8 Tips for Running in Your 50s and Beyond
While some naysayers may try to convince you that it’s not safe or smart to run over the age of 50, running is a safe, healthy exercise for people of any age. Whether you’re new to running (it’s never too late to start) or you’re a veteran runner worried about entering a new age group, here are some tips for middle-age runners and beyond.
Adjust Your Goals
If you started running when you were younger, it can be tough to admit that you’re slowing down with age. But it’s a fact of life: As we get older, we lose muscle strength and aerobic capacity and we need more recovery time, so we just can’t train and race at the same level. So, while you won’t be beating your PRs from your 20s and 30s, that doesn’t mean that you can’t set goals to help motivate you and give you a serious sense of accomplishment. Adjust your expectations, pick realistic goals, and be proud that you’re still being an active, committed runner.
Check With Your Doctor
If you’re brand-new to running or you’ve had a lengthy break from the sport, make sure you check with your doctor or other health care professional to make sure you get medical clearance. Chances are he or she will encourage you to get started, but it’s important to get the stamp of approval.
Take the Proper Time to Recover Between Runs
While you may have been able to run every day in your younger years, as you age, you’ll probably find that you don’t bounce back as quickly as you used to. While your legs may have felt fine the day after a hard workout or race in the past, now it may be several days before you’re feeling back to normal. Listen to your body and don’t force runs if you’re not feeling recovered. You may find that you feel better when you run every other day, as opposed to every day or six days a week. Days off from running don’t have to be complete rest days. You can do cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, yoga, or any other activity that you enjoy.
Do Regular Strength Training
Strength-training is beneficial for runners of any age, but those benefits are even more significant for older runners. People naturally lose muscle mass as they age, but regular strength training can help you avoid the decline. Improved muscle strength means that your muscles absorb more of the impact while running, which eases the stress on your joints. Simple leg and core exercises such as squats, planks, push-ups, and lunges can make a big difference in your running performance and injury resistance.
Work on Your Balance
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. You can work on improving your balance simply by standing on one leg (and alternating legs) for 30 seconds. Or, do some basic yoga balance moves such as tree pose, eagle pose, or king dancer pose.
Work on Your Flexibility
As you age, you may notice that your legs, back, hips, and shoulders feel stiffer than when you were younger, especially when you first wake up or have been sitting for a long period of time. 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 or doing yoga, especially after runs, can help you work on becoming more flexible.
You also should make sure you do a proper warm-up before running, especially if you’re racing or doing a hard workout. Start with a 5-10-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. They’re the opposite of static stretches, in which you hold a stretch in a position (those types of stretches should be saved for after the run when your muscles are warmed-up.) Examples of dynamic stretching would be arm circles, heel raises, or lunges.
Take Injury Prevention Steps
Be proactive in your approach to injuries and be proactive and don’t ignore the warning signs of an injury. As you age, you may find that you need to take new injury-prevention steps, such as regular massages, using a foam roller, and more rest days.
If You Do Get Injured, Be Patient
As we get older, it does take longer to recover from injuries. A calf pain that sidelined you for a couple 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 find yourself out for even 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.