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How To Start Running At 40 – 11 Tips for Middle Age Runners

If you’re over 40, you might be wondering how exactly to get into running. It might seem too overwhelming. Or maybe you think you’re too old.

Well, you’re wrong! 

No matter what your age, the best time to start running was ten years ago. But the second-best time to start is today! Regardless of age.

This article will give you the encouragement that you need. We’ll give you 11 tips on how to start running even if you’re 40 or over so that you enjoy running and keep it up. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you want to slip on a pair of running shoes and head out the door!

start running at 40

1. Start Off Slow

This is arguably the most important tip, so we put it first. Even though you might have heard s story or two from a famous runner who got up off the couch and spontaneously went for a 20-mile run, this is very far from the norm. Ease into it; don’t all of the sudden jump into a hardcore running program. You need to give your body time to acclimate to a new activity.

This is even true if you were a runner before. If you ran in the past but stopped, you should pretend like you’ve never run before. This will be hard to do, but necessary to avoid injuries and burnout.

Use a run/walk plan or a Couch to 5k program. If you’ve never run before, you should definitely lean toward using a run/walk plan, starting first with lots of walking and a little running and slowly working up to just running.

If you have run before in your past, you might be okay with a program that is all running but starts off at a very modest pace like a 12-minute-mile. Be okay with taking it slow.

If you are not sure where to start, we’ve got a 30-day running challenge to get you going. Or jump into our couch to 5k program.

2. Make Sure You Warm Up Before You Run

You might be tempted to jump straight into a run, but warming up is so important. If you want to avoid injuries and recover faster, you have to warm up. And it doesn’t even have to take a lot of time. Just incorporate a 5-10 minute warm-up before you run whether it’s a brisk walk or a light jog.

This will make sure that your body is warmed up and ready to run, and it will also make your runs more comfortable. Don’t forget to include some dynamic warm-ups. Leg swings, high knees, butt kicks, or Frankensteins get your body ready to move more effectively than static stretching.

3. Take Time to Recover

A cool-down and time for recovery are important for any runner. It’s especially important for you and your older body. So don’t skimp on those rest days. Maybe in your prime you could run every day, but you’re likely better off if you run every other day and include rest days in between your run days (even if that’s a cross-training day).

Make sure you end your runs or walk/runs with a cool-down of 5-10 minutes. This allows your pulse to get back to normal and speed up your recovery process. Cool-down is also a perfect time for some static stretches like toe touches.

4. Don’t Skip Strength Exercises

Running at 40s

Runners like to run. But if that is all you are doing, and you are skipping strength exercises, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need to exercise in order to be able to exercise. Strength work will help you stay injury-free.

One of my doctors says just that: “You need to exercise so you can exercise.” This is especially true as you get older.

Remember that this will improve your running as well. You especially need a strong core to run your best, so include some core exercises like crunches and Russian twists into your routine.

Don’t just focus on core strength, though. Work on your arms with simple body-weight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups. Although I’m under 40, I always do several pull-ups after a run to get some strength exercises in. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it’s helping me to become a stronger runner.

5. Add Cross-Training to Your Routine

You need to do more than just run. Consider adding in bicycling, swimming, or a fitness class at your local gym. You want to work muscles besides the ones that you work with running.

In other words, cross-training will shift muscle exertion to other parts of the body, making you stronger and healthier overall. This is the time to add in something you’ve always wanted to do, and it can be fun like Zumba or yoga. The only requirement is that it isn’t your regular running.

6. Keep Your Body Flexible

My mother (who is over 40) regularly reminds me of the importance of stretching in staying balanced and flexible as you age. The more you stretch, the less likely you are to fall as you get older, which is good. Falls are typically what lead to other major health problems in the elderly. Forty is nowhere close to elderly, but a fitness and stretching habit now will make it more likely that you stay fit later in life…into your 70s and beyond.

As I mentioned above, you’ll especially want to include dynamic stretching to your routine. This is a great way to warm-up, but also helps keep you limber.

7. Work on Proper Running Form

Proper running form is important for anyone, but it’s definitely important for runners 40 and older. Maintaining good form will help you stay injury-free and will also help you run more comfortably. Remember to look ahead, relax your shoulders, have a nice, tall posture, and keep your hands at waist level.

Your hips should be over your mid-foot, shoulders over hips, and head over shoulders. This form will improve your running efficiency and help you use less energy. That translates to better pace and endurance.

8. Embrace All the Benefits of Running

Running at 40s

Running comes with many benefits, so take advantage of all of them! Besides cardio and weight loss, running can also help you relieve stress, catch up with friends on runs, and enjoy the endorphins of a runner’s high.

As someone who only dabbled in running prior to this year, I can vouch for all of these benefits. If you’re dealing with a challenging personal or professional issue, running can make all the difference.

It will help you sleep better at night and make you feel better about yourself just because you got out there and did it even if you didn’t want to. If you find yourself tempted to forego a run, just remind yourself that even a mile will make you feel better, and that’s less than 15 minutes. Surely you can spend 15 minutes on making yourself feel better!

9. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others or Your Younger Self

As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. It doesn’t matter if you’re comparing yourself to other people (younger or older than you) or your younger self. If you were a runner in the past, the best thing you can do is forget those past times.

Instead, focus on the present and doing the best that you can right now. Don’t compare yourself to people who have been running longer, or who are younger than you. That can very often lead to the dark side.

You’d be better off thinking about what running is doing for you right now. Maybe it’s giving you more energy, or it’s helping you lose a couple pounds. Maybe it helps you feel good about yourself, or it’s a way to connect with your spouse in a way that you never have before. Focus on the good, not the bad!

10. Embrace Running as a New Habit

Start thinking of yourself as a runner (it doesn’t matter how fast you go!) and start making running part of your routine. Because you’re over 40, you’re likely busy and you don’t have the same flexibility a 20-something might have.

You should take steps to ensure that running doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Take the time to schedule and prioritize runs. Pretend that your runs are just as important as if you got the chance to meet your celebrity crush. You wouldn’t blow that off, and you shouldn’t blow off a run.

Another way to stay motivated is to keep your running shoes and gear in places that you’ll see them. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I see is my running gear and clothes all laid out and ready to go. It’s a visual reminder that I need to get out there.

11. Get the Gear But Don’t Go Crazy

 If you’re just getting into running, you should definitely prioritize getting a good pair of running shoes. Good running clothes are also a big part of staying comfortable. But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg.

I’ve gotten all of my running shoes new on Ebay for under $50, and they have worked super well. I’ve been running consistently (sometimes every day) for the past year, and I haven’t had an injury, so you don’t have to break the bank on fancy shoes just to avoid injuries.

But you really don’t need all the bells and whistles, especially right at the start. Accessories like a GPS watch, hydration belt, and so forth can wait a bit while your new running routine solidifies into an indispensable habit. If you’d like them, then by all means, purchase them, but don’t feel the immediate need to do so.

I decided to purchase a GPS watch to tell myself that I really was a runner, and that I was serious about keeping it up. This worked for me. My GPS watch is my cue to run on a regular basis, and it reminds me of my commitment to myself. It’s the best $200 I’ve ever spent on myself. If that’s you, then do the same thing! Or find what motivates you.

In the end, it might be a little more challenging to start running when you’re 40 or older, but it’s easily doable. Just remember to be gentle with yourself and don’t push yourself too hard at the outset. Instead, give yourself time to see your progress. People run into their 90s. That could be you!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner