I’m not a small person and I don’t carry the (stereo)typical “runner” physique. I’m still working towards my weight loss goals and my body isn’t light and lanky. I have heavy, solid legs and curves. My mommy tummy still shakes and jiggles when I run and I pound the pavement hard.
Running at this weight might not be ideal, but it still feels pretty damned good! I’m pushing 185-188lbs these days and on a good day can push a 10:10 pace for a 5K. My long runs are much slower, but I can go for miles and miles without needing to rest. Really though, none of that matters–I am a slow runner, I am a larger runner, I am a mother runner, I am a runner.
It doesn’t matter which adjective I use to describe it, it all boils down to the fact that I am a runner. I am strong and powerful and I can accomplish more than my mind knows.
BUT, that doesn’t mean that running larger doesn’t come with its challenges. Having a heavier build often means that you’re exerting more wear and tear on your body. Pounding the pavement hard can take its toll on the body if you do not take the proper precautions. Many of us larger runners take on running as a means to lose weight. Eager to go hard and hit big goals, many new runners are faced with the dread that is a running injury.
Believe me, I’ve faced my share of running related injuries and I know what my body can and can’t handle. Surprisingly, most of said injuries occurred before I even became a runner. In college when I participated on the woman’s rowing team I faced multiple overuse injuries to my knees. I had IT band issues and patellar tendonitis. There really wasn’t a time where pain wasn’t present. I resigned to the fact that I had bad knees and thus couldn’t be a runner.
Fast-forward to today. I haven’t faced any real injuries (aside from the time I didn’t change shoes soon enough) since my running ventures began in 2013. In the first weeks of running I did make the mistake of using my 2-year-old running shoes and soon enough I began to feel pain in my shin. This is when I learned the importance of a good shoe and how easing into training is the best course of action. So, I’ve decided to use my own experiences and compile them with additional tips for preventing injury as a larger runner.
PREVENTING INJURY AS A LARGER RUNNER (aka Clydesdale/Athena runners)
*Please Note: I am not a running expert nor a physician. These tips are based on my own experiences and research.
- Ease into your training. If it hurts when you do it, then don’t do it! I know this seems counterintuitive because running can “hurt” in a good way without causing injury, but what I’m saying is that you need to ease your body into running so that you don’t get injured. If you try to go too fast or too hard too soon, your body will pay the price. I strongly advise that you take a couple of weeks to build and develop strength in your legs. I usedP90X as my foundation builder and I think it’s what helped me feel like I could actually be a runner.Having a proper base is a great way to prevent overuse injuries. This can also be achieved by using one of the beginner runner programs like Couch to 5K. Programs like this ease your body into running and it’s important to follow the program as advised, it is not the time to be an overachiever (which can actually set you back instead of push you further).
- Buy proper footwear. Because we are built heavier, it’s very important to make sure we make the effort to get a proper shoe and to make sure we change our shoes when they lose their support. A good rule of thumb for bigger runners is to find a shoe with a strong midsole support system. For me this just so happens to be Asics Gel Kayanos. Every shoe’s life expectancy varies depending on the runner’s stride, the shoe type, and the conditions the shoes are run in (i.e. concrete running vs. trail running). For myself I usually find the 300 mile range to be my sweet spot. It’s all about listening to your body though! If you start to feel aches and pains that weren’t there a few weeks ago it might be time for a new pair.
- Choose your running surfaces wisely. Not all running surfaces are created equal! Concrete is by far the worse surface to run on, it doesn’t offer any form of shock absorption so your body is faced with the brunt of it. When possible it’s best to opt for softer surfaces–this is why you often see runners on the road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk next to them. I’ve grown to love trail running for this particular reason. My stride is cushioned by the soft ground and the scenery and terrain change makes for a fun run.
- Listen to your body. With any fitness routine it’s always important to listen to your body. If you feel achy and it’s just sore muscles you won’t do too much damage by going out for a quick jog. If you feel pinpoint pain that worsens upon running then you might want to cut back and let your body heal. If you’re not sure what your body needs then you might want to consider seeing a doctor. Persistent pain is a big red flag and ignoring it can lead to permanent injury that can derail your running completely.
- Go your own pace. This goes hand in hand with easing into your training. Group runs are fun, but running with others means that you might try to push yourself too hard.
- Fuel your body. With any new routine (even if weight loss is the goal) it’s important to fuel your body. This is not the time to skimp on your diet. Your body needs to be properly fueled and fed in order to prevent injury. Malnourishment can lead to prolonged recovery and an increased risk of injury and illness.
- Dress the part. Clothing attire might not be something that seems important, but for myself I think it helps! Having the proper clothes can save you from jostling around with each stride and can help prevent chafing.
- Allow for rest and recovery. If you’re just starting out running there is no reason to be running everyday. Your body will need time to recover and repair those hard-working muscles. Ignoring rest days can lead to fatigue and poor form which can cause long-term injuries. As always it’s important to be mindful and listen to your body.
I know that a lot of these tips may seem like common sense, but as a once newbie runner I know that it’s not always so easy. I didn’t know that running shoes weren’t one size fits all. I didn’t know that running surfaces mattered and I didn’t know that a gradual build to running was best. It’s still a learning experience for me, but I am eager to keep running and work on that speed.
Are you a larger runner? What tips do you have to offer? What have been your biggest obstacles?