Am I nuts to think I can take up running as a sport at the age of 50? What was I thinking when I signed up for my first 5K, two weeks after such a decision?
I’ve never been a runner nor did I dream about running on a treadmill at the slightest. So, you must be asking then why did you start?
I have been making excuses for many things that I found difficult or just seem to require too much effort. I never wanted to run simply because I am a bit heavy and have big bones, therefore I get tired quickly, start to breathe heavily, etc. I didn’t have any “running” experience nor any training and didn’t put too much thought about the dynamics of running and what it takes to become a runner.
I work with kids in my everyday job and was discussing a common topic I hear many kids say and that is “I Can’t” without even trying! When I was thinking of examples, the thought in my head about running came to light. It was time for me to conquer this fear that I couldn’t run and learn how to run. How hard can it be? Running is natural, right?
So, where do I begin? Well, I have taken dozens of personality test, and they all come out with the same “personality traits” that I am an analytical thinker which means I like to research my topic or task and so I began to read articles and blogs… I must’ve read a zillion such things.
You have to set goals that are “SMART.”
I found this “SMART” acronym very useful for me when I set out on my running escapade.
- ‘S’ is to be “Specific” with the distance you’d like to accomplish when you go running.
- ‘M’ is for “Measurable”. Every time you go out to measure your distance and time. I use Garmin Vivoactive which I will mention later on in this blog
- ‘A’ is for your goal to be achievable.
- ‘R’ is to be realistic in your goal… take in consideration your physical ability and set your distance and time realistically. Don’t make your first goal to be a full, half marathon or even a 5K if you have never ran before.
- ‘T’ means make sure your goal is time-related. How many minutes will take you to reach three miles? Goals are important but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach them. Setting goals are designed to give you something to work towards so that you stay vigilant and determined to conquer it.
- Let me clear up a few things about my overall physical condition before I get into the meat of how I started training. I am 5”8, large bone person and carry most of my weight on my hips! I am about 20 lbs. over the recommended weight limit. Although I have always been on the heavier end of the scale, I have never really let it get the best me. My clothes size has been in the range of 12-16. Sadly, running is the moment you notice how much weight you are carrying and so will your bones! But I am not going to let that stop me, because “I Can” learn this sport and enjoy it (at least that is what I was telling myself at this point)!
I’m happy to report that after much training, persistence and resilience, last year I registered for the Rock n’ Roll half marathon in San Antonio and finished with utmost enjoyment… I was elated beyond words.
This year, I registered for the Houston “Full” Marathon, however due to injuries I incurred during my training for it, I changed it to Half Marathon and again I finished it with even more enjoyment than my first half marathon, simply because I had to triumph over my injuries. Training, persistence and resilience paid off again!
I wanted to share with you a few of my tips and experiences as a runner. These tips are of course things that worked for me but I am sure will work for anyone.
2. Sign up for a Run
You will be more motivated to stick to your goal if you commit to a race. You can easily find a run in your area or somewhere near you by accessing these websites:
Signing up for a run will connect you to helpful information about running. Most runs send out various emails with details about running preparation or the newest and latest running shoes, gears and gadgets. I also suggest following the event you registered for on social media as other runners will post and share information. This is also a great way to encourage your friends to join you in this experience.
3. Run Clubs
I am sure everyone busted out laughing when I showed up to my local run club VARRA – Victoria Area Road Runners Association.
I’ve already been running some around my neighborhood when I decided to take the leap and join the club. To newbies like me, club members appeared to be experienced runners and won’t have time for people like me. On the contrary, I must say they were nothing but super friendly to me and were very helpful as they shared their knowledge and experiences to support me and help me improve. What I like the most about the run club are the social visits while getting a drink afterwards.
4. Create A Plan
You can’t build a house without a plan. Your plan will also need to be realistic. Don’t schedule running at 5 am three days a week if you hate mornings! Make sure you find a program that will work for you. I must say running does take up time and you must be committed.
Couch to 5K is a great tool to create a plan. Another great resource is a book I’ve bought as I progressed from a 5K to a half marathon is Quick Strength for Runners: 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body.
5. Core Workouts
I want to say I HATE and I mean HATE core workouts! I have avoided these drills because I find them boring as well as it is probably my weakest part of my body and therefore my most challenging workout. My first year of running I never did a core workout. I had more injuries than you can imagine. Even with all the information out there about how important core strength is for running, I still refused to work on this during my training. Last year, I had a goal to run my first full marathon. I was running about 24 miles a week when I started to have some issues with leg pain. After a visit to a therapist, I discovered due to my weak core it was causing problems in my running. Since then I have made it a morning routine to focus on my core. I joined Run Smart online which provides runner-specific training managed by a physical therapist and avid runner who shares excellent information and demonstrates exercises to improve your run.
