How do I start running?
May 24, 2005 11:40 AM   Subscribe

So I'm overweight, have been my entire life with a couple of exceptions. I'm 6'5" and around 290 lbs. Which actually isn't as bad as it sounds, even at my skinniest (post-military) I have a 50" chest. But I'm still pretty out of shape and would like to fix that.

So to this end, I joined a gym. Unfortunately I then proceded to break my left arm, which means I can't do any sort of weights with it for the next 6 months (I broke it good). So after putting my gym membership on hold, I still want to get in shape.

I figure running is probably my best bet. How did you get motivated to start running? What motivates you when you do run? I've got shoes, I've got an MP3 player, I even have a dog who would love to go running with me. But frankly, the only things that have ever helped me lose weight are being single and joining the military. Breaking up with my girlfriend and re-enlisting just so I can get motivated seems like a poor way to go about doing it.

Bonus Question 1: Is there anything I can do to build upper body strength knowing that I'm pretty limited in what sort of weight I should be lifting with my broken arm? I broke it 6 weeks ago, it's not in a cast, and I have full range of movement in it, but since it's held in place with metal plates, those aren't good indicators of healed

Bonus Question 2: Is there something other then running I should be doing?

Bonus Question 3: Why does my right shoulder hurt where it joins my neck when I run?
posted by KirTakat to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Run with your girlfriend. Seriously, I never had the motivation to work out until my s.o. started doing it with me. Now, we force each other go to go the gym before we can start cooking dinner, and all is well. If your girlfriend doesn't want to run, convince a friend or relative to be your running partner.

2) I've heard swimming is really good for you, but I don't know how you'd do that with a broken arm.

3) a-you've hurt something and should see a doctor or b-you tense up your arm and neck muscles when you run. Don't clench your fists and make sure to thoroughly stretch first.
posted by muddgirl at 12:10 PM on May 24, 2005

You can always start out walking and work your way up to jogging. When I fall out of habit, I find it easiest to go for a "run" a couple of times that consists of doing the before and after stretching and walking the track. I find this actually helps get me motivated to run the next time. After establishing a schedule and sticking to it, it's the running itself that provides the motivation to do it. Also, running music that works for me involves high beats per minute. I recommend punk rock.

Bonus Question 2: Cycling and/or Swimming (after the arm heals). You may want to consult your Doctor or a sports physician about Bonus Question 3 (I'm neither).

You didn't mention it, so forgive me if this is territory you are already aware of but when you return to the gym (and you are still running!), you want to ensure that your excercises and weight training aren't bulking you up since it sounds like you want to drop weight and add definition/tone. Simple rule of thumb: less weight, more reps.

On preview: In addition to where we say the same things, I agree w/muddgirl about getting a running partner if you can.
posted by safetyfork at 12:17 PM on May 24, 2005

First check with your doctor to see if you're in sufficent physical condition to start whatever sort of exercise regime you're thinking of. A heart attack could stop your running career pretty quick.

Why not just start walking or hiking first? Going right into running (especially if you're a bit overweight) seems like a good way to put a lot of sudden stress on your joints and injure yourself. It's also a better way to socialize with your gf and your dog. A long hike followed by a long shower feels just *awesome*.

Swimming is also excellent exercise and essentially zero impact (as long as you're not doing cannonballs or belly flops - heh). It also might do the trick for your upper-body strength until your arm is healed.

As far as your shoulder pain, could it be because you're favoring the other arm a lot and throwing your self out of balance? Safe movements/exercise can become dangerous ones if you're adjusting for an injured body part. Or you could just have a pinched nerve, or something else messed up from when you broke your arm. It might be worth a trip to the doctor if that doesn't clear up.

Just stick with the simple things for now to exercise. They're the easiest to stick with, the cheapest, and often work the best anyway.

-- on preview: apparently there is some agreement going on here.
posted by BrandonAbell at 12:19 PM on May 24, 2005

For me personally, running is the only way to lose weight. I need a good hour a day to maintain my weight.

I recommend a cheap heart rate monitor. I have a Polar, which also works with most treadmills/elliptical machines.

I find that by charting my heart rate results from the monitor, plus running in your recommended range, really motivates me. I can pull up Excel, and see that my resting heart rate has declinded steadily over the last few years. Also, my total time to do my run has steadily declined. That's cool.

The only problem I have with my MP3 player is that if I crank the volume, it gets difficult to hear the HRM bitching because I'm pushing too hard.

