How to Start Running at 40
Starting a new running routine in your 40s can seem daunting. You may feel discouraged and wonder if your body can handle it or if you’ll just get injured.
But here’s the great news – 40 is a perfect age to take up running! With some smart planning and preparation, you can absolutely start running safely in your 40s. Not only will running improve your health and fitness, but it can also boost your mood, energy levels, and mental clarity like nothing else.
Running is a low-impact, high-reward activity with tons of benefits for active adults. From losing weight and reducing stress to strengthening your heart and bones, it’s one of the best ways to get in shape at any age.
In this complete guide, we’ll discuss:
- The many health benefits of running in your 40s
- How to start running safely as a beginner over 40
- Choosing the right running shoes and gear
- Building an effective training plan that avoids injuries
- Eating right to fuel your runs
- Setting motivational goals and tracking your progress
- Running tips to handle weather, hills, and more!
By the end you’ll have all the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed with your new running routine in your 40s. Let’s get started!
Why Should You Consider Running in Your 40s?
Many people are intimidated at the thought of lacing up their running shoes for the first time later in life. But the truth is, running can be an extremely rewarding experience physically and mentally when you start in your 40s.
Here are some of the great benefits you can look forward to by taking up running at this age:
Improved Heart and Lung Health
Running strengthens your heart by pumping more oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Over time, your resting heart rate and blood pressure will decrease. Running also improves lung capacity and endurance. As you get better at running, your cardio-respiratory fitness will skyrocket.
Weight Loss and management
Running is one of the most effective ways to torch calories and lose excess body fat, especially around your midsection. Just 30 minutes of jogging can burn 300 calories or more. Running also boosts your metabolism so you continue burning extra calories long after your workout.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Aerobic exercise like running releases feel-good endorphins that relax your mind and body. Studies show regular running lowers stress, elevates your mood, and eases anxiety. Many runners report feeling a “runner’s high” after intense runs.
Improved Sleep Quality
The deep sleep you’ll get after running is like no other. Research shows that consistent exercise helps you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and wake up recharged. This leads to better focus, productivity, and energy throughout your day.
Stronger Bones and Muscles
Running strengthens your legs, glutes, core, and more by challenging your muscles. The impact also stimulates bone density growth, reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Stronger muscles and bones will make everyday activities like lifting, bending, and walking easier.
Possible Disease Prevention
Studies show that regular cardio exercise lowers your risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Running can potentially add years to your life expectancy.
Boosts Mental Health
Physical activity naturally increases “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that lift your mood. Running also sharpens concentration and memory. Starting a running habit in your 40s is a great way to boost mental health and stay sharp.
As you can see, running delivers wide-ranging benefits for mind and body. It’s truly one of the best forms of exercise you can choose at any age.
Now let’s cover exactly how to start running safely and progressively after 40.
How to Start Running Safely at 40
When taking up running later in adulthood, it’s crucial to ease into it slowly and listen to your body. Shocking your system with overly ambitious mileage or speed too soon is a recipe for injury at any age.
Follow this advice to start running the healthy way in your 40s:
Get Cleared By Your Doctor
First, make sure to get your doctor’s OK, especially if you have any health concerns. Discuss your plans to start running and ask if they recommend any precautions. Your doctor can help assess if you’re cleared for exercise or if modifications are needed.
Start Low and Go Slow
As a beginner, start with a mix of walking and short running intervals. Try running for just 1-2 minutes followed by 2 minutes of walking. Repeat this for 20-30 minutes total during your first few sessions.
Gradually increase your running interval durations while decreasing walking time between over several weeks and months. This run/walk approach allows your cardiovascular system and joints to adapt safely.
Focus on Time Over Distance
Don’t worry about speed or mileage stats as a new runner. Instead, commit to a regular schedule like running 3 days a week for 30 minutes. Consistency over time is key. Speed and distance gains will come naturally.
Choose Soft Surfaces
Run on softer surfaces like grass, trails, or synthetic tracks at first to cushion impact on your joints. Avoid concrete until your body strengthens. Soft surfaces also tend to be more forgiving on your muscles.
Listen to Your Body
Pay close attention to any pain signals from your body and don’t try to push through them. If you feel strained, sore, or experience sharp pains, take additional rest days. It’s better to err on the side of caution and ramp up slowly.
Incorporate Strength Training and Stretching
Complement your running with lower body strength training to build muscular endurance and flexibility. Perform stretches after every run to aid recovery. Yoga is perfect. Strong flexible muscles better stabilize joints and reduce injury risk.
Allow Plenty of Rest and Recovery
Rest days are crucial, especially when you’re just starting out. Give your body at least 1-2 rest days between runs for proper recovery. Muscle repair and strengthening occurs during downtime. Don’t run on consecutive days.