My closet looks like an athletic shoe department with a variety of color and styles of running shoes I have worn and explored throughout my running experience. Everyone has a different arch, a form of walking, etc. I recommend visiting a running store such as Fleet Feet to visit with one of their knowledgeable staff members, most of whom are runners themselves. While in the store they’d have you run on a treadmill and will record your foot placement as it hits the ground. I have learned so much from a running store staff person over the years. Here is the thing, your local Walmart or Target or even an athletic store will not have the shoes with the right fit for your feet and your style of running. My favorite brand of running shoes is Brooks. Yes, you will spend $100 plus for a pair of shoes, but such expenditures will be totally worth it… your feet and body will thank you!
7. Running Clothes
When I first started running, I ran in a t-shirt and shorts that I would have worn to the gym. If you live where it gets hot; like south Texas, you will experience chafing if you run in anything that is made of cotton. Visit any outdoor sports retailer and look for running garments that are made of nylon/poly/spandex blend and such allows the garments to move and breathe. For women, the key is a good sports bra! This can be a challenge I know, as I have had my mother tell me many times, get a better bra! Sports bras should be thrown away after months of wearing them, especially if you exercise every day. Purchasing a good sports bra is worth the money! Here are a couple of my favorite stores for bras:
Socks are another item I spend a little extra money on. My favorite brand is Swiftwick. Your feet will get hot and sweaty during running, cotton socks will just make them hotter and maybe add a few blisters. You want a sock that wicks away the moisture and keeps your feet cool.
8. Compression Socks
It took me a long time to get into compression socks as I didn’t understand why a runner would want to wear something that would make your legs hot. I am not sure how scientific they are in helping reduce injury but what I do know is that it does reduce swelling in my lower legs. One expert runner shared that by wearing compression socks, it will reduce the amount of vibration your muscles experience while pounding the pavement which allows you to run longer with less stress on the leg. I headed the advice and I purchase many of my socks from ProCompression which offers quality socks with a variety of colors and designs.
9. Running Belt
When you begin to run on the road/trail (and not at the gym), you will want to have access to water or maybe a gel (will talk about what to eat later) for a boost of energy. To carry such items, you will need a running belt. Jokingly, I have almost the same number of running belts as I do running shoes. Why? Well, as you will discover, a running belt is like buying underwear, you have to find the one that fits your body and doesn’t crawl up to your breasts while running. The most important thing I have learned about running belts is to find one that doesn’t slide and grips onto your hips. My favorite belt is called the Hydration Running Belt by Camden Gear which I bought on Amazon.
10. GPS Running Watch
I hate to suggest that you need to purchase a high end running watch, but I have fallen in love with mine as I use it for so many of my outdoor activities. I am a little bit of a data junkie and appreciate the information I get from my Garmin Vivoactive. I don’t have the newest version, as I bought this watch three years ago but the performance and information it produces are what I need for my activities: running, bicycling, and swimming. I recommend you start out with something straightforward and inexpensive because as you get into deeper into the sport you will discover the right running watch for you.
11. Gels and Pouches
I have never had the urge during a run to want to eat something. I don’t think you will need any supplements if training for a 5K but as you increase your miles this will become a must on the days of your long runs. My favorite gel is Clif Bloks these fruit flavored blocks are like gummy candies full of electrolytes. I also like Gu Energy Gel available in a variety of flavors. These gels have the texture of jam or jelly and therefore can be eaten on a toast if you so desire.
I must say music was my saving grace while running as it kept my mind occupied and drowned out the heavy breathing. For many years I used earbuds attached to my cell phone and wore an armband that carried the phone. I have seen runners utilize their running belt as a holder for the phone and wear Bluetooth earbuds as well. I don’t want to say one is better than the other. I just suggest finding something that you can listen to as it is an excellent distraction from the challenge you are enduring. I have recently switched from listening to music to podcast while other runners enjoy listening to audiobooks while running.
After you finish a run, it is so important to stretch (do not stretch before a run!). If you feel a little achy, I recommend taking an Epsom salt bath to help pull out the sourness. During the night you may get a twitching leg. I have taken Ibuprofen to help reduce the inflammation. If you notice soreness in a particular area, I suggest putting an ice bag on the area and elevate your legs up to relax. Sleep is also key to having a good run. Some of my running friends don’t like to stay out late because they want to get the full eight hours of sleep for their run the next day. Rest is important!
Have I fallen in love with running? I wouldn’t call it love, but I have come to enjoy the sport. The nice thing about running is you can do this almost anywhere you go and most likely you will find others that won’t mind you joining them or them joining you. I am still in the early stages of thoroughly learning how to run, but I have to admire those that run full marathons or participate in Ironman competitions as I completely understand the dedication it takes to train for such events.
Good luck to you and I hope you enjoy learning to run, too!