Often it seems if you read about female runners, search running online or talk to women who run, most of them have been in the sport for decades. Either they ran in high school and college, took a break and are back in it, or never left the sport. I think this is what tends to be intimidating to newer women runners. Let’s be honest, when you start running for the first time in your late 30’s you don’t often have the endurance, time, strength or speed that you might have had at 22, 25 or even 30. Bodies age and women’s bodies, especially after children, are often never the same. Even thinking about running in your 30’s or 40’s can seem like an exhausting, miserable task that is tortuous at best. However, hear me out. I am speaking as a 40+ runner who took up the sport in my mid 30’s and I want to encourage all those women, especially time crunched moms, to rethink the sport of running and take a new perspective on an extremely efficient, cardiovascular activity that could literally change your health and your life with just a few hours each week.
Running doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be lonely and it doesn’t have to feel miserable. Running can be fun. It can be social. It can be invigorating. It can be inspiring. In my opinion, its all in the approach, attitude and perspective that you bring to the sport. So here are my tips for starting to run in your 30’s and 40’s:
1. See your Dr.
a. Make sure you are physically able to start a slow running program and get the go ahead from your health care professional
2. Get a good run/walk plan
a. No question you should start with a run/walk interval and use your progress as your guide to increase your running and decrease your walking – BUT NEVER BELIEVE you are not a runner if you take scheduled walk breaks!!! If you run, you are a runner and there is absolutely NO SHAME in taking walk breaks if it gets you out there safely exercising! In fact, walk/run is a very respectable running strategy and numerous books have been written to document the benefits of long term fitness using this tool. (see Jeff Galloway)
3. Find a running buddy, beginner run group or running coach who knows how to coach new runners
a. Accountability and socialization can be the key to sticking with a brand-new lifestyle habit and running with other women just starting out will encourage you and show you that runners come in all sizes, ages and shapes and if you have legs, you can be a runner.
4. Buy your self some great gear that you love
a. You are a mature adult – why not look and feel good while you run – when you put on your special running clothes and you look good, you will feel good as well. Toss the old t-shirts and shorts. Get some quality running clothes that hold in your bits and pieces and don’t cause any chafing or pain.
5. Have a goal but give yourself time
a. As an older runner, your body will need to recover after each run and you will need to go slower in your addition of distance – THAT’S OK. Take your time – set a realistic goal (possibly a race) and work away at it. When you reach that goal and achieve it, the feeling of personal pride you feel will have you hooked on running – consider yourself warned! 😉
6. Choose your terrain carefully and don’t overdo it
a. I run 3 days a week max (two runs of 5km and one long run of varying distance). I am also careful to choose safely paved routes and I do hills with caution. I don’t run if I’m injured and I stretch extensively after every run. Even exercising on non-running days, I’m careful that I’m using different muscles, so I avoid overuse injuries. Unless I’m training for a race, I usually run between 2-3 hours A WEEK. But that’s what keeps me loving the sport, its efficient and I get a great cardiovascular work out that fits into my busy life.
7. Run your own Race
a. I know its cliché, but honestly as a new runner in your 40’s you may never become an Olympic marathoner, but THAT’S OK. You don’t have to win races in your age category. You don’t even have to be fast. If you are out there exercising and making healthy choices you’ve already won. Your body will thank you for fighting off the voices that say, “I could never run, I hate running, I’m not built for running”. Instead, as you age, you will be slowing down diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes and that is definitely a win.
So do your body a favour, try something new and dare to start running in your 30's or 40's!!!
- Beverly Gordon is a personal women's running coach and owner/operator of LaBellaCorsa, a company whose vision is to introduce women over 35 to the sport of running.