If you’re wondering how to get back into running after gaining weight, you’re not alone. Far from it,honestly. Millions of people are wondering how to drop some pounds after the one-two punch of the Pandemic and a long winter.
In fact, quarantine weight gain affected almost 36% of the population according to one study.
After gaining a few pounds, you’re thinking about getting back into running, but how do you start?
We got your back. This article will give you some tips and advice for restarting your running career.
- Analyze What Happened – What Caused the Break?
- 5 Tips with Actionable Advice on How To Get Back Into Running After Gaining Weight
- #1. Make Running a Priority and Plan For It
- #2. Get Enough Sleep
- #3. Focus On Your Nutrition
- #4: Cross Training
- #5 Fight the Mental Battle To Push Too Hard
- What Are The Barriers To Getting Back Into Running?
- How To Get Back Into Running After Gaining Weight From Pregnancy
- How To Avoid Weight Gain While Running
- The Final Word
- Read More Great Stuff…
Analyze What Happened – What Caused the Break?
One important aspect to reflect on is what caused the break in the first place? History is important and we don’t want to repeat it. Many times it’s obvious, but sometimes it may be hard to put a finger on exactly why you stopped running in the first place.
Here are a few of the common culprits:
- A big work project or job change
- Family events like a new baby or sickness in the family
Why Do You Gain Weight?
There are several reasons people take extended breaks from running, and many times these breaks are accompanied by weight gain. When the body gets used to a certain weight and activity level, it want’s to maintain it.
When caloric intake drops due to less exercise, our bodies don’t naturally respond by eating less food. Instead, they think they have a great opportunity to put on some weight. Unfortunate, but.. like, survival.
5 Tips with Actionable Advice on How To Get Back Into Running After Gaining Weight
We did our best to create some actionable tips you can take to help you get back on track with running. Our goal was zero fluff, all good stuff. Let us know how we did.
#1. Make Running a Priority and Plan For It
We all know that habits are hard to create. Carving out time for anything these days is challenging and exercise is no different. On top of that, when coming off of weight gain, your energy levels and confidence is not at an all time high. That makes it even harder to stick to a plan.
The best way to make a habit stick is to make it very consistent and ingrained in your schedule. Pick a time every day when there are few other distractions and workout consistently at that time.
Honestly, as much as nobody wants to hear it, first thing in the morning or before work tends to be the most consistent. Who else is going to require your time at 4am? This has always been the best solution for me personally.
This is tip#1 because it’s that important. If you pick a time, stick to it every day, and always show up (regardless of your performance or results), it’s just a matter of time. Your 6-months-from-now self will thank you.
Don’t let feelings of doubt, or being tired, or “not feeling like it” rule your life. Make a plan, and stick to it.
Tip: Be open to how you feel, but don’t let it stop you from completing your task. If you aren’t feel great, you can always modify your intensity or distance, but don’t let your feelings stop you from showing up. Always show up.
#2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of health. When you are tired, everything is more difficult. It’s harder to eat correctly1 because your body is stressed and thinks it needs carbs and sugar to feel better. When you overeat, you will feel even less like running.
Break the cycle and get enough sleep. Another important psychological aspect to creating habits is the positive reinforcement from seeing progress. A lack of sleep will affect your performance which will in turn affect your attitude towards running.
Running for a month straight is great, but if you aren’t running further after a month it’s harder to convince yourself to get up and go hit the trail or pavement for a few miles thinking it’s all for nothing.
Sleep will also help reduce your risk of injury. The only thing more sleep will negatively affect is your Netflix series progression. But, priorities…
#3. Focus On Your Nutrition
Weight loss, resistance training, running fitness and overall health all have one thing in common: great nutrition.
Many runners do well on the track or road, but neglect their eating habits and don’t take proper rest days… both of which are fatal when trying to maximize your athletic performance.
Regular exercise is only part of the equation. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein and a lot of water intake will do wonders to help you push through those last few miles.
#4: Cross Training
In addition to proper nutrition, a cross training plan may help get you back up to speed prior to actually hitting the pavement. Doing some burpees, lunges, running in place, or jumping jacks for 5-10 minutes per day for a few days to get that feeling of your heart racing again isn’t a bad idea.
When you’re body is getting acclimated again, and your mental health is on par, it’s time to plan that running route. Remember, slow and steady is a way to avoid injury.
Don’t Cross Train Too Much
Take a break from exercise for at least three days before trying to get back on track. Start with just walking for 10 minutes a day or doing some light stretching exercises. This will help loosen up your stiff muscles and joints prior to taking the plunge.
