Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: What Do I Do If I Can’t Run?

Q&A Wednesday: What Do I Do If I Can’t Run?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Flo-Jo. Kiliin' 'em.

I can’t even feature simply ONE question for this topic because I get so many. The bottom line is, if I can’t run, what do I do?

We all know there are two big reasons why people can’t run, and anything else builds upon that. Either a person can’t run because they’re physically prevented from doing so, or a person cannot run because they are mentally prevented from doing so. And nothing is wrong with either – particularly because, in almost all cases, this can be worked around.

But how? Here are four important tips to remember for any person who’s considering becoming more active.

Never underestimate the power of a good walk. I didn’t run, at first. I simply just got out the door with Mini-me. From walking our path, we went on to dancing. I think I’ve told this story on the blog before, actually – our dancing looked like so much fun to the neighborhood kids, that every night we wound up with more and more neighborhood kids tagging along. And, because I don’t love kids enough to have nine of them tagging along and dancing with us on a path, one day I just got fed up and before the kids could catch up with us, I picked her up on my back and took off running. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was exciting and it was scary – I didn’t like the strain on my heart because, since I’d never ran before, I didn’t know what that feeling was supposed to feel like and didn’t understand that it was simply the result of cardio, not a stroke.

I didn’t start running because I was excited by the thought of it. My actual start simply came from not wanting to be bothered by the Little Rascals every night. Yes. I love my child. Everyone else’s though? That’s a struggle.

If you don’t think you can run, you won’t be able to. I had my own hang-ups about running, though, and if it wasn’t for running from those kids, I might’ve never started. It has its physical components, but we are perpetually limited by our mental portrait of how well we can do, as well.  Running from those kids allowed me to get beyond my apprehension about running, because it wasn’t going to keep me from getting away from nine snotty nosed, kool-aid stained kids whose Moms were all-too-glad they’d found something new to do besides bug them. Nuh uh.

Find something to focus on besides how much you know you’ll never be able to run… like, say, the fact that you will eventually be running. You might not be Flo-Jo (see above), but you’ll be going and that’s what matters. Don’t do the self-defeating thinking. It’s one thing to be realistic about your limitations, it’s another to try to crap on yourself simply because you’re feeling down and depressed about your current state of inactivity. That leads onto my next point.

Understand your body. I didn’t officially start until I was around 80lbs down, not only because there was a mental roadblock, but because there was a physical one, as well. There are two important parts of running that people have to remember: the impact of your foot hitting the ground, and the pressure it takes to lean on that foot to propel you forward. Your feet, knees and joints have to be capable of handling those movements in rapid succession. If they’re not, then that’s okay. Barring any legitimate medical circumstances (as in the kind that require surgical intervention), many joint and lower body issues come from inactivity and can be cured by slow increases in activity. Like… walking!

And, if you’re like me, and hurt yourself to the point where you couldn’t run or hit pavement for a while, there’s no shame in trading your legs for wheels and hopping on a spin bike, an elliptical trainer or even (my personal fave) rollerblades. Hell, even if you’re NOT like me and just have a hard time with your hips, then start off with a spin bike or an elliptical simply because you’re not dealing with the impact of your body hitting the ground.

The short of it is that there are legitimate reasons a person would be unable to run, and to progress beyond those reasons would also take time: time to physically grow, as well as time to learn to trust your ability to handle the exercise. If we’re talking a lifestyle change, then it’s worth the time investment it’ll take to learn where you should begin. And if I can go from running from the brat pack to running ten miles in one night, then I’m pretty sure that anyone can. (Seriously.)

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Betti October 20, 2011 - 4:41 PM

I would love to run (or try to) but I get tired of the street harrassment and being stared at.

Stefanie October 21, 2011 - 5:09 PM

Thanks for the tips. I realize I’m not a fast runner and I have work to do to get to the point of running a good pace for a long distance of time (did that make sense? LOL). But I won’t know what I am capable of until I make that first step (mentally blocked). Thanks for the inspiration as always

candace November 30, 2011 - 9:31 PM

I’ve been doing my run/walk combination on a treadmill for a few weeks now…my goal is to run a half Marathon for my 30th bday, August 2012, …..does anyone have suggestions for sport bras for larger
chest???? I wear an H and right now have
been rocking wearing 2 bras to control the jiggle…..

Kelly November 30, 2011 - 9:59 PM

Wonderful insight, thanks for sharing!

Tanya March 27, 2013 - 9:31 PM

Panache makes the best sports bra. I paid over $70 but saw them on eBay for $30 to $50. I usually wear a bra and a sports bra but find I can go with just the Panache. I am an h cup as well and I do boot camp and running.

