Running after 50: for the newbies amongst us

I’ve spent the last few years on this blog focused on environmental changes I can make by myself (My Life with Car series) here in my own home and my own life.

Oddly, among the changes my own environmental experiments have wrought, I count my three year old passion/torture: running.

For one year, I tracked my driving habits in order to reduce needless driving, use my bike more, use mass transit, combine tasks, what have you.  While lots and lots of changes–big and small–came out of that year, one change was completely unexpected: my addiction to running.

I’ve never been a runner–not ever.  And some would say, with my paltry collection of 5K bib numbers, I’m still not a runner (my neighbor has indicated that a 5K is not a race, as she can do it in her sleep.  Oh well.).  I recall back in high school going through the motions required for 100 yard dash tests and such, and not enjoying one second of it.

But that’s not to say I’m not athletic at all–I’ve been an avid bike rider for a long time, commuting to work, touring, stuff like that. And then there’s hiking, river rafting…I’m not a total couch potato, but running just has never, ever been on the agenda.

So how did this start?  I used to belong to a gym, and used to drive to the gym.  I really enjoyed the gym but over-use taught me the value of using different muscle sets.  One day I tried the treadmill and was astonished to find I liked the sensation of running–slowly, for sure, but still.

I kept at it and a 10-15 min run on the treadmill was soon part of my normal workout.  About this time, I realized there was something uncomfortably ironic about driving my car to workout at a gym when I live a block from a gorgeous park on the Puget Sound with great running trails.  One day I tried running down along the beach front–hello.  Running on ground is REALLY different from running on a treadmill.  But I liked it! I felt great afterwards.

And I was totally pleased with myself that even though I was over 50, I was sort of kind of picking up this new sport that seemed to be the realm of the long and lean (definitely not me.) This was three years ago.

running in the rain

running in the rain

After about a year of splitting between outdoor runs and the gym, my attendance at the gym had really started to decline. I made the decision earlier this year to cancel my gym membership and focus solely on running outdoors.  This was huge–especially since I view the Seattle outdoors during 6 months of the year to be uninhabitable.  But I did it.

This past weekend I decided that this journey which has honest-to-god changed my life was worth sharing with others who are over 50 and learning to run, or thinking about it, or curious or whatever.  So begins a new chapter in this blog: Learning to run after 50.

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10 responses to “Running after 50: for the newbies amongst us

  1. I have been running/walking 3.5 miles for a month or more and want to move on to a 3.5+ mile run. I am a 57 year old woman and want to grow in this area. Is it possible??? My hips hurt but want to move past this if possible. Would love to hear your story and others. I hope I’m not too old.

    • Hi Lynn–you’re totally not too old, not by my lights, and not by all the stuff I’ve read, heard. But you have to slow down a bit if you want to run/walk for a long time. I think I ran for 10 minutes for a few months before I tried 15 and 20, and tried a 5K/3.1 mile run after about 2 years of running–running’s hard on a body, but you can help it adjust by going slow and steady, and letting it build up the muscle it needs. You go, girl!!

  2. Thanks for the reply. I am thinking about getting a treadmill because I think it would be easier on my joints that running on the streets and sidewalk. Also some of the ifit technology might be motivating. I am also thinking about taking some pills that supposedly help with the joints. Have you tried that?

  3. I avoid pills to the degree possible, though I do take MSM (1 pill as a nutritional supplement) and ibuprofin sometimes. I made a deal with myself a while back that I wanted to run for a long time, and I would do what was needed to get to that goal. For me, that means learning to stretch before and after, building up muscle where I didn’t have any, and building endurance slowly. If that means using a treadmill, then that’s great! Stretching and strength building are the biggest things though. Also, I have a pretty low impact diet, I’m a vegetarian, and have heard–though don’t know this for a fact–that diet impacts joints and joint pain a lot. You’re doing a LOT right now, just trying to work through this to find a way to run/walk–be sure to give yourself enormous credit for taking this on–I think self-talk is radically important. You’re doing a great job, Lynn!

  4. I am a 57 year old female and have been running, on the treadmill for about 9 months. The last time I ran seriously was in high school, many moons ago. I began running because of health related issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol over weight not wanting to be medicated the rest of my life. Plus I wanted to live to dance at my grandsons weddings. I run on the average of 2-3 miles at least 5 days a week, and guess what? I am beginning to find myself addicted to running. One of my solstice goals this year is to run a half marathon. I’m on the verge of believing I can do it. Recently I have begun running on the treadmill barefoot and found my endurance improve and I do not need to hold onto the sides of the treadmill, not once. Within the next few weeks I will be taking a step outdoors and try trail running with my son. (I am blessed to have 40 acres behind my property that is wild) I am looking forward to more adventure, and better scenery than stored boxes in the garage. I have also found that doing a little yoga, sun salutations, help in the ache department. One thing I have noticed since I started running is my hips do not hurt half as much, in fact I have stopped taking the ibuprofen. Part of the running barefoot is to see if I can eliminate the pain by ibuprofen on the balls of my feet instead of the heels. It’s working. I’m glad to hear others in my age category are learning to enjoy the movement of our bodies in the form of running. Thanks for a great blog.

  5. Pingback: Running past 50: 3 great points « What it’s like

  6. I just got a treadmill (my husband finally bought for me!) and I’ll be 54 in a few weeks. I, as a young woman, loved to run and am looking forward to getting back to it and something approaching addiction to it.
    I like your blog and have bookmarked it!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, I suspect during your runs you have occasion to think of your tribe out here–women running past 50–and smile. I know I do!

  7. At the beginning stages of learning to run. I will be 57 in Aug. Never in my life have I been a ruuner, nor did I enjoy it.
    Now I am challengeing myself to run , started out mainly for weight and excercise, now I think I may even enjoy it. I need help and encouragement as I begin this new phase in life.

    • Hey Jackie–good for you, there’s simply nothing as good or healthy for a body as a run or run/walk. I know people in their 60s who have modified their runs to run/walks and still get the excellent benefits of running: endorphins, circulatory, mental, coordination, metabolism…the list goes on and on. It’s really important to remember that it matters lots less that you go far and/or fast, but that you run again tomorrow or the next day, and the next and the next. Another woman friend of mine, 63, had two gems to share with me when I started running: 1) run through it. Your mind plays lots of games with you, creating complexity, resistance, aches and pains, reasons to stay home…just run through it. run through them all—you’ll be surprised how many “reasons” don’t actually exist. 2) live to run another day. This has been the most enduring one for me, and it’s what I mean above. Take good care and appreciate your body as it adjusts to this new thing…it will repay you a thousand fold. Enjoy, Jackie! and share how it goes with us all!

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