The following blog is what inspired me to begin Couch to 5k training. I'm reprinting it with permission of the author. Thanks Kristina!
Running While Chunky: A Guide
Yep, I'm still running, still a "fit fatty!"
A few months ago, I wrote a blog called "But I'm Too Fat to Run!" which is still getting so much great responses from Spark members. I want to thank everyone who's been inspired by my and others' attempts to begin a running program. When I wrote that blog, I was 256 pounds and still morbidly obese, running, and nervous about my first 5K in a month's time. I started running at 275 pounds and everyone from my friends to family (except for my wonderful husband, my rock) called me "crazy" for training for a 5K.
Now, I call them crazy for doubting me!
Over 100 days later, I'm now 225 pounds with two 5Ks under my belt. I'm not perfect. I had my weak moments: the days when I wanted to stop, when I thought I'd NEVER be able to hit my mileage goals outside, when my shins ached, when my ankles turned, and when I despaired that I would never run as fast or as long as the others on the track.
Running can be just as psychological as physical. There are times when I broke down in tears from unrelated frustrations or from unbridled joy. You could learn something about yourself just by pushing yourself.
Because I think there are unique concerns for those who start running while obese or overweight, I started a thread on my Couch to 5K Group forum called the "Fat Runners Club," a support group for runners who are starting at a weight that they never believed they could run at. You can join the discussion here.
So what's next? Well, consider this "But I'm Too Fat to Run!" Part Two. I wanted to share a few of the tips that I and others have learned as we started our journey as fluffier runners, a concept I'll call Running While Chunky (RWC), kind of an update to my previous blog, and perhaps, PERHAPS an outline for a longer guide I hope to write. In the future, I hope to add update blogs as well.
I'm sure many Biggest Loser fans watched the final four contestants run/walk a marathon last week. Perhaps after seeing that you felt motivated to run, but are facing the doubts that are nagging you or the skepticism of your significant other or parents or friends.
Maybe you have the flashbacks back to the gym class in elementary school like I did. The 600-meter dash. The physical fitness test. Finishing last. Or next to last, like I did, right after the girl with an injury who was required to walk the whole thing. Fun times!
But you know what? Those days are over. You may be heavier now. But you are also stronger! You have come to SparkPeople to gain control over your life, and you are ontrack to a fitter and healthier you!
I am telling you right now. You can be a runner. You can do this.
CHAPTER ONE: TALK TO THE DOC
You think you're too fat to run? Don't take your own advice. Ask your doctor first. Some people will not be medically cleared to start a running program, but the great majority of people will be fine beginning a routine that eases you into running gradually in order to avoid injury.
CHAPTER TWO: SIGN UP FOR A RACE
Whoa, what? Surely you mean Chapter 17 or something. No, I mean Chapter 2! Listen, what's going to keep you motivated more than actually signing up for a race? Most road races benefit charitable causes, include slower runners and walkers, and are less competitive than you might think. So do it. If you can't run the entire race, it's OK. I wasn't ready to run the whole 3.1 miles when I signed up for my 5K. I still managed it in under 45 minutes, ahead of many other runners and walkers on the course.
Many of the runners that I know who stuck their training did it because they had a goal to be as fit as possible before their 5K. Make fitness your goal as well as a weight loss goal. Losing pounds is great, and I'm so happy with my progress thus far, but weight loss doesn't even compares to the thrill of running your first 5 minutes, half mile, one mile, or 5K. NOTHING.
CHAPTER THREE: ACCEPT IT: YOU'RE RUNNING WHILE CHUNKY (RWC)
SparkMember NORAB52GOOD said it best: "I realized I have to first be a slow, fat runner before I can be a fast thin runner. One follows the other." Well said. You're RWC; you're not going to run 8 mph like that fit chick on the treadmill at the gym. Not yet, anyways. If you lift your foot up before the other foot has fully struck the pavement or treadmill you are still running, even if this is only 4 mph or a 17-minute mile. One pet peeve about SparkPeople is that you have to be running 12-minute miles in order for SP to classify it as running and not walking. I don't believe this is true.
CHAPTER FOUR: CHECK OUT A RUNNING PROGRAM & START SLOW
I started with Couch to 5K (C25K), but there are others out there as well. C25K starts you out jog/walking three times per week, and the first week you are running for 1 minute and recover by walking for 90 seconds in intervals. It gradually gets harder and harder each week. Technically you are supposed to finish in 9 weeks, but if you are RWC, you most likely will not. It took me twice as long to finish C25K and that's OK!
Fight the urge to run longer or faster at first. Take your time. You are building up your endurance and fitness as a new runner. You will get there, but it will take time! You don't want to injure yourself just as you are hitting your stride!
CHAPTER FIVE: GET YOUR GEAR
Here is a list of the Top 3 items that the RWC suggest in order to maximize your experience while running.
1. Tight biker shorts that hit above the knee or tight spandex pants
This keeps the tummy and thighs from jiggling but is long enough to prevent the chafing that can occur when your thighs rub together when running. This is like the sports version of Spanx!
2. A good sports bra
The RWC are often very well endowed! My solution was to buy a sports bra one size too small so that the girls were pushed down right to my chest. Others have used TWO sports bras for support. In any case, keeping those puppies in check is integral to your running experience.
3. Running shoes
You need good running shoes (not cross-trainers) if you get serious about running. The difference is astounding when you get fitted for a pair of shoes. After running for a few months, I finally got around to going to a specialty running store to get a gait analysis and fitting and it was amazing. The RWC tend to overpronate (strike the foot at an angle) and stability shoes will be needed to help prevent injury. An insole insert might be a good start when strapped for cash or need some additional padding.
CHAPTER SIX: MUSIC'S IN MY SOLE
The C25K Program has a free podcast with a guy named Robert who will tell you to stop your walking and start running over and over again. It's boring, frankly. My solution to the monotony is to create your own playlist that signals when to stop and start. In the beginning you'll know that halfway through the song it will be time to start running, and soon. you might have three Blackeyed Peas songs that serve as your 10-minute running interval.
CHAPTER SEVEN: KEEP IT UP!
You might run on the treadmill and see the next marathoner plugging away and get discouraged. Or you'll be on an outdoor track and people will pass you or run longer than you. And when you start, you'll most likely have shin splints or some other minor pain. Work through it. Dispel all these doubts. If you want to be a runner, you can run. It may take longer and you may have to work harder at it than your skinny friends, but it can be done.
CHAPTER EIGHT: WORK WHAT WORKS
If you like running on the treadmill as winter approaches, do that. If you love the feel of running outdoors, then go for it. People will give you great advice, and people will maybe reach their goals faster than you do, but it's important to not become jealous of others quicker progress and give up. Have fun with it! Running can be a whole lot of fun and pushing your body to see what it can do is a fun game to play with yourself.
You will get there and persevere, and maybe someday you will wear a shirt like ZIRCADIA'S at your first marathon: "Because I used to weigh almost 300 pounds" and others will be astonished and inspired by you. That is my goal, anyways.
Happy running to all!