Part 2: Think You're Too Big to Run? Think Again

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's note: Last year, just a few months into her weight-loss plan, SparkPeople member KARVY09 wrote a blog post called "Think You're Too Big to Run? Think Again," just a few months into her weight-loss plan. Since joining SparkPeople, she has taken up running and dropped from 279 pounds to 195 pounds--and she's still going. She received such positive feedback on her blog that we asked her to share a follow-up on the dailySpark.

Yep, I'm still running, still a "fit fatty!"

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called Think You're Too Big to Run? Think Again, 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!

I'm now 195 pounds with some 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 Think You're Too Big to Run? Think Again, 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 recently. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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 of your favorite songs that serve as your 10-minute running interval.


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.


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!

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.

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PLCHAPPELL 2/15/2021
Not my size; it's my knees Report
I'm a RWC and what works for me seems to be the opposite of what works for everyone else. Sage advice tells you to run first thing in the morning, but I love running at sunset. You're supposed to run in shorts, while I run in a coat, turtleneck, and pants! (My body runs cold, and I live in a cold climate.) But the amazing thing is, by doing my C25K the way that works for me, I am learning to enjoy running for the first time in my life! Report
I have never been interested in running. I do a lot of walking. In the winter, I use workout videos on youtube. Report
Determination and perseverance go a long way! Report
Great article! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration to so many others! Report
This is complete garbage. I ran while still fat and I have shin splints which I can never cure. If I bring up my activity even a little, somehow my legs know and I'll get painful shin splints again, all because I'm too overweight to run. Stop giving bad advice to the obese. People need to walk and build up strength and also lose some weight before they're ready to run. Almost all obese people can walk for 45 minutes but that doesn't mean they're ready to run. Report
This is great. Nobody should think they can't do something Report
What a great article.................Thank You so much. Report
I'm impressed and motivated. My hubby likes to run, but I thought I couldn't, and I didn't enjoy it. However, I'm starting to change my mental self talk. Maybe I can be a RWC too. Report
would love to but can't (asthma) Report
I tried running to lose weight, but my knees hurt. I went to the doctor to see if he could suggest a knee brace or something to help me at least walk. He suggested losing weight (so that I could jog -so that I could lose weight -so that I could jog).

My husband brought home a treadmill. I think I am going to give this another try. My knees hurt more going downhill than going uphill. I figure that if I set the incline up a little, it just might work.

Okay, maybe I should listen to my doctor, but he seems to think that losing weight is easy and this is my body and I have more vested into it than my doctor. Report
Hi, I currently weigh 196 lbs and I was at 189ish pounds earlier this week and have lost motivation to lose weight because now that i realize it it's because my dad was the one who kept telling me to eat weight watchers and I'll listen to him but not to myself. anyways, my question is this: What are the right times to be running? I live in Texas so it gets out outside but I do have a treadmill but I don't like running on it. I'd rather be outside. Report
RWC--This acronym is sooo cool--it is my new mantra. I read your first blog and was inspired but dubious. I have never...NEVER been a "runner"--ever. Even when I played sports as a teen, I couldn't even complete running once around the soccer field. Running one lap at the track was a challenge that took me months to accomplish last fall. I have been using the elliptical and stationary bike throughout the winter. Last week my daughter wanted to go to the track to ride her scooter while I "walk/jogged". I remembered your first article and thought, "Might as well go as far and as long as I can." I ran a mile and a half...straight--no stops in a little over 20 minutes! I felt like a super hero! I realized that when I run at my own pace, slightly above snail, by myself not trying to keep up with anyone else, I can do it. Your comment about speed justified what I already suspected: just keep moving faster than a walk and it counts as running. Now I plan to integrate running into my exercise week whenever, time, weather and family allow. But just knowing that I can makes me start to think that I will. And, miracle of miracles, I don't hate running anymore; I just don't love it...yet. Report
I have deep admiration for you. I only have 25-30lbs to lose and am in a huge funk and can't get motivated. You are true inspiration to us all. Thank You Report
Running While Chunky (RWC), I love that!

I almost gave up last week! Swallowed my pride and completed the first 3 walk/runs - and the feeling of accomplishment was amazing. Hardest step was always the first.

Thanks! Report
LOVE it! I consider myself a "runner" but when I input my SparkPeople exercise my time is listed under "walking". I run a 15min/mile and even if a walker could pass me up I still consider myself a runner :) AND my oldest the other day overheard me talking about it and she said, "Mommy, it looks like you're running to me." So there you go :) Confirmation! Report
I've been running for years and I'm still not thin (I was actually thin BEFORE I started running. The weight gain came in my 40's in spite of running.) Even though I'm a heavy runner, I can hold my own against other runners in my age group - and even some younger and thinner than I am! You don't necessarily have to be thin to be strong and athletic. Report
You were my inspiration. I was going to start running when I was thin. Well the years went by and I was not thin and I was not running. Thanks to your blog I got the gumption to go for it. I started out slowly walking on the treadmill at the gym. Then jogging/walking on the treadmill at the gym. I then joined the Nike Run Club and go twice a week. I LOVE IT! Everyone is so supportive and motivating. I will be running my first race in October. Thank you again. Report
I joined the C25K group today. Time for me to give it a shot. Report
I would prepare for a 5K in fact I'm doing, but I have some fear, how to overcome this fear? Report
Great info and support Report
I had to say thanks for this. I had been wanting to start the c25k program,but I thought I had to wait until I lost weight to run. Well, thanks to this wonderful blog and all the comments I did it and I just finished my first day of week 3. I know that is's not a lot, but for me running 3 minutes straight was a mountain I wasn't sure I could climb. Report
I just read this post and found it amazing to read and found myself inspired! Great job! Report
You have done a fantastic job! Keep it up! But I am afraid you might be giving some people false hope! Some ARE too fat to run!! There is a limit to what the body can do. If I were 256 lbs ( or close to it) I would probably give it a try after reading your article. But there are a lot of health issues that would stop a lot of people from trying, or being able to , no matter how much they may want to. I am one of them. Even at 265 my body would not allow me . That is the reality of life.
You are healthy enough to do this, and God bless you with many more years of health so you can continue. As you said, ask your Dr. But there are times a DR may say go ahead and try, but life/ body will forbid it!
When I see "Greatest Loser" on TV I cringe. Yes , they are big (fat), but they are healthy to the point they can do what needs to be done.(They have had some close calls also). You need to know that you need to be healthy enough in the first place to even attempt this.
Don't get me wrong..I wish you the best, you are a fantastic role model for those who should be doing this, just a warning to those who shouldn't be! Report
Rock on, girlfriend! You are very inspiring! Report
I used to run cross country in high school and loved it -- back when I was skinny. For the longest time, I felt embarrassed to run where others could see me. The fear of RWC (Running While Chunky) was hard to overcome. I was afraid a car might driveby and some clod yell something cruel. I found music helped me focus. And if I played it loud enough, I figured I wouldn't hear any unflattering comments anyway. I'm less chunky now but it took almost a year of walking and running outside before the embarrassment factor went away. Thanks for the great blog post. Report
WOW, I am beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, I can run. I had surgery on my ankle 12 years ago. It was definitely the best thing I have ever done, but he said I can never run again. It is weaker than my right and now the arthritis is beginning to come back. The more I walk the more it hurts, but I have been doing 4 minutes walking, 1 minute running, and 5 minutes walking on the treadmill before strength training. I was a sprinter in Jr high and high school, but could never run long distances. I ran some in college until there were some rapes in the area and it was too hot to run during the day.

Ever since the doctor said I could not run, I have wanted to. I was going to sign up for a 5K next month, knowing I would only walk, but it is one week after a planned surgery and I know the doctor will say no. But he is just going to have to understand that just because snowmobiling is over this coming weekend (yes, I am still riding) it does not mean that I am going to lounge around for the 6 weeks of recovery time. I am taking my current training in next week and asking him, what can I do here and when. I have been at this for over 3 months and I am not going to lose everything I have gained (and gain weight back). But if I must, I must. I do not want to screw up the surgery either. So I will work hard and maybe try some running before my surgery and plan for the future.

