Has it been a while since your last run? Maybe an injury sidelined you, life got in the way, and pounds started to pile up? Regardless of the reason, you’re probably looking to learn how to get back into running when you are overweight or out of shape, and we’re here to help. 

We’ll discuss how to manage expectations before you get back into your running and look into tips for injury prevention, motivation, nutrition, and more. Let’s dive in!

In This Article

Manage Expectations 

Running can be challenging, as it puts stress on your body. Pushing yourself too much too soon can increase your risk of a runner’s knee, runner’s ankle, and other injuries. Then there’s the risk of losing motivation, too.

But managing your expectations and setting inspiring yet attainable goals can go a long way. You can run to lose weight, to get fit, to improve your mental health and relieve stress, or simply because it’s fun. 

Once you figure out why you want to run, think about your goals and start following a plan. That will make it easier to get back into running and can do wonders for your motivation.

Stopping running changes your body by decreasing your blood volume and your lactate threshold. Your muscle conditioning also falls, weakening your musculoskeletal system. If you’ve been running for years before stopping, going back to it will be easier than if running was never a habit for you.

Whether you want to know how to start running when overweight or how to start running when out of shape, the next tips should have you covered.

Reflect Before Returning to Running 

Before restarting your running journey, reflect on why you stopped. Analyzing your behavior and getting to know yourself better will help you set new goals and keep your motivation.

For instance, if it was bad weather that disrupted your running routine, consider getting a treadmill. If it was a lack of motivation – think about joining a sports group or using a running app to keep you accountable. 

And remember that whether it was long winter months or lockdown and pandemic that led to weight gain – you’re not alone. Stress is linked to obesity, as our bodies store more fat during hardships, and we are more likely to opt for unhealthy food when stressed. 

Tips to Get Back Into Running After Weight Gain

Knowing how to start running again the right way is all about being practical and taking it slow. One run at a time will get you there. No feats of exertion are necessary.

1. Build a habit

Plan your runs, and show up every day, even if you run only for a short while. That’s how you build a running habit – through showing up. In the beginning, showing up for your runs is far more important than running a lot or running hard.

Important: Don’t get ahead of yourself. Getting back into running shape should be a gradual process so you avoid injury and maintain motivation

You also want to avoid comparing yourself to others. For some people, running is easier than for others. And so is returning to running after inactivity – back to those body changes we’ve been mentioning.

The thing to remember is that you’re not running a race and are not in a competition. The only comparison you should make is between your running self and your lazy self. You’re running again, so that means you’re making progress.

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checking weight on a scale when getting back into running

2. Set attainable goals

It may take you a while to run as much as you used to. And that’s perfectly okay. Your running goals should be in tune with your fitness level, time, and energy you can invest in your runs. And they should be honest.

Limit your mileage, focus on form, and build a base. You want to run enough to want to keep on running more without feeling sore or increasing the risk of injury.

Tip: Make your running goals specific, measurable, and easy to track. Write them down in a runner’s diary or log them using an app.

3. Stay motivated

What does PR mean in the gym if not a new reason to celebrate? A personal record is motivating and empowering, and you want to track your runs to see where you stand.

But remember that personal records are not the end goal of training. Treat them as milestones and challenges that can inspire you to stay motivated.

Other ways to stay motivated include being part of a running community, logging your runs, and sharing your progress. Don’t forget about rewarding yourself for putting in your runs.

a selection of healthy foods for runners such as carrots, broccoli, salmon, berries, oranges, asparagus, lemon, avocado

4. Eat balanced meals 

No matter how strong your running routine is, you can’t outrun a bad diet. A balanced diet is essential for your overall health, contributing to your running performance and weight loss success. 

Well-balanced meals, including complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and lean protein, can help to burn fat and preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Additionally, it provides necessary nutrients, regulates appetite, and promotes the feeling of satiety for longer. 

So if you’re wondering how to get back in running shape faster, focus on improving your eating habits.

5. Follow a training plan

A training plan can help you bounce back after a break easier. It provides a clear structure to follow, ensuring you stay motivated. 

If you’re getting back to running after a long break, reassess your fitness level first. Decide how many days a week you can commit to regular exercise and create your schedule around it. 

Your goals can also help you choose a training program. For instance, if losing weight is your primary goal, then opt for a weight loss plan for runners.

It’s important to ease into your new routine to prevent injuries. Begin with brisk walking and slowly increase your distance and pace. Aim to train 3–4 days a week for safe progress.

Apps like Joggo can help you craft a running plan around your goals, lifestyle, and current fitness level.

runner who is careful about avoiding injuries

6. Avoid injuries

For those heavily overweight, running longer distances might not be safe. Extra weight can cause breathing problems and put a strain on joints and muscles. That’s why losing some weight before starting to run is often recommended. 

Maintaining good form and not doing too much too fast can help you reduce the risk of injuries. It’s also important to wear the right running shoes for you.

