How to Start Running Later in Life
My resolution for this year is to get into better shape. I am pretty sure this is a goal for many adults. But this year is different. I have found two inspirations. Did you know that more than half of New York City marathon runners are over 40? I certainly did not, but when I learned that, I could see a glimmer of hope for me. I wanted to figure out how to start running.
My first inspiration is a 92 year old concert pianist and grandmother of 10, Harriette Thompson. She is also the record holder for being the oldest person to finish a marathon. She finished the the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll event in seven hours, 24 minutes and 36 seconds.
The fact that she finished is amazing, but it is even more amazing considering she ran with her legs covered by white tights hiding her wounds from radiation treatment. She had been battling squamous cell carcinoma.
My second idol decided to hang up his competitive running shoes after he recently finished running 10km in 92 minutes at the ripe age of 102! Fauja Singh started running when he was 89 as a way to distract him from the pain after his wife and son passed away. He may have stopped running competitively, but not completely. He now runs, walks and jogs for about four hours a day. He says it keeps him limber and supple.
The Benefits of Running
Virtually every study I have read has said there are huge benefits to running, even when starting at an older age. Cited benefits include a reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, fractures from falling. Other befits include weight control, greater joint and muscle flexibility, and the psychological feeling that comes with accomplishment.
Steps to Take Before Running
So, how do you become a runner later in life?
The first thing to do is get checked out by your physician, something that is true for any exercise program.
Every article I have read about starting a running program, no matter what your age is, starts with creating a foundation program that builds and strengthens you in order to prevent injury. Quite frankly, it prevents failure too. And this is particularly true if, like me, you have spent a few years being a slave to a desk and a couch potato!
Andrew Read, is a well-known running coach and says, “If you’ve done nothing but sit at a desk for years and moved little you’re not going to be ready to run until you can get the kinks out of your body.” He goes on to state that the entire process of going from being a non-runner to being able to run a half marathon (and enjoy it) will most likely take about a year, but the benefits of taking it easy will, as he says, “keep you out of the doctor’s office.”
Get Reviewed by a Professional
The first thing you should do is get screened for functional movement. You want to find a professional (personal trainer, chiropractor or physical therapist) who is certified to perform the FMS screen test. The test is based on your present physicality and the goals you want to achieve. Your professional will give you a list of corrective exercises that will get your body ready to run while also working on form.
One of the things I like most about Read is that he talks about running in terms people can easily relate to. He is also very frank, telling it as he sees it, another quality I appreciate. While I would like to think I can just go out and run and run like I did when I was a kid, I have come to the realization that it is not going to be that way.
The top coaches who train runners pretty much all say the same thing: develop flexibility, balance, stability and proprioception. Then develop endurance, strength and power.
Running programs are a great way to get you into running. This is a beneficial way to start as the trainer will slowly let everyone adapt to running. Typically, the first couple of sessions will be a combination of walking and running. The longer the sessions go for, the more comfortable your body will become with running and the more intense the workout will be.
If you take to your computer, you will also be able to find running groups. This is a more casual way to get into running and it allows you to make friends too. Running with friends and other people can keep you motivated.
While it takes three months to achieve, Read stresses again that taking time to get to this point is important in order to remain injury-free.
I think I am now sufficiently motivated to remove myself from the couch and start a running program. I hope you will join me!