I'd say stay away from weights until the doctor says so. I broke the cap off my elbow (amazingly un-fun), and it was two months before I felt confident. I had freedom to lift after four weeks, but my doc told me to feel the pain, and let that be my guide. In other words, you should feel what level of pain is just stress, and what level is actually damaging. Much easier to experience than explain, I think.

Best of luck,
posted by kungfujoe at 12:27 PM on May 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the help guys:

As far as partners: I'm kinda SOL on that one, my friends either live too far away, or in the case of my SO, aren't interested (she has joint issues and the running exacerbates them)

Swimming: That's actually not a bad idea, hadn't even considered it. I live in Chicago so I could probably find a Y around here somewhere. And like I said, if you look at my arm and my daily activities, you would never know it was broken (amazing considering I broke both bones in my wrist straight through and shoved them outside their protective casing (i.e., the skin)) so I can't imagine swimming would be too rough, but I'll be sure to ask my doctor first.

General Health: Actually, I'm pretty healthy in general, I'm young (25) and before the broken arm, quite capable of playing sports, just got a bit winded. So I'm not too worried about a heart attack.

BQ3: I forgot to mention that the right shoulder thing isn't new or related to my broken arm by any means... this has been ongoing for as long as I've can remember.
posted by KirTakat at 12:29 PM on May 24, 2005

Shoulder injuries of that nature are fairly common. You should see a doctor who can recommend corrective exercises and make sure it isn't something more serious.

Also, won't the doctor who put the plates in tell you when you can do exercise again?

Anyway. Get a stop watch and make a chart of your progress on a fixed-length course on the streets where you live. Walk the first day to get a baseline and then start to walk faster and alternate with periods of running. Having goals and measurable progress always help. Then when you can run the entire course with relative ease, pick a longer course.
posted by anapestic at 12:35 PM on May 24, 2005

Response by poster: Anapestic: The issue isn't about not being able to work out, I just can't do any weights or anything, and I've never really done running (other then the military). Otherwise my doctor said that it would be six months before I should do any heavy lifting.
posted by KirTakat at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2005

Running with a broken arm seems like a bad idea. Every time you take a step you jar it.
posted by smackfu at 12:43 PM on May 24, 2005

I had a boyfriend with a similar shoulder complaint, it turned out to have nothing to do with his shoulder. His doctor discovered that one leg was shorter than the other and he favored the other side so much it threw off his alignment. YMMV, of course.
posted by cali at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2005

If you're like me and completely demotivated to run, it might be because you don't like doing it, and you're never going to stick with an exercise you don't like.

I get round this by putting an exercise bike in front of the TV and cycle during shows I like - that way my mind is distracted from how boring regular exercise can be.

I also use a Polar heart rate monitor, which has really changed my attitude to exercising - it gives you feedback with which to work with that's much better than, "I can't walk today so that must have been a good workout last night...".
posted by forallmankind at 12:54 PM on May 24, 2005

I had a similar problem, as did some of my friends. We solved it by making a fairly sizable bet on our weight loss (enough that losing would sting). Now it's not just boring-old running, it's a competition that I want to win.
posted by mosch at 1:12 PM on May 24, 2005

KirTakat, I would speak to a doctor before you engage in a running program. I come from a tall family (I'm 6'2" and one of the shorter ones) and running has been problematic for us. I think when you're a person of a larger frame, running can put a lot of wear and tear on your joints. Plus, if you're carrying around extra weight, that can add even more stress. My brother (who is about 6'7") isn't even 30, quite fit, and he needed major knee surgery after a few years of running. He now bikes and hikes for his cardio exercise. Also, with your broken wrist, I would be doubly cautious.

So my advice is talk with your doctor. If s/he clears you, a program you may want to check out is CARA's beginning running program. I know folks who have done well with this one.
posted by Sully6 at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2005

Couch to 5k is a pretty basic, clear-cut running program. Having an exact schedule like that may help you stick to your plan.

Depending on your mp3 player, you may be able to set it up as a stopwatch so you'll know when to stop/start running in a way that's much more interesting than a regular stopwatch. Here are instructions for doing it with an ipod.
posted by undertone at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2005

I use a stationary bike, and the only way I can motivate myself is to tell myself when I get on the bike that I only have to do it for 10-20 minutes (because the first ten are the hardest for me.) If I stick them out, I can usually tack on the extra 20 or 50 minutes of my program because at that point I'm warmed up and it gets easier.