Know your pronation type and get extra cushioning if your BMI is high. But avoid super soft soles as they may increase leg stiffness.

Important: If you’re out of shape, running 20–30 minutes is more than enough at first. Long runs may put too much stress on your body than it’s prepared to handle.

7. Cross-train and build strength

If you’re wondering how to get back in running shape faster – cross-train with some strength and resistance exercises. 

Resistance exercises can help you recover and prevent injury. If an injury has been sidelining you, running gently coupled with progressive resistance training are your friends.

Strength training is also important because it helps you work underdeveloped muscles and balance muscle groups. A runner with balanced muscle groups has better balance, more flexibility, and is less prone to injury.

Consider cross-training, too, including swimming, cycling, or yoga. Cross-training on days when you don’t run helps you build strength and endurance without straining your joints.

runner sleeping in bed

8. Have enough rest

Rest days are as important as runs, so don’t forget about them. You become a better runner if you give yourself the time to rest after demanding runs.

A good running plan has rest days built into it, but you should also listen to your body. If your body tells you that you need an extra day of rest, don’t feel guilty about not running. As you get back into shape, your body will grow stronger and be able to recover more quickly.

9. Train for a race

If you’re currently overweight, running a race can seem impossible. Don’t let this discourage you. 

While you do need to be in good form to run a half-marathon or marathon, training for shorter distances, like 5K, can be very motivating. You can focus on a set goal and deadline, making you less likely to skip workouts. 

Another advantage of joining a race is community. You can connect with other runners online or through an app to help you train or join a running group for company and support. 

Tip: Run local races first, as these don’t come with the stress of long-distance travel. Reserve your place in advance if needed.

two runners getting back into running

10. Get accountability buddies

If you’re seriously out of shape, running again can seem like a challenge. But having accountability buddies makes it easier. 

Joining a running group can give you a sense of community and belonging, making each run more enjoyable. 

Local park runs are another great option, offering a welcoming atmosphere for runners of all levels. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy daylight and fresh air – a real mood booster!

If you’re not ready to join a running group, invite a friend or family member for a run. Introducing a friendly competition by regularly getting active can enhance your bond and ensure you commit to your schedule. 

How Quickly Can You Get Back to Running?

If an injury has been sidelining you, it is best to allow your body to recover completely before getting back into running. Unless you have a doctor’s approval, wait until you are completely pain-free. 

If it’s a question of carrying extra pounds and being out of shape, it may take a few months. You might have to get in shape first to make a gradual return and protect your joints and bones from extra pressure. 

A safe approach is to start with short walk/run sessions of up to 20 minutes 3–4 days a week for 2–3 weeks. You can then gradually increase the run time by 2–8 weeks before doing full runs. In total, it can take you anywhere from 4–11 weeks to feel like you’re a consistent runner again.

FAQ 

Is it harder to run after gaining weight?

Running can be more challenging after you gain weight. The extra weight increases the load your body must carry, requiring more effort from your muscles and cardiovascular system. 

This can make running feel more strenuous, and you may notice a decrease in your speed or endurance. But don’t be discouraged.

The body adapts remarkably well to increased stress, and with consistent training, you’ll likely see improvement over time. Remember, it’s not just about speed or distance but also about overall health and enjoyment.

How do I get back into running shape?

Getting back into running shape after you’ve stopped running can seem daunting. However, with a solid plan, you might be able to get there in as little as several weeks. 

You can start your routine with walking and gradually increase it to short, slow runs until you feel ready to run longer distances. Consistency is key to improving your performance and regaining your previous running form. 

Remember, it may take time to achieve your running form. The best way to get back into running is by staying patient with yourself and enjoying your journey back to fitness. 

Takeaways

Understanding how to start running if you are out of shape can ensure you progress safely and don’t quit after the first week. So, before you hit the pavement, keep these things in mind: 

  • Training consistently is more important than running a lot when it comes to getting back into shape.
  • Resistance training, strength training, and cross-training can help you return to form on days when you don’t run.
  • Stay motivated by logging your runs, networking with other runners, rewarding yourself, and training for a race.
  • Give your body at least a few weeks to run well again without the risk of injury.
  • Value rest days as much as you value your running sessions – they’re as important.

Knowing how to get back into running ultimately boils down to starting small and having goals and a plan. And now, enjoy your run!

Looking for some guidance while getting back into running? Trust the Joggo app to safely guide you to your goals. Take a quick quiz, and join Joggo to discover:

  • Running plan created around your goals, needs, and lifestyle
  • Friendly and motivating audio guide
  • Personalized meal plan with hundreds of recipes 
  • Advanced trackers to monitor your distance and pace 
  • Educational articles and smart tips and tricks

References:

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Written by

Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis is the Head Running Coach and founder of Joggo – that one person on earth who loves interval runs.  He holds a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is an avid runner – having participated in numerous marathons and triathlons, Chris brings substantial fitness and running experience to the Joggo team.