Running after forty? Absolutely!

mikebaird on Flikr.comI have been running off and on for over thirty years. However, I did not start running races until my early forties.That being said, I am not a Capital ‘R’ Runner, but I do place in the middle of my age category, which I am more than happy with.

I have found, however, that running after the age of forty is very different than running before the age of forty. While I have far more discipline than I did as a younger woman, I can no longer push myself to extremes. As a matter of fact, when I do push too hard, I end up feeling quite unhealthy.

So, I run as the mood strikes me, and pay far more attention to my body. On the days my body is hinting that the couch looks like a better deal, I run for ten minutes. If the couch is still calling my name, I head home, and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. I know that I’ll be ready to try again in a day or so.

Is it okay to start running after the age of forty?

It certainly is (with the usual caveat of always checking with a doctor first). But take it slow. Start off with brisk walking, with no running, for the first several sessions. As you get comfortable with this, start adding in intervals of running. For example, walk for five minutes, and run for one minute. Over time, add more running and decrease the walking.

Why is running different after forty?

Like it or not, our bodies change after forty:

  • the ability to transport and utilize oxygen (V02 Max) decreases;
  • our muscle fibres shrink;
  • balance becomes more difficult;
  • recovery time from injuries is longer;
  • we start to lose bone mass.

Can we compensate for these changes?

We cannot prevent the natural changes our body undergoes, but we can work with them:

  • concentrate on reasonably paced long distance runs, as opposed to short and fast runs;
  • add short sprints into your runs once or twice a week;
  • gently stretch your muscles after a run;
  • round out your exercise regime with strength training;
  • add activities that improve your balance, such as yoga or Tai Chi;
  • allow more rest days between runs;
  • stop a run if starts to hurt, and allow the injury to heal.

Do we having anything over those younger gals?

Yes we do! We have years of life experience, in general, that can add up to far more motivation and determination. And if we are seasoned runners, we are well tuned into the rhythm of running. So, while we may no longer beat them in the 100 yard dash, we have what it takes to wave at them as we pass them in the 10K and longer races.

What are the health benefits?

There are many benefits to running, both physical and mental:

  • improves the functioning of our heart and arteries;
  • strengthens our bones;
  • builds muscle mass to protect us from breaks;
  • boosts our immune system;
  • improves thinking, learning and memory.

And my personal favourite:

  • increases our sexual satisfaction.

I have a love/hate relationship with running. There are days when I wonder what the heck I’m doing, and other days I feel like I’m flying. But I keep at it, because in the end I am healthier and happier for it. And I plan on running well into old age. I’ll just make some adjustments to how I run as I go.

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