If you decide to run, you may find it easier (for the same reason) to pick a shorter route and do laps. And I second the advice to start easy (walking, etc.) and be careful not to seriously hurt your shoulder. Good luck!
posted by sophie at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2005

For the running pain, I personally find that after races (I race 1500, 3000, and 5k) what's actually SORE on me is my upper body, especially shoulders. Some of that's form, some of that's power... you may be trying to run too hard. Make sure your elbows are at 90* angles and that you're loosly balling your fists. Keeping your hands open will put all sorts of weird strain on your shoulders. I've also heard of people running with sticks in their hands, and supposidly this helps also.

For generally getting in shape, backpacking is *the best* way to lose weight. On a backpacking trip this summer (3 days, 25 miles, so not extreme) I went from (5'10) 150lbs to 140lbs. I wasn't really looking to lose weight, so I never bothered stabalizing again afterwards, but I seem to remember it kept it off for a while (and I'm not shy at all about eating).
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:42 PM on May 24, 2005

I have a hard time getting up motivation for a lot of things, but I don't hard a hard time getting motivated to go jogging. The appeal for me is that I don't have to think about anything: I know where my sweats are, I wear the same clothes every time, I stick to the same route, I don't bother with a music player, or even a stopwatch. Also I stick to a comfortable pace which enables me to run every day and also means that I don't need an hour to recover from the jog which happens if I'm trying to beat my best time. Keeping it simple means that I can make myself go jogging even when I'm too tired to watch TV.
posted by teleskiving at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2005

All I can say is, that if you want to start running, just run. Of course, pay attention to health, injuries, and so on. But why aren't you running right now? Why didn't you go running this morning?

Don't worry about setting up some program. Don't worry about the right shoes, or outfit, or route. If you want to become a runner, just run. Too many people are masters of everything about running except for the tedious running part of it.
posted by yesno at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2005

Consider joining a running club. Most will have groups for different skill levels. Keep the pace conversational and time flies.

I'd also invest in a quality pair of running shoes. You'll probably want a motion-control shoe for support.
posted by jessemellon at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2005

I like to run, and run a fair amount, so my advice may not be that useful. But I also find a lot of forms of running quite boring, and I'm unable to follow any kind of regimen or program with charts and stuff. Obviously not everyone is like that. So here's what keeps running fun for me:
- running with radio headphones like these (nothing to carry, no cables flopping around). Music helps a lot. With the right tunes, I can go twice as far, twice as fast, and it can be near-ecstatic. And even listening to talk radio, I don't get bored.
- running in new places. I love to run when I'm traveling. Even at home I like to get lost, discover new places, and have a different sense of space than when using other ways of getting around.
- running from one place to another. I find it depressing to run in circles. I often manage to use running as transportation. It's motivating to have getting somewhere as a goal. You can jog to a store, or to a friend's place, or to pick up kids from school. Sometimes showers are available. Sometimes you can get away with not taking one. Sometimes you can combine it with public transportation.
- running with other people is great, but sadly I don't do it much. Chatting while running makes time fly and keeps you going at a reasonable pace, without getting too out of breath.
- running with this GPS gadget. It tells me how far I went, at what pace, and helps me get lost in entirely new ways.
- running at any old pace, whatever feels comfortable. Take breaks, look at the flowers, go shopping, go have a drink, it's all good. Be nice to yourself!
posted by Turtle at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2005

As a long-time swimmer, I'd like to weigh in that swimming should be fine for your wrist if you're doing normal daily activities without pain. Swimming is non-weight bearing and so unless you smacked your wrist against the pool, you wouldn't be putting any strain on it. :)

Swimming is also better for toning than running as it uses more major muscle groups - you'd build upper body strength, which you said you were looking for - and doesn't wear on your joints in the way that running does.

Make sure you have good running shoes, if you decide to run on a regular basis. You don't want to ruin your feet in the process of losing weight! Good luck :)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:29 PM on May 24, 2005

I just started running with the couch-5k plan linked above - it's fabulous. I love it, and I am someone who just two weeks ago the only way I could run is if someone was chasing me with a stick of fire. The program is flexible enough to repeat weeks until you feel comfortable with it. (and for what it's worth, I'm about fifty-sixty pounds above my ideal weight at the moment)

Take it slowly - I found that during jog times with the C25K program not going terribly fast - a brisk shuffle - was enough to get my blood pumping and a nice sweat breaking.

