As a keen runner and running blogger, one of my proudest moments as a daughter was watching my 57 year old mother cross the finish line of her first ever 5K race. She’d been training for months, using the Couch to 5K app to go from beginner to runner, and was so excited to have run the entire way. Although she made it clear that she didn’t want me to run alongside her, I was thrilled to be in the crowds at the finish line to see her earn that first medal.
She’s not alone in taking up running in her (early) retirement, in the US, over 50% of male and 40% of female marathon finishers are over 40. And they’re finishing fast too, many beating their younger counterparts.
According to Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor at the University of Texas, ‘aging merely lowers the ceiling of physical ability,’ even those over the age of 90 can respond well to exercise training.
So if you’re inspired to start running, remember it’s never too late…
10 tips for getting into running in later life
Honestly the scariest thing about starting to run is the thought of running. Once you get out there and take those first few steps, it really isn’t that bad. The more you build it up in your head, the harder and scarier it becomes.
Download the app.
The online programme Couch to 5K has helped thousands of people become runners; it starts off with just 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds of walking and builds up gradually until you’re able to complete a full 5K. There are also plenty of apps, like RunKeeper and Strava that allow you to track your runs and see your progress.
Often the reason people don’t feel they are able to run is because they set off at full pelt, only to run out of steam halfway down the road and find themselves bent over, struggling to breathe. Start out slowly, (really slowly) you can always pick up the pace once you find your rhythm.
Invest in a decent pair of trainers…
And sports bra. If you’re going to spend money on kit, these are the two most important pieces to get right. Have them both fit at a specialist sports shop if possible. With trainers you’re looking for something between a half and a full size bigger than your usual shoe, and with a bit of bounce in the sole. When it comes to sports bras, eliminating bounce is the aim, and ensure that it’s tight enough around your ribs that it doesn’t chafe.
Sign up for a race
Having a goal that you’re working towards can help you keep running, even when your motivation wanes. Pick an event that’s within a realistic timeframe and is a challenging distance, whether that’s a 5K, 10k, Half or Full marathon, make sure it’s a race that you want to run and will put the work in to get to the finish line. Encouraging friends to train with you might also help and will make race day more fun!
But race only against yourself.
It doesn’t matter what speed or distance anyone around you is running, focus on you and ignore everyone else. If you’re in the park, taking part in a parkrun or a race, it’s easy to get swept up with someone else’s pace - stick to your own plan. Remember, it’s difficult to increase both pace and speed at the same time, so pick one to focus on.
Don’t underestimate the importance of recovery.
Whatever age you start running, it’s important to remember that as well as putting the effort into the miles, you need to focus on the post-run recovery. Working on your strength and flexibility in your calves, hamstrings and quads, as well as hip flexors is key to staying injury free. Sleep, rest and relaxation can also help improve your training.
Try not to pound the pavement
Whilst it might be easiest to leave your front door and run just on the roads and pavements around your house, it can lead to stress injuries from the impact of the hard surface. If possible, switch some of your runs to trails, grass, or even the treadmill to lower the impact on your joints.
Although everyone is different, you’re aiming for a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein in your post run snack. Something like a smoothie or iced latte could even work. You’re going to want to stay hydrated before, during and after your run too, something like Robinsons No Added Sugar Fruit Squash can help you drink enough throughout the day. If it’s really hot and you’re sweating a lot, then you might want to try an electrolyte drink after your run.
You are a runner.
Whether you can run 1 minute, 1 mile or 1 marathon… you are a runner. For many beginners, they don’t feel like they can call themselves ‘real runners’, but as long as you are running, don’t be afraid to call yourself one. You’re earning it.
The Runner Bean – Charlie Watson