Bodymode Blog

By Michelle Bird, Oct 26 2018 02:45PM

1. Why is running a good exercise to take up if you're overweight?

As research shows running can significantly improve cardiovascular health and being physically active can also improve your mental wellbeing (NHS, 2018). The majority of beginner runners I coach find that in the first year of running their weight health improves and it has made an impact on conditions such a diabetes, but also helps to improve their mental state too as depression and anxiety has been linked to obesity.

2. Why is it best to have a tailored start-up plan, as opposed to following a generic couch to 5km (for example, why aren't these necessarily going to work if you're overweight)? What might be some of the risks involved in terms of injury or mental set-backs?

A tailored program can help you set realistic goals based on your current fitness level, no matter what your starting point is.

According to Buist and Bredeweg, 2017 overweight novice runners are at a higher risk of a running related injury (RRI) due to the excess weight they are carrying. Overweight runners need to consider starting as a low intensity, with a walking program first in order to help the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles adjust and strengthen for exercise.

There are some couch to 5k programs out there that give specific time frames in which a new runner should be able to complete the task, but when a runner then fails to meet the timeframe, or even time goal, it can be very disheartening. Sometimes life can get in the way and when that happens usually fitness takes a back seat and this can lead to a runner giving up and convincing themselves they are not designed to run. As a coach I have heard this so many times and through coaching I am to help an individual see that’s not the case.

3. With that in mind, what should running programme for someone who is overweight look like?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 2018) the adult population should be moderately active for 2.5 hours a week. For someone who is overweight this would be something to work toward by scheduling between three and five 20/30 minute sessions a week starting from a walking pace, using repetitions of 30 second intervals of fast walk and slow walk.

4. What should someone who is overweight focus on when it comes to technique - and how might this differ to someone who isn't overweight?

All runners need to focus on technique from the start. Someone who is overweight may struggle with balance due to the load on their body. Therefore it would be advised to offer static technical drills to help someone overweight gain better balance before the learn to run. A low impact walking high knee drill is a great way to challenge and improve your balance and coordination.

5. Are there any other exercises or supporting stretches you would recommend to improve the success of the program?

I express to runners the importance of strength training. This is the foundation of any athlete, or beginner exerciser. To help the body move well, improving joint mobility, muscle strength and dynamic movement, strength training is vital and should be part of any weekly training program. I highly recommend Pilates and Kettlebell training as these methods are great for increasing mobility, flexibility and core strength to support running.

6. How should the running plan be supported nutritionally?

For anyone looking to lose weight it’s important to understand nutrition and how exercising alone may not help you lose weight. All tailored training plans focus on improving activity levels and by including some specific information on calorie intake for that person, it can help the runner achieve weight loss and improve internal health, such as body fat reduction.

Learning to run can be a daunting experience for anyone new. Concerns of what people might think and how you are perceived can be a barrier. Seeking a coach is valuable as you’ll get the best advice tailored for you and you’ll find most coaches started where you are now. It’s life changing!

Michelle Bird

Coach in Running Fitness



Buist I, Bredeweg SW Higher risk of injury in overweight novice runners. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2011;45:338.

nhs.uk. (2018). Get active for mental wellbeing. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-benefits-of-exercise/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].

nhs.uk. (2018). Running and walking both good for your heart. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/running-and-walking-both-good-for-your-heart/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].

Quizlet. (2018). ACSM Exercise NEW guidelines 2018 Flashcards | Quizlet. [online] Available at: https://quizlet.com/279831121/acsm-exercise-new-guidelines-2018-flash-cards/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].