Gail December 20, 2011 - 12:36 PM

When I saw the title of this article I thought “finally someone will advise me on how to get the body I want without running”. I thought wrong. The sounds like that’s where it’s going but the contents are more for motivating people to run. I have severe shin splints. So severe that it hurts to grocery shop. So a bike, elliptical, running, skating, walking, standing even driving is very painful. So if there is a different article that could help me or if you have some tips please let me know.

cherie April 18, 2012 - 10:26 PM

Swimming? If its that bad I would suggest seeing a physical therapist to develop a cardio routine rather than scour websites. You may hurt yourself…

Gail April 19, 2012 - 12:55 PM

Thank you. I’m swimming now with no pain to my shins!

Jasna March 29, 2012 - 7:00 PM

I can run…. if I hold my boobs with my hands. Sports bras don’t work as they should, which makes no sense, you’d expect them to be body shape accommodating, not about displaying boobs to people.
Now, that being said, I’m looking into chest binding and if that does not work either, I’ll stick to elliptical and other non-jumping workouts.

Deanna April 19, 2012 - 10:00 AM

As a fellow large-breasted woman, a good sports bra is extremely important. I have been looking and the Shock Absorber brand of sports bras are the best ones. A close second is the Under Armour brand. Dick’s Sporting Goods have a good selection of sports bras for larger cup sizes as well. Be be advised…a good sports bra will cost you some money. The cheap ones from Wal-mart or Old Navy are not going to cut it. Believe me, I’ve tried. 🙂

Jessica July 4, 2012 - 1:15 PM

This is my problem too! I am forever looking for a good sports bra. I am thinking about having a couple of them specially made…I know it will cost but I think it will be worth it!

Tes August 9, 2012 - 11:34 AM

Try a regular bra that is, shall we say, old school. The old white ones that are not particulary pretty and they kinda make you boobs look triangular :-/. Couple that with a good sports bra and you will have major control. I usually wear two sports bras but one day they were all dirty and I tried that old ugly binding white bra that lurks in the back of my unmentionables draw and put a sports bra on top of it and my life changed!!!lol!

Another tip-but a half to full size smaller sports bra… it kinda binds them in place and makes way for the give that all clothing items ultimately have.

Hope this helps. 🙂

Leelee March 20, 2013 - 12:29 PM

I’m full chested too and I’ve found that the Champion USA site have bras for full chested women. They’ve been working for me and helps boobs stay in place when doing Zumba or running. Hope this helps someone.

Michie July 4, 2012 - 1:18 PM

I’m not much of a runner but I’ve been doing a lot of walking! I joined Black Girls Run in the past week so I’m really looking forward to training with them.

I was involved in a pedometer challenge at work and I really love the way it made me feel. I lost a lot of weight in my stomach and it’s motivated me to do different things. Now, I’m jumping rope, walking and will hopfully start to run. Its so therapeutic and the stress in my life is steadily decling! Good Luck to everyone on their fitness journey and start small! ; )

Lauren July 4, 2012 - 1:20 PM

I agree- never underestimate walking! I have bulging disks in my back, which makes running and gym machines hard to use. I lost 85 pounds just by walking, ab exercises, and Weight Watchers. Walking is a wonderful workout, as long as you’re breathing hard and sweating, it’s working!

Leslie July 4, 2012 - 2:14 PM

I love running unfortunately I have plantar fasciitis and knee problems. I see a sport massage therapist montly and for now I use the elliptical and bikes. I do miss that rush and sensation from running yet the variation provides relief and healing time for feet and knee and still provide a great workout. Thank you for sharing.

allhoney July 5, 2012 - 4:44 AM

Two herniated discs in my lumbar spine keep me from running, so I stick to walking 2-3 miles 3 or 4 days a week (ideally). For awhile walking was out as I was recovering from foot surgery for bone spurs and a compressed toe joint (the pin gave me the blues) and then recovering from surgery to have the pin removed. I can walk now though, and the days I don’t walk I can always garden (which needs to be done on the days that I do walk too). Even if you can’t run, you can always do something.

Erica August 8, 2012 - 3:12 PM

You can also start with the Couch to 5k program which combines walking with short bursts of jogging. If you are intimidated, find a walk/run group in your area. They normally have all levels in these groups. I know many of you have heard of BGR—Black Girls Run movement. I started off walking a block and running a block. I have now ran 3 half marathons, numerous 5ks and 10ks and I am in the midst of training for my 4th half marathon. My future goal is to run a full marathon 26.2 miles which intimidates me. But just like my first mile was intimidating, I will conquer this fear!

Aisha August 8, 2012 - 3:16 PM

After not running for about 9 months. I started couch to 5K and the first day was way tougher than I remembered. I had to forgive myself and remember that I walked for months before I started with running the last time. Just because my knee is better doesn’t mean that I should just jump back out there. I will walk for now and running will soon come.

mommytrex August 8, 2012 - 6:02 PM

I’m a wogger combo walking and jogging. Walking for.2-3 minutes and 3-4 mins of jogging or more. I just decided to move. I love jogging because your in your own little world, and when your in the grove its fantastic. Start small. It makes me feel good and you see results very quickly. And the more you do it the better you will get and the more you will want to do it.
My breast aren’t small but I use a compression bra, and I know that the bigger you go the money you will spend.

