Starting To Run After Age 50?

I could not be more proud of my mom.

At the age of 53, she has signed up for her first 5k. She is doing it with my sister, who just had a baby seven weeks ago. It will be her first 5k as well. Which 5k did they choose?

Yep. While I was at Disney running the Princess Half Marathon, they caught the bug and decided to sign up for their own runDisney race – the Expedition Everest Challenge. This race looks like SO much fun!

Here’s the catch. This isn’t your typical 5k race. There are obstacles (which apparently you can skip without penalty), the race starts at 9:30pm and there is a time limit.

That’s right. They have to maintain a 16 minute mile pace for the 5k. That means they have to complete the race in 49:43.

They both started training a few weeks ago but my mom is starting to get worried about the race. A little background on my mom – like me, she has always loved the idea of running, but has never been a runner. She considers herself a confirmed couch potato and is about 30 pounds overweight. She is also 53 years old. She also claims that “other than getting your dad I have never done anything I set my mind to”.

I can’t even imagine the sense of accomplishment she will feel crossing that finish line!

But we have to get her there.

She ran/walked two miles last night and it took her 38 minutes. That’s a 19 minute mile – not fast enough to avoid getting picked up by the Disney “sweepers”. Not to mention she would have to add another 1.1 miles to that distance.

The race is on May 5. That’s six and a half weeks.  46 days.

I believe she has enough time to get ready. She wanted me to get input from all of you. Here are some of her questions:

  • How often should she be running?
  • Is it better to train on the treadmill or outside? Could she combine both?
  • How long should she wait to run after she eats?

FYI – I’ve encouraged her to try Couch to 5k, but she has trouble keeping track of the intervals. She doesn’t have a smart phone so an app wouldn’t work for her. Any other suggestions for how to make that work?

Do you know anyone who started running after age 50? Do you have any advice or encouragement to give her? 

39 Comments

Filed under 5k, disney, race, running

39 Responses to Starting To Run After Age 50?

  1. Run at least 3 times a week and outside. If she wants to use the treadmill, use it as an opportunity to push the speed because the treadmill is easier.

    She would probably benefit from using a timed run/walk interval system so she doesn’t walk more than she needs. Maybe 5 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking?

    Eating and running very individual. Personally I can run and eat the same time and be fine, but most people need at least an hour to digest. You just have to experiment to find what works.

    I think it’s awesome that she’s trying to do this!

  2. I’ve never been over 50, so take this for what it’s worth. :) I have used couch to 5k but I also really like Hal Higdon’s programs. They are available online.

    Also, I’m currently training for an 8k. I run 3 days a week and combine indoor and outdoor running. I really recommend getting outside when possible but don’t think it is necessary every run.

    Good luck to your mom!
    -Heather

  3. I agree, run 3 days a week and do it outside most of the time. Does she have a watch she can use for the intervals of the Couch to 5K?

  4. C25K does have some podcasts available, so she can just play the podcast and they will interrupt when its time to walk or run.

    Absolutely make sure that she never runs back to back days….at her level of fitness, she would be destined for injury, even in the first week or two of C25K where there is essentially little running.

  5. She should run at least 4 times a week and outside so she is use to it when it comes time for the race. The Treadmill is good for cold days or super hot and you want to get a run. As far a how long she should wait after she eats depends on her body…its different for everyone and it depends on what she eats.
    The Couch to 5k would be a GREAT tool for her to use and if she doesn’t have a smart phone she could go to walmart or target (anywhere really) and get a stop watch. That way she has a way of keeping track of the intervals. Or my favorite thing when I first started running was a Gym Boss! You set it the intervals you want then it beeps or vibrates when its time to change.
    http://www.gymboss.com
    Im sure you could go to a local running shop and they would have them.
    Tell her Good Luck and have fun!! :)

  6. While not over 50, I’m in the slooooow camp. I suggest a combination of outside and treadmill. The treadmill is the perfect place for interval work. She might also want to try some tempo work there. Put the speed at a 16 minute mile pace and try and hang on to that for as long as possible.

