Running as an Overweight Woman

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Hello readers!

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, and here it finally is! My experiences with running are, as always, just anecdotes and not to be taken as a rule or guideline, but I think they might resonate with someone and be helpful.

Running is a sport that has been predominantly male since forever. The first woman to run a marathon signed up for it against the rules and was famously pursued by one of the officials once she got found out DURING the run:

Did you know that people (*cof* men *cof*) thought that a woman’s uterus would literally fall off from running? Huh.

Curiosities aside, there is one thing that all women I know who run consistently have in common: they’re thin and with small breasts. I am not saying this to shame anyone who likes running and looks like this, but I want with this post to point out the privilege that is being thin and small-chested when it comes to running as a woman.

I have been told by several people that running is such an easy exercise to take up, that one just puts the shoes on and GOES. But, as I learned quickly once I started running, that was simply not true.

First of all, if you are going to start running as a sedentary person (overweight or not), things will HURT. My shin pain got so bad during the runs I had to cut them short several times for months, especially on trail running, where I would barely be able to last any time at all before getting what I found out were probably shin splints. So if you’re running outside, that might mean giving up and limping your way back (definitely don’t power through the pain, it could lead to injury!). It’s pretty frustrating. Being overweight seems to be a factor that contributes to the chances of getting shin splints, too.

Secondly, boobs.

Have you ever tried running with a low support bra? It. Damn. HURTS (and could lead to damage to the tissue). A high support bra where I live costs about 50 EUR, which is definitely not super affordable and does not count, to me, as a low-budget, just-put-your-shoes-and-go sport. If you have a really large breast size, there probably isn’t a proper bra in your size and/or you need to wear two at a time. And if you run several times a week, you might need at least one more bra.

I think people who think running is “for everyone and so easy to start, go move your lazy ass”, have definitely never experienced this. I’m a smaller size now than I was months ago and have a small breast size, I can get away NOW for short runs with using medium support bras – which you can find easily anywhere.  I can get really good bras for less than 20 EUR nowadays. There is definitely privilege there – it’s much cheaper to run as a man or a small-chested woman.

High support bras? Depending on where you live, they might be outright impossible to find in your city. I had such a hard time in Stuttgart finding good bras, it was a seven-part epic drama.

This also applies to other parts of the body that jiggle and hurt when you run, especially on the belly area. Finding a good pair of leggings that are going to stay in place and hold everything nicely is difficult enough, but finding one that you don’t need to become a contortionist to get into is even harder. Like getting into skinny jeans a size too small but also it hates you. If it doesn’t roll down during the run, it probably leaves a big, red mark on your skin. If it feels comfortable, that pair of treacherous leggings will fall mid-run and you’ll spend most of the time pulling it back up. And shorts? Don’t even get me started on the chafing! As per before: the ones that fit me well and feel comfortable are the ones I had to pay more for.

So here are some tips that really helped me, if you want to start running:

  1. Find at least one sports bra that works for you. Prioritize bras over anything else – even leggings and shoes. Trying bras on is always the best way to make sure they are comfortable and give enough support, but depending on your size perhaps online shopping will be easier – just make sure there’s a return policy in case it doesn’t fit.
  2. The best running shorts will be those with high waists and really tight on the skin going at least until the middle of your thigh.
  3. High-waisted leggings are also the way to go, at least until you get comfortable with running. They should hold your belly and perhaps also thighs in place.
  4. You’ll know your clothes are fine if you’re thinking of anything else (even those goddamn shin splints) during the run, and not about the clothes and shoes.
  5. If shin splints really bother you often, consider getting compression socks. AND give at least a day or two between runs! I find track and treadmill to be far more forgiving for my shins than trail. Also apply ice to help with swelling and pain.
  6. I started on the treadmill, until I felt comfortable enough to go running outside. It helped me build confidence and find out what pace I am comfortable with. And even then, it was a pain and I performed very differently in the beginning on trail! Nowadays I find treadmills a bit boring and my performance is quite similar.
  7. Pay attention to your form and cadence. Running can be difficult enough as it is, but stepping too heavily on the floor or tensing up your shoulders as you run can make you prone to injury. Practicing cadence  and keeping good body form help with that.
  8. Stay hydrated, and make sure you have something carb-y or sugary before running (I like dates if I’m going to run immediately or bananas if I have a bit more time for digesting). Especially on hot days, make sure to drink enough water – you might heat up more easily if you’ve got more body fat.
  9. Pay attention to pain and don’t power through. Not only shin splints, but also pain on your hip, feet, anywhere really. Listen to your body. If it feels too bad, stop. A lot of times this kind of pain gets better with time and proper stretching after the run, but pay attention if it doesn’t!
  10. Do NOT start running to lose weight. And let me be clear: if you’re overweight, you might not necessarily need to lose any weight at all for improving your health – but I’m assuming here that some people will start running with that objective in mind. It will be an uncomfortable experience in the beginning (especially if you’ve been sedentary), and if you’re doing it to lose weight, you’ll be frustrated pretty soon. Your body adapts to the effort of running and will become more efficient in its energy consumption. I stopped losing weight when I incorporated runs into my routine, in fact, and had to do other things for that objective in particular.