Tes August 9, 2012 - 11:46 AM

I tore my ACL Spring 2011 and during my doc visit I was advised I have bone on bone and severe arthritis. I knew my knee was messed up but I started balling the minute he told me I would never run again and that I need to consider knee replacement. Oh yeah, he asked me if I would like a form to get a handicap sticker from the DMV! I was like wt*!!!

I immediatly decided I would not have this diagnosis in my life. I went to physical therapy for a 2 months and took it slow for the next 9 months. I am now able to run again. I dont push it too far because I am still growing in this dept. but the highs from running and the outdoors and the birds and the trees and all that running means to me is part of my life support system.

I realize that noone can define the limits of my life and the limits of my human spirit. Eventhough my Doc said what he felt was best I knew that taking it slow and follwing my own lot in life was best for me. My knee has never flet BETTER!!!Oh yeah … it gets you super lean (with controlled eating and proper nutrition) #longliverunning

Melissa March 27, 2013 - 6:41 PM

I liked this post a lot, especially the breakdown of the physical and mental barriers to running. My issue was always: I can run…but I hate running without a purpose, if that makes any sense at all. I played basketball in high school and have played (at one time or another) baseball, football, American football, tennis and rugby. I have to chase a ball. A court/field’s not always available where I live, so I’ve just taken to running with my basketball in the parks around The Hague. It improves my handling skills and my conditioning all at the same time, which is great. I’ve even got friends joining in who usually have experienced the physical and mental blocks to running. They don’t need a ball though, they just chase me.

Melinda June 10, 2013 - 12:18 PM

I started couch to 5k 3 weeks ago. I love how I feel after I’m done. I am up to jogging 3 minutes although it feels like 30 minutes I feel like I accomplished something and I get a good workout with lots of sweat. However, 5 minutes at a time scared me but I was up for the challenge until someone told me that as a person with knocked-knees (they called it some medical term) we are not suppose to run it could hurt of knees. I didn’t feel any pain when I was running but I don’t want to end up with bad knees. Would this hinder me from running or damage me in the future because I rather enjoyed jogging? I thought about maybe waiting until I’m a little lighter I’m 230lbs 5’4″ so this could be heavy on the knees. I alternate spinning and my walk jogging. Any suggestions???

Erika Nicole Kendall June 10, 2013 - 2:37 PM

I’m not entirely convinced that every person with “knock knees” is actually “knock kneed;” to put it bluntly, there are some truly knock kneed people in this world, and then there are people who simply have a lot of inner thigh fat that affects their ability to walk or run. I think a lot of things are contributing to that appearance or that movement pattern for a lot of people… and the only thing that’s going to fix that is improving your fitness (which, for some, might include losing weight; for others, it’s developing well-balanced and symmetrical muscle.)

I’d say go to a run store, find out what you can about how you run, and see if a gait analysis can’t tell you about the way you’re planting your feet (something invariably affected by being “knock kneed.”) Those are done for free. If it’s not hurting, then keep at it and couple it with a GOOD strength training program, maybe even a corrective program. Do those things, and then come back and comment. Let me know how it goes.

Kathrin Ivanovic August 19, 2013 - 12:46 PM

I am honestly afraid to start running. I’ve had knee issues since I started working out – probably mostly due to 420…370…and now 267lbs on resting on my knees.

When is it fear of pain and real pain? That is what I keep trying to figure out. Also, when is it pain that I can push through and when is it pain that can really damage my knees.

I want to be a runner!!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 20, 2013 - 12:05 PM

I think, for starters, you’re going to feel physical ramifications of the activity when you’re dealing with “real pain.” “Fear of pain” is pro-active, “real pain” is reactive. If you’re experiencing REAL pain, there’s corrective work that can be done; if you’re dealing with a fear of pain, that just means you need to be exceptionally gentle with how you begin your exercise journey. You could start with something like Couch 2 5K instead of setting out to run five miles at first.

Carrie December 12, 2013 - 9:15 PM

Last August I added a goal of one 5k a month for a year. Finished the first and burst into tears, I was so tired and hot, but I had finished a 5k race (I walked the entire thing). Since I have walked one in Sept, two in Oct, two in Nov (one of those was in South America) and one in December. I have increased my team each race but still walk all of them (I am down 70 lbs since March I have at least 50 more to go, much better if I can do another 100, but my doctor doesn’t believe I can do it.

Anyway, to get back to point, I have decided to begin a couch to 5k training on Monday, but really I want to up my endurance and start 10k runs (walks) by about June. I like Erika was scared believed I couldn’t do it, but I am and I am a runner (time does not matter), at 54 years and over about 280 when I started, down to 250 now. One of those if I can do it, anyone can. So if you need a training partner, someone to talk or pant next you and you live in Michigan, give me a shout.

Thanks Erika for starting your path and being willing to share your experiences, hope and wisdom./ –c

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