We’ve all heard the phrase: “It’s never too late” and throughout our youth, our twenties, thirties and forties we believe it to be true. Nothing is going to stop us ticking those wildest dreams of ours off our “bucket list”! And then, before we know it, we’ve hit 50 – our sixth decade – and some of us begin to take stock. Will we still make it up Kilimanjaro? Everest? Do the Inca trail? The Campino da Compostela? See the Taj Mahal? Visit the Acropolis of Athens? Or the Colosseum in Rome? Big dreams indeed – and hopefully we will still achieve them all.
When it comes to running, the good news is: it’s NEVER too late! We just need to demonstrate a bit of caution and forward planning and we can be off.
So what should be our prime considerations for running over 50?
It’s a fact: as we age, our general fitness levels decline and our joints and muscles are no longer what they used to be. We may develop health conditions, some more serious than others. Whether you’re new to running or have had a significant break, if you have an underlying chronic condition going on, do go and get yourself checked out first with your GP to ensure that you’re safe to do so. If it’s about improving your current fitness levels and general health as a result, your doctor is rarely going to say “no”.
Running takes its toll on your body: from the toes through the foot and upwards. If you’re going to take running seriously, don’t skimp when it comes to footwear. Your running shoes should in fact be your biggest financial outlay when it comes to this form of exercise. Do some research, ask around and take yourself to a specialist running store where you know you will get a professional shoe fit specifically for you based on your personal biomechanics.
Running clothes don’t need to be expensive but do need to fit: neither too tight nor too baggy. The fabric also needs both to breathe, wash well in the machine and dry quickly: you’re going to get sweaty so it will need washing frequently and ideally you’d like it to be dry within 24 hours.
4. Warm up Routine
Running is a vigorous sport – even if you start slowly! A good warm up routine will prepare your body for the exertion ahead, improve general performance and reduce the risk of injury. To loosen muscles and tendons and improve elasticity and flexibility, perform arm circles, heel raises and lunges at the outset of your exercise. Try walking up and down stairs and jogging on the spot too. 5 -10 minutes of this type of warm up will increase your heart rate and blood flow thereby enabling more oxygen to reach your muscles. Now you’re nearly ready for the off!
Whether you’re a novice or a more experienced runner, you must build your fitness levels incrementally rather than increasing challenge dramatically and causing yourself injury or soreness. Remember this is an exercise you’d like to continue for years to come. Don’t spoil it for yourself by being too ambitious on Day 1 and never wanting to run ever again!
Consider an initial 20 minute workout: 5 – 10 minutes warm up; 30 seconds’ run; 3 minutes’ walk; 30 seconds’ run; 3 minutes’ walk; 30 seconds’ run; 5 minutes’ cool down. If this works for you, build on it. If it’s too much in the first instance, slow it down. This may be about running but it isn’t a race.
6. Listen to Your Body
Set yourself realistic goals and start from where you are fitness-wise. Don’t force yourself. Be gentle. Give yourself rest days. Training puts the body under stress and the older we get, the longer the body needs for rest, recovery and repair. Catching aches and pains early and allowing a couple of days’ rest can be all it takes to have you back out there running again. And just because you aren’t running doesn’t mean you can’t carry out other forms of exercise to keep yourself trim: cycling, swimming, yoga are great exercise regimes for those “in-between times”. Running is about achieving a balance of endurance, space, speed and fitness. Don’t feel guilty or fear fitness levels will fall off if you take a day out: they won’t.
A healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, leafy greens and oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel will provide you with all the essential fatty acids, magnesium and calcium you need that are vital to bone and joint nutrition. Whilst you might be tempted to “binge” post workout on empty calories such as crisps and chocolate, do try your best to avoid, and treat yourself to a good mix of carbs and protein instead: milk, bananas, apples, berries, nuts, peanut butter, yoghurts will all aid you in a swift recovery from your exertions and help minimise muscle soreness.
Keeping properly hydrated throughout the day is important under normal circumstances but becomes even more so when out running. Take a bottle of water with you at all times and sip from it regularly. Avoid energy drinks at all costs: they are full of sugar and you need your nutrients to come from your healthy diet.
9. Cool Down and Recovery
It’s important to bring your body and heart rate back gradually to normal. To do so, you simply need to reduce the intensity of what you’ve been doing: if you’ve been running, jog; if you’ve been jogging, walk. Gently stretching each of your muscle groups for 10 – 15 seconds will help bring your mind and body back to a resting state and restore the length of your muscles. You might also find it helpful in aiding your body’s recovery – particularly after a more strenuous run – if you lie on the floor with your legs raised against a wall, or your feet raised on a stool. Remember too to rehydrate but do so slowly: a little but often.
So there you go: a few ideas to get you started on running over 50. We hope you can now get on out there and have fun!