If you’ve always wanted to be a runner or taking up running sounds like a fun new activity to try, don’t be intimidated by the thought of starting at 40 years of age (or older).
It does not matter how old you are; running can help you to stay active and in shape. In reality, how you approach running at 40 years of age or beyond will depend on your unique history. Ultimately, 40 is as good of age as any to tap into the great benefits of running.
This article will look at everything to consider on how to start running at 40 and as you begin a running routine. Plus, it will dive into the benefit of running (below) and provide practical tips throughout for having the best running experience possible.
The Benefits of Running in Middle Age
Is 40 really middle age? With today’s average lifespan, it technically still is- yet in the past decade, we’ve learned so much about how to age gracefully with the right habits. Regular exercise, such as running, is one of the ways to preserve or even reverse our “biological age.”
Starting a new exercise routine later in life can seem intimidating if you’ve never run. But the benefits of running are well-documented, and these benefits are even more important with each decade of life- allowing people to stay active and engaged in life the way they’d like.
Regular physical activity, such as running, has been shown to help improve the following:
- Heart health (decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, etc.)
- Lower stress levels
- Reduce inflammation
- Stave off cognitive decline
- Help improve mood
- Strengthen bones and muscles
- Reduced risk of certain cancers
- Maintain healthy weight
- Ensure better sleep
- Increase energy levels
With practice and dedication, running can become an important part of your life that will benefit you in many ways. The real question is: why not begin running today? Let’s dive into all of the considerations for getting started.
How to Start Running at 40
1. Talk to Your Doctor
Before you start any exercise program, it is important to consult your doctor. Start by sharing your medical history, medications, and any current or past health concerns or injuries that may affect your running ability.
Don’t forget to ask questions and voice any concerns you may have. They can recommend support groups or specialized medical professionals, such as a sports physical therapist, to get you started on the right foot.
2. Listen to Your Body
When starting out, be patient with yourself and don’t try to do too much too soon. Make sure to give your body time to adjust. It’s easy to feel eager and want to push yourself, but learn to respect your body’s limits and adjust accordingly.
Overall, listen closely to how your body feels and responds. If you are feeling pain (more than just a muscle burn or ache from the activity), stop exercising immediately and talk with your doctor about what is causing the discomfort.
3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Start out by running or jogging for short distances, such as a mile or two. Begin training slowly, allowing yourself to build endurance for running over time.
In general, it is recommended to never increase your mileage or intensity by more than 10% a week to reduce your risk of injury.
4. Get the Gear
Invest in a good pair of running shoes that are designed to help cushion your feet, support your arch, and absorb the impact of each step. Also, consider purchasing a good pair of running socks, as they can help protect against blisters and chafing.
It is also important to wear comfortable clothing that lets your skin breathe during exercise. Wicking fabrics made from polyester or nylon can be helpful in preventing moisture buildup.
On the other hand, don’t get carried away. You don’t need the latest fashion items or a fancy GPS watch with all the bells and whistles to start running.
5. Create a Training Program with the Right Balance
A well-rounded running program is about so much more than running. It should also include strength training, flexibility, mobility exercises, rest days, and recovery.
For example, use functional strength training to build the muscles that support your running, such as those in your legs, hips, and core. Ultimately, mixing it up prevents mental burnout and the risk of physical injury.
6. Track Your Progress
The best way to stay motivated and focused is by tracking your progress. Use a simple notebook, fitness app, or tracker to monitor your progress.
This can help you identify any potential issues, as you’ll feel more in tune with any muscle imbalances or weak areas in your body that may affect your running performance. Plus, it feels great to have evidence of your progress and accomplishments.
7. Accept That You Might Feel Better Than Ever
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking up running at 40 is likely to make you feel better than ever before! Physical activity will help your mood, immunity, and overall health in ways you never imagined.
When you accept yourself as a runner and fully embrace this mindset, you can access all of the great benefits.
8. Take the Time to Recover
Make sure you incorporate recovery into your routine. This will help your body adjust to the demands of running and avoid overtraining or exhaustion.
Allow yourself a few days (at least two) off from running each week, or alternate between harder and easier workouts. Also, don’t forget to sleep enough every night, which can greatly affect your performance and recovery.
9. Consider Your Other Lifestyle Habits
If you want to perform at your best, paying attention to other lifestyle habits is important. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutritious foods, instead of processed foods, can give you the energy and nutrients needed for running.
It is also helpful to limit alcohol consumption, practice good sleep hygiene, and reduce stress levels when possible is also helpful. All of these things can help you stay healthy, boost your energy levels, and reach your goals.
