This is my *third* time trying to become a runner. I really want to make it work this time, but I'm starting to wonder if I just don't have the right "body type" for running. I've done a few 5ks, and while I see all kinds of shapes, most seasoned runners are taller/leaner body types. I'm late 40s, 5'1" and 140 lbs. Yes, I do realize I need to lose some pounds, but most people (including my doctor) don't think I look fat, just very athletic. I've always been very muscular (need extra wide calves when I buy boots!). I should add that I'm not fast, feel very HEAVY when I run, but I wish I could fly like the feather weights I see! Maybe I should try another way to get/stay in shape? I NEED to exercise on a regular basis due to a congenital heart condition, which would get worse if I didn't. I am desperately hoping that there are other "athletic builds" like me who will tell me that running is the PERFECT thing!
First off, I don't believe there is such a thing as a "wrong body type for running."
I'm 56, 5' 8" and in the low 190s; I started running again last spring when I was over 250 pounds (yes, I looked decidedly chubby), however, now that I'm *only* 30-35 pounds overweight for someone my height, I'm down to a 34" waist size and look anything but overweight. My advice to you would be to stop worrying about how fast you are and start concentrating on how far you can run; if you do, the speed thing will take care of itself. As I was gradually getting in shape last spring and summer, I was faced with the option of either going faster or further on any given day; when I was younger I went faster, and like as not, I would end up injured. Now that I'm older (and hopefully wiser), I opted to run further, and further, and further. Funny thing, even though I've done exactly zero "speed" workouts since last spring, my average pace for my last three races (a 5K, a 3.66 miler, and a 10K, in that order) has been in the low to mid seven minute range.
Fat old man PRs:
I agree with shipo. I'm another 5' 8", 190 pounder. The major difference is I'm almost 10 years older - once you hit your 60s it gets harder to maintain fitness and speed. And I don't quite have his penchant for distance but I do run an occasional marathon and many half-marathons, 10-milers, etc. My calves have been described as "very muscular" by friends running behind me as well as random strangers who pass me on my long runs. If you want to run you can do it and be pretty good. Yes, the very fast runners are the ones that disappear when they turn sideways. Accept that you're not quite that way but you can still really enjoy running. You'll probably never run an 18 minute 5K (OTOH, you might!) but you can run the distance and get reasonable speed. It just takes time and practice, that is, putting in the miles. Start with something like Couch to 5K (http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml) to reduce your chances of injury. And work your way up. And have fun with it.
Rest assured runforyourlife, running is the PERFECT thing!! Like you, I am 5'1" but a few pounds lighter (~134 pounds.....on a good day!) and in my mid 30's. I can definitely say that when I started running about a year ago I felt the exact same way that you described..... slow and very heavy on my feet. I felt like a lumbering oaf compared to other runners and would only ever run by myself as I was too self conscious to run with any other people. But I kept at it and took things very slowly, working my way up VERY gradually from slow run/walk 5K's to where i'm at now. The news that I hope will inspire you to keep at it is that last weekend I just completed my second half marathon and set a new PR of 2hrs 15 mins!!! I still have bad days, as most runners do, when you just don't feel it and can't find your groove but I am sooooooo happy that I persisted even when I was convinced that running wasn't right for me. Don't concern yourself with how other runners look or whether you have the right body type for running, if you love it and want to make it work then it WILL happen! You need to be persistent and go slowly, which I know is frustrating at times, but if you don't you will end up injuring yourself. Give yourself days off from running to allow your body to recover, even if you don't feel like you need it and also slot in some strength training and other forms of cardio exercise (i.e. don't just make running your sole form of exercise). If you feel any type of pain developing, don't try and "push through" as you'll make it worse and have to take time off to recover. I did exactly that with what I now know are posterior shin splints (which I still suffer from but am effectively managing). I felt them getting worse each time I ran but was determined not to let that stop me..... eventually I was in so much pain that I had to take nearly 3 weeks off from running, which was a major setback for me at the time. The moral of the story is that slow and steady is the key!! Please, please, please don't give up..... if I can do it then so can you!
I agree with the others, that there is no wrong body type. I started running when I was 50, and it took me three separate attempts to get it right. The first time I was running in heavy stabilizer shoes (recommended), and I got shin splints, and I quit for a few months. Then I tried again, and had plantar faciitus and a hamstring injury, and quit again, for 6 months that time. Then two years ago I went for comfort in my running shoe instead of the stability I supposedly needed and I've been running ever since. Now I feel like a slug if I don't run 3 or 4 times a week. As far as what you look like running, who cares what people think. If no one else thinks you look big, then you probably don't. I had my left arm operated on recently and I went on a couple of short runs with my sling on. I can only imagine what people driving by thought, but again, who cares? That's their problem.
