your support group.

It could be your local slimming club, a beginner walking or running group nearby, or perhaps a friend or family member – someone who wants to exercise with you.

It’s equally important to shut out any dissenters. Spend less time, (or avoid), people who want to drag you down.

Some people may feel threatened by the changes you’re making. It shines a spotlight on their own bad habits. Instead of spending time with people who don’t want you to change, seek out positive, supportive people who are full of encouragement.

Plan your nutrition

Getting in shape will be easier if you plan your nutrition from the word go.

Walking and running will take time out of your day and you’ll be hungry when you finish an exercise session. If you’re not prepared it’s tempting to resort to takeaways or other calorie-laden unhealthy food.

Meal planning is the best solution to avoid temptation. Prep meals in advance so you always have something healthy to eat when you need it!

running when overweight

How To Start Running When Overweight

So you’ve built up your walking fitness to walking 30 minutes a day. How do you transition to running?

  • Your first run
  • The first few weeks
  • Get to the ninth run
  • Follow a running plan

Your first run

Don’t expect too much. If you’ve been walking as a build-up to running it’s going to help. Just remember – running does get easier.

  1. Start with a warm-up. Dynamic stretches are good or you can ease into running with a 5-10 minute brisk walk.
  2. Alternate running with walking: run for 1 minute, walk briskly or power walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 4 to 6 times.
  3. Finish with a 5-minute moderate walk to cool down.

Running technique

Try and focus on your running technique as you run. Stand tall with a good posture and lean slightly forward with your focus a few meters ahead.

Avoid sagging at the hips. This is difficult for overweight runners but your hips should be forward and in line with your body.

Keep your shoulders down and relaxed – not up around your ears and swing your arms parallel to your body.

Practice good running form. Aim for a fast leg turnover, (lots of small light steps), but at an easy pace.


Everyone struggles with breathing when they first start running. If you’re having trouble breathing – slow down or walk. Get your breath back, then try again.

Here are some good tips to breathe while running, such as breathing from the gut and counting as your run – matching your breathing to your steps.

The first few weeks

Survival is the aim of the first few weeks. Running will get easier but you need to hang in there at the beginning.

Don’t think too much about losing weight or how fast you’re running – just keep showing up for your running sessions.

Set a regular time to run

It doesn’t matter what time of the day you run, it just needs to be firmly in your schedule. Short of a family emergency, don’t allow any excuse to stop you from running.

Increase your running intervals

Gradually increase the length of your running intervals and decrease your walk breaks until you’re able to run continuously.

Run 3 times a week

To get the most benefit you’re running needs to be regular. Aim for 3 runs a week. That’s enough to build a running habit.

Don’t try and run too fast

Setting off too fast is a good way to end up collapsed in a heap and disillusioned. This isn’t the time to think about running performance.

Get to the ninth run

You won’t build your runner’s body overnight, but by the ninth run, running should start to feel doable. You might even be enjoying it!

3 weeks in with nine runs ticked is the time to decide if running is for you – not before.

If not – go and find another exercise you love. If the answer is yes, your weight loss journey will really kick into gear. You’ll be feeling energized, stronger, and starting to feel some running fitness.

Follow a running plan

One of the best ways to keep your running on track is to follow a running plan. Couch to 5K is the most popular plan for beginners, particularly if you start running when overweight.

Our guide suggests ways to adapt the plan to suit your fitness level such as repeating weeks if the plan is too hard for you.

running when overweight and out of shape

How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight Running?

If you start running when overweight there’s no guarantee it will help with weight loss. Losing weight is about the balance between consuming calories and energy expenditure.

Running plans for new runners will get you fitter and help you lose weight. However, if you have trouble avoiding mindless eating or rely too much on eating processed foods, you can quickly replace the calories you burn from running.

As you get fitter and stronger, you’ll be able to run further – running 2 miles a day or even 5 miles a day. You’ll burn more calories and this will help with weight loss. But note; losing weight relies on balancing running with eating a healthy diet.

Hitting Your Weight Loss Goals

In the first 1-2 weeks it will be hard to lose much weight and you may notice some weight gain. Don’t panic – this is your body adjusting to running and retaining water to protect sore muscles. It’s temporary.

Running can make you hungry, and there are a few traps runners can fall into which negate all the benefits of going for a run.

  • Using sports drinks and high-calorie sports nutrition bars: You don’t need pre-run snacks or energy drinks during your run. These are short 20-30 minute runs. Just take a water bottle with you.
  • Over-eating after a run: Try and refuel with a healthy snack – a banana is a good choice. Or run before breakfast or your evening meal – then you can eat normally without eating any extra calories.
  • Make healthy food choices: Start thinking about food as fuel. Gradually increase the nutrition content of the food you eat with filling wholegrains, healthy vegetables, lean protein, fresh fruit, and healthy fats.

As you get fitter you’ll be aware of your new emerging runner’s body and be inspired to eat better. These running plans and workout schedules will help you burn calories – but don’t try and do too much too soon.

Related post: How Much Should I Run According To My BMI?

Staying Motivated

Motivation makes the difference between success and failure when you’re starting a running plan. Some key tips are:

  • Lay your kit out the night before if you’re running in the morning.
  • Find a running buddy to keep you accountable.
  • Treat yourself to non-food rewards when you hit a milestone.
  • Keep a training journal.
  • Join Strava and be part of a community of runners.
  • Keep setting new running goals.

Learn more with these 21 tips for running motivation and be inspired by these motivational running quotes.

Tips For Success

These extra running tips for beginners will help you stay on track with your running plan:

#1 Listen to your body

Don’t push for the extra mile if you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can. Likewise, if you’re excessively sore or tired – take an extra rest day.

It’s important to listen to your body and stay injury-free. Get persistent niggles or aches checked out – these could be signs of a more serious issue.

#2 Set realistic goals when starting a running plan.

You may have a grand plan of training for a half marathon but break it down into achievable steps. Our Couch to Half Marathon Plan will show you how.

#3 Be consistent and run at least three times per week.

Regular running makes all the difference and will help you improve as a runner.

#4 Increase intensity slowly

Don’t push too hard too soon. Your muscles need to strengthen first to support faster running.

#5 Strength training

Strength training for runners helps to build the strong core and leg muscles you need for running. Try our bodyweight exercises to become a better runner.

running when overweight
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Thoughts from Love Life Be Fit

I hope you’ve found this guide on how to start running when overweight helpful. Just remember it’s okay to be a slow runner and when it comes to running, everyone has to start somewhere.

It may have been a long time ago, but I can still remember feeling incredibly self-conscious when I first started running. I used to seek out places with no one around so I could puff and pant on my own!

Some days I still feel that way, especially if I’m returning from time off running. But just remember, runners come in all shapes and sizes. Overweight runners are applauded for getting out there and doing something about it instead of sitting on the couch.

Hopefully, everyone will be supportive. Normally the last person in a race gets the biggest cheer! If you do encounter any naysayers they will be few and far between.

Take that first step, go for your first run, and get to the ninth run – it could be life-changing.

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