Runners can keep going by adapting their techniques at each age milestone, says Radhika Meganathan
Age is just a number, as they all say. However, when it comes to running, the biology of aging cannot be denied, or ignored. As one ages, muscle mass decreases. Bone wear and tear over a period of years slow you down and makes you less flexible. Healing takes longer and stamina takes a hit. These are perfectly valid reasons to be vigilant and adjust one’s training and expectations from the sport.
The good news is, you can run the if you are prepared enough. At the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014, 59-year-old Christine Kennedy of triumphed with the astounding stat of 2:59:39.
Should you run when you are older?
Of course! As long as you don’t have any serious conditions that may hamper your running and you take proper care to run, running is good for all ages. Consider these pluses of running, especially if you are a senior:
1. Running can help you with a longer and healthier life.
2. Runners have less chance of suffering from clinical depression
3. Running improves blood circulation, and the brain benefits from improved circulation.
4. Running, and in general being physically active, can prevent you from cognitive decline.
5. Running reduces the chances of you getting colon or breast cancer.
6. Runners sleep better!
With all the above benefits, you are better off running!
But what about the ‘fall’ scare?
It’s a myth that you will fall and injure yourself if you run after a certain age. Injury happens to anyone who is careless or doesn’t take the necessary precautions. Age has nothing to do with it! In fact, most senior citizens experience falls in all walks of their life due to poor balance. Regular running makes muscles and bones stronger, and improves balance, which means – less chances of having a fall during running.
What if you are a senior and new to running?
Start with walking. Your neighbourhood park is the best bet, but you can walk in a quiet road too. Walk 10 minutes, and slowly jog for a couple of minutes. Alternate this until you feel slightly out of breath, and then stop. Repeat this consistently every day or every other day, progressively increasing the time to 15 and 20 minutes. Slowly venture into brisk walking, and eventually, sprinting. Set reasonable goals, look how your body’s responding and adjust your schedule accordingly. Take a companion if you are unsure attempting this alone. If you cannot run every day, aim for at least three times a week. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it will get.
What if I have a pre-existing condition?
Any sport requires a certain degree of caution when you attempt it with a pre-existing condition, and running is no different. As a starter, get your physician’s opinion. Get the right running attire, shoes and safety gear. Always have a mobile or a medical device alert with you, in case of emergencies. You can also hire a personal trainer who can help you get started with running. The advantage of professional help is that you will be under a monitored environment where you will be taught to gradually increase the level of activity.