    I just use a watch to keep up with my run/walk intervals when I run. I can set the intervals and it beeps as I go. Also, there are C25K podcasts. Can your mom (or you or one of your sisters) download them for her to listen to? They tell you when to run and when to walk, so it’s another easy way to keep up with the intervals.

  7. Bridget

    She can train with me LOL….the frustration of wanting to be better keeps me going..as that deadline approaches, the more determined she will become and how much fun they’re going to have together..thats amazing!

  8. Anna

    Good for her, yes she can do it. They make interval training timers, in a quick google search she can get one for $15-20. That takes the thinking part out of running since it beeps at you when you start and stop running. I know I’m younger but I had never run before and use the couch 2 5k plan by cool runnings. After 5 weeks of running I completed my first 5k in 47:30 so she can do it. I run inside and outside, it makes it go easier and more fun when I get outside. there is more to look at and to distract you from trying to kill yourself.

  9. I wish I had some good advice to offer, but I don’t! I did want to stop by and say how AWESOME that is that your whole family has caught the running (and healthy living) bug! I wish, wish, wish that my parents were runners. They walk and lead healthy lifestyles, but I am always so jealous of people who get to do races with their parents…regardless of pace or anything else, it’s just about finishing an accomplishment together! Good luck Wannabe Athlete’s Mom!!

  10. How awesome is that, go Dianne!!
    I agree, 3x/wk (1 outside, 2 treadmill (1 speed 1 easy)) and I also follow Hal’s programs. I think it’s easier to do speed workouts on a treadmill, then do your longer run outside. For speed, run your normal speed then pick it up for 30 seconds, then back down for 3-4 min, then back up for 30 sec, etc. Keep it up as long as you can.

    I am not fast by any means but treadmill speed training got me my PR!

    GOOD LUCK, I know you’ll do awesome!

  11. Nicole

    Before I had my iPhone and did C25K, I just brought a stopwatch with me and kept track that way. Annoying, but effective!! Good luck to your mom–I believe in her! My mom got in shape and lost 80 pounds a few years ago and it has changed her life for the best; it’s possible!

  12. Good for her! As for eating…it totally depends on the person. Trial and error for what works. :) And what about a gym boss timer to track the intervals? You can set it to beep, vibrate or both and can set 2 different times.

  13. First – I’m so excited she took the leap and signed up!! She’s got plenty of time!! I used the Couch to 5K when i started and got a simple sports watch at Target (it was less than $20) that had a stopwatch feature. That’s all I used to follow the intervals – it didn’t save the history or anything, but the important thing is to just be able to see how long you’ve been doing that interval.

    Combo on treadmill & outside is fun – however she wants, the important thing is to get it done. :)

    And training after she eats can be an individual things – but i prefer at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour for me.

    Good luck to your mom!!!

  14. WTG to your mom (and sister)! she sounds like an awesome lady. as for the questions… i say run 4-5 times a week, every other day and mostly outside weather permitting. treadmills are great training tools but they are not the same as streets/tracks/sidewalks or trails.

    2 (or 3) runs of 2 miles
    1 run of 3 miles
    and a progressive longer run start with 3 then 3.5 then 4 then 4.5

    eating after running is a more personal thing. i have runner friends who can bang out 5 miles 40mins after eating big meals… i usually wait 1-1.5 hours after eating. i think she would be safe waiting at least an hour

    i should note that i am in no way a professional im just a slow passionate runner who has read a lot and tried even more ;)

    good luck you’re going to do great!!

  15. I love my gym boss interval timer, which is what Jeff Galloway uses and endorses. I wasn’t (and am still not) a fast runner but over time my pace has improved. She just needs to stick to her plan and run at least 3 times a week. That worked for me.

