How to Start Running at Any Age
Competitive running’s latest trend might be its most inspiring: Masters Runners (the category for athletes age 35+) with little previous training are showing up in droves and winning races. Theories abound on how and why runners age 35 to 105 are besting their younger, more seasoned cohorts, but the greatest takeaway for us is that they’re taking their deserved place at the starting line — and proving age is nothing but a number.
“I never thought about my age. I knew I could do it.” — Marjorie Kagan, ran her first marathon at age 81 after a few months of training
“I’m just glad they didn’t say practically dead when the headlines ran with my age. It’s never been an age thing for me. I still feel strong. I’m going to keep running as long as I can.” — Molly Friel, qualified for Olympic Marathon Trials at age 50
You can run pretty much anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t require a lot of gear, and the technique is fairly simple. You don’t even need a partner or teammate (though those can help with motivation!) It’s an activity that can be tailored to wherever you’re at in your health/fitness journey and any limitations you might have. This minimal barrier to entry makes running the most popular sport across all demographics, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to take that first step. Here are some tried and true recommendations to begin your own running journey — at any age.
STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR MOTIVATION
Why do you want to run? For Dail St Claire, age 52, it was a charity half marathon. Six years later she had finished 20 half and full marathons. Lloyd Hansen, age 54, wanted to combat early signs of heart disease. Fast forward 15 years, he’s a Masters regular and his health issues have abated. Evy Palm found her stride after her kids were grown, propelled by her newfound free time. By age 46, she was representing Sweden in the Seoul Summer Olympics. Julia Hawkins waited till her centenarian years to lace up. Her reason: “I thought it would be neat.”
Healthcare, self-care, community, or hobby — whatever’s fueling your interest and desire, write it down and then track your progress. There are tons of wearable tech options to record step count, distance, BMI, and more, and you can always stick to good old-fashioned mile markers. Even just checking off the days you get up and out in any capacity can be a useful motivator in the beginning stages. Success looks different to everyone, but it’s always easiest to attain with a clear set of objectives.
STEP 2: GET YOUR GEAR
Focus on the fundamentals. You don’t need a lot to run, but getting the basics right goes miles in the long run, literally and metaphorically. Things to look for: lightweight technical fabrics that breathe, wick, and dry quickly. You may also want to consider if they’re machine or hand wash and be sure to layer up in colder climes. Stave off blisters by looking for socks with a lightly snug fit that won’t bunch between your toes or rub behind your heel.
When it comes to shoes, you’ve likely heard terms like supination, pronation, heel-striking, motion-control, etc. The spectrum of jargon can start to make your head spin, but a comprehensive study recently published by the New York Times simplifies things a bit, finding that, “Comfort, however you define it, is the most important factor is determining whether a pair of running shoes is right for you.” This can take some trial and error. Our HOKA team can help guide you toward the right styles for your gait and running category, and our no questions asked 30-day return policy lets you try them out at home to ensure you’ve found the perfect fit. Clifton 9 and Bondi 8 are two of our most popular styles, offering a smooth ride to first time runners and pros alike, while athletes seeking a stability shoe opt for the Arahi 6 or the extra cushioned Gaviota 4.
STEP 3: START SIMPLE
Set yourself up for success by making it as low pressure and enjoyable as possible. Pick a route with pretty scenery or a destination you love. Put together a mood-boosting playlist or queue up a favorite comedy set. Start with easy jogs or a run-walk combination and increase incrementally as you gain confidence, strength, and stamina. Apps like Strava, Map My Run, and 5K Runner can help you design routes and training programs and others add an element of gamification ranging from jog-a-thon style fundraising to zombie chases.
Don’t overthink your form. Your natural stride is the best stride for preventing injury — even if it doesn’t feel all that natural in the beginning. The more you run, the more comfortable and efficient it gets. Cross-training also helps keep injuries at bay. Supplement your runs with yoga, strength-training, or low-impact cardio like swimming or spin class.
Make a schedule you can stick to, and have some sort of accountability system, whether it’s a training buddy, community group, or selecting and signing up for your first race.
IN IT FOR THE LONG RUN
“If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” — Robert Butler, National Institute on Aging
Running has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood sugar control, and cholesterol levels. It can increase muscular strength, bone density, and even lifespan. It lowers cortisol, boosts endorphins and immunity, and helps you sleep better. Recent studies have even connected running to improved cognitive function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and cancer. Not to mention, it comes with one of the best communities out there. It’s never too soon or late to start reaping the benefits. Let us help you find your stride.