Consider a Walk/Run Training Plan
If you want structured guidance, there are many Couch-to-5K and walk/run training plans available in apps, online, and in books tailored to beginners. These plans progressively build your cardiovascular endurance over 8-12 weeks.
The key is to start nice and easy, listen to your body, and progress gradually. Patience and consistency are vital. Before long you’ll work up to running continuously for 30 minutes or more comfortably.
Choosing the Best Running Shoes and Gear
Having the right running shoes and gear makes all the difference in comfort, performance, and safety as a beginner runner. Here’s what you need:
Get Professionally Fitted for Running Shoes
Visit a specialty running store and have an employee analyze your gait and foot type. They’ll match you with the ideal shoe model that offers the right support, cushioning, and responsiveness for your needs. Expect to spend $100-150 for quality shoes.
Replace shoes every 300-500 miles or sooner if they show excess wear. Rotating between 2 pairs helps shoes last longer. Proper running shoes prevent rolled ankles, knee pain, blisters, and other issues by stabilizing your foot strike. They’re a worthwhile investment.
Choose Technical Clothing
Look for moisture wicking fabrics that draw sweat away from your skin for cooling airflow. Avoid cotton shirts which get heavy and chafe when wet. A hydration running belt or vest is great for bringing water on longer runs.
Run With Proper Form
Land toward the middle/front of your foot, not on your heels. Maintain a slight forward lean from ankles through your torso. Bend elbows at 90 degrees and swing arms front to back, not side to side. Drive knees forward, not outward, with each stride.
Use Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm
Apply it anywhere skin rubs like inner thighs, armpits, and behind knees. This prevents painful blisters and chafing so you can focus on your running.
Wear Reflective and Bright Outer Layers
This keeps you visible to traffic during low light conditions. LED armbands and headlamps are smart for dawn or dusk runs.
Investing in proper gear makes your runs safer, easier, and much more comfortable over any distance. Don’t skimp on key items like shoes and moisture-wicking clothes. They’ll last through many miles of running.
Creating a Sustainable Running Routine Over 40
The biggest mistake beginners make is pushing too hard too soon and then burning out or getting injured. Avoid this by building an intentional, irreversibly consistent running habit. Follow this advice:
Start With a Walk/Run Plan
As covered earlier, run/walk intervals help safely develop your aerobic base without overexertion. There are many structured Couch-to-5K plans to follow. Give your body time to adapt.
Schedule Runs in Advance
Actually block out time on your calendar for runs so they become ingrained habit and not optional. Schedule runs for the same 3 days per week to reinforce consistency. An early morning run is a great way to start the day.
Run With a Partner
Find a running buddy at the same level. You’ll motivate each other to stick with the routine, especially on days you’re not feeling it. Partners provide safety and accountability.
Cross-Train With Strength and Yoga
Incorporate non-running workouts like bodyweight circuits, weights, yoga, and swimming on your off days. Full-body functional strength training boosts running resilience and prevents muscle imbalances.
Sign Up For a Race
A great motivator is registering for a local 5K, 10K or half marathon 6 months out. Use an 18-week training plan to work up to the race distance. Having a goal event inspires you to stick with your running habit.
Track Your Progress
Apps like Strava, Garmin Connect, and MapMyRun allow you to record your runs via smartphone GPS and monitor your pace, distance, and other stats over time. Seeing tangible progress keeps you motivated.
Join a Running Group
Many areas have free weekly running groups from beginner level to advanced. Running with others provides community, fun, and added safety for longer runs. You’ll soak up helpful advice too.
Read Running Blogs and Books
Immerse yourself in the running community by reading inspiring blogs, magazines, and books full of tips. Learning proper technique, mindset strategies, and new running routes & workouts keeps things fresh.
Adopting proven techniques runners use to stay consistent, motivated, and injury-free is the key to long-term running success in your 40s. Make it a rewarding lifestyle.
How Much Should I Run Per Week Starting Out Over 40?
As a general rule when you’re just getting started after 40:
- Run 3 days per week
- Session duration of 20-30 minutes
- Total weekly mileage between 3-6 miles
So a typical first month might look like:
- Monday: 30 minutes
- Wednesday: 30 minutes
- Friday: 30 minutes
This equals around 9-18 miles total for the entire week.
Many beginners make the mistake of doing too much too soon before their body adapts. This often leads to burnout, fatigue, or injury which derails your routine quickly.
It’s always better to start on the conservative side and ramp up slowly. After several consistent months, you can gradually increase your weekly frequency, distance, or duration across more days.
