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What Over-50 Runners Need to Know Before They Start

It’s never too late to get moving, but here’s how to ease into the sport.

how to start running at 50
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If you’re interested in how to start to running at 50 (or older), it’s not the craziest idea. Even if the last time you were regularly active was in high school or college—be it playing sports or just going to a gym a little more regularly—there’s no need to be at a loss to start on your running journey.

As a coach with a history of working with runners at varying starting points, I know it is never too late to get started on improving your health and fitness. While, in general, all the basic training principles apply to everyone, your age and current health status are important considerations when you are looking to start running past 50. Here are my suggestions:

Have a complete physical

Schedule an appointment with your health-care professional before you begin training. Discuss your plans to start a running program and ask if there are any health concerns to be aware of, like signs of heart disease, diabetes, or orthopedic limitations.

A complete physical will provide you and your physician with important health information like weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, BMI, and a lot more. Knowing these numbers at the start will help you track your progress over time and note improvements.

Invest in the right equipment

In this case, equipment means shoes. Find a specialty running store and obtain a professional shoe fit to determine the right pair for you based on your biomechanics. If you need a primer on the best way to discover your perfect fit, our article How to Buy the Right Running Shoes gives you some insight on what to look for when trying to find the perfect pair for you, and we have a few of our favorites listed below.

Affordable Running Shoes

ID tag

Have your name and contact information along with pertinent health information on you while running. A simple way to do this is to purchase an ID tag to wear as a bracelet (like RoadID) or on your running shoe, so this information is available at all times.

If you need help finding places to run, using online tools like Google Maps or MapMyRun can help you create a running route near you. You can also find a local group run that welcomes all paces so you have some company as your start your running. When you have a trusted group with you, there’s peace of mind that there’s alway somebody around should you need help with anything.

Select an appropriate training plan

Your training plan should start at your current fitness level. I suggest you consider starting a walking program first. This is a great way for anyone to begin training, but it can be especially effective for older runners or those who have been sedentary for long periods of time.

Walking starts the basic conditioning process needed for running, but in a gentler manner. The same muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, and bones used for walking do similar movements on runs. As you become conditioned, you can gradually ease into running by mixing short run intervals into your walking. Older runners need a longer warmup period, so be sure to include this phase before moving into the actual exercise.

Older runners also need more recovery time between workouts, so start by exercising two or three days a week. You can increase the frequency as your fitness level and conditioning improve. But keep in mind that all increases in frequency, duration, or intensity of exercise should be small and gradual incremental steps

Add cross-training

Older runners can benefit from cross-training, specifically strength and flexibility training. Strength training twice a week can help counter muscle loss and bone loss that comes with aging. Work on your flexibility with stretching after your runs/walks or try a yoga class two days a week to help maintain joint range of motion and help your balance. If you want to add additional cardio exercise, choose a non-impact exercise like swimming or spinning to supplement your running or walking.

With walking/running three days a week, strength training, and stretching it will lead to a very busy (but healthy) lifestyle. Along with exercise, nutrition is equally as important to improving health and fitness, so take a look at your diet and make healthy choices to fuel your new activity level.

Need a detailed plan? These comprehensive downloadable guides, complete with beginner, maintenance, and half marathon training plans, will help you kick age-related running pain to the curb and make running at 40+ feel amazing.

Run Strong in Your 40s, 50s, and 60s!
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