In 2003, I said that the only time you’d ever find me running was if Godzilla were chasing me. Then, a year later, I ran a trail marathon in November 2004. Marathons are officially 26.2 miles. Since that point, I’ve falling quite off that wagon, due to work pressures, and some lifestyle changes, and I couldn’t run a single mile in a row. However, that’s about to change.

How does a fat guy get fit enough to run? Are you thinking of taking up running? Here’s some advice:

Trails versus Street

First, a word about trail running. Trails are softer which gives two immediate results. One, your knees thank you for less painful impact. Two, because trails are less solid than streets, you end up running slower than your maximum potential. This is great from my perspective, because I have a habit of overdoing it. I want the slowdown.

The Right Shoes

It’s really important to us proper footwear. I learned firsthand all the crazy things that can go wrong. I will throw out there, however, that barefoot running is a really small niche interest right now, and I’ve tried it on beaches and on safe trails, and I loved it.

Every one is different and there are all kinds of articles out there for selecting shoes. Just know that you need new shoes, you need them to be really well fit for your needs (for instance, you take a larger shoe size for running than you do for casual wear), and that you need the right kind of support for the way your feet land. Google around for this, or email me. I’ll help you further, if you’d like.

Run / Walk Programs

When I had my first running breakthrough, it was this: you are still a runner if you have to slow down and walk for a bit. John Bingham’s great book, NO NEED FOR SPEED, was an excellent resource for me in learning how to run. All of John’s products are great that way, and “The Penguin,” as he likes to call himself, is a wealth of knowledge unto himself.

Standard Disclaimer: see your physician before trying this or any other program. This is just for informational use and doesn’t constitute something worth doing. Worked for me.

Here’s a sample of a run/walk program that I mentioned to a friend the other day. The “R” stands for running, and the “W” stands for walking. The number is for how many minutes of each one might do. I do this in multiples of 30 minutes for the first few weeks. As time progresses, I consider adding more minutes (maybe another cycle of the run/walk program) into the mix. The basic premise is to slowly build yourself up to running more and walking less. Each line represents a week of training:

Warm up by walking briskly for 2 minutes, maybe 3. Then, start this:

  • 1R , 4W x 6 times. Week 1
  • 1R , 3W x 7 times. Week 2
  • 2R, 3W x 6 times. Week 3
  • 2R, 2W x 7 times. Week 4
  • 3R, 3W x 5 times. Week 5
  • 3R, 2W x 6 times. Week 6
  • 3R, 1W x 7 times. Week 7
  • 4R, 2W x 5 times. Week 8
  • 4R, 1W x 6 times. Week 9
  • FULL Running for 30 minutes.

If you have to skip a running minute or two early on, do so. Just walk briskly and catch your breath. Don’t be religious about this. Make it work for you.

How FAST?

When I’m saying running, this is basically a step above brisk walking. Think of it as a controlled shuffle. Focus on turning your feet over quickly, and not running fast. Just keep thinking about turning your feet over, which should be slightly longer strides than if your shoes were tied together, but not big huge gaping stretches. With a run/walk program, the trick is to keep the “difference” between the running and the walking down to a minimum, so when you’re walking and catching your breath a bit, make sure that’s still a brisk walk.

Don’t worry about speed. Get your distance and your duration up. Then, speed will come out of your endurance and your toning.

Mileage versus Minutes

I’m a bigger fan of minutes versus miles, but as you get faster and better, and more confident in your running, you might switch. The best thing to realize is: unless you’re trying out for a world-class team, there is no official right or wrong way to do it, only strong suggestions and passionate people on either side of every possible schism one could experience. This is how *I* did it the first time, and how I plan to do it next.

Hydration, Eating

First, get a lexan water bottle. The famous brand name is Nalgene. They are recycling number 7, in case you’re being offered a ripoff. In the US, they cost around $7 on the low end. But why? Because those bottles handle bacteria way better than when you re-use your disposable water bottles, and they’re nicer on the environment. Having them around makes you want to drink more. And other hacks I haven’t considered.

A note about eating: do so a half hour or so before you run. An hour’s best, but fit it into your schedule. What’s good to eat (and NOT good to eat) before a run? High carbs and low glycemic index food, like energy bars (CLIF Bar is my personal favorite), Oatmeal is easy, even the instant kind. What NOT to have are things high in fats, like sausage. Peanut butter is usually a great energy food, but keep it to maybe 1 table spoon along with a slice of multigrain bread.

The point is, it’s important to have energy in the tank. The more you have ready for your run, the better you’ll feel while trying to run.

Your Advice

I’m open to your advice. One thing that’s certain about things like running: you’ll get about 50/50 responses to the above where some will say, “This is full of crap” or “that’s not running, that’s jogging” or whatever. You know what? YOU are the person qualified to tell whether advice works for you. If it’s running to you, it’s running to me. But what else will you add? I’m looking for tips before I get out all the lead and start running this week.

–Chris Brogan produces a weekly audio podcast called Fat Guy Gets Fit. He’s looking for more subscribers. Don’t make him beg.

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