Here are smart ways to progressively intensify your routine once you build an aerobic base:
- Lengthen your runs from 30 minutes to 60 or 90 minutes
- Add a 4th weekly run
- Occasionally run on back-to-back days
- Build up to 15-25 miles per week
- Add tempo runs and hill repeats for more intensity
But when first starting out, restrain the urge to advance too rapidly. Be patient and increase weekly volume incrementally over many months to avoid overuse injuries developing.
Staying healthy long-term is about building your cardiovascular system and musculoskeletal resilience progressively without overloading either. Some runners are content training 3 days per week while others peak at 6-7 days. Find your ideal balance.
Listening closely to feedback from your body and allowing proper rest determines how quickly you can safely ramp up your run volume and intensity after 40.
Preventing and Managing Common Running Injuries
Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of running if you stick with it long enough. But you can minimize your risk of getting sidelined by understanding what causes most common running injuries and taking proactive prevention measures.
Here are some of the most frequent running injuries to be aware of:
Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)
This catch-all diagnosis refers to anterior knee pain usually caused by poor leg alignment, weak quads/glutes, and/or overdoing mileage.
Prevent by strengthening legs, resting adequately, increasing slowly, and wearing proper shoes.
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon connecting your calf muscles to the heel bone. Often caused by dramatically increasing speed/distance too rapidly.
Prevent by monitoring workload, stretching calves consistently, cross-training, and wearing supportive shoes.
Heel and arch pain from overuse causing tiny tears in the plantar fascia ligament along the bottom of your foot. A classic too much too soon injury.
Prevent by gradually increasing mileage, choosing shoes with ample arch support, stretching feet, and rolling foot over golf ball.
Pain or tenderness along the shin bone often felt at start of runs. Typically caused by overexertion from rapid mileage increases.
Prevent by monitoring workloads, resting adequately between runs, building slowly, and doing leg-strengthening exercises.
Small cracks or severe bruising in any weight bearing bone. Consistently training beyond your current ability is the primary cause.
Prevent by having patience as you increase your running volume and intensity incrementally over many months. Don’t do too much too soon. Monitor pain closely.
The most important things you can do to avoid running injuries are: listen to warning signals from your body, increase mileage slowly by 10% or less per week, strength train legs and core, stretch consistently, wear proper shoes for your feet, and allow adequate rest between runs.
If you do experience any unusual persistent pains, stop running and see a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor to diagnose and treat the issue promptly. Most running injuries can be overcome with a short rest period combined with focused rehab and strengthening exercises. Never try to run through significant pain.
Proper Nutrition to Fuel Your Runs
Eating the right foods at the right times makes a big impact on your running performance and recovery. Follow this nutritional guidance:
Drink about 17-20oz of water 2-3 hours before runs and 7-10oz every 15-20 mins during long runs to replace fluid lost from sweat. Dehydration hampers performance and endurance.
Eat a Pre-Run Snack
Consuming 30-60 grams of easily digestible carbs likebanana, oatmeal or whole wheat toast 30-90 minutes before running provides readily available energy. Save protein for afterwards.
Eat a mix of carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles. Chocolate milk, yogurt, or turkey sandwich are all good choices.
Load Up on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Focus your diet on antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods to help your body recover faster. This includes vegetables, berries, nuts, fatty fish, beans, tart cherry juice and turmeric.
Avoid High-Fat Meals Before Running
High-fat foods take longer to digest so are more likely to cause GI issues when running. Stick to lighter fare pre-run. Have a burger after your run instead!
Proper nutrition provides the raw materials your muscles need to perform optimally and then refuel and repair afterwards. Make hydration and timely carbohydrate and protein intake a priority around your runs.
Staying Motivated to Run Consistently Over 40
Like any new habit, it’s normal for motivation go up and down occasionally when you start running over 40. Here are some great tips to stay motivated for the long haul:
Run First Thing in the Morning
An early morning run jumpstarts your day unlike anything else. The sense of accomplishment motivates you to make healthy choices all day.
Find an Accountability Partner
Having someone else counting on you showing up makes it harder to make excuses. Plan set days and times to run together each week.
Track Your Runs
Using a GPS running app lets you quantify your progress with data like miles covered, pace, and route maps. Visible results are huge motivators to keep at it.
Follow a Training Plan
Having scheduled workouts, mileage increases, and a goal race on your calendar provides structure and keeps you focused.
Set Monthly Goals
Having specific monthly goals like total miles run or race times to strive for provides mini benchmarks along the way to your big goals.
Join a Running Group
The community, friendship, and support you’ll find keeps you engaged. Groups offer built-in events, training runs, advice, and camaraderie.
Consider a Destination Race
What better motivation than knowing you’ll be running through an interesting new city or location months down the road? Make travel plans and book hotels.
Read Inspiring Running Blogs & Books
Expand your knowledge and stay fired up by reading books and articles full of training tips, motivation, stories, and advice from experienced runners.