10. Don’t Forget Adequate Hydration
Staying hydrated is key for any runner. Not only does it help prevent dehydration, but it can also improve your performance and aid recovery after a workout.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially on days when you are more active. Keep a water bottle near you and drink up. On hot days when you’re sweating a lot, don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes too.
11. Ditch the Comparisons
Comparing yourself to other runners is natural but can also be detrimental. Everyone has a unique journey and different goals.
Focus on your own progress and what works best for you. Don’t try to match the pace of others or compare yourself to them — instead, focus on being the best version of yourself that you can be.
When you do this, you’ll find that the joy of running is so much more than just achieving a certain time or distance. It’s about feeling proud of yourself and enjoying the process.
12. Join a Local Running Group
If you want to stay motivated and surround yourself with like-minded people, consider joining a local running group.
Having a network of runners with similar goals can help push you to reach new heights and inspire you to keep going. Plus, it’s just plain fun! Who wouldn’t enjoy having friends to run with? If you don’t have a local running club, you can also join online clubs for support.
You can also talk to your group about running coach recommendations if you want to up your game.
13. Always Focus on Good Form
Good running form is essential for avoiding injury and getting the most out of your runs. General recommendations include running “lightly” on your feet, keeping a neutral (upright) spine, and taking short, quick steps.
Make sure to monitor your form throughout each run and adjust when necessary. Focus on maintaining a steady cadence so that you can stay in control while running- taking a break when your muscles get tired and you start to feel sloppy. You may need to adjust your stride length or take shorter steps when running uphill.
Not sure about your form or even where to start? Talk to a running expert, such as a coach or therapist, asap.
14. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
The beauty of running is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Everyone has different goals and preferences, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best for you.
Try different types of runs (intervals, fartleks, hills) and surfaces (dirt, grass, pavement) to keep your training fresh. You may also want to switch up your gear (shoes, socks, tops, etc.) until you find what works best for you.
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new — it could help take your running to the next level!
15. Don’t Forget to Warm-up and Cool Down
Although it’s tempting just to start running and finish off with a quick stretch, this isn’t ideal. Warming up and cooling down with intention are important for injury prevention and performance improvement.
A warm-up should include light jogging, dynamic stretching, and some form of cardiovascular activity (such as jumping jacks or burpees). This helps warn and loosen your muscles and increase your heart rate before running.
After a run, cool down with some light jogging, static stretching, and self-massage. This helps your body to recover more efficiently and reduces the risk of injury.
16. Be Realistic with Your Goals
It’s important to set goals for yourself but be realistic. Don’t try to run too far or too fast if you’re not ready — this could lead to injury and burnout.
Start by setting small, achievable goals that are within your reach. Increase your distance or intensity gradually so that you don’t overdo it.
Remember, it takes time to reach your goals, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Stay focused and keep working towards them — you’ll get there eventually!
17. Recognize When You Need a Break
Running can be a great stress reliever, but it’s important to recognize when you need a break. If you’re struggling or feel a particular running day is “brutal” it might be time to scale back.
If you’re feeling excessively fatigued or sore after running, give yourself time to rest and recover. It’s ok to take an extra day (or two!) off if your body needs it — this will help prevent injury and keep you motivated in the long run.
18. Celebrate Your Progress
No matter how slow or fast your progress is, it’s important to celebrate yourself and the small successes that come with running. Whether you’ve run farther or faster than before or incorporated additional strength training into your routine, any progress deserves recognition and appreciation!
It’s all about staying active and challenging yourself, always reaching for new goals that suit your ambitions.
19. Don’t Forget to Have Fun With It!
In the end, running is supposed to be enjoyable! Remember that it takes time to build up endurance, but don’t forget to enjoy the process. Find a scenic spot to run, find a running buddy, or listen to music while you run—whatever helps make the experience more enjoyable.
20. Build a New Identity
Finally, running can help you to build a new identity for yourself. Whether becoming a “runner” or forging a new lifestyle, don’t be afraid to embrace the challenge and set your own path. If you feel great and enjoy the process, there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Once you start running regularly, it will become part of who you are and give you a sense of accomplishment and identity. So don’t be afraid to run your own race—you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try!
How to Start Running at 40: Give it a Try; You Won’t Be Disappointed
In conclusion, running is a great way to stay active and promote good health. In reality, you can start running at any age. Age is just a number if you’re up for a new challenge.
With the right attitude and dedication, you can make progress and get the most out of your running journey! So give it a try— and enjoy the process along the way.