Very fat unfit beginner needs advice

Hi Everyone,

I have never run before and wish to begin. I have been ‘lurking’ on this website and these forums in particular for about 2 weeks and there is just sooo much information that I can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to where I should start. I would really value your advice specific to my circumstances. I am sure that if I kept on looking I would eventually find the right advice, but I am getting ‘information overload’ and really don’t know where to start.

So, firstly, let me introduce myself. I am female, almost 50yrs, a smoker, 5’ 5” tall and 17st 7lbs in weight, and cannot climb a flight of stairs without running out of puff and getting lactic acid ache in my legs. I also have a long-standing chronic back problem which left me unable to work for 5yrs – only started working again 3yrs ago and still pacing myself back to full-time now. I know I should stop smoking so pleeease don’t offer advice on this subject – I tried weight loss and giving up smoking together last year and ended up bigger than ever (by 1.5st) and a heavier smoker!! My main goal right now is to lose weight before this kills me – once this is under control I’ll tackle the other issue – I also believe I might find that I reduce/stop smoking because of the running anyway.

Now to the problem. I have read a lot on beginners training and wanted to go for the schedule that starts 1min run, 90secs walk (x8) in Week One. However, I have also seen advice on the forums that suggest, at my weight, I shouldn’t even attempt to run for a few weeks. I will be using a treadmill at home – there is no way I can walk outside my front door looking the way I do – until I have lost at least 3-4st. I am awaiting delivery of proper running shoes but have had a couple of goes on the treadmill to see how I fair. I can walk at 4.8kmph easily for 30mins (when I say easily I mean without blowing a blood vessel but puffing and sweating well). I can ‘jog’ at 6.4kmph for about 1min but only twice with a 90sec walk in between before I cannot run again. Each time I’ve been on the treadmill, whether I walk or run, I ache all over the next day.

And, finally, the advice I am seeking: Should I go for the walk/run schedule and just keep trying till I get it even if it takes weeks? Or, should I stick to walking for a few weeks first? And …. I really enjoy the treadmill (I know from many forum discussions it is not the best method for running but I just cannot see myself doing it any other way for a while) so, can I walk as much and as long as I like on it every day that I am not ‘running’ even though I ache or must I rest up sometimes. My preference if it is not ‘hurting’ me is to walk everyday at least one hour and only rest up if it starts to affect my back (I get warning signs when I am in trouble and pace down).

Sorry this is so long, but I thought if I try and put everything in then it would help anyone who would like to offer advice to understand where I am coming from. I really want to make a go of this and don’t want to injure myself in such a way as to put me off, but also don’t want to ‘take it so easy’ that I never really get any benefit from it. And one day, who knows, I might have the courage to go out that front door and run outside. This would be especially fantastic as I would like to run for the group that got me back on my feet after 5yrs classed as ‘disabled’.


  • Hello and welcome

    you will get quite a bit of conflicting advice
    I am 3 stone overwieght, run daily and seem to get away with it injury wise
    The advantage of walking is that it IS gentler on the joints-but ui guess its not running-and at some poi t you wil need to do that
    transition from walking to running can be quite hard

    however-if you find one flight of stairs THAT heard-then it might be best to go for the walking otpion firsdt to get into the exercise habit
    you need to be a little out of breatyh when you walk
    had you thought about REALLY early outside walks-no-one about, and its light early now

    Please also get some proper shoes-or you will get injured--you need someone to assess you and look at your feet
    good luck
  • Overthehill don't know enough to give you advise worth listening to but I used to be 5 stone overweight, smoked for Scotland and could not run for the proverbial bus. Now I'm the right weight and have run a marathon and if I can do it you can too.
    I walked my self thinner then I started going to the gym (cross training) then finally started running.
    Loads of luck.
  • I like the phrase "Get fit to run not run to get fit"

    So gentle walking, then brisk walking then attempt run / walk.