Needless to say, but just in case: if you have previous injuries or a medical history that could make running dangerous for you, talk to your doctor.

I don’t find that particular types of shoes make running more difficult or easier for me. I prefer my running shoes on the tight side instead of loose, but if your feet swell easily, consider getting a size bigger. However, think about going to a store that can analyze the way you run to get you shoes that fit to that, if it’s something you can afford to do and would like to. Having proper running shoes for your type of run could prevent injuries, although, as said, for me it doesn’t seem to do much of a difference, as long as the shoes are comfortable.

And have fun!

19 thoughts on “Running as an Overweight Woman

  1. OH MY GOD YES! They never tell you about sports bras. I’ve never been small chested, and have never been able to use those sports “bras” that department stores have in stock without sobbing. I remember the first time I went to the local running store and found out about real sports bras, I cried from joy.

    Chaffing is the worst! The best thing, other than leggings or shorts that go to the knee, is using Body Glide. It’s like a deodorant stick of petroleum jelly that combats the chub rub!

    I love your advice, and I am so glad you’ve stuck with running! I am planning on dedicating the rest of the year to my journey. Do you listen to audiobooks at all while on the trails? Happy running!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know right!! High support bras are amazing and I can’t believe how long it took me to buy one. Department stores sports bras are only for small chested women, really, and as long as they do mostly moderate sports (like biking or yoga… nothing with much jumping around for sure).

      I haven’t tried Body Glide! I might try that… would be nice to run on actual short shorts on summer. I certainly don’t remember seeing those on the stores I go to, but I’m sure I can find it online.

      Thank you so much, Kal, your comment was so great to read!! I was a bit shocked to realize when I started running that there was no actual advice on running as an overweight woman… because there’s so few overweight women who run. I’m so proud of you for taking a step towards a health journey!! Tell me more!! (If you want ofc!)

      I don’t listen to audiobooks very often because I’ve found that they make me slower and I like running a bit fast, but for fast walking or light jogging I do! I particularly enjoy thrillers, soooometimes romances. You?

      Like

  2. Totally agree with the support and chaffing issues. Extra issues we have to deal with, but we press on. 🙂

    I think people who say running is easy tend to forget that part of the sport is really a mental challenge. Not everyone is constantly motivated to go out and run, and we all have our down days (or longer). So, yes, while it’s easy to buy a good pair of running shoes, it’s not as easy to actually go for a run or to keep running when it’s so tempting to just walk the rest of the way. Also, in the same way that not everyone enjoys going to the gym, not everyone enjoys running, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t take care of their bodies in other ways.

    Personally, I like to run with a buddy, especially when I start losing motivation to do so. Peer pressure can be good in these scenarios. I’m planning to go back to running again after my vacation, so I will definitely also look for a new running buddy as I get back into the habit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do press on!! 🙂

      Yes, it’s definitely a mental challenge. I can definitely not perform nearly so well if I don’t get enough sleep or simply feel tired.

      A running buddy is such a great motivation!

      Like

  3. I have small breasts, and it was still one of the most frustrating aspects of running for me. My biggest problem, though, was that it was just so boring and felt like work. I much prefer walking, which I understand is better for your health long-term since it’s easier on the joints or whatever. *shrug*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post! Running is my preferred form of exercise, but I’m not always great about keeping up with it. So many of the things you mention sound exactly like the sort of struggles I was having when I first decided to start running regularly- clothing is so important! I never knew how important! One problem I often have is finding ankle socks (taller socks feel uncomfortable on my calves) that won’t slip down my heel and bunch up inside my shoe. And I learned about the bras and the shorts the hard way, too. But I have noticed a ton of benefits in my overall health during months when I’m running regularly, which makes the struggle worth it.
    Happy running to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t really use ankle socks… exactly because of what you described! Let me know if you have a brand you find actually works and stays in place!

      About learning about shorts and bras: ouch.

      Yes!! Running literally improved my health like crazy. I hardly have any allergies or colds anymore. I used to be super allergic and rather asthmatic too. It’s such a relief.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bombas socks are my favorite, although they are expensive. Reebok also works for me!

        And I completely agree- I always have more colds and even headaches when I’m not running regularly. It also really helps my sleep quality and mood. These are definitely factors that motivate me to run.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is so great to hear. I keep seeing people say things about weight maintenance and feeling great when running, but the improvement in my health was so noticeable it surprised me that people didn’t talk about it more.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great post!! Running has always been such a struggle for me (I also have asthma, which doesn’t help) annd finding sports bras is definitely one of the hardest parts. Luckily I found one that works pretty well for me, but I used to have to use two for proper support and to prevent rashes ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sarah!! There is NOT enough talk about how running isn’t so easy / straightforward for some people! I also have asthma, which I didn’t have until I moved to Europe (yay…) but it was only a problem in the beginning. Somehow I haven’t had problems with asthma in months now… MAGIC? SCIENCE?? Who knows.

      Omg boob prison times TWO? you’re a hero.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Book that Inspired me to Start Running | Naty's Bookshelf

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