Running in Your 40s & 50s
The huge increase in the popularity of running in the UK in recent years is well documented. It’s not difficult to see why this form of activity has such broad appeal – it’s inexpensive, gets you out in the fresh air, provides a sense of achievement, improves physical and mental wellbeing and can provide opportunities for socialising too.
If you’re in your 40s or 50s and perhaps haven’t done much physical exercise for a while or have never been interested in physical exercise, you may think it’s too late to get started as a runner. The good news is that it’s never too late to get involved in this most rewarding of activities. Here are some pointers to help you on your way:
Get started – This can be the toughest bit but once you commit to get fit, make sure you back it up with a plan of action. When and where will you run? What kit do you need? Do you want to run with someone else for moral support in the early days?
Be healthy – If you’re new to running, it’s wise to speak to your GP before you begin. Start slowly, building up from walking to running and make sure you stretch before and after running. Don’t push yourself too far too soon and stop and seek advice if anything becomes painful when running. Include lots of leafy greens and oily fish in your diet to promote good joint and
Decide where to run – One of the joys of running is getting out and about in your local community, be this running round the block, along the seafront, in the park or through the countryside. However, if running ‘in public’ feels too big a step at first, why not try some treadmill running at your local gym to get you moving and build up your stamina? Running outside is when you’ll really feel the benefits, though, so don’t deny yourself the exhilaration that running in the fresh air brings. If you feel self-conscious, run with a friend or join a local running club – there are plenty that welcome beginners. For a running experience that is truly inclusive, Park Run (www.parkrun.org.uk) cannot be beaten. It’s free, weekly, local and open to anyone, whatever your ability or experience – so it’s OK to start with walking and progress to a run walk, and then a gentle run, if you want to. If you prefer to run alone and set your own agenda, that’s fine too. Running is all about doing it in a way that suits you best. Many runners relish the sense of space that running solo provides; a time to clear your head and just go with
Get kitted out – When you start you don’t need to worry about looking ‘the part’, just wear something that you feel comfortable in. As you begin to get used to being out and about, you may want to then look at the wide range of runners’ breathable clothing that is available. It is important to have a decent pair of trainers that suit the type of running you’ll be doing, whether it’s road running on pavements and paths or trail running on grass and mud. Consider having gait analysis carried out at a running shop (this is usually a free service). This means that trainers can be recommended for you that take into account aspects of your individual running style such as pronation (the natural side-to-side movement of your foot as you run). This should reduce the risk of pain or injury.
Track your progress – There are lots of apps that can help you get started and keep you motivated. Many committed runners credit Couch to 5K with giving them the impetus to get active. There are lots of other great apps available too, such as Strava and MapMyRun, which are useful for recording your runs. Fitness trackers such as Fitbits or Garmins will help you chart your running progress in terms of distance, speed, calories burned, heart rate etc. These can be pricey, though, and aren’t really needed until you decide running is for you.
Set running goals – Setting yourself a goal, even if it’s just to run once a week, increases the likelihood that you’ll become more active. Speed and distance-based goals are great but initially just focus on getting out there and doing it on a regular basis. Your goals should be there to spur you on and not become something to beat yourself up with, so make them possible and positive.
And finally, enjoy the experience.
Running has transformed the lives of so many people of all ages. If you start slowly and gradually build up, you will be amazed at the progress you make, and you’ll feel healthier and happier for it too!