How To Start Running at 50

Published :

Cross Training For Runners
Photo of author

Written by :

David Dack

Starting a running routine in your 50s or beyond might sound daunting, whether you’re dusting off those sneakers after a hiatus or stepping into running shoes for the first time.

But here’s the thing – pounding the pavement isn’t reserved for the sprightly or super-fit.

Running is like the fountain of youth; it’s available to anyone willing to put in some effort and follow a few essential guidelines. Age may be a factor, but it’s far from a deal-breaker.

In this article, I’m going to dive deep into the world of running when you’re over 50. I’ll cover everything from getting ready and planning your runs to what to expect, avoiding those pesky injuries, reaping the age-defying benefits, and taking those crucial first steps.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Is it Too Late To Start Running When you’re Past 50?

The answer is a resounding NO! Age is just a number, and it certainly isn’t a roadblock to lacing up those running shoes.

Running isn’t an exclusive club with an age limit – it’s open to everyone willing to give it a try, and that includes those in their 50s and beyond.

The truth is, running can be an absolute game-changer as you age. It’s not only about staying fit but also enhancing your overall well-being. Now, granted, you might need to approach it with extra precautions compared to your 20-something counterparts.

But guess what? That’s completely doable!

The Benefits of Running For People Over 50

You might be wondering, “What’s in it for me?” Well, let me tell you, there’s a whole world of benefits awaiting you.

As you gracefully enter middle age, staying active becomes paramount for maintaining a healthy, vibrant life. Guess what? Running is one of the absolute best ways to achieve that.

Here’s the scoop: Research has shown that an active lifestyle can be a game-changer, especially as you age. It’s like a fountain of youth that keeps your body and mind in tip-top shape.

But don’t just take my word for it; science backs this up!

Did you know that master runners, those remarkable individuals over the age of 40, are taking the running world by storm? In fact, they’re the fastest-growing age group in the running community.

A study on participants in The New York Marathon between 1980 and 2009 revealed an intriguing trend. The percentage of “master runners” (that’s you!) completing the race has significantly increased over the years. Meanwhile, the number of younger finishers has seen a decline.

But here’s the real kicker: It’s never too late to rewrite your story. Research published in Frontiers in Physiology shows that those who decided to embrace running in their 50s were able to achieve the same levels of fitness and speed as their younger counterparts who had been running for ages.

Note – Learn more about the history of running here.

How To Start Running at 50

Without further ado, here are guidelines you need to get started running at 50 or older.

Check With your Doctor

Before you begin your running journey, it’s important to take a key step – consulting your doctor. Whether you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle or you’re already an experienced athlete in your 50s, this precaution is essential.

If you’ve been relatively inactive or have chronic health conditions, such as osteoporosis, it’s a wise move to seek medical advice. Even if you feel like you’re in great shape, a doctor’s consultation ensures your safety and well-being during your running pursuits.

Discuss your running goals and plans with your healthcare provider and address any potential health concerns you may have, like diabetes, heart conditions, or orthopedic issues. This open dialogue is crucial for your overall health and safety.

During your doctor’s visit, you’ll undergo a thorough physical examination, including assessments of your blood pressure, weight, heart health, and cholesterol levels. This examination serves as a personalized health checkup to ensure you’re physically ready for your running journey.

Additional Resource – Why is my running not improving

Keep Your Goals Realistic

Setting realistic goals is crucial when embarking on your running journey, especially if you’re over 50. Whether you’re aiming to complete your first 5K race, shed some pounds, or enhance your endurance, your running plan should align with your goals.

It might sound like common sense, but many people, regardless of age, tend to lose motivation when their training becomes more challenging. This is where the importance of realistic goals comes into play, and it’s particularly relevant for older runners.

It’s essential to avoid setting the bar too high, as unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and hinder your progress. Remember that your running performance in your 50s may not match your abilities in your 20s. Aging is a natural process, and it’s normal to be slower as you get older.

So, while it’s great to challenge yourself and aim for improvement, be sure to set achievable milestones that consider your age and fitness level. This approach will help you stay motivated, track your progress, and enjoy a successful running experience as you age gracefully.

Start Small

Starting your running journey when you’re over 50 requires a sensible approach. Those initial weeks of training may challenge you, and it’s essential to prepare for some discomfort along the way.

When you’re just beginning, don’t get bogged down by concerns about how far you can run or how fast you should be. Instead, shift your focus to gradually building your endurance, and one effective way to do this is by employing the walk/run method.

Here’s a simple 30-minute workout that can kickstart your running routine:

  • Begin with a 5 to 10-minute dynamic warm-up to prepare your body for exercise.
  • Then, alternate between jogging for two minutes and walking for two minutes. Repeat this cycle five times, which will total 10 minutes of jogging.
  • Finally, cool down by walking for 5 to 10 minutes to help your body recover.

