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Getting And Staying In Shape For The Over 50 – Part 2
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Getting and Staying In Shape For The Over 50 – Part 2

So you are about to “get on the road”, i.e., to start your first run. You have made all the required preparations and so you should feel very secure in what you are about to do at last – start running! You still hesitate however as there are questions still unanswered – it is uncharted waters for you. So to reassure you that what you are experiencing is quite the norm if you are a beginner – especially over 50! - we will allay your fears by answering some of these questions.

How fast must I run? You are going to be surprised at my answer! You are not going to be running at all! You are going to be WALKING instead! – and I am sure that this is not making any sense to you at this point. It might seem incongruous, but you have to set yourself up for running by walking! You are used to walking for the purpose of getting from one place to another. However, this is not that kind of walking. The purpose is quite different. This kind is for FITNESS, not for transport! Just as you have to crawl before you walk, so it is with running – you have to walk before you run. This kind of walking will get your pulse rate up, while you are not trying to achieve this in daily life. If you are just starting to run, see it as “crawling before walking”. The walking is to prepare your body for the increased stress of actual running. Your tendons will become strengthened and your muscles will be more flexible.

At first, you are going to be walking briskly for 30 minutes at a time and then gradually increase this (but not to the point where you become exhausted!). If you find yourself coming to a point where you must rest (sit down), then slow down and spread the energy for that shorter burst over a longer distance, i.e. do not stop, but keep walking. Slowly speed up your brisk walking. You can do this, say, by walking at one rate for a minute and then at a faster rate for a minute, gradually working your way up. This way you also reduce the risk of injuries to your muscles and tendons.\

After 4-6 weeks of this initial brisk walking, you will be in a much better position to actually start your running. Then go running! Remember also, that you are not in a race with anybody but yourself. Running is your exercise of choice to become fit and healthy.

What distance must I run? That depends on you! However, the first thing you must avoid is overdoing it You are going to have to set yourself some goals and targets over time. This is not only to see how well you are progressing, but also to ensure a level of gradualism and reduce the risk of serious injury. Your targets have to be set for YOU! They must be according to your own standards. They must be realistic and achievable.

Remember why you are where you are in the first place. You are 50+and you are running in order to get in shape, to keep fit and healthy, to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your targets should be set for both the long and the short term. However, realistically, you cannot yet see the long term, so we will deal with the short term. The long term goals we will develop down the line at which time you will really begin to experience that feeling of wellbeing.

For a start, after you have completed your “crawling” (walking) phase, you might consider for your running phase, a distance of 2 to 2.5 miles, running (jogging) at an easy pace. After you are more or less comfortable with the distance, just as you “mixed up” your walking pace, you might mix up your running pace. You might run for a minute or so at one pace, then up the pace for another minute or so, then back to a slower pace for another minute, ,and so on.

After a while you will find that you are able to run most of the distance at the faster pace. You can then consider increasing the distance to 3 to 4 miles and repeating the process of upping the pace. At what point you set your maximum distance and your rate, will depend on you and whatever goals you have set yourself.

How often should I run? This is a very important decision, because your body needs sufficient rest for recovery. If you overdo it, that is, if you do not allow yourself sufficient rest time, the return for your running efforts will be negative, and instead, you will be doing yourself a great deal of injury and in the end, deprive yourself of that feeling of ecstasy which runners experience when they get in good shape.

When you are just starting, and the distance is relatively short, the frequency can be relatively high. In fact, a high frequency rate will be important and beneficial, as it allows you to quickly work through the initial phase of stiffness and soreness of muscles and tendons. If your frequency is too low, you prolong this period, and this extensive “hurting” period (pain for gain!) can prove a disincentive.

At first therefore, a frequency of 5 to 6 times per week might be just right. Later, with increased pace and longer distances (which will be taking a great deal of wear and tear on your body), you might want to reduce this to 3 times per week. It is essential that, for the rest of the day after your run, you feel energized and not tired with low energy.

Should I do warm-up exercises before starting? When you are “into” your running, you should. . If you are going to take a “hard run”, your muscles need to prepare for this. It is therefore a good idea to first do some warm-up “stretching” exercises. Groom your muscles for your planned run by jogging easily and slowly for about 10 minutes before starting on the “hard’ run. In cold climates, or if you feel “stiff”, walk first (about 10 minutes) before starting to jog.

Some running enthusiasts also suggest skipping as a good way to get started. If for some reason, during your running along the course, you have to stop (e.g. some one is engaging you in a conversation), do not just come to a total halt, but keep your feet moving (running on the spot). Setting off afterward at a fast pace from a “cold” position can cause muscle strain.

Is drinking important and what should I drink? Proper hydration is one of the most important elements of running. Much of your body consists of water and when you run, especially in hot conditions; your body loses a large amount of fluids. These need to be replaced or you will find yourself exhibiting the symptoms of dehydration: thirst, headaches, dizziness, and even vomiting. Drink water before you run (about 16 fluid ounces, 1-2 hours before), and on the road, about 10 fluid ounces. Carbonated beverages and the like should not be substituted for water. This is part of proper dieting which is essential in any running routine.

Conclusion The above provides some answers to some of the more pressing matters about which as a runner, you should be aware. They are not exhaustive however, and there are many other points about running on which you might like some further clarification. In connection with these I have given some tips and described best practices which you will find helpful. Without a doubt, these will lead you to maintain and enjoy the benefits of a fit and healthy lifestyle.


Street Talk

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