Keeping fit as you age – can you really start working out again after 50?
Of course! Although some pessimists may try to convince you that it’s not wise to run at an older age, running is a safe, healthy exercise for people of any age and helps with keeping fit. Whether you’re new to running, or you’re a veteran runner worried about entering a new age group, here are some tips for middle-aged runners and beyond:
Adjust your goals.
If you started running at a younger age, it may be hard to admit that you’re not quite as fast as you were. You may find that you have lost muscle strength and aerobic capacity, you will need longer recovery time and therefore can’t race and train at the same level. So, although you won’t be beating your personal bests from your 20s and 30s, that doesn’t mean that you can’t set goals to beat now to help motivate you and still give you a serious sense of accomplishment. Adjust expectations, pick realistic goals, and be proud that you’re still being active – a lot of people aren’t! Be sure to check with your doctor to get the stamp of approval if you’re new to running or have had a long time away from exercise. chances are they will encourage it!
Take enough 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 workouts 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. Cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, and yoga are all softer on your body but still give you the workout you need.
Do strength training regularly.
Strength training is beneficial for all runners regardless of age, but those benefits are even more significant for older runners. Everyone naturally loses muscle mass as they age, but regular strength training can help you avoid this. Improved muscle strength means that your muscles absorb more of the impact while running, which eases the stress on your joints. Some 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 and keeping fit, 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 for 30 seconds and switching. Another brilliant way to improve balance is by doing yoga, even if it’s a few basic poses in your front room!
Work on your flexibility.
A vital part of keeping fit as you age is stretching. You may notice that your body feels stiffer than when you were younger, especially when you first wake up or have been sitting for a long period of time. Muscles and tendons lose 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 (lunges, arm circles, heel raises, etc.). 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).
Injury and prevention
Be proactive in your approach to injuries 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. 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.
Be sure to let us know what you think of this article, and if you’re looking for a more exciting sport, check out my article on over 50’s and extreme sports.