Think You're Too Big to Run? Think Again


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  412 comments   :  224,654 Views

Editor's note: SparkPeople member KARVY09 wrote this blog post last year, just a few months into her weight-loss plan. Since joining SparkPeople, she has taken up running and dropped from 279 pounds to 212 pounds--and she's still going. She received such positive feedback on her blog that we asked her to share it on the dailySpark.

I like to call myself the jiggly runner, the fast fatty! I love the looks of skinny people in the train station on the escalator, staring in amazement as I quickly bound up a flight of 50 steps!

I'm 256 pounds and 5'6", which is morbidly obese (9 more pounds lost and I will be merely "obese," hooray). Last week I ran a little over a mile on the treadmill. I'm signed up for my first "live" 5K in a little over a month, which I'm hoping to complete in an hour or less. I don't win medals for speed, but I do run longer and faster than many people that I know.

When people question me about Couch to 5K (C25K) and how a big girl like me can do it, they inevitably state:

"But I'm too fat to run! Maybe I'll try later when I lose some weight..."

I've been fat for an entire lifetime, but I'm not waiting until I lose weight to run. Running is going to help me shed these pounds. A coordinated running program keeps me on a tight schedule, and the 5K looming on the horizon is incentive enough to make me want to finish in style.

Are you too fat to run?

Well, first of all, everyone should get the advice of their doctor before starting an exercise program. I may be a big girl, but I'm considerably young (now 29), and (knock on wood) I have no other health concerns such as arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, et cetera.

Also, I can run longer than some of my skinny friends, so some might consider me a "fit fatty." It's important to note that large size does not necessarily indicate "extremely unfit" and small size does not always equate "super fit." These are misconceptions that skinny people, in their never-ending quest to subjugate the fatties (kidding, kidding) have propagated to make them feel better about their Olive Oyl physiques.

If you are fit to run, here are My Top 3 reasons for trying C25K:

1. You will lose weight.

2. You will develop fitness, stamina, and balance.

3. You will impress yourself.

So if you've decided to take the plunge and start running, here are my thoughts for running while obese:

1. C25K is hard but rewarding. I'm not going to lie to you. It will be harder for you as an obese person to run this program. Duh. We are carrying more weight and most of us haven't run in a very long time (if at all). I had an irrational fear of lifting my foot off the pavement for a very long time, and it's very easy to psyche yourself out. But you can do it. And when you run for a prolonged amount of time after finding it difficult to run for one minute in the first week, it's a huge rush!

2. It will take you more than 9 weeks, most likely. C25K is officially a 9-week program, but I estimate that 90% of the people who finish do not finish in 9 weeks. Life happens, and we might have to skip a week and go back. Or Week 4 might be busting your butt, and you need to repeat it. It's inevitable. AND IT'S OK.

3. You do not have to run a 12-minute mile. I consider "running" to be anything where you cannot physically continue at that pace without lifting one foot fully off the ground before placing the other one in its place. Depending on your stride and fitness level, this could be anything from 3.5-5.0+ miles per hour. You're not training for speed, so don't worry about it. Run at a pace that is comfortable. It is much better to complete a 5-minute run at 4.2 mph than to fizzle out in the middle at 5 mph.

4. People will watch you... mostly in amazement. You're a big person. You're running. Given the general stereotype of a runner, you're an anomaly. It is OK. Most of the time, people will be watching you because they are inspired and amazed at your abilities. I've gotten so many supportive comments from surprised people who watch me run. A woman who must have been no more than 120 pounds who was walking on the treadmill saw me stopping and starting and complimented me and asked what I was doing. I told her about C25K and she said she was going to try it herself.

Other times, people will be close-minded and thinking "Look at that fatty run!" Listen, you're overweight and people can be cruel. I'm sure you know this by now. If you were sitting on the street corner eating a Twinkie, a passerby will probably think or say "You eat that Twinkie, fatty! Put on that weight!" If you were sitting on the corner eating a rice cake, someone will probably think or say, "You eat that rice cake, fatty! Lose that weight!" It's a no-win situation. It was my lot in high school, and it was probably yours as well.

Defy expectations. Run for yourself.

5. Get your gear. Get a pair of bike shorts or tight spandex pants. It is by far the easiest thing to run in and keeps those thighs from rubbing together while you run. It is way easier than trying to run in a pair of sweatpants. Ladies, purchase the tightest sports bra you can find because you don't want those puppies to bounce more than necessary.

6. Enjoy the run! Plot out new routes, find a running partner, switch up music and songs, and take it at your own pace. See what works for you!

As always, let me know if I can help you in any way! Stay tuned for Part Two of this series!

Happy trails! Kristina G. is 29, hails from the Boston area, and has been "sparked" since June 2009, when she couldn't run a minute, nevermind a 5K. Since then, she has run two 5Ks and is working on her first 10K and half marathon. Her cause has been to convince larger runners that they don't have to wait until they lose more weight to start running! She co-leads two SparkTeams, Half Marathoners and the Couch to 5K Group. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling locally and abroad and writing fiction and commentary. Her favorite outdoor activities are kayaking, swimming, hiking, and running.

Are you a runner? Did this blog post change your mind about running?

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  • 362
    OMG! I have always thought I was too big to run...that my breasts were too big for me to run....well now that I have had a double mastectomy and gastric bypass surgery....I HAVE NO EXCUSES!!! I have friends that are encouraging me to enter a triathalon....I now think that I need to do this! Thanks for the push off the fence!!! - 5/14/2011   1:23:17 PM
  • KMILLER721
    DH bought a treadmill to train for a 60 mile walk. Today is mother's day and the treadmill arrives Tuesday. I am 38 and 280lbs and I WILL do C25K because of this article even if I don't complete it in 9 weeks. Wondeing if I just might be able to do a 5K in the fall. Thank you for posting this to let us chunky chicks re-think the possiblities. - 5/8/2011   1:40:15 AM
    I love the couch to 5k programme, and am really glad to see you mention that lots of people repeat weeks; week 4 is KILLING me, so I'm repeating week 3 this week. Thanks for the post and the inspiration. :) - 4/11/2011   6:05:16 AM
  • 359
    I've considered running again since joining SP, but I, too, thought I was too heavy to run. Thank you very much for your inspirational story. - 4/1/2011   3:22:41 PM
  • 358
    I've always wanted to run but had the sterotype in my mind, of what a runner should look like. Thanks for showing us that it just ain't true and that ANYONE can do it!! - 4/1/2011   7:52:22 AM
  • 357
    Like others have said - this is the fantastic, practical blog that inspired me to my first 5k last year.
    I am currently training for my first 10 k.

    Thanks Karvy - you continue to motivate & inspire! - 3/30/2011   9:01:17 AM
  • 356
    This blog could not have come at a better time for me. It's like a sign from God, I'm not even exaggerating. I have a goal set for March 18, 2012 but after cruel, unnecessary remarks I've been reading about a heavy runner at this year's L.A. Marathon I struggled with so many doubtful thoughts yesterday. To the point that my twitter now reads "Am I kidding myself thinking I can do this?"

    Your blog completely reaffirmed my decision to set my goal. I will work at it, I will work HARD at it. It's no easy task. I've been training for a few weeks now and I still cant run even a 1/8 of a mile without stopping and walking for a big chunk of distance while I catch my breath and try again. But I will get there somehow.

    I am immensely grateful to you for writing this blog. I bet you didn't think it would have this big of an impact on a person when you wrote it, did you? Well it has. Tremendous impact. Thank you! God Bless you and your running! =) - 3/22/2011   11:19:32 AM
  • 355
    You are so inspirational! I really enjoyed your blog and wish I could picture myself doing this exact same thing. Unfortunately, I know I can not run yet as I carry too much weight for my frame and my legs just would not let me do it but this gives me something to aspire to.

    Thanks for posting and all best wishes to you. You make us proud!

    Susan - 3/21/2011   9:15:46 AM
    I am 63kgs, overweight. tried a lot of times to run or jog but couldnt do it for long. Maximum i can run for just 2 minutes at a stretch. So, thinking of running with intervals for around 5- 10minutes.
    Thnxx for your blog - 3/21/2011   4:57:45 AM
    I am 63kgs, overweight. tried a lot of times to run or jog but couldnt do it for long. Maximum i can run for just 2 minutes at a stretch. So, thinking of running with intervals for around 5- 10minutes.
    Thnxx for your blog - 3/21/2011   4:55:55 AM
  • 352
    Wow, thank you for this inspiring blog. - 3/19/2011   7:07:18 PM
    Thanks for the inspiration. Between hearing your story and seeing a similar one in my co-worker, I am going to try it! - 3/5/2011   11:49:36 PM
  • 350
  • 349
    I, like the author, love it when I tell people that I'm a runner and I can just see the picture of disbelief on their face and how are it is for them to keep their eyes from drifting to my abdomen. I'm a size 12/14 and not what you would call a skinny minny by any means, but the two half-marathon medals I keep on the bulletin board next to my desk are wonderful motivators for me to keep going, despite constant set backs and surgery. And I while I injured myself during a run, I don't blame my injury on running. I blame it on the rude, inconsiderate driver who ran me off the road and into the yard so they could find a parking spot across the street from a yard sale. But my point is, I may be overweight now, but I weigh less than two years ago before I started running. And with each race, be it a 5k or half marathon, I feel more and more physically fit. - 3/2/2011   11:12:33 PM
  • 348
    That sounds so great, I wish I could do that, but I have to stick to walking because of my knees. Maybe I could walk the 5K? About 14 years ago I used to walk 5 miles a day, five days a week. That was the good old days and I'm ready to get them back!! So where do I start, at the YMCA? - 3/2/2011   8:27:51 PM
  • 347
    this was so motivational to me I for the first time "jogged" on my treadmill today for 5 min and was so thrilled!!! - 3/2/2011   6:50:58 PM
  • 346
    YOU ARE AMAZING! - 3/2/2011   8:44:19 AM
    WOW!!!! What a great blog. I will join the C25K after I complete my 5K walk in April. Yes, after 10 years now of not walking outside, I am proud to say that I am now walking around my town everyday even if it is just to the post office. Now I have a new Goal to look forward to. RUNNING NOT WALKING WOOHOO!!! Thank you. - 2/26/2011   8:18:08 PM
  • 344
    Lovely! I just started and at over 200 pounds I'm considered a heavy runner too but I will make it! - 2/1/2011   9:20:46 PM
  • 343
    Thanks for sharing ... I have been doing this as well for almost a year and I'm still obese but down from morbidly obese. Running helped me get there. I'm slow but I love it.... If you have not read or heard of John "The Penguin" Bingham's books "The Courage to Start" or "No Need for Speed" you should check them out as he is very inspiring and has practical guides to get started. My favorite quote of his is "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."... YOU GO ;) - 1/27/2011   1:59:32 PM
  • ROBSY123
    You're amazing!

    I remember when I came back from my semester abroad Junior year of college and told my day I was going for a jog (about a 5k) and my dad said, "Sweetie, I know you like to run but I think you are too big to now. I don't think you should." Well I did and I cranked my iPod and made my way through the snow for the whole 3+ miles. When I went back to school I promised my 180 pound self I would run the Boston Marathon the next year with the 60+ member running club team at school and I did! I went from 5Ks to 10 Ks to 7.5 milers to half marathons to the Boston marathon!