  16. Super excited for your mom!! My mom at age 62 is also just starting to run, so hey she’s got almost 10 years on your mom :)

    I could not be more of an advocate for doing both outdoor and treadmill. The treadmill allows a softer surface and provides tools for pacing.

    Nothing will help as much as doing little bursts. So say she is doing 5 min walk, 1 min run…then try doing 4 min walking at her easy pace 1 min a little faster and then the 1 min run. Overtime she can increase the time doing the faster walk, then the time doing running. No need to force the run :) she can easily get to a point to walk a 15 min mile.

    For shorter distances there isn’t a huge fueling need, so I would say don’t worry much about eating before workouts unless she is specifically hungry.

  17. I’m training for that race, too, with a non-runner!
    For normal races, I interval train with my GymBoss- best invention ever. Order that stat. I do 2 min running/1 minute walking.
    I would try to train outside as often as possible, and around the time the races will be held, too. It will help her know how her body will react to a nighttime race. I would also say to wait about an hour after eating.
    We will be walking the entire race (my partner’s knee won’t allow for running) so we are trying to stay under the 16 minute mile, too. Good luck! Hope to see you out there!

  18. Annie

    I loved using C25K. For me, the easiest way to keep track of the intervals was through music. I used songs that were the correct length to keep me on track. For one minute interval, try downloading some songs that were made for a power hour. Or, she could try using a stop watch.
    If the above won’t work for intervals, maybe starting on a treadmill would be easiest for her. Then once the intervals move up to 5-2, she could move outside. Hope this helps.

  19. Caron@runreadrant

    Well i was pretty excited to read this..you have lots of good comments already. So, here is what i recommend. 3o min morning and 30 min evening on the treadmill at a comfortable level..tv or music whatever it takes..on days you dont run. Running x3 a week and always alternate days..i suggest run 1/2mile and walk 1/2 mile and do at least 2 miles. If you really want to push it I would also do a 30 min slow treadmill on the days you run. I would also recommend a protein drink in place of one meal a day..your choice..losing a few pounds is always motivating and helps your pace..I ran my first 5k at 51..first marathon at 52 and 2nd marathon at 53..have run 26 half marathons and numerous 10k 5k etc..I will be 57 in July and have signed up for a marathon on New years Eve. She can do it! Good Luck!

  20. If you’re willing to help her a little, and she runs with music, you can create a playlist that will tell her when to jog and walk (like the Couch to 5k Ap). Just choose songs that are about a minute long, and then about a minute and a half (and crop them, if you have to :) ), and tell her, when you hear X song, it’s time to run!
    My mom is 53 too, and she just started working out, and I couldn’t be prouder. Go mommies!

  21. So awesome! I have always wanted to do Expedetion Everest Challenge!

    When I started running (the first time) smart phones didn’t exist yet…so I would jog until I felt like I needed a break and then walked until I caught my breath. Then I’d jog again. I could only go about a tenth of a mile before i needed to walk. But i kept at it and would go every other day.

    I started out with 1 mile and in just a couple weeks I was up to 3! Not very scientific, but it worked!

    Your mom may also be able to find a digital watch with an interval timer. I have a Timex that was about $25 that does it! (I used that for timing intervals until I discovered Garmin!)

  22. If there is a path nearby with regularly spaced markers she could use those. For example, my mom walk/runs on a path and now she will run 8 lightpoles and then walk for a few and then run 8 more lightpoles. Then she can try to increase the number of lightpoles she is running as she gets stronger. I guess this is distance intervals instead of time intervals!

  23. That is so awesome that she’s doing this! Kudos to her for being brave enough to try something new :)

    When I did the C25k program a couple years ago I bought a simple Timex watch that had 2 interval timers. That way I could set the run/walk intervals for that workout and they would repeat until I stopped it. First beep, run! Next beep, walk! Next beep, run! Easy to use and pretty cheap, no smartphone required.

