Running continues to be one of the most popular exercises among adults in the US and Europe. Here in the states, one out of every ten adults runs for exercise. In Europe, running ranks as the 6th most popular form of exercise. Its popularity is for good reason – it’s a relatively inexpensive way to exercise, it burns a ton of calories, and running can reduce stress and blood pressure. However, if you’re 50 or older, there’s a good chance you’ve hung up your running shoes in favor of a more gentle exercise such as walking or aqua aerobics. No doubt that workouts like these are great and offer a lot of benefits. However, if you pine for your days of pounding the trail, we’d like to encourage you to give it another try, keeping a few things in mind.
- First of all: yes, you can. Did you know that the majority of the members of the Colorado chapter of the Fifty States Half Marathon Club are over 50? As long as you can put one foot in front of the other, have no outstanding injuries, and have cleared it with your doctor, running could be an exciting possibility for you.
- Think running is “go fast or go home?” Think again. One study followed runners over a 30-year period, and found that those who ran at a more moderate pace slightly less frequently (3-4 times per week) enjoyed the greatest health benefits than their super-speedy, daily-running counterparts.
- You have to mind your C’s and Q’s. Calves and quads tend to be frequently-injured among older runners; one reason being that these muscles tend to get utilized less in mid-to-older adults. The solution? Work with your Fitness Together trainer to make sure that these parts, along with your hip flexors and ankles, remain strong and flexible. Let your trainer know that you plan to start, or continue, running and he or she can spend some time on conditioning your body so that it’s ready to rule the road.
- Osteo-oh no! Osteoporosis, or the weakening of bones, becomes a very real threat as we age. Along with consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, exercise such as running can be an effective practice to help prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
- Be prepared for increased recovery time. Gone are the days when you could hike a steep trail one day, play in a basketball game the next day, and go for a long run the next. Be easy on yourself, and allow your body the rest it deserves in between runs and workouts.
- Stretch it out. Aim to do a mini, easy 5-minute warm-up jog, and then spend 5-10 minutes stretching your hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and quads. After that your body will be ready for your longer run, and less likely to get injured.
- Nutrition matters. Runners over 50 must pay special attention to their pre-run and post-run food and water intake. Before running be sure to eat some quality carbs, around 15-25 grams of whole grains, which will ultimately be turned into glycogen (a.k.a. energy) when you need it most. During or after your run, take special care to replenish the electrolytes lost through perspiration, as well as have a snack that includes more carbohydrates and protein. Eating properly after a workout can help you recover faster and build muscles.