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Cross Training For Runners

How To Start Running at 50

7 Mins read

Looking to start running at 50? Then you’re in the right place.

Here’s the truth.

Beginning a running program in your 50s or later can feel scary and overwhelming, whether you’re starting for the first time or going back to the sports after a long time.

But here’s the truth. Logging the miles isn’t just for young people or those in already good shape.

You can start running pretty much at any age. All it takes is patience, motivation, and commitment to the right running plan.

Although common training guidelines apply to everyone, your age is one of the most important elements to consider when you’re aiming to start running past 50.

In this article, I’ll share with you my top tips on how to get started running when you’re over 50.

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • How to prepare
  • How to plan your runs
  • What to expect
  • How to prevent injury as an older runner
  • The benefits of running for people over 50
  • How to take the first few steps
  • How to prevent injury
  • What to do before going for your first run
  • And so much more.

Is it Too Late To Start Running When you’re Past 50?

No. Age isn’t a barrier—unless you allow it. Yes, running at 50 is possible.

Running, and exercise, in general, is something you can get into regardless of your age—as long as you follow some rules (don’t worry, I’ll get on to the rules later).

The truth is, running has a lot to offer, especially as you get older.

Sure, you might need to take a few more precautions than, let’s say, someone in their 20s, but age doesn’t bar you from logging the miles. I can assure you.

The Benefits of Running For People Over 50

The truth is, as you get older, and especially as you reach your middle age, adopting an active lifestyle is key. Running is one of the best ways to do that.

What’s more?

Master runners, technically runners over the age of 40, are the fastest-growing age group in the running world.

Don’t take my word for it. One research examined The New York Marathon runners between 1980 and 2009 and reported that the percentage of masters runners drastically increased while the number of finishers under 40 is on the decline.

In other words, older people tend to get into the sport.

It’s also not too late to achieve the physical process. Research out of Frontiers in Physiology revealed that runners who picked up the sport in their 50s were able to get as fit and fast as their peers who had been around the running block since a younger age.

I can go on and on, but you get the picture. If you’re over 50, there’s still time for you to reach out to those and head out to the trails.

I know. I know. It’s easier said than done. Running might seem devastating if you haven’t run in a long time or are trying it for the first time. But I can assure you it’s possible, especially once you implement the strategies shared below.

Let’s get to them.

Note – Learn more about the history of running here.

How To Start Running at 50

Without further ado, here are guidelines you need to get started running at 50 or older.

Check With your Doctor

If you’re really out of shape or haven’t exercised in a long while, it’s a good idea to get checked first before you lace up your running shoes.

This is especially the case when you’re over 50 and have lived a sedentary lifestyle or suffer any chronic health conditions. Osteoporosis, for instance, may limit your running ability.

Even if you’re already in great shape, get the stamp of approval first. Then, if you’re going to err, at least err on the side of caution.

During the visit, discuss your plans and goals and look into any health concerns to be wary of, such as diabetes, heart diseases, or orthopedic limitations.

Your doctor will provide a thorough physical exam with vital health information such as blood pressure, weight, heart disease,  cholesterol, etc.

Additional Resource – Why is my running not improving

Keep Your Goals Realistic

Whether you’re looking to run your first 5K, lose 20 pounds, or simply improve your endurance, it’s key to tailor your exercise program to fit your goals.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but most people who start running will sooner or later lose their motivation as training gets harder.

Although it’s true for runners of all ages, keeping your goals realistic is especially true when you’re older. Set the bar too high, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Even if you’re used to being a marathon runner in your 20s, you will be slower in your 50s than you were before. Unfortunately, that’s just a fact of life.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to plan a running route.

Start Small

Your first few weeks of training won’t be easy. But, even if you try to take it easy, you should expect some discomfort.

Forget about distance and speed early on.

Instead, focus on gradually improving your endurance by following the walk/run method.

In this method, you alternate between intervals of jogging and walking for 20 to 30 minutes.

