There are all kinds of runners, including those who are overweight. If you are one of them, you will most probably find it a lot harder to start running. However, you should not be discouraged and instead consider it only one of the obstacles that you must overcome on your path towards a healthier lifestyle.

In any case, running is a great option that can help you improve your health, get you in shape, boost your confidence, and reduce excess weight.

In this article, I will answer the question of how heavy is too heavy to run and give you some tips on how overweight runners can safely, without injuries, acquire a healthy running habit and reduce excess weight.

17 tips for heavy runners

How heavy is too heavy to run?

Generally speaking, a person is too heavy to run when their tendons, joints, and bones cannot cope with the forces present during running. The heavier a person is, the more stress they put on their body, increasing the likelihood of injury.

A study conducted on 7,801 participants has shown that an increase in body fat percentage negatively affects lung function.

Below I will give you some tips on how overweight runners can safely, without injuries, acquire a healthy running habit and reduce excess weight.

Tips for heavy runners

If you are overweight and you want to run to improve your health and be in nature, there are numerous ways to reduce the risk of injury and enjoy all the benefits of running.

1. Consult a doctor

This is an important step for all beginners, especially for those who are overweight.

Share your plans and goals with your doctor and notify them of all previous injuries that could affect how efficiently you follow your training plan.

If your doctor considers that running is not entirely safe for you, find out all that you need to do to change that.

2. Start with walking

The best advice that I can give you is to start with walking. Walking will help your body, especially your joints and tendons, to get used to the exertion. Keep gradually increasing the duration of walking up until you can walk minimally for 30 minutes without stopping, as that means that you are ready for running.

3. Run slowly

Overweight runners should run slowly at a conversational pace with regular walk breaks. This means that you should be able to speak normally during running.

Most runners make the mistake of doing slow workouts too fast. Remember, every workout has its purpose. The purpose of your workout is to lose excess weight without increasing the risk of injury. Therefore, I advise you to run as slow as possible.

Since ground reaction force increases with speed, if you run many miles at a fast pace, you will increase the risk of injury.

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Elite runners and their coaches know that slow runs are not only a way to avoid injury, but also to improve running performance. Although it doesn’t sound logical, this strategy helps elite runners increase their average weekly mileage, which is one of the most important elements of long-distance running.

By running more often but slowly, you can safely increase your weekly mileage and improve your running performance.

4. Run often

Running, like everything else in life, requires dedication. You will progress only through regular exercising. We all have days when we don’t want to go running for one reason or another. Try to stay persistent in following your training plan, because only a couple of skipped workouts can set your goals back up to a couple of weeks.

Likewise, it is proven that shorter, more regular runs at a slower pace reduce the risk of developing heart disease and thus prolong your life.

Research conducted on 55137 adults has shown that a short 5-10-minute run every day at a slow pace significantly reduces the risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease by 45%, prolonging life by 3 years.

5. Rest between workouts

If you run 3 times a week, you will have enough time to rest. Recovery is just as important as training. Avoid running every day. That way, you will have at least a day of rest between workouts and enough time for a full recovery.

It is important to remember that you can’t run if you are injured, and this will help you minimize the risk of injury.

6. Focus on proper running technique

Running with proper technique is key to preventing injury. But how to run with proper technique?

Keep your body straight at the hip, slightly leaning forward. Your arms move parallel to your body, bent somewhere around a 90-degree angle. Make sure that you don’t raise your arms too high, as this creates tension in your shoulders. The most important thing is that your foot lands directly below the center of mass of your body.

Likewise, it is important that you don’t overstride, that is, bounce too much. That way, ground reaction force caused by bouncing is reduced, along with the risk of injury.

7. Gradually increase weekly mileage

It is desirable that you gradually increase your weekly mileage. A sudden increase in weekly mileage can cause excessive exertion of your muscles, tendons, and joints, increasing the risk of injury.

8. Drink plenty of fluids

Take note of your hydration. Drink plenty of fluids during the day because you will lose them through sweating during running.

Besides fluids, sweating also releases a large amount of electrolytes, so drink isotonic drinks as well, on hot days or during longer workouts.

Likewise, drink fluids during running if you feel the need. It is important to emphasize that you should avoid carbonated drinks full of sugar because they will only hurt your body.

9. Check your diet

Don’t eat anything within an hour before running. It is generally recommended to wait for 3 to 4 hours after a larger meal before running so that food can be digested. Running on a full stomach will negatively affect your running performance and can have negative consequences like nausea, cramps, bloating, and fatigue in your legs.

Read more: Can I Run on a Full Stomach? (Explained in Detail)

10. Wear good running shoes

The biggest mistake you can make is run in inadequate footwear. Due to high stress on the joints and ligaments caused by excess weight, your running shoes must have a soft sole in order to be able to absorb as much force as possible. That way, you will reduce the risk of injury and require less time to recover between workouts.

