It's no secret that running, whatever your age, can be a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and your overall strength. Some say that because of its high impact on muscles and joints it's not something that you should consider starting at 50plus. That's not the view we take here at 50plus4men.com. The popularity of masters running clubs (those are running clubs aimed at people over 40) and the number of people over 50 we see every year in the London Marathon says to us that passing the big 5-0 is not a reason
to give up running and is certainly not a reason not to try it.
Check With Your Doctor
If you're reading this then I expect like me you're 50plus, if that's the case then whether you're new to running or coming back after a break, go to your doctor and get a check-up before you start. We've all read the stories of people keeling over with a stroke or heart attack whilst running, so let's get the all-clear before we do this or any other type of vigorous exercise.
Assuming your doctor has given you the all-clear, here are some basic facts before you begin.
Know Your Limits
We're 50plus and it doesn't matter what level of fitness you have or had in the past, you are not going to be able to do today what you could do in your 20s and 30s. Even Usain Bolt slowed down in the end. As we age, things change:
Our cardiovascular endurance begins to decline
Our muscle fibres begin to shrink in size and number
Our strength, coordination, and balance all decrease
That said, everybody's ageing experience is different, your lifestyle, diet, genetics, and activity levels will all affect the level and speed at which your body declines. Just training harder is not going to reverse this natural decline. At 50plus (and I certainly know this from personal experience) we suffer far more injuries than we were when we were younger.
Successfully introducing a running routine in your 40s and 50s means training right and working smarter rather than harder.
Increase Your Effort Gradually
Start slowly, we're older we need to take it easier than we did when we were younger. Try the 10% rule, to avoid injury. Don't increase your effort by more than 10% each week.
For example, you might start with a 20-minute walk jog run workout. Walk for 10 minutes, then jog for 5 minutes, then walk again for 2 minutes and then run hard for 30 seconds, followed by 2 minutes walk. Next week reduce the walk element by 1 minute and increase the jog element by 1 minute. This slow build-up will minimize your risk of injury whilst you increase strength and stamina.
If you used to run when you were younger, and haven't run for a while it can be hard to accept that you're going to be slower than you were before. Stop comparing yourself to the man you were, focus on the man you are. Consider setting new age-related personal bests, rather than looking back at things you achieved 20 years ago. Make sure you set age-appropriate goals and be proud that you're still being an active, committed runner. How to Set SMART Running Goals check out here
Don't try and run every day, you're now 50plus it takes longer to bounce back than it did when you were younger. Listen to your body, don't force yourself to run when you're body says it's not ready. Try running two days a week to start and build up from there. Off days don't have to be complete rest days try cycling, swimming, yoga, or any other activity that you enjoy.
Add Strength Training
Strength training helps runners of all ages, for men over 50 it helps counteract the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with getting older. The improved muscle strength achieved by strength training will help us avoid injury by enabling our muscles to absorb more of the impact while running, so reducing the stress on our joints. See our blog for strength training at 50plus.
Improve Your Balance
Improved balance will help you when running and reduce the chances of a fall. We don't bounce anymore, at 50plus we tend to break so if we can avoid a fall when running it's a good thing. Improving your balance is not only helpful for running, but it's also necessary for everyone as we age. If you have good balance, you're less likely to fall and you can regain your balance more easily if you start to fall.
Something as simple as standing on one leg (and alternating legs) for 30 seconds 10 times a day can help. Lookout for a post soon on improving your balance at 50plus4men.com
You and I both know that at 50plus our legs, back, hips, and shoulders feel stiffer than they did when we were younger. This is particularly noticeable when I wake up or have been sitting for a long period.
Everyone's muscles and tendons lose some elasticity with time, but you can maintain or even improve your flexibility if you work on it. Regular stretching after a run can help improve flexibility and helps your recovery from muscle fatigue.
Make sure you warm-up properly before running. Start with a 5- to 10-minute walk or easy jog, followed by some dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches are active movements of muscles, moving you through a range of motion without bouncing. Examples of dynamic stretching include arm circles, heel raises, or lunges.
Be proactive in your approach to injury prevention. If you feel something is wrong don't ignore the warning signs. At our age you may find it useful to take new proactive steps to prevent injury such as regular massages, using a foam roller, and more rest days.
Invest in Good Running Shoes
One of the best things you can do to minimize injuries is to buy running shoes that are right for your body. It's worth going to a specialist outlet like https://www.decathlon.co.uk/ to get some advice. Look out for our blog on running shoes coming soon to 50plus4men.com
Take Time to Recover From Injury
Be patient. At 50plus it does take longer to recover from injuries than when we were younger. A calf pain that sidelined you for a couple of days when you were in your 20s may now take several weeks to heal.
Don't rush back to running too quickly, as you may worsen an injury and find yourself out for longer than necessary. Listen to your body, take a break from running, and see a doctor if you have injury-related pain that lasts more than 10 days.
HOW TO BECOME A RUNNER WHEN YOU HATE RUNNING
If like me you don't like running but feel it's something you'd like to try, here are some tips to help you get going and incorporate it into your regular exercise regime:
Put together a running music mix with fast and slow tempo songs on either a computer (for treadmill runners) or a portable music player and update it regularly.
If running outside, try different routes.
Vary speed between a walk, a jog and a full-on sprint.
Run at different times of the day.
Get the proper gear so that running in the rain or other inclement weather conditions can be fun.
Wear running socks they can protect and support pressure points on your feet.
Dress in light non-cotton layers. Polyester shirts are more comfortable and lighter when wet.
OK, you've read the article now it's time to pull on those running shoes and get going. Good luck.