If You Have a Body, You Have a Runner’s Body

There's no such thing as the perfect running weight. Believing otherwise could stop you from doing something you love.

jess movold, runner's world coach, photographed in nyc on monday, september 28, 2020
Jonah Rosenberg

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who expressed an interest in running, but felt the need to lose weight before getting started on their running journey. They described their dieting strategies. This mindset caught me off guard, and it made me sad to know that they didn’t consider themselves a runner due to their body, size, or weight.

First, if you have a body, you have a runner’s body. Some people like to say: Everyone is a runner. Some just don’t know it yet. Ha! Now, I’m not one to convince people to do things they don’t want to do. However, if someone expresses an interest in running, but does not see themselves as someone who could ever be a runner, I’m absolutely going to help pave the pathway to becoming a runner and provide guidance along the way.

Before you begin, remember this: The key points to getting started are the same for everyone—whether you don’t see yourself as having the “ideal” runner’s body (which—I repeat—does not exist), or the concept of running to you has been a foreign idea until now. The biggest thing to remember is to start small and focus on building gradually.

Invest in good shoes.

Get the right pair of running shoes that fit your feet and work for you. You’ll be more inclined to keep up with the practice of running if you make the investment in yourself by purchasing shoes that get you up and out the door.

Develop a routine.

Establishing a routine that has a window of time for your running is critical. Life is busy—and with work, family, and other obligations, fitting in running can be impossible if you don’t make time for it. Try to block out the same time for yourself every day. On the days you don’t run, incorporate other things that can help your running—practice mindfulness, do some mobility or strength work, go for a walk, or take a little time to reflect on your recent training. Utilizing the same window of time each day for your running (as best as possible) will help create a routine that will set you up for success.

Normalize walking.

Sometimes the best place to start with running is walking. Progressions take time and practice, and if you’ve never run before, starting with walking is completely okay. Build the habit and the routine by going out for brisk walks. Put some intention into the effort. From there, you can build in run/walk intervals, incorporating bouts of jogging. Don’t think the first time you head out the door needs to be a speedy run. Start with walking and build from there.

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Follow a training plan or hire a coach.

Navigating a training plan or deciding how to progress in your own running can be extremely challenging. It can lead to increasing your mileage too suddenly, which often leads to injury. It can also lead to talking yourself out of a run, which is easy to do when you don’t have a plan. Instead of playing the guessing game, find a training plan that takes the guesswork out of what to do. Hiring a coach is also an option. A coach can provide a plan that’s customized specifically for you, and help you get to your goals.

Get a training partner or a running buddy.

Accountability is key. Having someone outside of yourself to keep you accountable is extremely helpful. You’ll notice that elite runners don’t train alone—they run in packs. They have running partners and teammates who challenge them, motivate them, and hold them accountable in their running. Try it! Now, this isn’t just for people looking to compete. Having training partners will not only improve your running, but also enrich your life. Start by looking into a running group near you, or visit your local running store and inquire about group runs.

Eat like an athlete.

Circling back to my story about the person who wanted to be a runner but felt the need to lose weight: I want to reshape that thinking. Instead of focusing solely on dieting, I encourage you to think and eat like an athlete. What does that mean? Athletes who take their training seriously aren’t on a calorie-deficit diet. They also aren’t eating a bunch of junk food to fuel their training. High-performing athletes focus on nutrient-dense, well-balanced diets that fuel their body and their mind. I want you to do that. Choose healthy, nutritious foods that will set you up to feel and be your best. Do this instead of cutting calories, which will sap your energy and potentially lead to injuries and an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle.

Everyone, no matter the body, can be a runner if the desire is there. Help me spread that message. If someone looks up to you as a runner but doesn’t see that being possible for them, give them some guidance. Tell them to start with walking and make it a habit or invite them to join you on a run sometime. Running can enrich lives, and it’s our job to help share that with the world!

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