Enjoy the Outdoors and Scenery
Instead of treadmills, opt for running routes with nice scenery, parks, and trails to make your miles more interesting and rewarding. Being outdoors also boosts mood.
Finding ways to make your running habit more engaging, social, and purposeful will ensure you stick with it through ups and downs. Motivation ultimately comes from within, but fuel it with the right tools and community.
Tracking Your Improvement and Results as a Runner Over 40
One of the most satisfying aspects of running is seeing clear progress over time. As a beginner runner in your 40s, closely tracking certain metrics lets you quantify your improvement in concrete ways.
Here are the key areas to monitor:
Time is a better indicator of progress than distance early on. Using a running app or GPS watch, record how long you can run continuously without walking breaks. See your time gradually increase from a few minutes to 30 minutes to an hour.
Once you build some base endurance, you can start tracking distance in miles/kilometers. Record the length of your regular routes. Aim to slowly increase your mileage each week and the length of your long run.
Apps and GPS watches track your minutes per mile/kilometer pace in real time and over time. As your fitness improves, you’ll run the same distances at faster paces. You can set new pace goals.
Many watches now track heart rate. Expect resting and running heart rate numbers to decrease as your cardio fitness progresses. This reflects improved endurance and efficiency.
Tracking calories burned per run can be motivating. As you run further and faster, you’ll burn more calories during each session resulting in easier weight loss.
Some apps quantify your overall training volume and intensity with a training “load” score including factors like mileage, pace, elevation gain and heart rate intensity.
Signing up for organized 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons provides concrete goal events. You can benchmark performance with your finishing times, place, and age graded score.
Monitoring your running with consistent metrics allows you to see clear evidence of your fitness gains in black and white numbers. This provides positive reinforcement that your hard work is paying off with tangible results.
Handling Hot Weather Running After 40
Dealing with heat and humidity on runs can be tricky, especially in your 40s. Here are some tips to running safely and comfortably in warm conditions:
Drink at least 16oz of water in the hours leading up to a summer run and 5-10oz every 15-30 minutes during longer runs to offset heavy sweating. Proper hydration is key.
Run Earlier or Later
Schedule outdoor runs for the morning or evening when temps are coolest. Avoid midday heat which increases exertion and fatigue. Check the forecast and be flexible.
Slow Your Pace
Accept that your pace may be slower in very hot weather. Listen to your body and don’t push past your limits. Focus on time over distance on sweltering days.
Wear Lightweight, Light Colored Technical Fabrics
Choose clothes that allow maximum airflow and sweat-wicking. Lighter shades also deflect heat better. A sweat-wicking hat helps a lot too.
Stay in the Shade
Plan tree-lined routes or do laps around a shady park rather than exposed roads. Every bit of shade helps minimize radiant heat.
Run Near Water
Routes along water like rivers, lakes, or the ocean can offer slightly cooler temps from water evaporation. Jump in after for an refreshing dip!
Slow Down or Stop If You Feel Unwell
Signs of heat illness include headache, nausea, dizziness. Stop running immediately and cool off if you experience these. Don’t risk heat stroke.
Avoid Midday Runs If Necessary
Listen to your body closely. If the heat becomes overwhelming, it’s perfectly fine to wait and run in the evening instead when it’s cooler. Discretion is the better part of valor during heat waves.
With preparation, careful monitoring, and some adjustments, you can keep running safely through hot weather. Use these strategies to prevent overheating.
Final Tips for Starting to Run in Your 40s
If you’re just starting out running after 40, remember patience and persistence are key. Follow a gradual build up plan that allows your body to adapt over several months. Consistency trumps intensity or speed early on.
Here are a few final pieces of advice:
- Treat new aches and pains seriously and take extra rest days as needed. It’s better to miss one run than be out for weeks or months.
- Strength train your lower body 2-3 times per week to build joint stability and resilience. Squats, lunges and yoga are great.
- Choose varied running routes to add a spark — trails, tracks, hills, treadmill intervals. Variety is the spice of life and keeps running interesting.
- Not every run needs to be high intensity. Easy and moderate effort runs each have their place in building an aerobic base.
- Invest in quality running shoes suitable for your gait and foot type. Replace them every 300-500 miles. Never skimp on shoes.
- Stay fueled with good carbs before runs and refuel with protein afterwards. Hydrate consistently each day.
- Have fun experimenting with apps, gear, routes, races, nutrition, and cross-training to find what works for you. Enjoy the journey!
The time is now. Starting to run in your 40s is one of the best gifts you can give your current and future self. Follow the guidance in this post and you’ll be fitter, healthier, and happier in no time. Lace up, get out there, and start reaping the benefits! You got this!