Run for your life!
(Updated July 2013 from September 2008)
Last year’s Olympic fever has diminished but with the warmer weather, many people of our age group are thinking once again that it really is time to get out and get fit.
Jogging and running are really great ways to help so many aspects of ageing bodies. The exercise of course helps you to lose weight with all the inherent benefits that can bring, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even depression. Running can also improve bones, muscles and joints, mobility and co-ordination and also the general feeling of well-being.
If you haven’t jogged or run for a long time, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before you start.
Also, take the time and make the effort to be properly prepared. It is so easy to be fired up with enthusiasm, pop on your old trainers that you use for gardening, and jog up the road in a fit of instant determination.
That really isn’t the way to go. Sudden stresses on your body will cause more problems than they solve plus if you haven’t a serious progression plan, your enthusiasm is likely to last for a maximum of three to four sessions.
First is to get the right shoes. You don’t need to spend a fortune. You can get lots of good information about shoes on line but it really is best to try shoes on first to ensure a good fit and that they are totally comfortable and supportive. Also ensure you have comfortable clothes to run in; you really don’t need to look the part, loose trousers and a t-shirt is fine.
Women may need to invest in a sports bra. These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes these days and offer that extra support you might need once you start exercising.
Plan your week. Allow 20 to 30 minutes at a time for three days a week to begin with, spacing out the days to allow a proper recovery time between each.
You might want to invest in a pedometer. These can be as basic and cheap or as complex and expensive as you like, but as long as it can be adjusted to show you the number of steps you have taken or the distance you have covered, then it could be really useful in getting you going. Timing your run is also useful as it gives an incentive to improve, either by going out for longer runs, or by covering the same distance in a shorter time.
Plan your route first. Soft grass offers less damage to joints, but can be harder going. Unless you become fanatical, you also won’t want to be jogging across sodden muddy ground after a rainy spell. Quiet roads and pavements are fine if you have invested in the right running shoes.
When you are ready to go, start slowly. If you haven’t run for many years, then a brisk walk is by far the best way to get started. Fast walking the route for a month will give you a good base before you finally turn to jogging. Jogging just a few steps to begin with and then going back to walking is fine. Once you start to run, make sure you don't start off too fast and try to keep an even pace throughout. Use the "talk test" to figure out if your pace is appropriate. You should be able to talk comfortably while running; slow it down if find you are becoming out of breath. Remain at the edge of your comfort level and you will still be surprised how quickly you can improve your fitness if you continue on a regular basis.
Try and develop a good running habit. Arms should be kept at waist level with relaxed hands and a good posture. Initially you will probably find you are taking quite small steps; try to increase your stride a little until you feel you have a good running position. Most runners land on their heels or midfoot and then roll forward to the toe. If you try to run on your toes for too long, your shins will start hurting and your calves will get tight.
Most people simply breathe naturally as they run, but there has been increasing support for specialised breathing techniques. Some argue that the best breathing technique is inhaling oxygen through the nose, fully expanding the lungs, and then exhaling through a widely opened mouth. Your nose is a good filter for air, especially while running out of doors as it prevents you from accidently swallowing bugs. Exhaling through your mouth allows your body to get rid of more carbon dioxide and heat with less effort.
When you return after your run, take time to stretch. Good stretching routines can be found on various websites and will ensure you gain maximum benefit from your exercise.
Ease into your new routine gradually. Depending on your age and level of fitness, you can go from total inactivity to running three miles (5 kilometres) on a regular basis in just two months. But it is important not to get impatient, progress steadily but don’t force the pace.
If you have problems in keeping your enthusiasm up, seek out a local running group or even a running friend. Running with someone else will help your motivation.
Make sure you have drunk enough both before and after your running sessions. Experts say when you feel thirsty, it is too late and you are already dehydrated!
Safety is important and it is a good idea to wear something with a deep pocket so that you can carry your mobile with you and of course a high visibility jacket if you run late in the evening or on very dull days.
Most important of all – enjoy it. Running can bring a lot more than a healthier lifestyle; it offers opportunities to see nature and the changing seasons and sometimes to make new friends as you pass regularly on your runs.
There are lots of websites and advice groups for runners.
Runners World is a magazine full of information for all ages and levels: www.runners.world.magazine.co.uk
The NHS has some useful general information but bear in mind this is for all age groups:
There are also many local running groups across the country that welcome older runners; your local council should have details.