Want to know why I thought learning to run at 50 would be a good idea?
Efficiency mixed with laziness.
Stick with me here. You see, up until making the decision to learn to run, I’d spent the six months prior pounding the pavement walking. Initially the walking had a goal – I’d signed up to do Sydney Coastrek in March 2017 (you can read all about that HERE).
I trained like crazy, putting in the kms but also put in time at the gym and doing Reformer Pilates and yoga to build up strength. Coastrek came and went and I kept on walking, kept on going to the gym, kept on with Reformer Pilates and yoga. I liked feeling strong, to being able to move my body, even at the age of 50, but I found the walking was no longer a challenge unless I was doing more than 10km.
The thing is, I don’t have the time mid-week to do those kind of distances. I wanted to get my cardio fix but in under 40 minutes.
Early July, I was sitting on the balcony of our apartment on the island of Vis in Croatia and I read this post by Champagne Cartel’s Gillian Moody. By the end of it, there was a little something in my eye and a little fire in my belly.
Gillian’s running history story had so many similarities to mine. I did run at school and at uni because I played hockey. We had to do road runs or giant loops of six fields before the actual training that then involved MORE running. I didn’t like it and I was not good at it. Wasn’t very good at hockey either.
I remember school athletic carnivals where I had no choice about entering running races because my Dad taught at the school and was always on the loud speaker at sports’ carnivals. There is no running humiliation greater than bringing up the tail end of an 800m race while your Dad is cheering you on OVER THE LOUD SPEAKER.
Any previous thoughts about taking up running again have also been ill-advised by my GP. I’ve got Hashimotos (you can catch up on that very long story via this post and the archives) and, in short, doing too much exercise can impact an already impacted and stressed immune system. What I achieved last year was finally getting to a point with my management of my Hashis that I could take on more.
There have been plenty of days, however, where I’ve overdone it, where it feels like my eyeballs are encased in fog and I could fall asleep at any given moment. I’m more aware of those days now as it’s no longer an every day occurrence. I take that awareness on board and go slower the following couple of days. Sometimes that’s not possible with work but it is possible with the type of exercise I do.
Gillian completed a half-marathon. I’m nowhere near that point but I’m closer to believing that I could run that distance. And that’s all been down to two coaching programs I’ve done in the past six months.
1. Operation Move’s Learn to Run program*. Gillian also did this. I’ve known the organiser of this program for a long time and it would pop up all the time on my Facebook feed. I didn’t think it was for me but I also knew that I needed guidance and support if I were to transition from a walker to a runner. I signed up for a mid-August round but was keen to get the running situation started sooner, so downloaded the Couch to 5km app. The app was ok but I felt that it transitioned me too quickly each week to longer intervals.
Operation Move was different. It was 12 weeks for starters, so I felt that each week was a challenge but not a giant leap. You have amazing support in the Facebook group – from the coaches but also your fellow “shufflers”. When you sign up you get running programs for both beginners and advanced levels. They are programs that involve you progressively doing longer running intervals (with walking in between each interval). I worked through each week of the beginners’ program without missing a session, grateful for not getting the awful flu that struck down so many during that time. When the 12 weeks was up, I started at week one again, this time working through the advanced program. I’ve taken longer to do this one but I’m almost at the end of that program.
2. One-on-one coaching with Carmen Low’s Mindful Running program*. Towards the end of my 12 weeks beginners’ program with Operation Move, Carmen made contact with me after women in her program noticed I’d been learning to run. After chatting with Carmen, I signed up for three one-on-one sessions. See, I’d completed all the runs prescribed in Operation Move, but I’d never had someone actually look at HOW I was running. One thing from our sessions (I’ve got one more to go) has made a massive difference – Carmen got me to slow right down so that my easy pace was one that felt like I could just keep on running all day. This one thing was a game changer. I might shuffle along, Cliff Young style, but I CAN keep on running and don’t feel like I need to stop. That easy pace is also incrementally getting faster each week.
So where am I at now?
I can now run for 5km, comfortably. I’m not breaking any speed records but I’m doing it. When I started learning to run, I could barely run for 30 seconds, so for me, this has been a huge ticking off of my initial goal. Nailing the 5km, means I can run out the door and be back home in under 40 minutes. That’s the lazy and efficient part of my motivation sorted.
