You’ve been hearing a lot about running and how good it is for your health, so you’ve been thinking about trying it. There’s just one problem in your eyes: You’re in your 50s and don’t know if it’s safe to start running at your age. The good news that it is indeed safe for many older adults to run, but you do need to put a game plan in place in order to reap the full benefits and minimize your risks. Here are 10 tips to follow if you want to start running in your 50s.
Talk to your doctor.
You should always talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen in your 50s, and that includes running. Even if you were an avid runner in your younger days, you might have developed some health problems or injuries since then. Your doctor will be able to advise you if running is a good fit for you, as well as offer tips for how you can prevent injury and get the most out of your jogging routine.
Be prepared for some physical discomfort.
The endorphin rush after exercise will make you feel fantastic, but during the run, you might not feel so great. Being out of breath or sore or uncomfortable is normal, especially if you’re new to exercise. The physical stress of running might also cause some bladder leakage, which is totally normal in older adults. You can use bladder leakage pads or incontinence liners to manage things in the short-term, and do pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen your bladder muscles.
Ease into it.
Don’t expect to sprint through a 5K on your first day. Start easy, with a slower pace and a shorter distance, and then build up from there. If you’re new to exercise, you might want to start with a walk, then incorporate some jogging intervals, and finally try to run most of the distance. Think in terms of months, not weeks or days. You have plenty of time to increase your speed or distance, so don’t push too hard too early and hurt yourself in the process.
Get the right gear.
Running is a fantastic workout that has a low barrier to entry. The only equipment you need is a good pair of running shoes, some workout clothes, and a way to track your time/distance, such as a dedicated running app. Getting good running shoes is especially critical for preventing discomfort and injury. You might want to go to a specialty running shop so they can analyze your stride and help you select a pair of shoes that will let your feet hit the ground with a minimal amount of shock.
Set realistic goals.
Having a goal in mind can help you stay motivated and track your progress. Some people find it helpful to train for a specific race, while others prefer to work it into their regular exercise routine — for example, running for at least 30 minutes three times a week. If you are trying to hit a particular distance or time mark, give yourself plenty of time to ramp up your training without overdoing it.
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Find some accountability.
Working out with other people will also help you stay motivated, and it’s easier to find a running buddy than ever thanks to the growing popularity of the sport. If you don’t already have friends who run, then you will almost certainly be able to find a running club in your area. Having a running buddy will make you less likely to skip a day of training, or just stop running altogether, so go forth and make some running friends.
Make sure to cross-train.
Some running is great for you, so even more running should automatically be better for you, right? Not necessarily. Cross-training — doing different exercises besides running — can help you build muscle strength, increase balance, and improve flexibility. All these things in combination will make you a faster, stronger runner. If all you’ve been doing is running all the time, try incorporating some strength training, as well as other forms of cardiovascular exercise.
In addition to varying up your exercise routine, you should also take some days completely off. This is because your muscles need time to recover in between workouts. If you’ve got a pretty intense training schedule, you might also want to incorporate some lighter weeks where you do minimal exercises focused on stretching and recovery. While you may feel like you’re being lazy, allowing your body to rest and recover will make your runs that much better.
Listen to your body.
Yes, you will need to push through a certain amount of physical discomfort in any type of exercise, and this is true for running as well. However, this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore what your body is telling you. If you feel acute pain, sudden dizziness, extreme shortness of breath, or a dangerously elevated heart rate, stop running immediately and reach out to your doctor if the problem persists.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this especially true when it comes to running-related injuries. Whether you end up with shin splints or a pulled tendon, recovery can be long and boring. When you feel an injury coming on, it’s much better to take a couple of days off than to push through and hurt yourself. Incorporating regular breaks into your running schedule, as detailed above, will also reduce your risk of injury.
Running in your 50s may sound daunting, but it’s good for your health and requires only a minimal amount of equipment. If you’re looking to start running later in life, follow these tips to make the most of your experience.