Start Running at 40: Kickstart Your Fitness Journey Today

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By Stuart
Goulden

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

If you’re considering starting running at 40, 50, or even 60, rest assured a world of fun exists.

Yes, it’ll take some effort to get going, but once the endorphins start flowing, running can be addictive.

In this article, we’ll learn about the health benefits of running at 40, how to work your way up from a run walk or slow jogging, how to prevent injury with good form, and settling on a consistent running routine that works for you.

But first, a bit of background to my running journey at 40.

Start Running at 40 – My Love of Running Reborn

Truth be told, I actually started running in my 30s, however I took a break for a few years, and picked it up again at 40. My mum even took up running at 60 when she retired!

My reason for running again was unspectacular. Born out of a fascination with the outdoors and a need to boost my fitness levels. A pandemic tried to get in the way, but I actually ended up running further and more frequently than my legs had ever taken me before.

The benefits were many: I rediscovered my home city; found running fun again; ticked off a few biggies on my running bucket list, including running Hadrian’s Wall, Holy Island at sunset or running Framborough Head cliffs; lost the weight I wanted to and, more importantly, kept it off. It even lead to this running blog. A real love affair.

Related reading: How to Get Back Into Running

What I like About Restarting Running in My 40s

  • Slowing down – I’m far less competitive and worried about PBs, taking a more Stoic approach to exercise
  • Always running outdoors – ditching treadmills to unlock the therapeutic qualities of nature’s playground
  • Awe walks or runs – seeking out new and better routes, finding new adventures on my doorstep; my younger self only ran to hit fitness goals, now I chase awe and runner’s high
  • A bespoke fitness routine – I’ve learnt that morning runs are my favorite, going first thing or nothing, sometimes doing a half-marathon before work in the summer
  • More drastic improvements – picking up better times and performance in record time, plus an overall improvement in my mental outlook
  • Investing in better trainers – my disposal income is greater, so I can buy new running gear and swap out worn sneakers
  • A real sense of achievement – it takes more to make the starting line and finish a race
  • More energized – going out early sets me up for the day ahead, I feel sluggish without regular physical exercise
  • Running with my dog – an unexpected joy that I wasn’t expecting, even if we don’t do it that often
  • Running helps me to think – working through (work and life) problems
  • Weight loss – no need to say more!

If that’s not enough, a sporty lifestyle can also add up to 10 years to your life.

The Copenhagen City Heart Study (CCHS) measured the varying improvements in life expectancy associated with participation in various sports.

The 8577 participants were followed for up to 25 years or until they passed away, with all sports tracked seemingly helping you to live longer. Jogging came out well, adding an extra 3 years to your life!

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Getting Started: Tips for New Middle-Aged Runners

As you begin running at 40, it’s important to approach your new hobby safely and with the right mindset. In this section, we’ll explore creating a training plan, building strength and flexibility, and safety and injury prevention. Follow them and running needn’t be so hard.

Creating a Training Plan

Do whatever you need to get out – walk, run walk, start jogging.

A well-designed training plan can speed up your progress. Start by running three days a week, with two days of 20 to 30-minute runs, and a longer run on the weekend ranging from 40 minutes to an hour. Whilst there are benefits of jogging everyday, remember to allow time for rest days too.

Gradually increase your running frequency to four or five days a week, incorporating interval training to improve your fitness level. Utilize tools like MapMyRun or Strava to find suitable routes and track your progress.

Hire a Running Coach or Personal Trainer

For many people, hiring a running coach might seem out of reach. An expensive luxury for something that’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks to online running coaching apps expert advice has never been more accessible and affordable.

Hiring a good running coach will also do more than improve your running. Your tailored training schedule will come with guidance and coaching on how to eat healthier, recover faster, prepare for race day, achieve personal records, and improve your overall conditioning.

How much is a running coach? Expect to pay $20-$100 per hour in the US.

Building Strength and Flexibility

Strength training and flexibility are essential factors in ensuring your body can handle the demands of running. Make sure to warm up before each run with a brisk walk or slow jog for at least five minutes. After your warm-up, perform running form drills to improve your proper running form.

Incorporate strength training exercises, such as lunges, squats, and core workouts, to build muscle and improve your running efficiency. Additionally, practice regular stretches to maintain flexibility, focusing on your calves, hamstrings, and hips.

Safety and Injury Prevention

One of the most crucial aspects of starting running at 40 is ensuring you can enjoy your newfound hobby safely. Begin by investing in high-quality running shoes that provide ample support and cushioning.

Always pay attention to your body’s signals and never push yourself too hard – remember, rest is essential. Taking the time to warm up and cool down (I swear by leg swings), as well as incorporating adequate stretching, will assist in preventing injuries.

Maintain a safe running environment by choosing well-lit, low-traffic routes, and stay visible by wearing bright or reflective clothing. I like a city run in the evening for this reason.

Consider Regular Sports Massages

The benefits of jogging everyday are well documented, but it lead to body burnout and injuries if you’re not careful.

I’ve started booking monthly appointments with a sports massage therapist to treat and offset overuse in my knee and calf muscles. Massage helps relieve tight muscles and stay injury free.

It needn’t cost the world either – a 30-minute sports massage costs me $40.

