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How to Start Running When You're Overweight

How to Start Running When You're Overweight

Even though I have always been physically active and participated in sporting events and teams, I was never one who could just pound pavement for miles at a time. Actually, I absolutely hated running, and I still do (just not as much). I am also very self-conscious about the way that I look when I run, and I'm still traumatized by the time some teenagers decided to spray liquid (I sure hope it was water) out of their car while they were driving by me one day when I was walking home from high school. So I've never found any appeal to running, walking, or jogging around the neighborhood even though I admire those who do.

On January 1st of 2017, I committed to practicing my running. I decided to start every gym session with a 30-minute slot on the treadmill in order to improve my running skills. On my first day, I was out of breath before I even reached 1/10th of a mile. I thought, "How can I be in shape but can't even run a quarter of a mile?" Well, for starters, I jumped right into running without any lead-up or calculating my average speed or anything.

By the end of my first week, I was able to figure out what speeds are appropriate for my body and I even came up with an interval training routine that helped me increase my speed and distance covered in a few short weeks. By May, I ran an entire 5K race without stopping (except once to take a photo because the course was along an airfield and I thought it looked awesome. 

My first ever 5K and I placed 5th in the Female Age 25-29 group. Not bad for only running for 5 months!

My first ever 5K and I placed 5th in the Female Age 25-29 group. Not bad for only running for 5 months!

Before you hop on a treadmill and start training for a marathon, I strongly suggest you first figure out your pacing. Treadmills typically show the speed in miles per hour, and you want to figure out what a comfortable walking pace is that is not so difficult that you can't hold a conversation, but not easy enough that you can eat or sing a song. There needs to be some effort, and for me, my walking pace is between 3mph-3.5mph.

Now the hard part is finding a good running speed. When I first started, I think I set the treadmill at 8mph and almost immediately my body went, "ABORT, ABORT!" If you are new to running like I was, please start slow and don't be intimidated by the others around you casually running at 7+mph like it's nothing. 

Start with a trot, which can be anywhere from 4mph-5.5mph, depending on your stride length. A good starter pace is something that you can keep up with for at least 2/10ths of a mile (0.2 if you're looking at the distance counter on a treadmill) without getting terribly out of breath. Or, if you're unsure if you can trot for that long, make it a power walk so that it's slightly more difficult than your walking pace.

Next you'll want to set a goal. You'll have to decide between running for time, or running for distance. If you want to focus on the time aspect, like I did, choose a distance that you want to cover and then you'll develop your plan to shorten the time it takes to run that distance. If you are running for distance, your plan will start small, and you'll eventually add longer segments to incorporate additional miles.

I'll share with you the interval training plan that I used to help me go from not even being able to jog a quarter of a mile to being able to run three miles in 35 minutes flat.

I will use the terms "Walking Speed (WS)" and "Running Speed (RS)," and the numbers indicate distance traveled:

*After your warm up
0.00 - 0.20 RS
0.20 - 0.25 WS
0.25 - 0.45 RS
0.45 - 0.50 WS
0.50 - 0.70 RS
0.70 - 0.75 WS
0.75 - 0.95 RS
0.95 - 1.00 WS
*Repeat for each mile* 

Basically I broke down my running into 1/4 mile segments where I'd run 0.20 miles and walk the remaining 0.05 miles. It's a lot of speed changing on the treadmill, but it's totally worth it in the end. Each week, I would increase the RS (Running Speed) by about 0.2mph, so my first week I'd alternate between a 3.0mph WS and a 5.8mph RS, and the second week I bumped my RS to 6.0mph. 

After a few weeks or even a couple months of following this interval plan, start to group your segments together without changing the running and walking distances. It'll look like this:

*After your warm up
0.00 - 0.40 RS
0.40 - 0.50 WS
0.50 - 0.90 RS
0.90 - 1.00 WS

So if you compare this to the plan I started with, I am still running for 0.8 miles and walking 0.2 miles, I'm just grouping my running segments together so that I run for longer periods of time, and the walking segments get grouped together so that I can walk for a longer period of time. 

Again, after a few weeks or months of this plan, you can add another segment. What I did was run for 3/4 of a mile and walk for the last 1/4 for each mile that I wanted to cover that day.

Please remember that you know your body best. If you feel discomfort or find yourself struggling with any portion of this plan, TAKE IT DOWN A NOTCH. You are going to be the best at determining what works for you. I hope this helps, and please feel free to share any tips for first-time runners!

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