I had a long career in running and I met many, many seniors who had taken up running when they retired at 60 or 65. It began as a way to stay fit and fill in the blocks of free time that comes with retirement.
One day they are running for 10 or 15 minutes and then it becomes half an hour and before long they are entering 10k races on Spring and Summer weekends. Running for seniors who are on the move is excellent for health and longevity if it’s approached properly.
It’s pretty amazing how many seniors take up running late in life and a year or two after they first laced up their running shoes they are entering marathons. Almost every one of the 30+ marathons that I ran had seniors in their sixties and quite often, in their seventies.
Of course, there are those who have been running for decades and just never stopped when they reached the golden years. They may have slowed down a bit, but they never stopped.
THE RUNNING CENTENARIAN
I remember the day I was following the live feed of the Toronto Marathon. There was a good reason for it. The book I was writing at the time called Seniors On the Move was pretty much done. I just wanted that special story of an amazing senior to end the book with. So basically, I was looking for a senior who was really on the move.
Fauja Singh from the United Kingdom was the Toronto Marathon runner I was interested in. In case you think you are too old to take up running, Fauja Singh was 81 when he first laced up his running shoes and hit the dusty trail.
He’d moved from India to the United Kingdom and that was when he began his running career. He was inspired by watching the London Marathon on television and the rest, as they say, is history.
He amazed the running world when he ran a 26.2-mile marathon that same year in six hours and 54 minutes. The time that he posted was 58 minutes faster than the fastest time ever recorded for his age group.
Fast forward to Toronto 11 years later and at 100 years old Singh was taking on the marathon distance again in Toronto and he finished it. At 101 years old he took part in another marathon in London.
In 2004, he replaced David Beckham as the face of Adidas to endorse the brand. He is the oldest person in human history to complete the marathon distance.
In April 2019 Fauja Singh celebrated his 108th birthday. He had retired from running but still walks most days to stay fit. As he said during one interview, ” I know that I will be finished if I stop walking.” He holds all the age-related records, from 100 meters to the marathon for men over 100 and he might be holding those for a very long time.
SO WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?
Over the years, Fauja Singh has inspired many people to get off the couch and start running. He inspired people of all ages and all walks of life to get on the move. It’s hard to tell how many lives he has altered for the better.
How many people will live longer, healthier lives because he inspired them? Even to this day, Singh has never learned to read, but at the same time, has impacted the lives of so many.
Will you be one of those he inspires to take control of your health and well-being? It doesn’t mean you have to go out and run a marathon, but there is no reason seniors can’t run to stay fit. It could do wonders for the quality of life and longevity. In general, we are all living longer, so why not enjoy it by being in great shape?
Sure, you can take it easy and spend most of your retirement years sitting in front of the television, but you could be removing 10 or 15 quality years from your lifespan.
HOW DO YOU START RUNNING?
Well, if you are new to running, the first thing you do is start walking with purpose. What I mean by that is, walk at a strong, steady pace. Vary your pace and walk at different speeds to get your heart working at different rates. Walk uphills and downhills. Start out easy and increase your distance over time.
When you think you’re ready to incorporate some running into the program it would be a wise idea to have your doctor check you out and make sure everything is fine. He will most likely be very supportive of your new-found road to fitness. Why wouldn’t he be?
Make sure you have shoes that fit you well and are not too tight or too loose. They should feel comfortable when you walk around on them. If they do, then chances are they will be fine when you begin running.
The trick is to ease into your running. Many people go headlong into running and end up getting injured and discouraged. Soon after, they quit running altogether. That scenario can be very easily avoided.
WALK RUN, WALK RUN, WALK RUN
I typed it three times so you would remember it. The best way to ease into running is to start by incorporating running into your walking. Find a great place to run. Maybe on a pathway alongside the river, a lonely country road, or a forest trail.
Say for example you are used to going for hour-long walks.
Begin your first running session with a 10-minute walk and then run for five minutes. Repeat that four times. When your hour workout is finished you will have walked for 40 minutes and run for 20.
That’s perfect! It ends up that your warm-up at the beginning is a 10-minute walk, and the cool-down at the end is another 10-minute walk. Taking your heart rate up and down at intervals is a great way to strengthen it.
HOW TO PROGRESS YOUR RUNNING
There are a couple of ways to make your running more challenging. The first way is to walk less and run more. In other words, after several sessions of a walk and run training see how you feel. A bit of soreness is quite common and that will disappear as you run more.
If things are great, you should be ready to ramp up you’re running a little. You can do this by walking for eight minutes and running for seven.
Repeat this four times if you are planning to put in another one-hour workout. When you are done you will have walked 32 minutes and run for 28 minutes. So you can see where this is heading.
After four or five sessions of that, you might try running more than you are walking. This time you will walk for five minutes and run for ten. When you have finished your one-hour workout you will have walked for 20 minutes and run for 40 minutes. You have reversed what you did in your very first walk, run workout.
Eventually, you will say the heck with it and start off with a 10-minute warm-up walk and then run for 20 or 25 minutes. By now, you will most likely be feeling pretty good about your progress. In six weeks or a month, you will pretty well just be running. Keep in mind, however, that you should always begin your runs with a five or ten-minute warm-up walk.
Another way to progress your running is to run at a faster speed, but that is best done after you have put in plenty of miles to get to that point.
IS IT TIME TO RACE?
As I mentioned in the beginning, you would be surprised at how many people begin running in their senior years and grow to love it. Soon they find themselves entering some local races.
And why not? There is no reason you can’t enter a 10km race. You basically just run at your own speed, and much like your walk, run training you can walk parts of the race and run the rest.
Some senior men and women enter 10km races and walk the whole thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means they are very healthy and on the move, and that’s exactly what you want as a senior.
The day might come when you run the whole thing and will be checking out the marathon’s upcoming marathons.
After all, is a man can start running in his 80s and run a marathon at 100 and 101 years old, it shows that all things are possible once you start believing in yourself.
READ ALSO: HOME EXERCISES FOR SENIORS
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