My next goal is another 5km race – running all the way. I did 5km in the Bridge to Brisbane last year and completed it in 35 minutes by doing one minute run/walk intervals. So, I’ve signed the family up to do the RACQ International Women’s Day Fun Run in a month’s time, raising funds for Mater Chicks in Pink (shameless plug: I’d love you to sponsor me HERE). After that, I want to work towards a 10km in this year’s Bridge to Brisbane event, late August.
For me these are slow, steady and do-able goals.
Things you need to plan for if you start learning to run at 50
1. You need your health professionals on speed dial. Your body is screaming WTAF and it will make stupid muscle and ligament compensations in response. I could not have made it through the past six months without visits to my GP, podiatrist, physiotherapist and chiropractor.
2. Running alone will not give you the strength you need to run. Training with exercise physiologists at Body Smart has enabled me to build up the strength where I’ve needed it (glutes, hamstrings and core). It’s also meant that if I’ve had an injury, they’re qualified to adapt my training around it, so I’ve not had to miss any sessions due to injury.
3. Supportive footwear is mandatory. You know this is a big thing for me every day and why I love being brand ambassador for FRANKiE4 Footwear. When it comes to my exercise footwear, I go under guidance from my podiatrist. I wear orthotics suited to my running. For the past year, I’ve worn Hoka One One trainers – they have a lot of cushioning but are lightweight and have a sole that kind of rocks in movement with your running. They look big but have been awesome for me.
4. Most of the training is mental training. Sure, it’s physically taxing to go for a run but, for me, the biggest hurdles have been mental ones. I remember when the training intervals went up to nine minutes each. That was huge for me and that was the day I realised I needed distraction in my ear from the negative Nancy voice inside my head telling me just to stop, to quit. I went out and bought Apple AirPods (they are seriously awesome and don’t fall out!) and now I run with a podcast or audiobook in my ears. You might be more motivated by music. Whatever distracts and keeps you running, I say.
5. Apart from supportive footwear, in theory, you don’t need much equipment for running. I say, in theory, because I have an Apple Watch and carry my phone for tracking my runs in the Runkeeper app. I also have shorts or tights with pockets in them so that my Apple 7 Plus smartphone can easily fit in them and doesn’t move while I run. My favourite tops are from UNIQLO. They’re relaxed over the hips and tummy which is rare in a sport top and are value for money. They only downside is they’re just not always available. Keep an eye on the Airism range online and in store. I last stocked up in September so hopefully they’ll be back soon. I wear Injinji toe socks – so good – and no rubbing or blistering between your toes. My girls need serious support – this Triumph sports bra does the job it needs to and the gel support on the shoulder straps is welcome.
6. Light leakage is a thing. I’m a kegel girl from way back but nothing prepared me for those early running days and the reality that I just couldn’t hold on. Particularly running up or down hills. GAH. Thank goodness for Modibodi undies, I say. And thank goodness, the situation has actually improved over the past six months’ of training.
7. Scheduling is key to sticking to your learn-to-run plan. Operation Move is very big on this and it’s something I now do every Sunday. I plan out when and where I’m going to run and what HIIT (gym), Reformer Pilates and yoga classes I’m going to do. For me, it all happens early morning – the alarm goes off 5 or 5.30am – it’s cooler and then over and done with for the day. The only exception is on Sunday. If we don’t have anything on socially, I love going for a run along the Brisbane River. It’s shady, flat and there’s generally a breeze coming off the river.
8. Just do it. If this is something you’ve been thinking about doing, then seize the day, my dear Stylers. The next round of Operation Move’s Learn to Run program starts February 12. Read more about it HERE.
I know this has been a LONG post, but it’s one that I’ve been busting to write for some time. I wanted to get the point where I felt that I was actually enjoying running, that it wasn’t something I was forcing. That time has come. I can’t believe it really. It’s been the sum of small steps but if I can do it at the age of 50 – going from zero running fitness to running 5kms, then you can too.
So tell me, are you runner? Always been one? Something you’ve recently taken up? Or a beginner like me and thinking of starting? Hit me up with all your questions.
* I signed up and paid for both of these programs