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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!