I am a 5'8" male that was 205 lbs 7 years ago and am now down to 165. I also have short legs so I am moving my legs more compared to these "gazelle" runners who make me feel like a clod too. I started very slow with 1/4 mile walks to eventually 3 mile walks. I then started walk/runs in the same way for about a year. Last year summer I was finally running a 5K at a 10 min/mile pace. I started this summer at a 9.5 and am now, in October, able to achieve an 8-min pace for a 5K. I did a 10K last week at a 8:25 pace. You need to be patient and work your way up. I agree with the other commenters, go for distance and speed will follow BUT be patient. Good luck!
I've been running for 2 1/2 years now and my goal is still to take a good picture in a race. I don't look like the guys at the front and I may never look like them. I run because it keeps me fit and it's addicting. It took about 6 months to get me addicted, but now I am for life. You just need to be happy with YOUR run. I try to run each race faster than I ran that race the year before. 30 seconds will do it. I'm easy to please.
I'm 6'7", 270 lbs, 50 years old and just completed the Marine Corp Marathon on Sunday (my first marathon). I'm not fat either...always lifted weights. I am the poster boy for "wrong body type for running". The first thing people ask me about is my knees when they find out that I run. By the way, no knee problems. I wear minimalist running shoes and (I believe) I run the way we were designed to run. Do your research and then run smart. Run for your body, not for 19-year-old-thin-as-a-rail body. Run informed and run smart. You will get better at it.
I'm 4'10 and 3/4 of an inch (yes, when you are under 5 ft, you take on anything that you can get) and according to my doctor's scale, weigh 112...I'm thinking more 109 since it was after a big lunch, and I just tunred 30. I've always had muscular legs no matter what I did...since I started running again, they are actually getting bigger in the quads. However, this has not stopped me from running, nor has it slowed me down. I try to run one or two 5k's a month, since I want to get that speed down to 25 minutes before moving on to a 10k, and as I've said, my muscular legs are not an issue; I've been consistently improving my time with each race. Like Batrock23 says, you find the run style for your body type, i.e. what is natural for it. I've been able to pass some of those light as a feather runners because I'm training my body to run for my goal pace, as well as building my stamina. Training is not easy, and it is not going to happen overnight. Just keep going and eventually you will meet your goal.
To answer your question directly, sure, there are 'body types' that are more suited to distance running, however, everyone can run.
It mainly comes down to how many muscle fibre's geared to aerobic exercise. Mostly, you are born with this, however, through alot
of training you can somewhat change this.[ slow twitch fibre's are aerobic, and some fast twitch and can be trained to be, though
it takes ALOT of training ...what no one in the marketing of sports admit is ...roughly 2/3 of performance, how we 'look' is genetic, about 1/3 is trainable..just how it is.].
I think what your really asking is - will I ever be able to ENJOY running as much as you see others doing? and not just find it a slog.
Yes, but it might take alot of time for you to adapt, maybe more time and patience than you have ...compared to another form of cardio. It depends on what you ''enjoy', it
sounds like you don't enjoy slow running and want to run fast?
In this case, rather than trying to do alot of longer runs, which for you will have to be 'slow', you could try intervals run at a faster
pace, even short sprints and see if you enjoy that.
Running is great, I have run and competed at running most of my life, and yes I am one of those annoying genetic lucky people at running, but
I don't agree its 'for everyone', if you cannot find a way to enjoy it, then maybe another activity would be better. I've tried lots of dfference exercise
and its fun to try many different forms - try swimming, biking, weight training particularly circuit traning if you want better heart conditioning, or maybe
fast hiking if you have access to soem nice trails.
bottom line - exercise can and should be 'fun', give sprints a try but also try other forms of cardio ... I see far too many people turn 'fun exercise' into an
obsessive compulsive disorder where fun is lost and its all about 'goals' ...goals are much more achievable when you enjoy the activity! best of luck.
Hey runforyourlife, there is NO wrong body type! I'm 31 years old, 5'6", 180lbs, have 2 young kids and can squat your mother. I have been told I'm fat, overweight, even borderline obese (screw you BMI calculator!) and I find that I am fit and active and that's all that matters. I run half marathons for fun and I have found that I feel my best when I am strength training in combination with running! If I just run (which I have done before), I usually develop and injury along the way, whether in training or during my race (which bites!) and when I strength train AND run, no injuries, more energy and better results. My advice to you would be to challenge yourself, but don't hurt yourself, and add 30-45 mins of strength training 3X per week and see if that doesn't help you out. If the joints and muscles around them are strong you will feel invincible! Focus on core (will help your posture and legs be able to lift up for longer helping your stride), back (also posture and helps arms) and of course your legs, but don't neglect your arms! Wherever your arms go, your legs will follow! Have strong arms and you will have help to power thru. Run for YOU, friend. No one else knows how you feel or need to train. Focus on eating healthy, making managable goals and shining!