    The joy of walking is that you'll be able to sustain this longer than attempting to run and hence cover more distance, maintain motivation and burn more calories.

    Best of luck
  • Hello overthehill, and congratulations on being brave enough to get started :-)

    I think if the 30 minutes walking is OK, but you're aching all over the next day, then keep going with the walking for now. Once your new shoes have arrived, maybe you could try the run-minutes once a week, and when it stops causing you to ache so much, then it could be time to start to introduce run-bits.

    The treadmill could be the best place for you right now....softer surface than pavements (I hope), and if your back starts to get stroppy, then you can stop. Once you've got some confidence in your back and outside with you :-) It's quite an incentive at this time of year to be able to go outside in the sunshine and exercise! As PH says, it's very quiet early mornings if you're feeling self-conscious. (oh and long t-shirts hide a multitude of wobbles!)

    good luck....and ask more questions if you don't understand the answers / want more input :-)
  • Hello, welcome on board, I am new too. I have got a thread called Newbie needs help please. There are a few of us on there who are quite new, some of us are working towards the 10 mile goal but we are long way off so you are welcome to join in on our thread, some people are doing the beginners programme too.

    Best advice I can give you is walk for 2/3 weeks, take it steady, get decent shoes and if you can drag yourself out early in the morning then do it. You will feel great after a nice 30 minute walk outside and there is no shame in it. I know its hard when you feel self concious but try not to worry about what other people are thinking, you are doing this for you and not for them and at least you are doing something.

    Good Luck to you, it will be worth it, you will start to feel better surprisingly quicky and once you can start the beginners programme you will be amazed how quickly you progress.
  • Thank you all so much for your words of wisdom and encouragement .... and The Hoose-Goer for making me laugh my socks off !! I'm am very glad I found this website and will take heed of all your advice. So, I shall begin by walking and work my way up. I look forward to chatting to you all on other threads. As I'm sure everyone knows, even though motivation comes from within it feels even better with a little help from your frends. Thank you :-)
  • oth

    All of the above.
    Plus find soft surfaces to exercise on to minimise impact. Grass, mud and leaf mould are good, and wet sand, if you can get it.

    The last was not an instruction, whatever Hoose may say.
  • I used to be 18 stone 8 (just over a year ago) and possibly somewhat unwisely decided that one day I wanted to run. I didn't do any research or followed a structured plan, I just did what felt right and built up slowly. Amazingly I got through it without causing myself any major injuries (even more amazing considering that at the time I was only about 18 months out from a major ankle break and still have lots of metal holding it together).

    I did most of my early running on a treadmill, and just tried to build up to 30 minutes gradually. The first time I ran 30 minutes was the only time I have managed to injure myself so far - I was putting my bad foot down wrong for some reason and it swelled up for about a week. Since then it's been fine, I must have learned my lesson.

    I entered race for life last year which was the first time I'd really attempted to run outside, I think I was still somewhere around 15 stone by that stage, but actually managing to run in a race in public (and taking nearly 5 minutes off the fastest time I'd ever done 5k on the treadmill) really fired me up and I've gone from strength to strength.

    Now I'm a bit over 11 stone, and on Monday morning I ran 12.5 miles (outside) before work. I've run half marathons in under two hours, and I'm training for a marathon in September.

    I wouldn't be a slave to schedules. They help in that they show you the sort of structure that you should be aiming for - e.g. gradual increases etc, but don't be afraid to listen to YOUR body and do what feels right for you.
  • Thanks for the extra advice BD. YP1 - you are truly an inspiration to me. Well done and thanks sharing your experience with me too.

    I went on the treadmill this evening and walked for 45mins at between 4.8 and 5.5 kmph, then ran for a mere 45secs just because I was so happy to be getting going (and then walked again 5mins to cool down). I really want to start the walk/run but realise it could be a mistake so early and have to remind myself that I've all the time in the world to do it right. I'm really eager to get going again tomorrow.