Thank you for such awesome inspiration. I think I can be RWC. Report
This is great encouragement . Thank you . Now I want to run a 5K Report
Thanks for the encouragement! I "ran" my first 5K about a month ago at a 50minute time frame. Not great, but I had to start somewhere! Report
I started trying to run a few weeks ago. I started saying I would start running when I got down to about 150 pounds. I was embarresed to run around my neighborhood because of what I saw in my mind as what I would look like running down the road. Plus I have shin splints, not from running, and I was afraid it would hurt too much. I read on sparkpeople that although I may be big, people will have more respect for me when the see me running down the road, because I am doing something about it. I do enjoy it and I would love some suggestions about running with shin splints. Report
KARVY you are my hero!! Once again a great fun and inspirational piece. Report
Great encouragement! I just joined a No Boundaries women's running program. I try to run 1 minute and walk 2 minutes. It's amazing how difficult this is. I've lost over 40 pounds in the last year and have wanted to work up to a marathon for several years. I'm signing up for my first 5K in August. I'm currently at a 13 minutes pace, but hope to improve before race day! Report
Wow You are awesome and an inspiration. Thank you. Report
I agree you are never to big to run. I ran my first 10K at 40 years old and at about 315 pounds. I ran/walked it in about 1:19 which was pretty good. And the fact I did it and completed it is a victory I reflect on quite often. Report
Thanks for sharing the RWC tips. I didn't think I could or should RWC. I will look into finding time to give it a go. I have a 2 year old and work/commute takes 12.5 hours of my day... Report
WOW...this was SUCH an encouragement! I've never been a runner, I'm only going to run if someone is chasing me and my life depends on it:) lol but I've been told a lot in my life I can't do____ (fill in the blank). I found a friend that has the same desire, to do something like running a 5K or such and whala...we're going to work together to do it! I can't definitely helps to know I have a running buddy! I've been working out for just over a month and today I will start with a small jog on the treadmill at the gym. not sure I'll be "fast"...I'm sure I won't:) lol but one day and one step at a time!! Report
Bit unfair to call Robert's podcast boring because you don't like it, after all, walk/run/walk/run is pretty boring if you want to look at it like that..
I personally don't want to be trawling around my music collection for one or two songs that = an 8 min interval and then having to remember that after the ABBA track I should walk. I have been using Robert's podcast for 6 weeks and enjoying the tracks and ease of use, and am grateful that someone had the generosity to make and share the podcast for free.
If it's not for you there are plenty of alternatives, but publicly poo pooing it is hardly in the community spirt, and may put off someone who would like and benifit from the programe. Report
I really liked this blog! Recently I started running (at this point, it's really more like jogging), but I'm out there doing it. I've followed many of the steps above and have found it pretty rewarding. Yes, there are times when it does seem silly that I'm out there, but I keep time and I'm giving it a whirl. My goal is to go for a run with my fiance at the end of the summer, maybe on our honeymoon. Thank you for the advice! Report
I really like this blog. You are such an inspiration. My daughters got me running about three years ago and I love it. I ran a lot of 5K races and once a year a 7 mile race. Last year I ran my first half marathon. It was a great and excellerating feeling. My oldest daughter was at the end of the race cheering me on and when I finished we embraced each other. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Now, I am training for my second half marathon in the fall. Thank you for your inspiring words because I know now that I can keep it up and reach my goal. The old saying of "If I can do it, any one can do it" is so true. I never thought I could do it but look at me now. Who knows maybe a full marathon next year. Thanks again for your inspiring blog. Report
I think the best advice this article has given me is to accept that you are RWC and move on. I'm so focused on being ashamed and what I can't do at this weight that I don't see what I could do. I think tomorrow I'll get myself to the gym and just start walking. Report
This blog is so inspiring, realistic and down to earth, I love it! I'm finishing week 5 this week, when I started running I coudn't go for more than 30 seconds at the time and felt like I was going to pass out on the street! I have come a long way! I spent the better part of my life telling people I couldn't run. Well I am signed up for my first 5k in September, and I can't wait! My husband is my running mentor, he comes with me and encourages not to give up, and never judged me when I couldn't run more than 30 seconds. Running is a great way to challenge myself!
Thanks for this amazing blog and reality check! Report
I have just joined SP and have also just started walking. This article gives me hope that when I'm out there walking & feel the urge to jog a while that it's OK to do it. It's my body & my life & I need to get over what other people think. Report
While overweight and obese people "can" run, doesn't always mean they should. Running multiplies the impact and stress on hips, knees and ankles by up to 7 times your actual weight. Not a good scenario for long term joint health. Be sure to include essential fatty acids in your diet to reduce pain and inflammation, and for their cardio protective qualities. Consult a medical professional if you are taking a blood thinner. Report
I am in Week 7 of C25K and I am still amazed. This week I am running 25 minutes straight. I don't get any results from just walking. Admittedly, I am very self conscious of my size (277 lbs.) and my pace. But I've decided to put that behind me and sign up for a 5k in a couple of weeks. About the "girls"...I wear a sports bra in my size and then a tight-fitting sport tank on top. It gives me more support and helps with wicking the sweat away. About the knees... I recommend strength training and yoga to specifically strengthen the muscles that support the joints. I am a year and half from ankle surgery when the doctor told me she wasn't sure I'd ever be able to even walk around the block. Report
Congratulations for what you have accomplished - keep it going. I am ok with walking for now. Don't really want to up it to running like my racing daughter. Report
My daughter convinced me the other day that even though I'm obese I can still run. Good for you! Report
GREAT BLOG! I am on week 3 of C25K. In reference to podcasts and music, there is an ipod/iphone app that will signal you to walk/run and you can play your own music at the same time. It's a great help for me; I don't think I'd stick with it if I had to time myself. Keep on RWC! Report
YES YOU CAN start running at any weight! AT 5'7, I weighed 225 lb at my heaviest. I started walking. I walked foever. Then I started slowly incorporating running. Believe it or not, at the beginning of this month, I ran a full 26.2 mile marathon at 170 lb!! The girl who started out walking when very overweight would have never in a million years thought a marathon would be possible. But it was, and I did it, and I can't wait to do it again! You can do it too, just stick with it! Report