Very few people have permanent biomechanical problems that prevent them from running. If you have serious doubts about your body, visit a sports physical therapist and get checked out. I see a lot of bad advice in this thread along the lines of being overweight is OK, just run any which way you can. Running while heavier than your ideal weight puts excessive loads on connective tissue and can easily lead to injury. Easily fixed by eating the right foods ... but not easy to do if you rely on American fast food and packaged foods. Two good books: "The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutition" by Matt Fitzgerald, and "Anatomy for Runners" by Jay Dicharry. Follow those and you will do just fine. Don't forget to have fun, which is a whole lot easier when you are running well. Best way to run well is to eat well.
I'm your height, 10 years younger, & about 40 lbs heavier. I get "down" that my speed is as slow as it is, and I don't run further than a 5K or 3.5 - 4 miles; but I can run it, and I enjoy myself (admittedly, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment upon finishing more than the run itself). I am a heavy-stepping runner, too. I've decided I'll never be that featherweight runner you refer to, and I'm not sure how much I'll ever be able to actually increase my speed, but when I run, I feel great. I guess my best advise here is to try to not compare yourself to the other runners. One thing I've learned on this site is that we're ALL different in our styles, our forms, our body types, our preferences (shoes, music, styles of breathing, distance vs short-fast). Just pick what works best for you!! For me, to be honest, I'd not stick with it as I do if it weren't for my big dog needing to be exercised...he keeps me accountable. :-)
I am not a fast runner with a double digit minute per mile pace and I certainly don't feel physically adept for running. Actually, I feel that I've chosen a sport that is the hardest thing I could have picked since I feel I may be more suited as gymnist. But I get out there regardless. I do it for so much more. Think about it. What's harder? To do a sport you're genetically good at or one that you know you aren't? I know I have more guts than I will ever have glory and I'm kind of proud of that.
I'm going to say a few things that I hope are encouraging, but that also suggest being smart. I am a rehab and corrective exercise trainer and deal a lot with people needing help with joint replacements, injuries, and poor posture and biomechanics. One thing I can tell you about running is that it is a fast, forward movement. That should be obvious, but if you look at running in practice, especially with deconditioned and overweight people, things usually go awry. This can be due to muscle weakness, tightness, or biomechanics, but it is often simply from being too heavy, in poor cardiovascular condition, or both.
When someone runs, they should bound forward, fast. Not up and down, not side to side. How many fat runners do you know who run with very short, stompy, slow strides? Runners will argue for days about ideal stride length, footstrike, and body posture. But what is true for everyone is that if you have poor cardio conditioning, your body will always take the path of least resistance to conserve energy. It's programmmed to do so, and for survival, it is a good thing. But for running and other athletic movements, letting the body conserve energy by cutting corners is not a good thing. What ends up happening is running slower with a short stride so your heart and lungs can keep up.
Ever watched someone heavy and out of shape try to run with long, bounding, gazelle-like strides? They are very quickly out of breath, burning, and exhausted as if they have just been sprinting. Forward propulsion with long, bounding strides is replaced with up-and-down stomping in short strides. Maybe a little side-to-side rocking thrown in for even more impact and less propulsion. Strides slow down and shorten because they demand less oxygen. Much of that striding (swinging of the legs) ends up happening at the knee joint instead of at the hip joint where it should, again to conserve energy. Because of that, too much heel strike generally occurs. And if you look at a heel striker in super-slo-mo, you'll see that it basically adds a high impact braking effect to every single stride you take.
Add all that up:
1) Shorter strides means more steps on your feet
2) Shorter slower strides means more time on your feet
3) Shorter strides means higher impact forces on arches, ankles, knees, hips, and low back
4) Heavier weight means higher impact forces on arches, ankles, knees, hips, and low back
5) Too much swinging at the knee and not enough at the hip means more stress on the knees
6) Too much swinging at the knee and not enough at the hip often means too much heel strike which slows forward propulsion
7) Too much swinging at the knee and not enough at the hip often means too much heel strike which which means higher impact forces on arches, ankles, knees, hips, and low back
What's the answer? Well, run anyway, and just keep slowly tacking on more miles each week to crappy running form....said no one, ever. Well, actually, isn't that the method a lot of us use? Have a physical therapist, running coach, or trainer check you out. See where your stride length, posture, foot strike, and cadence are. If they are way out of whack, use a gentle method to try to improve the length and rate, and/or change posture and foot strike, even if in short bursts where you have to walk in between. Over time, you can begin to sew the better form, higher intensity segments together, and release your inner gazelle.*
*Note: These are only my professional opinions and not intended as medical advice. Should you feel faint, dizzy, or lightheaded, definitely stop for a beer. Please understand, there will always be freaks of nature who run like Quasimodo and do just fine. If that's you, I expect you wouldn't be here.
- In Good Health,
The Strong Center
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