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Becoming a runner in midlife

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For the first time in history there are more female than male runners, according to The State of Running 2019 report.

This makes me happy because running has so many benefits for women in midlife. It’s great for cardiovascular fitness, strengthening muscles and improving bone density. Running is a form of meditation; the stress of the day evaporates as you’re forced to re-focus. It’s one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Running gives you confidence and pride in yourself.

Are you wanting to give it a go but are convinced you can’t run?

I’d love to share with you my journey of becoming a runner, and give you some tips on how you can become one too.

How I became a runner

In 2012 I walked into a gym for the first time in my life. I was in my late 40s and had not done any regular exercise for a very long time, if ever. A couple of months into training, my PT Nat ordered me to get on the treadmill to do some running. “Ah no, actually I can’t run,” I whined. Taking no sh**, Nat laughed and told me of course I can run, everyone can run. “Everyone except me,” said my inner voice.

More a slow shuffle than a run (my trademark style to this day), I managed to do a few minutes and was hooked.

I downloaded the c25k app and set out on run/walks around my local park two or three times a week. I bought some decent running shoes and registered for my first running event – the Melbourne Marathon 5km. It was hard to comprehend running that far and as it turns out I didn’t have to. In true Melbourne style the event was washed out and the course was scaled back to 3km. Still, I got a taste for the adrenaline rush and sense of achievement that comes from taking part in a running event.

I had proven myself wrong and I was so proud. I was a runner!

My running truths

The reality is that I’m not a ‘natural’ runner, I struggle with motivation and I find every run hard.

I am a slow runner. I often feel like I’m plodding along like a baby elephant. Most of the time I’m sure I could walk faster than I run! My 5k time is around 40 minutes, my 10k time is 1hr 20 minutes plus. I don’t care, I’m still lapping everyone sitting on a couch.

I don’t love ‘doing’ running. I don’t feel comfortable or ‘in the zone’ until at least the second kilometre. If I persist running that far! It takes ages for me to settle my breathing so I’m not gasping. Things ache and niggle. But I love the feeling at the end, and the health benefits that come from running.

I’m a lazy runner. I don’t get up at 5am to smash out a few ks before work. I aim to do 30 minutes of running a couple of times a week. I mostly run on a treadmill, and I try to do an outdoor run every other week. Motivation is always a struggle, but I’ve never done a run I regret.

5 tips for becoming a runner

If I can become a runner, albeit a slow, ambivalent and lazy runner, please know that you most definitely can too. Here are my top 5 tips to encourage you to give running a go.

  1. Believe in yourself. Running is not easy, it’s mostly uncomfortable and boring but the biggest challenge is in your mind. You can do it, and you’ll need to tell yourself that and truly believe it with every step of every run.
  2. Learn the basic principles of running. There are plenty of free resources to learn about running technique, breathing, posture and gait. Borrow a book from your library or watch a few YouTube videos like this one to give you the knowledge and confidence to begin.
  3. Sign up for an event. Pick an event and sign up for the 5km distance.This gives you the motivation to work towards a goal, and it makes it real. You’re a runner! The anticipation leading up to event day is addictive. On the day you’ll be nervous and excited and you’ll be amazed by how well you do. There’s nothing like the energy of the crowd to propel you to the finish line!
  4. Start very slowly using the run/walk method. Use a program such as Couch to 5k which gradually increases the running component and decreases the walking component over the weeks. Don’t worry about running non-stop. If that’s your goal then that will come with time and practice. If it’s not your goal or your reality there’s no shame. The walk/run method is a perfectly acceptable way to run and still enjoy the benefits, regardless of your age or fitness level.
  5. Be safe. Don’t run too far or too fast too soon, you’ll be risking injury if you do. Listen to your body and if you feel pain, stop. Be aware of your personal safety. Don’t run in the dark, or in areas you don’t feel safe in.

My favourite running events

Being a lazy runner I’m motivated only when I have an event to train for. I love the Carman’s Women’s Fun Run held each December in St Kilda, raising money for research into breast cancer. The community spirit and support for those affected by breast cancer is humbling. Also, there is an awesome breakfast bar and Prosecco van. This year I’ll be doing the 10km course for the first time. I can’t wait!

The Mother’s Day Classic and Run for the Kids are both great events, but for me nothing can top the Melbourne Marathon festival. It’s a world-class event where you get to run on the streets of our beautiful city towards the magnificent MCG for a lap around the ground to the finish line. In 2018 I did the 10km event – the first time I’ve run that far. My younger self would be astonished to know that one day she’d be at the MCG as a participant in a sporting event, not as a spectator.

Running keeps me fit and clears my mind. It provides me with a sense of achievement. I’m full of gratitude for being able to move my body in a way that makes me feel so good.

Are you considering taking up running? What’s your running goal?

Is running already part of your life? What advice would you give to someone starting out?

I’d love you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Sally xx


4 thoughts on “Becoming a runner in midlife”

  1. I love this Sally, I haven’t stopped gym but I did stop running because of the pain in my hips and legs. But walk/run sounds do-able. Thanks for the inspiration, you’ve reminded me to think I can.

    1. Thank you Robbie! You absolutely can do it, walk/run is such a great way to modify and still get all the benefits.

  2. Hi Sally, thanks for sharing your inspiring story, My favourite is your first tip of becoming a runner. ‘‘The biggest greatest challenge is in our mind’ so very true. Thanks for your encouragement.

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