How to run when you’re overweight

Tuesday, 03 November 2015 1224 Views 0 Comments
How to run when you’re overweight

By Kiran Mehta

You’re never too big to run, says ultramarathon runner and coach, Kavin Kondabathini. Follow his advice to get off the couch, and on your feet, even if the (weighing) scales aren’t tipped in your favour

In a study conducted by The Lancet *, it was discovered that India is the third most obese country in the world. Junk food, alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle have led one in every five Indians to be overweight or obese. The good news is that it’s not too late to lose weight. The answer to combating this epidemic could lie in a primitive form of exercise that’s pretty much in our DNA – running. Unfortunately for the obese, running can be quite a challenge. But it’s not impossible, says Kavin Kondabathini, who has trained more than a handful of overweight and obese individuals to take to the track. Here’s his 6-point guide for the overweight runner:

1) Talk to the Doc: Your increased BMI puts you at a higher risk of heart-disease, diabetes, blood-pressure, joint issues, etc. Running, like any other intense cardio activity, will have you breathing harder, pushing every muscle in your body, and increasing your heart-rate. Make sure you unearth any underlying conditions before you take it up. If you suffer from any lifestyle diseases, fret not; you may still be able to take up running, under supervision with a routine, pace, and diet plan set for you. Remember, even a small weight loss of about 5 per cent of your current weight, can reduce your risk of developing the above mentioned ailments.

2) Body talk: You’re carrying around a lot more weight than the average Joe/ Jane. This puts excessive burden on your joints. The most common injuries in overweight runners are:

a) Runner’s knee.The right form and gear may combat it;

b) Ankle-sprains, which can be treated by working on your form and picking the right shoes;

c) Back pain as the increased adipose puts pressure on the spine. Once again, correct posture, together with gear such as a back-brace can provide support. But, don’t self-treat. Talk to your coach and doctor about the symptoms.

Researchers from the John Hopkins University have found that episodic migraines are more likely to affect people with a higher BMI. Ironically, migraines are often triggered by exercise. Yet, losing weight reduces the frequency of migraines. Given the catch-22, it’s not uncommon for overweight runners to complain of headaches as they first start running. But that’s no reason to give up; the headaches can be taken care of by warming-up, reducing the intensity of your work-out, fuelling up before a run, and working on building endurance gradually. If it persists, stop running and visit a doctor.

3) Pick the right gear: Compression garments provide greater support and reduce impact forces. Dry fit materials move sweat away from the body, and prevent the chance of chafing and infections.

To protect your joints, it may help to understand your pronation, and invest in light-weight shoes with increased cushioning.

4) Wear Blinders: The overweight are particularly conscious of their bodies. Can you blame them given that fat shaming is very real in our society. Tara Patel (name changed) says, “I remember cars whizzing past me, with people screaming, ‘aye moti’ as I’d be running by.” Tara’s advice: Stop worrying about what your look like when you’re running. Instead, concentrate on how much better you’ll look in that black dress or fitted blouse if you stick to the programme, and lose weight. Keep your eye on the goal, and watch your self-consciousness fade away with every lap.

5) Get set. Go: It won’t be easy. But it’s possible. Here’s Kavin’s plan to get you up and running.

  1. Walk before you run – Take up walking for about 2 months as this will work on your cardiovascular system, slowly and gently. It will also help loosen your joints, lowering your risk of injury. Walk briskly, at a pace where it’s tough to carry on a conversation; 3 – 5 times a week. Start by walking for just 20 minutes a day; take it up gradually to 60 minutes.
  2. Walk and run – Fit some running into your 60-minute power walk. Walk 2 minutes, run for 20 seconds. Walk, run, repeat. Over a period of a week, add 10 seconds to your run intervals. Overtime, your running intervals will be at par with your walking intervals.
  3. Run more than you walk – You should be able to increase your running intervals such that the time spent running is more than the time spent walking, within a 60-minute work-out. Listen to your body; then push it. But don’t increase the pace of your work-out more than 15 per cent per week.

6) Watch what you eat: The key to weight loss lies in creating a calorie-deficit. Eat healthy and visit a specialist to have a diet plan created just for you.

(Kavin Kondabathini is an international marathon and ultramarathon runner and trainer. He represented India at the World Master Games, 2013, where he brought home the Bronze in the half-marathon)


*The Lancet is a weekly peer reviewed, general medical journal. It is one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals

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