Running 101: 5 Things To Make Running Tolerable

Running is one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular exercise for weight loss. However, when you’re first starting out, especially if you’re severely obese, running can be torturous and darn near impossible.

That’s the most common excuse I hear. I don’t run because running hurts. Why, yes, it does. If you’re overweight and/or out of shape, if your body isn’t used to it yet, then yes, it’s going to hurt. But not forever.

The first time I tried to jog, I weighed 239 pounds (I’m 5’6”, so that was dangerously obese for my height). I’ve lost over sixty pounds since then, and looking back now, I’m amazed I ever jogged again after that first try. For the first few months, I had horrible shin pain. But I wanted to be a runner, so I forced myself to do it every other day, and each time, I cried my way around the track and iced my legs as soon as I got home. 

And you know, it’s no surprise that it was such a struggle back then. Just think: it was like trying to run while carrying TWELVE 5 lb. sacks of potatoes!

But I never stopped. When the pain in my shins brought me to tears, I kept shuffling along. When I got a sharp side cramp, I took a quick stretching break, then went right back to moving. I’m not sure I would have been able to do this, though, if I hadn’t obtained the following things along my way. The five items listed below changed everything for me. Running went from pure agony to something bearable to, eventually, something enjoyable and even, dare I say it? Fun.

1. A Really Supportive High-Impact Sports Bra

Champion Sports Bra Double Dry High-Impact - 1602 (click for more)

If you’re a guy, you can just go ahead and skip to #2 (IDK, though, if you’re very obese and dealing with a man-boob issue. I’m not making fun; I’ve always been concerned about what you do in this situation.).

This might cross the TMI-line, but when I first started running, I wore a size 42 DDD. I didn’t know anything about sports bras back then, what high-impact or low-impact meant. Besides that, my chest was so large, it was hard to find a store that sold sports bras that big (I guess they think if you’re that huge, you don’t work out, so you obviously don’t need a sports bra). I ended up buying the cheapest, biggest one I could find. And it was a sad, flimsy thing more suited to yoga. Or sleeping. NOT running.

Words cannot express how difficult running was because of the extra-large bosom. Let’s just say all the “movement” was distracting, irritating, embarrassing, and so very painful.

My friend recommended Moving Comfort, one of the highest rated bra sellers online. But their bras were like $54.00 a piece, and though my friend said it was worth the money, I didn’t have that much money to spend. Instead, I found this AMAZING high-impact (high-impact is the key!) Champion bra at a nearby Leggs/Hanes outlet store. The picture up there is a link to Kohl's website, where they have it for $46.00. But if you can find one of those outlet stores, you can get it for close to half that price.

And let me tell you. This bra was LIFE-CHANGING. Seriously. If you’re a big-chested girl and you don’t have one, you need one. Right now.

2. Decent Running Shoes

Nike Dual Fusion Lite High-Performance Running Shoes (click picture for more)

Again, when I started running, in addition to being severely obese, I was also quite broke (jobless, actually). I had one pair of tennis shoes, a $20 pair of imitation Skechers Shape-Ups that I’d had for two years. Let’s discuss the problems here: 1) They were designed for walking, 2) They were old and worn out, 3) Not that there’s anything wrong with a good deal, but they were cheap, questionable knock-offs to start with.

When I decided I really wanted to get better at running, I sucked it up, saved my dollars, and bought a pair of $65 Adidas running shoes. OMG. The relief on the pavement was immediate and incredible. The shin pain disappeared. And I felt so much steadier (probably because I’d been wearing mini rocking chairs before).

I have since purchased a pair of Nike Dual Fusions, and they far surpass the Adidas. They’re so light and comfortable. I highly recommend them! Yes, they are expensive. But if you're going to be running a lot, you need them to prevent injury. Paying for good shoes is, in the long run, cheaper than doctor's appointments, x-rays, MRIs, and pain medicine. If you can't afford them now, start saving.

3. Compression Pants

Women's Active by Old Navy Compression Pants (click for more)

I gotta say, this one took some major convincing for me. Squeezing my dimply bottom half into a pair of skin-tight pants that aren’t too far from leggings sounded like a very bad idea. Plus, they looked like they would be constricting, like they might cut off circulation. And they definitely looked like they would ride up into places they should not be.

But I was in for a pleasant surprise. They are tight, but it’s just like the sports bra. You get so much extra support. These pants hold all the flab in place while you move, allowing you to move better. And the black ones are surprisingly becoming. If you get the right size, they can actually make you look smaller.

The most comfortable, best-fitting ones I have came from Old Navy. I put the long pants up there because it's cold outside at the moment, but my absolute favorites are the capris:

Women's Active by Old Navy Side-Print Compression Capris (click for more)
Check Old Navy often, because they put them on sale pretty frequently (they're on sale right now, actually).

4. Thick Socks

Saucony Women's Ultra Cushioned Running Socks (click for more)

Two words: Toe Blisters. I’ve struggled with toe blisters and calluses since day one. This is a common complaint, especially if you run often. The pros say that great runners have some nasty-lookin’ feet. And let me tell you, I had a callus on my left big toe that was so hideous, I was embarrassed to take my socks off at yoga class. But there is hope! I’ve found that if I wear extra-thick socks or double up on my usual socks, I won’t get blisters or calluses!

As weird as it sounds, I’ll usually wear two pairs for longer runs. But most of the time, I wear these great thick-yet-breathable Saucony socks. They're a bit pricey online, but I found a pack of 6 for $5 at Ross Dress for Less. There are probably some much better options out there, but these work wonders for cheap ol’ me.

5. A Portable Music Device with Headphones (And Some Awesome Music)

Some people prefer running in the quiet while outdoors, just being alone with the sounds of nature. I like to do this, too. For about three minutes. Then I start thinking about my tired calf muscles. My breathing. How long have I been going? Has it been a mile yet?

I need my music. It’s a great distraction from any pain or shortness of breath or sheer boredom that might occur. And whether it’s classic rock or electric pop, there are some songs that just make you want to move. Running becomes fun when the cadence of your feet hitting the ground matches the beat of the music.

My phone has a built-in MP3 player, and I’ve created several different playlists for different running experiences. I have a rock playlist, an oldies playlist, an epic soundtrack one. It really helps to mix it up.

As far as the other typical ailments go, just hang in there. Force yourself to take long, deep breaths while you’re moving to ease the gasping for breath. Stop and stretch out the right-side pain. Ice those shins. Take walking breaks when you need to, but always come back. Never quit. Never give up. Yes, it hurts, but it won’t hurt forever.

Do any of you experienced runners out there have any suggestions? What helped you when you were getting started? What are some things you can’t run without? 


Jessica said...

Great tips! I need to invest in another sports bra and some running socks. Just can't seem to part with my dollars. Gotta do it though!

Jennifer said...

Yes, you NEED to do it if you wanna get serious about running. It's so worth it! Having the right tools will completely transform your running experiences for the better, I promise!

Lacey said...

I bought a high impact sports bra on Friday before our 5K and OH MY GOSH it was amazing!! I wanted to wear it all day! Lol. I completely agree with you on this one, it makes the biggest difference for us well-endowed ladies.

I am going to spring for compression pants next. I keep thinking it's a bad idea as well... I've seen myself in leggings and it's not pretty. BUT I totally understand the logic behind them and I can see how slimming other women look in them, so it's gotta be the same for me too, I bet!

I know this is an old post but again, I am looking for as much inspiration as I can find on running right now. So thanks!! :)