#5 Fight the Mental Battle To Push Too Hard
Several things are important to consider when returning to running after weight gain. First and foremost, your condition. If it’s been more than a few weeks since your last run, it’s best to work your way back into it slowly. It’s tough to mentally dial it back when you are use to being able to do more.
Slowly Build Up As You Are Losing Weight
Next, gradually build up intensity and duration until you can run comfortably again. It may take several weeks of training before your endurance is fully restored, so always listen to how your body feels when running.
Be patient. The body starts to lose muscle after about two weeks of inactivity. This process happens faster for your cardiovascular system. Within a few weeks you’ll lose minutes off of your 5k time. But don’t worry, it comes back much quicker as well.
If you start to experience any pain, take a break and rest until the pain subsides. You need to avoid injury to stay consistent and really see the benefits.
Finally, be patient! It takes time to get back into shape after a long break from running.
What Are The Barriers To Getting Back Into Running?
Several things make exercise more difficult after weight gain. Difficult doesn’t mean prohibitive, however. Even though it won’t be easy, it is very doable! Understanding the challenges up front make it easier.
Here is a quick list:
- Joint pain
- Being overly tired and fatigued
- Reduced work capacity (unable to do as much cardiovascular work without getting tired)
We’ll touch on each of these below.
Joint Pain from Running While Overweight
Join pain is a real killer when trying to get through a longer run. Unfortunately, this is a common barrier people face when coming back to running after an extended layoff. Excess weight puts stress on the joints, especially the knees, and can cause pain and swelling.
Additionally, a poor diet can cause inflammation of the joints and create a compounding effect.
Read more here: https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/features/weight-joint-pain
One thing that can help is getting the right shoes to help avoid excess pressure on the joints.
Fatigue and Running: How To Break Through
Fatigue is another stealer of running gains when coming back from a layoff. It’s tough to push through the initial malaise of not wanting to work out, especially when you’re busy with other things.
One word: Caffeine. Caffeine can help give you that extra boost, but ultimately it’s going to come down to motivation. Watching motivational videos, eating healthy and drinking a lot of water can help increase motivation, but simply doing it is where it’s at.
It’s tough. Just make it happen.
Reduced Work Capacity – Unable To Run Far
There’s nothing like getting ready for a hard run. Putting on your shorts, shoes, and sweat band to head out the door and make the fabled run from Marathon to Athens (interesting story of how marathons started) is exhilarating.
It can come up a little short, however, when you huff about for 1/4 mile and are exhausted.
This is part of the process – just keep pushing. Slowly add distance and push yourself each run. Don’t let yourself cheat and slow down or stop early. Don’t walk through the finish line.
Teach your body you’re in control and it listens to you.
Over time, this will get better. It comes back faster than it took to earn it in the first place. You’re body already knows, you just have to remind it.
How To Get Back Into Running After Gaining Weight From Pregnancy
Pregnancy specific weight gain is the same as any other weight gain. It will take some time to readjust to your larger form and build up your endurance and strength again.
There are differences, however. It isn’t just the weight gain. There are the other changes that take place in your body throughout pregnancy that will be new as you get back into running.
There is also a new baby in the mix! While babies are great, they can make staying consistent more difficult. Give yourself some grace and do your best.
Hot Tip: The right jogging stroller can really help make your life easier as you get back into running. If you want the lightest weight stroller you are going to pay for it, but many budget options also exist and are great.
This topic requires an entire article on it’s own.
How To Avoid Weight Gain While Running
Now that you are running again, let’s talk about strategies for weight management.
We already covered nutrition, which is key. But that aside, specific to running, there are a few important things to focus on. The first is good form.
Good form means using proper running technique, which can help you run more efficiently and prevent injuries. Staying consistent is the only way to really see results with exercise, and injury prevention is the only way to stay consistent.
Trainer smarter, not the same way everyone else does, and you will reduce the number of overuse injuries like Achilles tendonitis, Morton’s Neuroma, and others.
Vary your workouts. Mixing up your routine will help avoid boredom and keep you motivated. This includes plans to cross train on rest days, if possible, and work on your mental health. Mental health is a critical part of success in long-term, sustainable exercise programs.
The Final Word
Running is a great way to stay in shape, but it’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. If you’re feeling pain or fatigue, take a break. And always consult with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
Now that you know how to get back into running after gaining weight, go out there and start running. It’s a simple process, but it isn’t easy.
Gaining weight can make getting back into running a little more difficult, but it’s not impossible. You’ll just need to take things slow and gradually add distance to your runs.
1Greer, Stephanie M et al. “The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain.” Nature communications vol. 4 (2013): 2259. doi:10.1038/ncomms3259