  24. I think the best thing about running is how quickly you can see yourself improving! I think she can do it in 6.5 weeks! I think a lot of the comments on here are great… and as far as a timer, I was thinking the dollar store probably has something… if not definitely Walmart!

    Good luck to her :)

  25. Two words — Hal Hidgon. When I first started running and was so overwhelmed, my husband suggested I check Hal’s plans out and I’m so glad I did. The plans are so super to easy, particularly for beginners and he has several options — two-week, three-week, etc. plans — to get ready for your 5K. So exciting!

  26. This is awesome! My husband took up running 3 years ago at age 52 (he said I looked lonely on the racecourse, and he wanted to be with me). Now, we do triathlons together!

    Way to go Mom!!

  27. Glad you are getting so much advice from runners, which I am not. However, as a fitness pro, I can say that the heart is the body’s fastest adapting muscle. It responds upward to training within 24 hours. So your mom will note her endurance increasing as long as she stays consistent. Good luck!

  28. This is awesome! Everyone has already given some great advice so I’ll just say have fun! Can’t wait to hear all about it :)

  29. Rebecca

    Wow! Your mom is pretty inspiring. I’ve always wanted to run, but I thought I couldn’t do it. Definitely something on my bucket list!

  30. I used to run intervals to songs! It wasn’t the most scientific, but if she listens to music she can pick up the pace for one song and then walk for the next song. Probably about a 3 minute on/3 minute off interval :)

  31. That is awesome! I’d say she should start with run/walk intervals with a 1:3 ratio. If that doesn’t feel right she should alter it up or down.

    I had a Cardiac Rehab patient who picked up running @ the age of 60 (post bypass surgery, too). He’s since run many races and is in the best shape of his life.

  32. I think that it’s awesome that your mom has decided to pick up a 5k! Good for you. As a new runner myself, I don’t have a lot advice but to not give up– and that you can always push yourself a little harder then you think :)

  33. 3-4 times/week outside, and be diligent with nutrition. At her age, and with excess weight, there is a huge risk for stress fractures. I would recommend a walk/run program so that her muscles build strength to absorb the impact so that her joints & bones don’t. Good luck & enjoy the training!

  34. I bought a Gymboss a couple months ago when I got back into running. You can set your own intervals, and you can set it to beep or vibrate at the beginning and end of the interval. It clips on like a beeper/pager, whether on your shorts or shirt collar. They come in different colors & cost $20 at gymboss.com.

  35. Therese

    I am 52 and I just started really working on my fitness goals about 2 years ago, when I was 50. I don’t run, but I do walk 3.5 miles to/from work every weekday with my (>15lb) backpack and my route is not flat. I walk at about a 15min/mi pace. I found that I was really able to increase my endurance and speed after I started including some weight training. Among other classes, I am taking a kettlebell class that I really enjoy and I get much less out of breath now.
    Good luck to your mom and sister on their first 5K! It sounds like a fun time :)

  36. This is so awesome! How great for your Mom! Definitely she needs to be consistent above all, but not over do it, since risk of injury is probably high. She and your sister are going to have such a great time! Disney races are the best!

  37. Ara

    I say WAY TO GO for your mom!!! If she thinks she can do it, she’ll do it! I have no doubt that she’ll be able to finish it. I say have her run/walk at least 3 times a week. It doesn’t matter if it’s inside or outside, as long as she gets it done. I also use the rule of don’t workout until you’ve rested 30 minutes after you’ve eaten. That gives your body enough time to let the food settle & digest so you don’t get sick during the workout.

  38. Great! Really your mom is super , She is super. I like her confidence. Good keep it up and thanks for sharing.

  39. First, kudos to your mom! I’m sure it took a lot of courage for her to want to become a runner at her age. I haven’t read the other comments, so this may seem redundant, but my best advice to her to maybe do walk/run intervals. Something like Couch to 5k (how I did it) until she can run more than walk. Looking forward to reading on her progress.
    -New Subscriber :)

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