So you’re getting on up there and you want to run. That’s incredible. I’m a huge advocate for fitness at any age. Whether you’re 30, 40, the big 5-0, or beyond, there’s a place for runners of all ages. That said, there are special considerations for older runners. It’s something all of us have to think about as our bodies change and age, no matter how fit we might be.
If you’re in your 50’s but looking to start on the road to 5Ks and endurance running, these are the big things you need to consider.
Top Considerations for Mature Endurance Runners
As we age, our kidneys become less efficient at conserving water. On top of that, the nerve endings in our mouths and throats stop being as good at telling us when we’re thirsty. You’re much, much less likely to realize that you’re dehydrated. It’s crucial that you take those water stops whether or not you think you’re thirsty. Carry a water bottle or Camelback with you while you train. You don’t want to be left high and dry.
Your body is going to do best with routine—and a routine that you ease into at that. You don’t want to push yourself too hard or put too much on yourself at once. Don’t hit the ground running (pun intended) with an overly-intensive regimen. Ease in. Slowly increase your speed and distance as you feel comfortable. You shouldn’t try to cram your training into a few months like most guides recommend. Instead, plan for years. Give your body a long period of adjustment to long-distance running and a serious schedule of commitment.
Nutrition is crucial for every runner, but it’s especially true for aging athletes who are combating things like a loss of bone density, aches and pains, and a need for extra nutrients. Make the switch to whole grains, especially if you feel those aches and pains. Don’t be afraid to take supplements.
While I mostly talk about running here, I don’t want to neglect the importance of diversifying your exercise regimen. For mature athletes especially, there is a special need for crosstraining. You need to focus on building up muscle and strength across your whole body. Strength training is particularly valuable at this point in life—so even if you’re just doing light weights, they’re worth doing.
Avoid Strain & Injury
Injuries are something to be especially wary of. They will take much longer to bounce back from, and something that could be minor for someone younger may be a much bigger problem for a more mature runner. Take care to avoid strain and injury as much as possible. That means always taking time to stretch before you run. It means letting yourself cool down. It also means mixing it up! Don’t run on pavement all the time. It’s a bit of strain on aging knees.
Instead, opt for softer surfaces, like grass and dirt trails.
Again, just stretching isn’t enough to avoid injury and burnout. Crosstraining and building up bone and muscle strength is your key to running for years to come.
Let Yourself Recover
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a runner is to let yourself recover. A lot of us can be bad about this. We run, we get hyped up on that runner’s high, and we feel totally invincible. So we go and do yard work immediately after hitting the gym or we lift something way heavier than we should have. We run farther than we ever have and push ourselves too far.
Even if you had the best run you’ve ever had, don’t let the high push you farther than you should go. Celebrate instead with a good cool down, a shower, and a snack. Refuel your body with water and good nutrition.
As we get older, we can all strive for wellness. There might be a day that comes when we can’t run. But we can always be healthy, and be well.