Smart Tips for Running in Your 50s and Beyond

Running After 50 Can Be Enjoyable, Beneficial, and Fun

While some naysayers may say that running after 50 isn't healthy or safe, the sport is gaining popularity with the middle-aged crowd. So should you run when you're getting older or should you retire your shoes and choose another sport instead?

Whether you're new to running (it's never too late to start) or you're a veteran runner worried about entering a new age group, there are ways to make your running program both enjoyable and effective in your 50s and beyond. Here are some tips for middle-age runners.

Check With Your Doctor

If you're new to running or you've had a lengthy break from the sport, make sure you check with your health care provider to make sure you are healthy enough for vigorous activity. Chances are good that they will encourage you to get started, but it's important to get the stamp of approval.

Adjust Your Goals

If you started running when you were younger, it can be tough to admit that you’re slowing down with age. Unfortunately, however, it’s a fact of life.

As we get older, we lose muscle strength and aerobic capacity and we need more recovery time. So we usually can’t train and race at the same level. But while you may not beat the PRs you set in your 20s and 30s, that doesn’t mean that you can't set goals to help motivate you and give you a serious sense of accomplishment. 

Adjust your expectations, pick realistic goals, and be proud that you're still being an active, committed runner.

Recover Properly

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. Yes, 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 runs if you’re not feeling fully recovered. You may find that you feel better when you run every other day, as opposed to every day. Or simply try running six days a week.

Days off from running don't have to be complete rest days. You can do cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, yoga, or any other activity that you enjoy.

Add Strength Training

Strength-training is beneficial for runners of any age, but those benefits are even more significant for older runners.

People naturally lose muscle mass as they age. Regular strength training can help you avoid the inevitable decline.

Improved muscle strength helps your muscles to absorb more of the impact while running, which eases the stress on your joints. 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.

Improve Your Balance

Improving your balance is not only helpful for running, 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 improve your balance simply by standing on one leg (and alternating legs) for 30 seconds. Or, do some basic yoga balance moves such as tree pose, eagle pose, or king dancer pose.

Practice Flexibility

As you age, you may notice that your legs, back, hips, and shoulders feel stiffer than when you were younger, especially when you first wake up or have been sitting for a long period of time. Everyone's muscles and tendons lose some 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 become 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, moving you through a range of motion without bouncing. Dynamic stretches are different than static stretches, in which you hold a stretch in a static position. Examples of dynamic stretching would be arm circles, heel raises, or lunges.

Prevent Injury

Be proactive in your approach to injury prevention. And if you feel the onset of an injury or experience a traumatic injury, be proactive and don't ignore the warning signs.

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.

Be Patient

So what if you do get injured? Be patient. As we age, it does take longer to recover from injuries. A calf pain that sidelined you for a couple of 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.

Was this page helpful?