    Now, 2 years after my dad doubted me, teatering between 150 (normal weight according to my BMI) and 155 (overweight according to my BMI), I feel completely confident in my skin and I find such peace with running and the person it has revealed. - 1/25/2011   10:36:56 AM
  • 341
    I wanna run Its MY DREAM.. I think I am too busty and my knees hurt , but once i get the okay from My Doctor. I am going to consult a trainer to help me with a running program. - 1/23/2011   6:01:35 PM
  • 340
    One thing you don't address in your blog is damage to the joints from running. I already have osteoarthritis in my hips, knees and ankle, largely from a past history of running BEFORE I got fat. I wouldn't dare try to run now. - 1/20/2011   2:51:20 PM
  • 339
    iv tried to lift my feet while walking on the treadmill and when i did i felt great about my self, but then after the sorness i think walk back to walking you have really help me get pass go iwill do some running today thank you. - 11/5/2010   8:45:53 AM
  • 338
    I am a big girl and thought that I was too big and too busty to run. The C25K group helped me out so much by giving me pointers on how to begin the program. It is definitely not a 9 week program for me. I can't even view it that way. It is just a runners training program that I will get through.

    I started it all by getting myself a good sports bra. I shoveled out the extra cash and got the Enell Bra, I highly recommend it. Then I began walking and walking and walking. Currently I am in what is considered Week 1 of the program, but have been in week one for several weeks. I'm fine with that. It is a gradual process and I am working myself up to it by listening to what my body tells me.

    The reason I am saying all this is because, if I can do it at 280 lbs., with a bad knee that I have to wrap up to run, and busty to boot, so can you. - 10/29/2010   9:58:12 AM
  • 337
    I think I commented on this blog in the past, but I'm leaving a new comment. I realized that reading KARVY09's running while chunky blog gave me the SPARK I needed to start running. Two 5k's down, One coming on Sunday.

    It amazes me how something as simple as someone else writing down that they did it can inspire so many people. If you are on the fence about running JOIN C25k Group and we will help you get where you want to go. - 9/30/2010   1:57:34 PM
  • 336
    I love walking but running seems impossible. I've started the C25K program with my trainer and while not completely convinced I can do this, I'm trying. I guess it's challenging myself to "prove me wrong" - thanks for the inspiration! - 9/27/2010   1:52:06 PM
  • 335
    Introducing myself to a new group over the weekend I said, "I'm learning to be a runner". I couldn't look people in the eye and say it because I have a hard time believing it myself. But, inspired by someone's story on here, I began and this is another boost. I don't know what C25K is, but I'm going to find out. Thanks! - 9/23/2010   12:07:11 PM
  • 334
    This is so inspiring! - 9/23/2010   10:42:35 AM
  • BP_GUY
    Good for you!! keep it up!

    I enjoy the c25k as well. I found these awesome podcasts that had music that really helped. and

    they are techno & dance, but "DJSteveboy" adjusts the music tempo very nicely for the run/walk portions.

    good luck. when my knee heals I plan to start the 8k version!! - 9/23/2010   8:52:42 AM
  • 332
    Thanks you the inspiration. I'm on week 1 for C25K. Running inside on my treadmill but willing to try running outside. - 9/22/2010   10:08:23 PM
  • 331
    Fantastic Blog and all SO TRUE! I did the C25k program and loved it! Never ran before in my life! I'm sighned up for my first 5k on 10.10.10!!! I never in a GAZILLION years would have thought I'd ever call myself a runner!!!! - 9/14/2010   11:16:46 AM
  • 330
    OK- no more excuses, I am going to start the C25K program this week. I am a runner, but have not run since 2005 due to injuries. When I ran my half marathon my uncle, a brilliant research physician, runner, an champion rugby coach said he thought that with my frame I should wait until I was under 200 pounds. I had lost 40, but had a long way to go. Sure enough I developed plantar faciatis.

    I realize now that the main culprit was not going to a running store to select and buy my shoes, which I do for my walking shoes now. People out there, PLEASE go to a running store and buy the right shoes for your frame, weight and stride.

    And i will hit the C25K program tomorrow morning, just before dawn.