If you're looking to lose weight, though, I would definitely pair your running with other strength building exercises. I use FIRM videos, which you may not, but consider that your own body will provide ample resistance for now until your arm is fully healed. Try the motions of weight lifting without using weights.
posted by cajo at 6:50 PM on May 24, 2005

Oops. Regarding motivation - that is so different for every person. I had a moment back at the end of January where I was fed up with my nonactivity and jumped into intense exercise, trying to beat my body into a habit of motion, which has mostly worked. Others ease into it slowly. It all depends on you, your other commitments, and how much you can spare to get your exercise done.
posted by cajo at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2005

A workout routine that has helped a lot of friends lose weight, that they have also stuck to, is pilates. I do it 3 days a week and absolutely love it. I'm in the best shape that I've ever been in, and I feel great.

Bonus: it makes you very flexible, which your significant other will probably appreciate :)
posted by elquien at 7:58 PM on May 24, 2005

I'll weigh in on the swimming side of things. It's good for you, and won't stress your joints if you're doing it right. That last part--the doing it right--is very important, though; so if you want to investigate swimming, I'd look into Masters Swimming. A good coach will make sure your technique is up to snuff and the group atmosphere makes it much easier to stay motivated. Also having workouts planned for you will make sure you don't just lazily go up and down the pool--only busting ass is going to pulverize the pounds. I live for my swimming days now.
posted by dame at 8:16 PM on May 24, 2005

Four years ago I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am right now--I started using my bike to commute to work, which led to me signing up for and training for a century ride, (100 miles) which led to me signing up for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program to do the St. Anthony's Triathlon. The program taught me the fundamentals of distance swimming--quite different than what I learned at summer camp ages ago, and running. I also was part of a group all training toward the goal of completing an event and raising money for a great cause. I was amazed that the coaches got *all* of the athletes who entered across the finish line. Check out for details--there are events in Chicago, and new programs are always starting. The fundraising all goes toward raising money for blood cancer research and programs, and you wind up telling friends and family about what you're doing--which winds up being motivational too.

More links and thoughts on running or training on my weblog,

Wise Contradictions - Triathlon

Start slow, stick with it and have fun out there. You can do it!
posted by teddyb109 at 4:42 AM on May 25, 2005


Like you, I was in the military...when I was a kid.

I'm 5' 11" and have weighed anywhere from 170 to 270.

When I was your age, I got down in the 170's by running and dieting.

I was very addicted to running. I like to listen to music and run in the dead of night. I usually have a headband to squeeze the headphones closer to my head so it will be louder.

One reason I like to go late is, I like to bring my dog without a leash...That's what makes a quarter mile circle good...cause the dog can kinda do her own thing, and there's no people.

My word of advice would be to stretch. I've torn a hamstring badly and have had two hernia repairs.

Also, the quads are much stronger than the hamstrings, so it's important if you run hard to strengthen your hamstrings.

You have to ride an excersis bike hard for it to work, but you're doing more range of motion and strengthens where your hamstring connects to your pelvis...

I've been blessed --knock wood--with strong knees...but unless I'm at an ideal weight, running more than three times a week can cause wear in the disks in your spine too...

Careful with weights...Being a big fellow, you might not need much lifting to get size...the key is to strengthen your body so it gets injured less frequently...

For god sake...don't run hard unless you have warmed up and stretched...
posted by drakepool at 5:59 AM on May 25, 2005

I lost 40 lbs by putting an exercise bike in front of th TV. 30 minutes a day is all I needed. Since it's zero impact, you can safely do it daily.

I'm running now. Have you gotten cholesterol test? That's what got me motivated.
posted by exhilaration at 6:20 AM on May 25, 2005

Walking is so good...biking is great...I think my stationary bike really complements the walking regimen...

When I get an ache or pain from my old injury...It's because it's gotten weak...

I nice, ride at my own pace in front of the tv or w/music, for no more than 30 minutes...helps keeps me pain free...

I like to walk for an hour w/terrier...& MP3s
posted by drakepool at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2005

Check out the Couch Potato to 5K in 9 weeks:

A very nice, gradual process for building yourself up to run longer distances.

Worked for me.
posted by GernBlandston at 9:55 AM on May 25, 2005

I second the recommendation on good running shoes. A good running store will observe your gait and advise you appropriately.

I also agree about a running club. When I was running most regularly, I ran in a weekly 5k race. Racing gives you the opportunity to run against yourself as well as others. I found a couple of people who were about my pace or a tad faster, and set a goal of keeping up with them for the whole race. That was a huge help with pacing, which is always tough for me.

As for other excercise, If you ever get a chance to go snowshoeing, I've never had a better, nor a more satisfying workout.
posted by SobaFett at 10:27 AM on May 25, 2005

« Older A World With no Moon   |   PDA Newbie Filter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.