You ran like a gazelle when you were younger, but it’s been years and now, you often feel clunky and stiff. Why even getting in and out of the car or up from your chair is a challenge.
If you can relate and have good intentions of being more active, but …
First of all, let’s confirm that as we age, our bodies change. Yes, they do. But you can’t blame age alone if you’re not as fit as you used to be. As the old saying goes, use it or lose it.
“That depends,” says Paul Cain, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Central Maine Orthopaedics in Auburn, “on how long the person has been sedentary, how much weight they may have gained and how much thinning of joint cartilage they have developed.”
If you’re still in decent shape, whether you used to run or not, you may be able to hit the pavement at 50, 60, 70 or even 80+. But before you throw on your running shoes (more on them in a minute), you need to get the ok from your doctor.
“First of all,” says Dr. Cain, “your doctor will want to check your cardiovascular system (heart and blood pressure) to see if you can tolerate an increased pulse rate.”
Once you have your doctor’s approval, get yourself a pair of good running shoes. Go to a qualified salesperson who can measure your feet correctly and assess your walking style and gait. It will make all the difference in the world.
Walk before you run
Now, start walking. What? You thought we were talking about running? We are, but you need to start slowly. That’s the advice of Patty Medina, who has been in the fitness field for 35 years and running just as long. She teaches exercise and movement classes to seniors and also trains runners of all ages to compete in marathons (including the Beach to Beacon) and other races.
Patty’s recommendation is to walk a minute, run 15 seconds; walk a minute, run 30 seconds, gradually increasing your running time. It’s called interval training. Your first time out, go about one mile or for about one-half hour.
Dr. Cain agrees that you should start slowly, gradually increase your tempo and then finish slowly. That allows your body to warm up and then warm down, which will help reduce joint soreness.
Don’t do too much too soon
As we age, it’s especially important to allow our bodies time to recover. “Avoid running on consecutive days if you tend to have knee pain,” cautions Dr. Cain. “Cross train with another activity like biking or swimming.”
If you’re wondering how fast or slow you should run and you don’t know how to check your heart rate or don’t have a heart monitor, Patty has this advice: “The rule of thumb is if you’re running with a partner and you can carry on a normal conversation, you’re not working hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, you’re doing too much. If you can say short words — yes, no, maybe — you’re just right. When you’re done running, walk slowly enough to get your heart rate back to normal.”
The key is to listen to your body and take appropriate action.
If you’re a senior who’s itching to run (with your doctor’s blessing), remember these tips from Dr. Cain.
- Start slowly and progress gradually
- Use up to date running shoes
- Warm up and warm down
- Alternate exercise activities (cross train)
- Exercise with a group or running club (peer support is great)
- Make it fun!
Have you started running? Or are you doing some other activity? Let me know about it so I can share the information and maybe, motivate someone else.
This post originally ran on a blog I write for Advantage Home Care.