Once you used to be a runner but then you stopped because of some reason. If you decide to start running again after several years or even decades, expect some obstacles in the beginning, but don’t give up, stick to your new goal, and follow these steps.
1 Increase your strength
Runners are known for for just going out for a run and leaving it at that. Research tells us that men who lift weights a few times a week in their 50s and 60s can maintain their muscle mass, not simply slow the rate of decline.
2 Add speed work
As you get older, your tendons don’t respond as well, so short, sharp sprint-type sessions can ‘regenerate’ them.
3 Fuel up
Science has changed; consuming and taking energy gels for instant refuelling are now established parts of training and races.
4 Stretch yourself
To limber up before a run, make ‘dynamic’ movements to loosen up your muscles, raise your heart beat, and increase your blood flow. Try walking pace lunges; kicking your heels up to touch your backside; and swinging each leg in turn out to the side and across your body. Save static stretches, where you hold the stretch in one position for 30 seconds, by the end of your run.
5 Accept defeat
Chances are, if you’re returning, you’re a little older and younger runners will beat you. Runners who don’t even look like runners might skip away into the distance. Don’t worry, you’ll still beat most.
6 Get proper shoes
The science behind running shoes has changed dramatically, with designs tailored to fit your foot strike. Good sport shops offer gait analysis to find the best shoe for you. There’s also the ‘wet foot test’ you can do at home, which offers a basic diagnosis. Leave a wet, barefoot print on a tiled floor:
Neutral: If your heel and forefoot are connected by a broad band (about half the width of your foot), your feet are less likely to pronate (roll in or out as you land), so look for a mild stability shoe with features like a comfortable heel counter to keep your foot in place, a contoured foot bed, and a harder density medial post in the midsole.
Under pronater: If your heel and forefoot are connected by only a thin band, you are likely to have a high arch, which signals a higher chance to underpronate (or ‘supinate’). Ask for ‘neutral’ shoes with plenty of cushioning and flexibility.
Over pronater: If you have a flat foot, you’ll see a wet print that looks like the entire sole of your foot. This means you have a low arch, which usually means a tendency to over-pronate (the outside of your heel strikes the ground and your foot rolls in excessively). Look for a high stability or ‘motion control’ shoe which is more rigid and helps you control your gait.
7 Rest is good
Understand the importance of rest and you’ll reap the benefits. Be patient and take longer rests between races, long runs, short runs… to allow your body to recover. Forget the ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra and put your feet up.
8 Weight watchers
A controversial area that has a simple (and complex) outcome; lose weight and you’ll run faster. Indeed 1lb lighter is roughly 2sec per mile faster on a long run. But starve yourself and you’ll lack the energy to train properly, and may stop running altogether. So reduce food intake moderately and let the increased calorie burn from running drive weight loss.
9 Reset your goals
It’s unrealistic for most of us to set personal bests beyond our 30s, so reset your target times to take account of your fitness and the time you realistically have to train, to make your goals meaningful and achievable.