Beginner

Expert Training Advice For Beginner Runners Over 40

This masters runner had no idea where she was headed in the sport when she first started and shares everything she wish she had known.

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This is a submission shared with permission from the elite New Balance Tampa Masters Racing Team.

From baby steps to kicking the asphalt, what training advice would I give to beginning masters runners?

If you are new to running—at any age, young or mature—I think the body can adapt as quickly as a young person, especially since this is a new stress to the body and your legs are probably “fresh.” This means that they don’t have as many miles on them as a “veteran” runner. You’ll be setting new PR’s from the get-go.

First, invest in a pair of comfortable shoes, and perhaps a GPS watch. Next determine your goal for running, whether it’s fitness, doing a social hour run, being health conscious, to burn off stress, lose weight, or run a local race. When I started running, it was to get healthy, burn off stress and get my self esteem back. I had no idea that the path I chose would lead me to where I am today.

Related: Runner Shares Injury Prevention Tips For Masters Athletes

Start out slow and give your body time to adjust to the stresses of running. Have patience! Remember the old saying “haste makes waste?” That’s the same for running. Going out too fast, and running too many miles too many days in a row can put stress on your shins, and other body parts. After a few weeks—and once you’re comfortable with running—you can add an additional workout. I’d recommend “fartlek” or hill repeats. These are easy and can be done anywhere.

Fartlek means speed-play, and you determine how long and how fast. You can vary the distance, the time, and the speed over the course of your run. It’s one of my favorite workouts because it can be done anywhere—no route or track required. Hill repeats are another favorite of mine. In fact, it is a speed workout in disguise because as you charge up the hill, you have to be aware of your form: take short baby steps, keep your head up, angle your body with hill incline, pump arms, and breathe. Then on the downhill you can either slowly jog or walk down to save the pounding on your quads. You can sprint the downhills, but I would save that for maybe the last 1 or 2 reps, because if you over-stride and do too much pounding down, you’ll be paying the price the next day. It’s best if you can find a grassy hill and it doesn’t have to be long—150-200 meters is fine—just add more reps if you want.

As a beginner, running doesn’t have to be complicated. The act of running is organic and freeing. Over time, you’ll want to add more quality workouts; do 2-3 a week depending on your training goal. That’s when you know you are hooked! Then you can either invest in a coach, join a local running club, or read one of many great training books available.