Starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese
Starting a workout routine when you are overweight/obese can be hard.
Starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese can be challenging. When you think of working out, for most people, it’s a mind over matter type situation. Set up a routine, google a few fast and effective workouts, and off you go! For someone looking down the long barrel of obesity, or being heavily overweight, it’s not so simple.
It’s no secret that when you are carrying an extreme amount of weight, your body suffers. Your joints are stressed, muscles perhaps not as strong in some areas. Areas like wrists, knees, ankles, and feet can’t take the impact that a smaller person working out would be able to.
These factors alone can make someone who is overweight/obese feel overwhelmed from the start. Think about it; you, having been told your whole life to lose weight, know you have to exercise, but what if just walking a few minutes a day causes such chronic pain that you are left defeated, hopeless and afraid? Is there no way to overcome the weight and become healthier? Of course, there is!
There is nothing wrong with baby steps
Take it from someone who used to be athletic and strong, being trapped by the limitations of your body can be humbling at best and flat out defeating at worst. I have always been a big girl, even in high school, though looking back, I was never as big as my mind told me I was. The psychology of what we sell ourselves can be so damaging! Alas, that is for an entirely different blog post. The point I’m trying to make is that even though I’ve always been a larger girl, my body didn’t limit me on what I was able to do. I could walk, run, play sports, do cartwheels, heck you name it, and I could do it. I used to be able to weight lift an impressive amount of weight, enough that the guys at the gym would take notice and be impressed.
Today is a different story. I struggle with a 15-minute walk around my block. The pressure of carrying this weight around causes my back to ache so much that each step is excruciating. That pain leaves me feeling weak, defeated, and trapped in a body that used to be so strong. That can be a challenging obstacle to overcome as you start a workout routine when you are overweight or obese.
Staring honesty in the face
It’s so imperative to be as honest with yourself as you can be. Accept that you can’t run a mile from day one. Understand that when someone says, “maybe you should try swimming.” it’s not coming from a negative place. That understanding is something I struggle with so much, because I don’t want to be different. I want to be able to work out just like everyone else! Stop making me feel different! Yet, in being honest with myself, I have to face the reality that I’m not like everyone else. And that is more than ok!
Once you realize that baby steps aren’t the devil, and that by starting somewhere small you can build to great things, taking that first step will be so much easier! I have put together some different exercises, how to start small with them, and why you would want to implement them into your routine.
Yoga is AMAZING! Especially for overweight/obese people!
It’s no secret that I have a great love for yoga. I found the joy of the practice many years ago, never realizing how much it would come to have such a profound place in my life. As a matter of fact, I am currently getting certified as a yoga instructor so I can create a place for people of size to learn the joys of the practice!
Unfortunately, there are some pretty big stereotypes or misconceptions around yoga and who can practice it. Many people believe it’s just for little, lu-lu lemon wearing women to go to before their Starbucks get together. That misconception couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve written about this before in my blog called Fat is Flexible. (please check it out if you are interested in learning more about bigger bodies and yoga!)
Yoga is a balance of the physical, mental, and spiritual/emotional.
Becoming extremely overweight or obese is a mixture of physical, mental, and emotional imbalances in your life. It doesn’t just happen overnight. An unfortunate series of events have to occur to enable a morbidly obese diagnosis. I know because I’ve spent my life twisted up in those events. So why would yoga be one of the best forms of a workout routine when you are overweight or obese? The regular practice of yoga improves the natural balance of all three of those areas; physical, mental, and emotional.
Yoga creates a connection between the body, mind, and spirit. With regular use, many yoga positions promote strength, flexibility, and balance. There are poses for weight loss, fat burning, and building strength in weak areas, as well as hormone balance, liver, and internal organ function. Furthermore, these healing effects can go beyond just the physical. By creating a strong bond to the inner workings of your mind, yoga teaches you how to find balance in your life with trauma, self-worth, and insecurities. Lastly, yoga is adaptable for any body size, shape, or mobility level! If you are interested in reading more about the benefits of yoga for obese beginners, you might find this article very helpful.
Walk, walk, walking.
Walking to lose weight is a pretty simple idea. It’s free, its relatively easy and can be done almost anywhere. Like I mentioned before, starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese can be challenging. So finding things that keep it simple, are the keys to success.
So that may mean adding a walking route to your workout routine. I will caution that walking when you are heavily overweight/obese can be a bit hard at first, but not impossible. It’s really all about how you approach it. Instead of waking up one day and deciding that a 3-mile walk is the way to go, break it down into baby steps. Trust me; you will thank me later when you can still use your legs the next day!
Start out walking at a slow to moderate pace, 10-15 minutes at a time, gradually building up to at least 30 minutes of walking a day. For me, I have broken up my walking routine into 2-3 sessions of 10-15 minutes a day. The goal is to consistently build up strength and stamina until you are comfortably walking 30 minutes a day at a moderate pace. Of course, as you build up more stamina and endurance, you can add more distance or time to your end goal!
For the slow walkers out there like me, a recent study done by the University of Colorado Boulder has found that overweight or obese people who walk at a slower pace for 30 minutes tend to burn more calories on average than the normal suggested five 30-minute brisk paced walks. You can read more on the study here at active.com if you are interested in its findings.
One of my favorite activities is swimming, if you take away the insecurities about being in a bathing suit, of course. Swimming is one of the best things to try if you are starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese. Swimming is the best exercise for the all-around body system that you can do. It’s great for cardio, skeletal, and even pulmonary workouts!
Being someone who is overweight or obese, this is even better due to being a non-weight-bearing activity. That means for the people out there that can’t handle the stress of physical activity on their joints due to being heavy swimming allows you to get your heart rate up and burn calories without causing you more pain!
According to the Swimming Strong Foundation, a great way to start a swimming routine is to take it in small steps. Baby steps! Swim a lap, rest for a minute, then swim another lap. As you get further along and build up more endurance, shorten the rest period between laps. Eventually, you will be able to swim multiple laps before taking a break!
The Bottom Line
Starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese is exceptionally challenging. It’s not just a matter of making your body do new physical movements; it’s also about overcoming your mental fears, programming and habits.
Remember to start small. It’s okay to take things in small steps, as long as you are consistent in those steps you will build to great things! If you feel like you aren’t doing enough, remind yourself gently that the movement you did today was more than you did the thousands of days before. Just like with anything else in your life, you have to learn to support yourself before you can crawl. And you can’t walk until you can crawl.
Try new things! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to new activities. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you end up enjoying. Yoga, walking, and swimming are great activities for sure, and all of them have steps built-in for you to grow on, but they aren’t the ONLY activities out there! Be adventurous and explore a new world. Most importantly, if there is only one piece of advice you take away from this today: DON’T GIVE UP!!!!!!!
As always, until next time, stay safe and remember you are never alone in your struggle. I, and many others, are out there facing the same struggles, the same battles! We are warriors, day in and day out! Feel free to drop a comment or leave me a message, and I’ll answer as soon as I can! Talk to you soon!
***Disclaimer: Before starting any workout routine, please consult with your physician and make the best choices based on your level of ability! Workout safely so you can avoid injury and keep making progress!
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