I’ve been running on and off for over 37 years. At age 52, I am starting to enjoy running again after years of dreading it. Why? Maybe it’s my age, my wisdom or just experience, but I really have changed my mindset around running. That, and the fact that I listen to my body now, rather than ignore it, has made running fun again.
For the first 15 years I ran, it was because I “had” to, either to stay in shape for sports, or to stay thin. In my 30’s and 40’s I changed from running to aerobics and pounded myself into the ground in a different way. By age 47, I had alot of aches and pains and the beginning of arthritis, and turned to more strength training to help my aging body. Boy was that essential! I feel better now than ever, and with my renewed healthy joints, I am running again. It’s not the same as in my 20’s or 30’s: not as fast, not as easy, but certainly more enjoyable. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along my journey as an “on again off again” runner:
Walk when you need to– What a revelation I had one day while running… I gave myself permission to walk whenever the exertion was too much. Unless you are a competetive runner or training for a specific event, walking during your run (or jog in my case now!) eliminates the fear of extreme exertion, and will make your run more pleasant. It’s more pleasant because you know you can walk if you need to, but you’ll still have a good aerobic, calorie burning experience. In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter if you walk a bit during your outing.
Warm-up before running– So many runners don’t warm-up at all, and I’m not sure why? All athletes should warm-up. All exercise formats should have an organized warm-up period. It reduces injuries and improves performance. Who wouldn’t want that? My warm-up consists of foam rolling, dynamic streching and some isolated stretches for extra tight parts….which are increasing in number. My aging joints feel so much better when I am warmed up.
Stretch after running- Again, why don’t most runners stretch enough? I do think it is partly because it takes extra time, just like the warm-up,but stretching is so important for running, that one can not run well without extra stretching. It is not an option especially as you age, when soft tissue gets less elastic. Because running most definitely stresses tissues, you are at greater risk for injury. If time is of the essence, stretch later in the day. But, stretch every day. Your body will love you for it.
Get the right shoe for you- The athletic footwear industry has thousands of styles of shoes available to the avergae consumer. From technical wonders, to barefoot mimics, it’s hard to know what sneaker is right for you. First and foremost, don’t fall prey to gimics or fads. “Toning” sneakers were a biomechanical disaster waiting to happen. That’s why the manufacturers are being sued. Minimalist sneakers are also gaining favor, and I personally like them and have used them for years. But again, they may not be for everybody. If you are new to running, go and get fitted where professionals can look at your gait. Some runners feet roll in, called pronation, while others roll out, called supination. Different sneakers are necessary for each of these footstrike types. Once you get fitted correctly, you can stick with that model for years and choose to purchase it where you’d like. The internet will often feature last year’s models on sale, and you can get great deals by just going one year older.
Vary your terrain and runs– Running the same distance on the same route on the same road or treadmill is boring, and the repetetive nature of the course can increase risk for injury. Try a trail run, or a shorter hillier run, or a fartlek run, where you run over obstacles, varrying terrains, at varying speeds. Mix it up!
I think the overall lesson is run smarter. Listen to your body. Go at a comfortable pace, enjoy the outdoors, contemplate life. Do it not only because you “have” to but because you “want” to.