    Can I ask another question of you all please. How do I know if I am pushing myself too hard rather than just stretching my endurance? If I get 'twinges' in my calves or thighs etc. should I carry on but stop if they become constant pain - or should I stop when I get the first twinges?

    BTW: 5hrs since my walk and No aches at all tonight, and the aching in my legs I was feeling before I started has completely gone :-)
  • It's really good that you have that "urge" to break into a run for a while.

    When you lose the weight, your back problems will be enormously helped I should think (mine was).

    Like everyone says, walking is best until you lose some more weight, and do not run until you've got shoes that are correct for your gait and weight from a specialist shop. This is absolutely vital for the heavier runner. Not just "proper running shoes" but ones that are right for your particular foot movement.
  • oth
    I think if you are getting twinges, reduce what you are doing (slow down or take a rest) and carry on if ok, you really do not want to let anything become a pain. When you have built up your distance, and the experience that goes with it, then you will be in a better position to know, for yourself, what is safe and what is an injury about to happen.
    The bad news is you will probably still make some wrong decisions, (We do) but it is getting it wrong early on that makes people give up, rather than just be a r*nner with an injury.
    Note - with the shoes thing, as you loose weight, your shoe size should reduce too, so. The right shoes are not forced to be the most expensive. As your milage increases your shoe requirements will change too.
  • Food, as I am sure you are aware , can become an addiction every bit as powerful and destructive as alcohol, cigarettes and yes I'd say cocaine and ######. It's just a slower death. What other "drug" effects you mood, self esteem and self confidence as negatively ??. You have to treat it as seriously as you would if you were snorting Charlie up your nose every day. If you don't you will be in for years of misery I'm afraid. Have you tried OA ??. Good luck.
  • Thanks again peeps. An hour again this morning with no 'twinges', so will try and up speed of walking but still stay off running a) until I feel sure my knees and calves can take the strain and b) I have the proper shoes. I'm sweating but not puffed out so probably not putting enough effort in yet.

    KP - OA? is that Overeaters Anon? Probably be OK without the extra support - I definitely eat too much choc but it is more my bad eating habits than quantity (nothing except coffee at all till after 5pm then eat all evening till bed). Have started eating correctly from 2wks ago and have lost 8.5lbs so far.
  • Twinges can be ignored once you know the difference between twinge and Big David says, when you get a twinge, slow down/rest, carry on when OK. As you get more used to running you'll start to recognise the twinges that are your body warming up or trying to sidetrack you to the sofa.

    A good rule of thumb is that any twinge or ache that is making you change your stride or foot-fall is a warning should stop. Sometimes it's just cramp or a muscle wanting a stretch....

    I guess you had to go through the same process with your back - some twinges are just part of normal life, others have a different 'tone' and mean trouble if you persist.
  • well done on today's posted as I typed! You don't have to be gasping for breath to be benefitting from exercise....breathing a little harder than normal, but still able to talk is actually the right level for a beginner (walking or running)
  • The H-G - no I use sweeteners and have done for years. It is mainly Thorntons and Choc Buttons I cannot resist .. and Asda Birthday Cake!!! But I sometimes get to the point where I'd kill for a bit of chocolate and have been know to eat cooking choc when nothing else available!

    Heck - yes, I spent 4.5 miserable years trying to cope with excruciating back pain only to find out through a 'pain management course' that a lot of it was my own doing for 'doing too much' on days when pain was less and causing 'flare ups' lasting weeks!! Now I use the 'pacing' method and keep it under control very well. Never completely free but, like you say, I understand which pain is OK and which means slow down. Three years on and I can hardly remember the shuffling, pain ridden, dispondant mess that used to be me!!
  • Heck - PS: Thanks for encouragement :-)
  • hi over the hill - firstly well done in deciding you want to run it is the first step!!
    last august I was 2 stone heavier than today I'm not anatural runner (not the right build at all)short at least 5stone overweight) etc.. anyway if I had read all the books I still shouldn't be running however last sunday I completed the london marathon. okay it took 6hours but it can be done. when I sent my application off I couldn't even run waddle to the post box which was 2miles away took me over 50minutes to do it I did however join weightwatchers to help with the weight loss and learnt that running does not always equal weightloss on its own
    good luck take each day as it comes
  • Most impoprtant thing is to keep it up babes
    you are in it for the long haul

