Welcome to a new feature I’ve been working on: Fat Girl’s Guide to Running. The title is meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time an accurate description. The fact is, working your way to become a runner when you’re already overweight or obese presents some unique challenges, and I want to candidly share my experiences and tips along the way as I walk/run my way through the Couch-to-5K program and beyond.
Fitting the Flub
When you are a plus-sized gal, finding workout clothes that fit, function, and don’t look completely hideous can be a major challenge. It seems to me that it’s completely unfair to deprive the people who need workout clothes THE MOST (hello, we’re the ones that need to be in the gym everyday, right!?) of having any good choices. (RIGHT!?) Thankfully, I found a few pieces that have worked great for me, and (bonus!) they’re very reasonably priced!
Plus Size Clothing for Running
Women’s Plus Old Navy Active Compression Pants
$34.94, oldnavy.com (available in sizes 1x-4x)
Being a big girl, I was afraid of anything too fitted or “spandexy”, yet I feel sexy in these pants. (For the record, Mike agrees!) They are fitted, yet not uncomfortably tight or revealing. More importantly, they prevent (gasp) CHAFING. Silky synthetic fabrics are your friend, trust me! There are also capri-length and short (9″ inseam) versions of these same compression bottoms, perfect for warmer weather! (I just ordered the capris myself…)
Women’s Plus Old Navy Active Running Tops
$26.94, oldnavy.com (available in sizes 1x-4x)
Again, slick fabrics, just fitted ENOUGH (yet doesn’t cling and show the “rolls”), and comfortable! I have this top in white (planning to wear it for my first Color Run in August!), which appears to be sold out, but they still have it in grey and this awesome shade of hot pink!
C9 by Champion® Women’s Reversible Compression Racer Bra
$12.99, target.com (available in sizes XS-XXL)
Most of my life, I was an A-cup sorta girl. It was a major achievement when I reached a B in my twenties. Then I had a baby — HELLO. These bras are inexpensive, come in cute colors, and for me the XL size fits well and offers enough support. The C9 by Champion line also has other styles that offer even more support, if you feel like you need it. Target also seems to clearance certain colors now and then, so you can get the same style bra for a few dollars less if it’s last season’s color.
SPIbelt™ The Small Personal Item Belt
$19.99, spibelt.com (available in assorted colors and prints)
If you’ve read any running blogs or magazines, you’ve surely come across people raving about the SPIbelt. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of praise: it’s lightweight, stretchy, and holds a remarkable amount of crap! The regular-sized SPIbelt fits waist sizes 25″ through 50″ and there is also a plus size model that fits waists 55″ to 75″! Personally, I have the belt pictured–the regular-sized SPIbelt™ Prints in the “Peace Signs with Black Zipper” style. (‘Cause I’m a dork like that…)
Your Smartphone and Running Apps
(e.g. Nike+ Running, Couch-to-5K)
This might seem obvious, but my iPhone 5 has been my most essential piece of workout gear to start running. I didn’t know the first thing about how to start running or train for a 5K race. Couch-to-5K has been my personal coach. (And guess what? I’m on week two and I’m already seeing progress. This shit works!) Several of my friends use the Nike+ Running app so it’s really fun to share, compare, and have a little friendly competition on there to stay motivated! Don’t forget you can load up your favorite running playlists on Spotify or RockMyRun. Eventually I’d love to upgrade to a GPS running watch to be able to see my time/distance/pace at a glance, but in meantime, I ALREADY own a smartphone and it does a great job!
Tips for Selecting Plus-Size-Friendly Running Gear
- BUY SYNTHETICS. I love all-natural cotton, hemp, etc. as much as the next crunchy-gal, but when you’re going to be working out, synthetic fabrics are your friend for their moisture-wicking ability and help with chafing.
- DON’T FEAR FITTED GEAR. “Fitted” does not have to mean “camel toe” or “look at my cellulite”. Buy gear that is close-fitting, but still comfortable. You’ll be thankful not to have all that extra fabric rubbing and flapping around.
- HAVE BODYGLIDE ON HAND. If all else fails, slick on some Bodyglide Her Skin Formula to keep any chafing (from clothing-on-skin or skin-on-skin) to a minimum.
- SHOES. I didn’t address shoes here for several reasons, the biggest of which is I feel shoes could be a whole topic in itself. I will say: don’t skimp on running shoes. While you don’t need the MOST expensive pair, don’t go running in a pair that you know is ill-fitting or worn out either. Poor shoes lead to injuries, pain and frustration, which means you won’t want to continue running. Also keep in mind, when you’re overweight that is EXTRA poundage slamming down on your feet, ankles and knees with every step you take. It’s well worth investing in the proper footwear to cushion your strides. I’m currently running in Saucony Kinvara 4s, but what works well for me isn’t for everyone. Look for a local running shop where a professional can assess your stride and recommend a good pair for you to try.
Please feel free to share your favorite products and advice in the comments!