How to get (back) into running when you’re over 55

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Just when you find yourself with a little less to juggle in your life, along comes the jiggle!  You know what I mean? It’s when your bits keep moving even after you’ve come to a standstill.  Naturally you don’t expect to be as fit or jiggle free as you were a decade or more ago, do you?

You do?  Then let’s take a look at how running can get you fit and toned as well as give you the energy to enjoy every minute of what could be the best years of your life!  Who knows where that new ‘spring in your step’ might take you? If you’re over 55, you’ve earned some time to look after you and get your body and soul ready for any adventure.

Am I too old to start running?

Your age isn’t important. The state of your body and mind are. Even if you’ve never run before you can gradually build confidence and skills to reach toward that ‘runners’ high’ we hear so much about.

Before you leap through the door, take a drive or walk to visit your GP for a health check. It is best to know about any issues that could hamper your running quest before you start. If for some reason your doctor says ‘no way’, don’t despair. There’ll be plenty of alternatives for you like walking or swimming.

Your body has changed. Deal with it so you can get running.

You will enjoy your running activity more and avoid injury if you accept that your body has changed over the years.  You may discover stiffness in joints, sore feet, back aches and a few twinges here and there.  These are all okay if you’ve just started after a few years of little physical exertion.  Being past your mid century means you do need to prepare your body before you start running.

“Movement is the best form of medication. Anytime you move, it makes your brain sharper. It makes your mind sharper.” – Conon McGregor, Runners World.

Don’t let small niggles stop you.

If your doctor has given you the ok, then go for it. Consider a guided program like the couch to 5k (c25k) where you start with a little bit of walking, a little bit of running and gradually increase the running bit week by week. Just be mindful and take these steps to avoid injury and pain:

  • Always warm up: muscles and joints are cold and stiff when they haven’t been used.
  • Always stretch: start with a walk to build up the heat in your body and get oxygen to where it needs to be.
  • Get the all clear on your feet: foot discomfort or pain can be caused by ill-fitting shoes or you may need to wear orthotics – special shoe inserts so your foot ‘falls’ the right way.
  • Don’t run through pain: bravery won’t win you a medal. Good preparation might!
  • Use support bandages: perhaps you have an old injury from your football or netball days. Knees and ankles that need a little extra support will thank you for your thoughtfulness.
  • If you are very unfit and/or overweight just take it easy: start with walking and build up as you get fitter. You may prefer a swimming program until you have more strength and fitness. Just don’t give up!
  • Hydrate well: drink water before, during and after you exercise to avoid dehydration and nasty headaches.
  • Have rest days between running days: alternate with swimming or yoga.
  • Cool down: remember to stretch those muscles and cool down after the run. Then stretch your arm out for that well deserved gin and tonic as you watch the sun go down!

Get started and keep running.

Here are some tips to get you started and keep you going:

  • Don’t go too fast too soon: you are running to build or maintain your general fitness and to enjoy life, don’t spoil it by spraining something.
  • Run with a friend or two: studies have shown that people who run with others are much more likely to keep going. The social interaction and general support will help spur you on. You won’t even notice the effort. But you will notice that you feel fantastic!
  • Start slowly: warm up and start walking. Increase your speed when you feel comfortable. Everything feeling fine? Okay, take it up a notch and try a slow jog.
  • Listen to your body: you’ll know when you’re ready to go faster and for longer. As your strength and stamina increase you will find you can run for longer periods with less effort.
  • Set yourself mini goals on every run: for example, aim to walk two power poles and run one power pole one week, walk two, run one and so on; and increase it after a week of reaching lots of mini goals.
  • Chart your progress: there are many apps to help including Map My Run where you can chart your progress as a group.
  • Enjoy yourself: every run is an achievement and a chance for some fun with friends. Or, if you prefer to run alone enjoy the chance to soak up the wonders of nature.
  • Listen to your favourite music: music can help keep your heels off the ground!

Add more fun to your runs. A fun run can be, well…fun!

A fun run is a great way to set a goal and stay motivated. Make fun runs a regular gig with friends and family.  The atmosphere itself, especially when it’s a popular event, can feel electric. Enjoy a picnic after the race or even a delicious meal at a favourite restaurant. You will have earned it!

Fun runs are celebrated events in NSW and all over Australia.   Often the events are held to raise money for a good cause. You’ll be doing good for you, and for a good cause – double the dopamine hit!

Here are some links to NSW fun runs in 2016.  Find one that is at least three months away to aim for and motivate your running program. Run. Walk. Talk. Enjoy!

NSW Fun Runs – Australian Run Calendar
Fun Runs in NSW – Event list
NSW Fun Runs and Walks

Is that all there is to running?

These tips and suggestions are a good start for beginner runners and those coming back to the sport after an absence. Keep up the motivation and passion by staying well informed and having fun.  There are plenty of books and websites you can read with tips on training and strength building. Talking to your local gym staff or hiring a personal trainer can assist with developing your techniques and staying motivated. Buying some new active wear for motivation can be a great excuse for some shopping!

Some great running reads to inform and inspire you include:

Running magazines

Runners World
Runners World Australia and New Zealand
Men’s Fitness Magazine
Women’s Running Magazine

Articles on running

Life After 50: Think you’re too old for this? Think again
8 Tips for running in your 50s and beyond.

How to start to run at 50 for women: Livestrong

There’s no stopping you now. Off you go!

Image: Shutterstock.com


  1. Pingback: Run for your (longer) life: what are you waiting for? - Go55s

  2. The tips in this post will mean a lot for you to get back into running even over 55. This would be a huge help. Thanks for sharing this great article.

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