Join a Local Running Club or Parkrun

Parkrun UK - runners get ready to start in York - rundure.com

Running is primarily a solo endeavor but it can be social too. Local running clubs or a Saturday parkrun (full alphabetical list of UK parkruns) are totally welcoming of beginner runners of all ages. More experienced runners, in particular, find it’s good to mix things up and get some additional accountability with a new running routine.

Having running buddies not only makes your sessions enjoyable but also encourages you to commit to your running routine.

Find a Schedule That Works For You

Your 40s will bring many conflicting priorities – kids, work, life admin. Despite being less in control of your schedule, the beauty of running is that you can fit in any point throughout the day. Simply lace up and head out for 30 minutes when you find a gap in the day.

All that added responsibility can take its toll, but nothing beats running to relieve stress or running off a hangover to clear the head.

Try Not to Overdo It At First

There are many benefits and downsides to jogging daily, so start slow.

Before you begin running, it’s essential to recognize that your body may require a different approach compared to younger runners. You’ll need to focus on gradually building your fitness, prioritizing recovery, and listening to your body to avoid injuries. Be patient and allow yourself time to adapt to this new exercise routine, and soon you’ll discover the many joys of running at any age.

Remember that consistency is key in building a running habit, so start with shorter runs and gradually increase your distance and pace. Incorporate a proper warm-up and cool-down ritual, and consider following a structured plan to help you stay on track. Explore active recovery options, such as wild swimming. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the journey as you embark on your running adventure after turning 40.

Setting Running Goals and Celebrating Milestones

To stay motivated in your new running journey at 40, it’s essential to set realistic goals and track your progress. Start with manageable targets related to distance or speed and gradually increase them over time. While tracking your progress, consider using a log, fitness tracker, or even a coach to help measure your achievements. Entering races and work towards crossing the finish line to keep things exciting and fun.

Focusing on other activities, like yoga and swimming, can complement your running and work as cross-training, which can help to improve your muscles and joints flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury. Keep a close eye on your heart rate and any aching sensations, adjusting your targets accordingly to prevent overexerting yourself.

Preparing for running at 40: Consultation and running gear

Before you start running at 40, it’s essential to prepare yourself physically and mentally. In this section, we will discuss the importance of getting a medical check-up and clearances, as well as finding the right gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable running experience.

Medical Check-Up and Clearances

Some people like to book in a check-up with doctor or healthcare provider. This will help you identify any underlying health issues that might need to be addressed before you begin running. Your healthcare provider can also provide specific recommendations for you based on your current health status and any existing medical conditions.

A medical check-up can also provide information about your fitness level and help set a safe starting pace for your training schedule. It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, so listen to your healthcare provider and consider their guidance when planning your running regimen.

Finding the Right Running Gear

Another win for running is it involves no special equipment.

However, to ensure a comfortable and injury-free running experience, there are some things I’d suggest for new runners:

  • Running shoes: Choose a good pair of running shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning for your feet. There are various types of running shoes tailored to different foot shapes and running styles, so take the time to find the perfect fit for you. You may also want to visit a specialty running store to get a professional fitting and personalized recommendations.
  • Clothing and accessories: Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you dry and comfortable during runs in extreme cold or running in hot weather. In addition, choose running clothes that offer a good balance between breathability, freedom of movement, and comfort. Don’t forget to invest in some essential accessories, such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, to protect yourself from the elements.
  • Sports bra: A supportive sports bra is a must-have for women, as it helps prevent discomfort and strain during your runs. Look for a sports bra with adequate support and a comfortable fit. You may want to try on several different brands and styles to find the one that works best for your body shape and running needs.
  • GPS watch: A must for navigating trail routes off the beaten path.
Best GPS running watch with maps – Garmin Forerunner 945

Proper Recovery Techniques for Older Runners

Recovery is crucial for runners, especially as you get older. Your tendons and connective tissues may become less elastic, leading to a higher risk of injury. Recovery time may also increase, so it’s important to prioritize proper recovery techniques to maximize the benefits of your training.

  • Foam rolling: Incorporate foam rolling into your routine to release tight muscles and improve tissue quality. Can help prevent injuries and improve overall flexibility.
  • Stretch: Stretching helps maintain and increase flexibility. Add a mix of dynamic stretches before your runs and static stretches afterward to target important muscle groups such as hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
  • Rest days: A healthy lifestyle includes rest days. These allow your body time to heal and repair, reducing the risk of overuse injuries and promoting long-term health.
  • Hydration and electrolytes: Keep yourself adequately hydrated and ensure you’re replacing essential electrolytes lost through sweat during your runs. This will help prevent muscle cramps, fatigue, and dehydration.

In Summary: Start Running at 40 and Don’t Look Back

I can personally vouch for running in your 40s.

There’s more to gain, whether its the added curiosity or sense of achievement, or simply the need to keep fit. Beyond the practicalities, I promise you this: running outdoors will bless you with the finest experiences known to humanity. A good run is unrivaled in its ability transport you to that liberating, transcendent place on a regular basis.

But it can be daunting. You’re unlikely to be as fast as you used to be and persistent injuries can greet anybody pushing themselves too far, to quickly.

By implementing a balanced diet and employing proper recovery techniques, you will set yourself up for greater success as a slightly older runner and continue to enjoy the many benefits of the sport.

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