    youhave made an excellent start
    keep this up-and you wont recognise yourself in 6 months
  • Wow - so much encouragement. This is a great website. Not sure if I should worry about becoming addicted to running or addicted to the RW forums!!

    Hoose - I'm giving myself 1 choccie treat each week on a Sunday and that's it. And, yes, Gorillas love bananas I'm happy to say. Personally not keen on any other fresh fruit but eat it in muesli and tinned in fruit juice, or with yoghurt poured over it. Love fresh veg, especially done in a steamer.

    Fly - very well done on the FLM. You must be soo proud of yourself :-) I've looked at so many threads on the FLM and, stamina and endurance and determination aside, I admire every single person who entered (let alone finished) after reading the conditions you have to cope with (loos, crowds, heat, dehydration etc etc).

    PH - I hope you don't mind, but after everything I've read about you and from you, I have decided that you are my exemplar (I fall short of saying 'idol' lest you think I'm a forum stalker LOL).
  • gulp!

    Suppose i could do with shifting some of my own lard
  • You definitely know you need to lose weight when ....

    You can't get the safety strap done up around your waist on the 'roller coaster' at the Theme Park

    Your Dr advises you don't go on a Long-Haul Flight/Holiday for your 50th because of fear of DVTs

    Easyjet have to get you an extra strap to add to your seatbelt on their flights

    Your 'talking scales' tell you to 'get off before you kill me'!!!!!!

  • As a newbie myself can I only say that the difference between a twinge and a pain is obvious, usually a twinge goes away when you stop and a pain doesnt. But others more experienced will give you more detail or shoot me down for giving you the wrong advice.

    As far as smoking goes you will find that when you get into this running lark you will start to find that the cigarettes will get in the way of running and you will want to ditch them. I was a smoker till January. I actually gave up 3 years ago but once or twice a week had a cigar. Then I got into running this year and found if I had a toke I could not get up to a mile. that was not going to happen so no cigars for me for 4 months and the weight is falling off. If you can pant and sweat for half an hour a day the weight starts to go.

    good luck
  • overthehill - respect! lordy knows there are an awful lot of young, thin, allegedly healthy people who don't have half the guts you do (metaphorically speaking of course)..:)
    i think everyone in this forum understands how hard it is to make that inital shift from slothery to joggery.

    which is why you shouldnt let self-consciousness stop you from going outside as well as on the treadmill, once you're ready on a physical level. Chances are you probably will get heckled at some point by a burberry clad ASBO on legs..but rest assured, it's rarer than you might think (i'm a bit of a tubster it must be said, and i've only ever been shouted at once - some witty enquiry as to whether my mum was paula radcliffe, if i remember rightly!)
    and if Ben Sherman, Fred Perry and the crew do try to engage you in a spat of topical banter? who bloody cares?! would you honestly give two hoots about said delinquants' opinions on your career path, or your choice of home furnishings? No. Why? because it's none of their business!
    Ultimately, you have to consider what's more laughable: an unfit person digging in and trying to do something to improve their fitness, lifestyle and overall good health? Or a thinner (but probably still as unfit) person sneering at them from the sidelines, well aware that they lack the requisite determination to do the same.

    so good luck me deary, and do try to get outside maybe for one walk a week at first, to get over the inital terror (i remember it only too well!). a little fresh air can do wonders for the soul! let us know how you get on moving onto run/walk.
  • OTH- no post from you for a few days, hows it going?
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