I’ve never done much exercise. To be honest, I never enjoyed it and there was always something else I’d rather be doing — reading a book, watching a movie, house chores. Anything except exercising. I think, over time, I got it into my head that exercise just wasn’t my thing.
And that was fine while I was younger, but when I hit menopause things started to change. I began to experience pain in my knees and ankles, and some days just going up and down stairs was a struggle. I was only 50, so I knew I had to do something about it.
Running’s In The Family
Running wasn’t an obvious thing for me to do, but I feel like running came to me rather than me choosing to take up running. My sister has been a keen runner for years and my sister-in-law also runs. I saw how much they enjoyed it and how motivated they always were to get out there and run. Then my daughter, aged 22, also took up running. It seemed like everyone around me was now a runner.
I have always enjoyed walking and hiking, so it felt like it would be a gentle and natural progression from there to start running. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would have done it if my family weren’t all doing it already. I felt comfort in the act that I could talk to them about it, run with them, and share the experience.
From The Couch To The Field
There’s an NHS app in the UK called “Couch to 5k” that has been specially designed to get older people up off the couch and out running. It starts off very gentle, just a minute jogging at a time, interspersed with walking, and it gradually builds up over 9 weeks until you’re running for 30 minutes without stopping. This sounded like it was made for me, which it kind of was!
So I decided this would be the best way for me to begin. The app gives you tips while you’re running about breathing and about how to land and take off with your feet for each step. Music plays in between the narration, which I found motivating. The app also tells you how far you’ve run and how many minutes you have left, which I found spurred me on when I felt like stopping.
The Great Outdoors
I’ve always loved walking and hiking, and a big part of that is being able to get out in nature and walk through some stunning scenery. I was never going to be the kind of runner who stays home and completes the course on a treadmill. One of the reasons I felt running might work for me was the nature element. It’s like walking, but a bit faster. And at first, that’s exactly what I was doing.
I’m lucky enough to live close to parks, fields, and areas of open countryside. I started off in the local park, but I soon felt there were too many other people walking dogs and taking children to the playground. There’s a field near my home that is used for school football teams at weekends but is mostly empty during the week save for a few dog walkers, so I decided to try this out.
There’s a lovely riverside track and then a large open field, which I could do circuits of pretty much by myself. My sister has taken her running gear to Barcelona and Rome with her, so I’m planning some interesting runs on trips.
Find The Right Kit
Before I started running I bought myself some good running shoes, a sports bra, and some workout pants. The shoes are the most important thing, especially if you already have any aches and pains in your feet and ankles as I did. I wear a baseball cap when it’s sunny, mostly to shield my eyes, but also to protect my head from the sun, and high-factor sunscreen. I have a hoodie and a raincoat for the rain, but to be honest I don’t mind running in the rain as I am. It’s actually quite refreshing!
It’s important when starting any new exercise over the age of 50 to take it easy at first. The app is great for easing you into running if it’s your first time, but you could also time yourself, use music segments to run to, or just run as much as you feel comfortable with. You need to be patient as well.
Because I’d never exercised much before, I didn’t realize how patient I’d have to be when it came to seeing benefits and results. The process is slow, but sticking with it really is worth it. I’ve dropped a dress size and best of all, my knees no longer hurt when I go up and down stairs and I feel much stronger.
Facing A Challenge
I’ll admit it’s been hard. There are days when I don’t want to go out and run and there are days when it feels like I’m trying to run through syrup. Because I’m older and because I’ve never exercised much before, it’s been tough. I don’t have as much energy as I did when I was younger, and I don’t have muscle memory like someone who’s exercised for years. My legs often feel weak and my feet hurt.
I think the idea of running didn’t seem like such a big deal when I thought of it as just faster walking, but the truth is, it’s much harder than that. A couple of times I’ve ended up in a heap on the ground at the end of the 30 minutes, I was so exhausted. The idea of going from a 10-minute run to a 20-minute run began to feel like a hill I just couldn’t climb. And yet, I made it to 30 minutes in the end.
I Never Knew I Was This Determined
In the face of the aches and pains, the tiredness, and the lack of motivation, I’m amazed I saw this through, and even more amazed that I now want to keep this up. My family has told me how proud they are of me, which means a lot, but really I’ve done this for myself and I’ve found something I now love doing.
The biggest surprise for me on my running journey is that I now enjoy running. I never thought I would. I viewed it as something I had to do for my health, but it turned out to be an activity I love. I get half an hour to myself during the day. I run down by the river and over the field. I feel free and I can clear my mind of any worries and thoughts of the things I have to do that day.
Running was meant to be something that helped my physical health, but it’s much more than that. It’s meditation, physical fitness, breathing exercises, and a good mental clear-out, all in one. And I love it.
Running Tips And Motivation
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If all you can manage at first is a very slow jog, like I did, that’s fine.
- There’s no rush to make progress. Choose three days of the week to run, four if you like, and give yourself the other days off in between. This makes it feel more manageable and you’re more likely to keep it up if you have days off.
- Don’t stop when you’ve reached your goal. It’s better to see running as a new part of your life rather than something you have to complete. You can take as long as you like to make it to that 30-minute run, but when you’ve made it there, your running journey continues.