11. Run on softer surfaces

By running on softer surfaces, such as grass or macadam, you reduce the stress on your joints and tendons and, with it, the risk of injury.

If you have no choice, and you have to run on asphalt or concrete, shorten your stride and run slower to reduce the forces that are present. Furthermore, wear running shoes that have a soft sole in order to reduce stress on your joints and tendons.

12. Listen to your body

By training regularly, your endurance and muscle strength will be increased much faster compared to the strength of your tendons, joints, and bones. Therefore, it is important to listen to your body and not overexert yourself to avoid injury.

Although running is safe for most healthy adults, research has shown that, under the same conditions, excess weight is associated with a higher risk of running-related injuries.

13. Set specific goals

One of the most common reasons for giving up on a training plan is a lack of motivation. Every one of us has different goals, and setting specific goals is recognized as a universal key to success in maintaining motivation. From time to time, revaluate your goals to stay on the right track and to remind yourself of what’s important to you.

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Meeting your goals will not only help you grow as a runner but will also provide great satisfaction and motivate you to keep moving and set yourself new challenges.

Read more: How To Set Running Goals? (Ultimate Guide)

14. Keep a running log

It is good to keep a running log because it allows you to track your progress.

If training becomes too hard, you will be able to check previous notes in your running log and remind yourself how much you have progressed since you started training. That way, you will maintain your motivation more easily.

15. Run in a group

Even if you like to run by yourself, there are a couple of reasons why you should seriously consider running with a friend or a group of runners once or twice a week.

If you make an appointment with your friend, you are less likely to cancel a workout. Likewise, running regularly in a group of runners that have the same fitness level as you will keep you motivated and help you when you are having a hard time.

16. Do isometric strength exercises for runners

Isometric strength exercises are ideal for overweight runners because, when they are performed, the length of the muscles and the angle of joints do not change. They are performed in a static position and require muscle tension without the use of movement. They help develop strength, prevent injury, and rehabilitate.

Both beginners and advanced runners should do them once or twice a week to strengthen their muscles and thus improve their running performance. Strength exercises will also help you burn more calories and thus reduce your body weight.

Read more: Top 12 Isometric Exercises for Runners with Workout Example

17. Stretch before running

If you are overweight, you should do dynamic stretches during the warm-up before every run to reduce the risk of injury.

Dynamic stretches prepare our muscles, tendons, and joints for activities that require more mobility or effort than normal daily movements.

Read more: 20 Essential Dynamic Stretches For Runners

is running bad if you are overweight

From what weight is a runner considered heavy?

Runners are considered heavy if their BMI is above 25 or their weight is greater than 200 lbs.

BMI (Body Mass Index) is one of the ways to calculate your nutritional status. Body Mass Index is often tied to the amount of excess body fat in the human body. It is easily calculable or read from tables.

Use this calculator to calculate your BMI.

If your BMI is under 18.5, it means that you are underweight.

If your BMI is between 18.5 and 25, it means that you have a normal weight.

If your BMI is above 25, it means that you are overweight.

Can I do Couch to 5K if I’m obese?

Couch to 5K programs are designed for people who are not able to run a 5K in one go. Most obese people don’t do any sports. Therefore, Couch to 5k program is ideal for them as it allows progress with minimal risk of injury by gradually advancing continuous running and including four days off a week.

When choosing your Couch to 5K program, make sure it is based on time and not on distance.

Is running bad if you are overweight?

Generally speaking, if an overweight person can walk for 30 minutes without stopping, then running is good for them because there is no great risk of injury.

Likewise, if a person cannot walk for 30 minutes without stopping, then it would be good to reduce weight and strengthen muscles by walking with short pauses and a proper diet so that they are able to run without too great a risk of injury.

At what weight is it safe to run?

Generally speaking, people who weigh less than 200 lbs can run safely as they have low chances of being at risk of injury.

Furthermore, it is important to note that some people who weigh more than 200 lbs can safely run if their muscles are strong enough and can withstand the forces produced during running.

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Increasing the weight of runners also increases the risk of injury. During running, the knee must absorb forces four to five times greater than the weight of a runner. This means that if you have 50 lbs of excess weight, your knee has to absorb between 200 and 250 lbs of extra weight at each step.
17 tips for heavy runners

Will losing weight help me run faster?

Losing excess weight will help you run faster as this way you will improve your maximal oxygen intake (VO2 max), that is, the maximum amount of oxygen that the heart can send to the muscles that use it to produce energy.

According to research from the University of Zaragoza, runners who have a natural ability to achieve a very low percentage of body fat have an advantage in performance over others.


Matea Matošević
Matea Matošević

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Matea Matošević

Hi, I’m Matea! I’m Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…

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