    - 9/12/2010   12:22:53 PM
  • 329
    Thank you, for this inspirational story. I'm more convinced that I need to commit to a 5 k run. So, that means I will be checking on workout plan this weekend, so that I can begin starting Sunday. - 9/9/2010   10:54:07 PM
  • 328
    I am doing the C25K program too. Though I plan to make it 18 week program. I don't want to go too fast and end up quitting in the middle. - 8/30/2010   6:24:31 PM
  • 327
    It is all about the paste and not the size. - 7/18/2010   2:45:31 PM
    A few months ago, at Mother's Day, I told my sister-in-law that I felt a strong urge to start running but I was not going to because of my size... fearing that the extra weight would be too hard on my knees (which have caused me some discomfort since my pregnancies, 2 beautiful babies very close together).... Your story has inspired me to try it- as I do believe I can do it! Thank you so much for sharing your story. - 7/16/2010   10:15:50 PM
  • 325
    Kudos to you. Even when I was totally fit, I could NEVER run for very long, so I admire anyone that can do it. - 7/15/2010   11:16:43 AM
  • 324
    Before I injured my ankle, running gave me really good self-esteem. I am overweight and ran as an overweight person (...had to start somewhere). However, little by little, my time would improve or I could run a little longer. The day I ran a mile in 10 minutes was super exciting. I also loved telling people that I went on a two-mile run. Best of all, I was really proud of myself for working my way up to a two-three mile run without having to walk or catch my breath. I felt great! - 7/11/2010   5:27:41 PM
  • 323
    I tried the C25K program a couple years back and gave up...thank you for inspiring me to try it again! - 6/22/2010   4:19:42 PM
  • 322
    Isnt running at a high weigh tregularly really bad for your joints?? Later on in life you will develop problems. - 6/17/2010   9:22:17 PM
  • 321
    I am on Week 4 of the C25K program. I actually love it. Had a few setbacks and am actually doing Week 4 for the 3rd time. I will eventually get there though. - 6/17/2010   11:38:48 AM
    Very eye opening. I used to run 5miles a day but that was years and years ago. Now Im afraid I will pass out from lack of oxygen and my knees will crumble beneath me. This was very inspiring. - 5/27/2010   10:20:53 PM
    It is a story much needed; it supports a no excuses allowed approach.

    Big but though. Aside from cardiovascular issues that may be hidden because true stress testing is difficult to do; also running while obese will destroy the knees and ankles of most people in a relatively short period of time. Proper shoes are essential but probably not enough.
    Realism isn't hurtful and should not discourage.

    Remember portion control, monitoring food intake and ingesting too much food as the real obstacle to not controlling weight.

    I admire both your effort and your willingness to speak out; this is meant as constructive criticism for those who do not survive uninjured this program.

    Most importantly it is working for you. It will work for others. Thanks - 5/25/2010   5:49:50 AM
  • 318
    Thank you. Thank you. This has inspired me to try again. I have tried c25km a few times and just die at 6 weeks or start 7 but can't seem to keep it going! I thought it was because I'm too big and that I have to wait until I'm smaller (which is the current plan). Thank you for your blog. I know now that I can do it and that it WILL take longer than 9 weeks and not to give up but just to keep at it - even if I am running at slower than my walking pace.... - 5/23/2010   7:55:46 PM
  • 317
    I really enjoyed your blog on running when your overweight. Im one who dosent think I can run. Ive always watched other people running in my travles , and wished I could do that. I always envied runners,. Always wished I could do that, but never did anything to start getting in shape to run. This article helped me so much. You dont have to be pysically in shape to run. you proved that. Im going to get my mind in gear and start slowly and get running. Thanks so much for your story.
    P.s. Good for you!!!!!!!!! - 5/22/2010   8:37:19 PM
  • 316
    Thanks for sharing this! It's inspirational and I think, very true. I worry about people seeing me run in intervals that they will think I can't do it. But then I think, hey, I'm doing it and they aren't, so what the heck! And then I keep going. - 5/22/2010   9:56:09 AM
    I read her blog a while back and it motivated me to start C25K. I am now on week 2, and I've already signed up for a race that's in September. Thank you, Karvy! - 5/20/2010   11:34:42 AM
  • 314
    Thanks for this. I, too, want to run, but figured I needed to lose some weight first to avoid injury. hmmm....can't wait for part 2! - 5/20/2010   8:25:43 AM
    Thank you thank you thank you for this! - 5/20/2010   8:07:53 AM

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