Add More Running

As you progress into weeks 9 or 10 of your running journey, you’ll likely find that you can comfortably run for a continuous 30 minutes. Congratulations on reaching this milestone! Now it’s time to introduce some more challenging runs into your routine.

Consider incorporating the following strategies to further enhance your running experience:

Increase Running Distances:

Gradually extend your running distances as your fitness improves. This could mean adding a little extra distance to your regular routes, exploring new paths, or even considering signing up for a local 5K race to keep you motivated.

Follow the 10 Percent Rule:

Regardless of your age, it’s crucial to avoid sudden and drastic increases in distance or speed. Sticking to the 10 percent rule is a smart approach. This means that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next.

For instance, if your current weekly mileage is 10 miles, aim to increase it to 11 miles in the following week, then 12 miles, and so on

Embrace Hills:

Hills are a fantastic way to build strength and endurance. Incorporate some hill runs into your sessions, whether you have access to natural inclines or use a treadmill with an incline feature. Hill workouts can provide an extra challenge that’s beneficial for runners of all ages.

Explore Fartlek Runs:

Fartlek runs are an excellent way to add variety to your workouts. They involve alternating between periods of faster running and slower recovery periods. These runs help improve both speed and endurance and can be tailored to your fitness level.

Save Speedwork for Later:

While speedwork, such as sprints or hill repetitions, can be beneficial for enhancing your running performance, it’s best introduced after you’ve built a solid endurance and strength foundation.

As a newer runner, prioritize gradually increasing your mileage and maintaining a consistent routine before diving into more intense speed workouts.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to create a running plan

Know Your Limits

It’s essential to recognize that aging does indeed have an impact on our bodies, and this includes various aspects of our physiology.

Whether we like it or not, the effects of aging become more noticeable as we progress through our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Here’s a closer look at what happens:

Cardiovascular Health:

The health of our heart and blood vessels can decline with age, which might affect our exercise capacity. However, regular aerobic exercise, like running, can help maintain cardiovascular health and slow down this decline.

Muscle Fibers:

Muscle fibers tend to decrease in size and number as we age. This can result in reduced muscle strength and mass. Strength training and resistance exercises can counteract this effect, complementing your running routine.


Overall strength can decline, making everyday activities more challenging. Strength training, as mentioned earlier, is a great way to preserve and even enhance your strength.

Balance and Coordination:

Aging can affect your balance and coordination, which are crucial for avoiding injuries during physical activities. Incorporating balance exercises into your routine can help address these concerns.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to run faster

Take More Recovery

As you get older, the body’s natural ability to recover slows down. This is due to various factors, including changes in blood flow, decreased muscle mass, and a reduced capacity to manage inflammation.

While recovery may be slower, your body is still capable of adapting and becoming more resilient. Regular exercise, including running, can help maintain and even improve your body’s recovery mechanisms.

To optimize your recovery, especially as a runner in your 50s, consider the following strategies:

Rest Days:

It’s perfectly acceptable to have dedicated rest days or low-intensity active recovery days in your routine. This gives your body time to heal and rejuvenate.


On non-running days, engage in activities like yoga, swimming, cycling, or weightlifting. These can complement your running and provide variety to your fitness routine.

Listen to Your Body:

Pay close attention to how your body feels. If you’re feeling properly recovered, you can push for more challenging workouts. However, if you’re experiencing excessive fatigue or soreness, it’s essential to scale back and allow for additional recovery.


Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is when your body undergoes significant repair and regeneration processes.

Power Naps:

Don’t underestimate the power of short naps in the afternoon. A 20-30-minute nap can provide a refreshing boost to your energy and mental alertness.

Hydration and Nutrition:

Proper hydration and nutrition play a crucial role in recovery. Ensure you’re adequately fueling your body with the right nutrients and staying hydrated.


Incorporate the “hard/easy” training pattern into your weekly and monthly routine. Alternate between intense workouts and lighter, recovery-focused sessions.

Additional Resource – When it’s the best time to run

Work on Your Strength & Mobility

As we age, maintaining muscle mass becomes increasingly important. Strength training helps preserve and build muscle, reducing the risk of injury while running.

Strength training and activities like Pilates and yoga improve balance and stability. This is essential for older runners as it can prevent falls and injuries.

Moreover, regular strength and mobility work can keep your joints healthy and functional, allowing for better running performance and longevity.

Here’s how to add strength training to your schedule.

On your non-running days, embrace cross-training activities like strength training, Pilates, yoga, or swimming. These exercises work for different muscle groups and promote flexibility.

Please keep in mind that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. Two to three sessions per week, lasting 45 to 60 minutes, are sufficient to gain strength and improve mobility.

Additional resource:

Here’s your guide to running three miles a day.

Want more challenges? Here’s your guide to running five miles a day.

How To Start Running at 50 – The Conclusion

There you’ve it. If you’re over 50 and thinking about starting a running program, then today’s post has you covered. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.

Recommended :