A good example of a walk-run session is the following 30-minute workout:

  • Start with a 5 to 10 dynamic warm-up to get your body ready.
  • Then alternate jogging for two minutes and two minutes of walking. Aim to complete five rounds of each (for a total of 10 minutes jogging).
  • Last up, cool down by walking for 5 to 10 minutes.

As the weeks go, add one minute to your jogging periods while reducing your walk/recovery time. By week seven or eight—depending on your current fitness level—you might be able to eliminate the walking.

Your goal should be able to run non-stop, at a conversational pace, for at least 30 minutes.

Additional resource –

Here’s your guide to running three miles a day.

Want more challenge? Here’s your guide to running five miles a day.

Add more Running

By week 9 or 10, you should be able to run straight for 30 minutes.

That’s the time for doing more challenging runs. Maybe you start increasing your running distances or adding some hills to your session.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to start running two miles a day.

Take a conservative approach when increasing your training load regardless of your age.

Any sudden, drastic increase in distance or speed will often set you up for soreness or injure that keeps you sidelined.

As a rule, follow the 10 percent rule. Do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next. The rest is just details.

This means that you should jump to 15 miles when your usual weekly mileage is no more than 10 miles. Instead, you’ll want to gradually work up to that, moving from 9 miles to 10, 11, and so forth.

Fartlek runs are also a good idea.

Speedwork is the last thing to add, as you’ll need a solid endurance and strength base before you start doing workouts such as sprints or hill reps.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to create a running plan

Know Your Limits

Research has shown that aging takes a toll on your physiology. Cardiovascular health, muscle fibers, strength, balance, coordination—all decline the older you get.

Accept the bitter truth that our bodies inevitably decline. It’s a process that kicks off around our 30s. After that, the pace of the decline speeds up to roughly 0.7 per year all through our 40s, 50s, and 60s.

Even the best athletes experience declines in performance as early as their 40s. That’s the reason no professional athletes in their 40s—at least they’re a rare breed, which makes them the exception.

Nobody is immune.

In other words, expect to experience changes in performance as you age.

That’s why you should be aware of your limits when you start a running program.  Otherwise, you might get hurt.

Keep going when you feel you can but stop when you need to. Don’t try to bite more than you can chew—otherwise, you’ll be in trouble, and you don’t want that.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to run faster

Take More Recovery

Although training does your body good, recovery is an extremely important ingredient in your running plan.

And it’s greatly affected by age.

Although you were able to exercise daily when young, as you get older, your recovery rate won’t be as fast as it used to. Thanks to changes in blood flow, a decline in muscle and tendons, and a limited ability to manage bodily inflammation, as a runner in their 50s, you might need more rest between workouts.

This might mean running every other day while cross-training on your non-running days, doing activities such as yoga, swimming, cycling, or lifting weights.

It could also mean a day off from any type of exercise activity. It’ll be your call to make.

Here’s what to do next.

Pay attention to your body and force the miles if you’re feeling properly recovered.

You might recover the fastest when you run every other day instead of hitting the pavement every day. So I’d recommend running three or four times a week.

The hard/easy training pattern on a weekly and monthly basis.

What’s more?

You should also shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and don’t hesitate to take power naps in the afternoon as well.

Additional Resource – When it’s the best time to run

Work on Your Strength & Mobility

Just because you decided to start running doesn’t mean that other exercise routines are invalid, especially stretching and strength training.

During your non-running days, cross-train with activities such as strength training, Pilates, yoga, and swimming.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend endless hours in the gym to get a result. Two to three 45 to 60 minutes sessions per week are more than enough to get you stronger.

Don’t know how to get started with yoga? Check my guide here.

Don’t know how to get started with strength training? Check my guide here.

Still in the mood for more cardio?

Then choose low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, elliptical, rowing to supplement your miles.

Additional resources:

How To Start Running at 50 – The conclusion

There you’ve it. If you’re over 50 and thinking about starting a running program, then today’s post has you covered. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.

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