Will running damage a heavy person's joints?

 

In her fortnightly column, RUTH FIELDaddresses the impact of obesity on joints concluding that getting to a healthy weight should be top priority

I am very overweight and, since reading Run Fat Bitch Run in March, I have been running three times a week. I am worried that if I run five times a week it will be bad for my knees/joints. I can run now for 52 minutes and have increased my distance to 8km. I am 14st 10lbs and 5ft 6 aged 43 and have lost 15lbs since running.

My focus had been my daughter’s communion on May 12thand since then my diet has been a bit “hit and miss” and my weight has plateaued.

My target is the Fingal 10K in July, so can I up my runs safely to five per week and will the weight shift again?

Firstly, the good news: it sounds as though you really have caught the running bug and are also getting remarkably fit. To be running 8km in 52 minutes is tremendously impressive, especially at your weight, and you will be nailing the Fingal 10K in July, I promise.

Now the bad news: I calculate your BMI to be 33. A BMI of between 25-30 is overweight and a BMI of over 30 is classified as obese. And those in the obese range are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Suck it up, write it down and attach it to your fridge in big black letters: Obesity. High blood pressure. Heart disease. Cancer.

It may make you think twice before you open the fridge door. And you really do need to start thinking twice about what you are putting into your mouth because a “hit and miss” diet at your weight is quite frankly, a disgrace.

I recommend a two-pronged attack to be 10K-ready in July and many pounds lighter:

Running

1. Increase your weekly runs to four for now and see how your joints hold up to that extra run. If your joints and knees have held out so far, I am confident that one extra run isn’t going to cause you harm, providing you take the following precautions: always warm up and down by walking briskly for at least 10 minutes and start out very slowly (to warm muscles around joints, thus reducing your risk of injury); always run on grass or trails, no concrete (concrete is bad for your knees particularly); wear proper running shoes; always stay hydrated.

2. With the above in mind, introduce short faster bursts (if this is manageable) into a couple of your weekly runs. It doesn’t matter how many or for how long, just crank it up a gear and sustain it for a short time. And take on a small hill once a week.

Interval training (the short fast bursts) and hill running always give you more bang for your running buck, improving your fitness and increasing the number of calories you burn. One of your regular runs can be much shorter, around 5km, but try to increase your overall pace over the 5km, even if it’s ever so slightly.

Eating

That you are running regularly over a considerable distance and pretty quickly shows incredible courage, determination and grit on your part.

I think you are amazing and you honestly have got the hardest part already nailed, which was getting yourself up and out of the house and running and you should be very proud of yourself for having done so.

However, it is also clear, given your initial considerable weight loss and recent relapse on the food front that you really need to pay much closer attention to your diet. Forget about vanity, your weight is at a dangerous level for your health. I recommend the following:

1. Practise mindful eating. In other words, every time you reach for a biscuit, chocolate or whatever crap it is, ask yourself the following questions:

– Why am I eating this? Is it meal time?

– Am I really hungry?

– Is this nutritious and healthy, or is it just toxic junk keeping me fat?

– What would the grit doctor say if she saw me now?

Then off to the sink for a glass of water and a giggle and, with any luck, the moment may have passed. The only person who can take responsibility for what you put into your gob is you. You have a responsibility to your other half and your children to be setting a better example.

The Grit Doctor says:

You have already conquered the exercise battle. Now start applying some of that discipline in your kitchen and let battle commence.


Ruth Field is the author of Run Fat Bitch Run. Tweet your queries to Ruth Field at: @gritdoctor. See also: irishtimes.com/bodyandsole

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