Running over 50 - How to Stay Healthy and Motivated

Let’s face it, running as a member of the over fifty gang presents some challenges that our younger brethren don’t necessarily have to face. First of all, you have to accept the fact that you’re just not going to be able to run as fast as you did in your youth. And at fifty or older the body just doesn’t respond as it once did, and this means injuries take longer to heal and you’re going to have more general aches and pains.

But the news isn’t all-bad. By this point in life most of us are hopefully a little wiser and we can use this experience and knowledge to our benefit to stay healthy and motivated so that we can continue to do what we love for years to come.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, still going strong!
Joan Benoit Samuelson, still going strong! | Source
Start of the New York City Marathon
Start of the New York City Marathon | Source


So what changes after the age of fifty that has an impact on your running. Well, for one thing everyone’s natural strength decreases. In fact, at this point in life its’ been decreasing for a number of years. Muscular strength actually peaks at around age thirty so by time you reach age fifty you’ve lost a significant amount of muscle mass unless you’re doing some strength training to stem the tide.

Another change occurs in our ability to process oxygen. This is known as VO2 max and it decreases about 1% for every decade that we age. As our ability to process oxygen decreases over time you’ll begin to notice this when trying to do speed workouts or when running shorter races where the effort required is greater. The decrease in VO2 max has less of an impact when running longer and slower so many older runners gravitate towards longer events like the half or full marathon.

Another one of the more noticeable changes for me has been the decrease in my stride length. This occurs as we begin to lose some flexibility in our hips. This shorter stride length just naturally leads to running at a slower pace.

Men & women have been running for centuries.
Men & women have been running for centuries. | Source

Older & Wiser

So if it’s all downhill after age fifty what is there to look forward to in running? Well, for one thing while we may be slower it does not mean we can’t run longer. As we get older we also get better at pacing ourselves and this has many benefits. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the half marathon or that full marathon that you’ve always wanted to do? Many runners also just simply enjoy the “experience” more as they are now running for the pure enjoyment of it rather than competing.

2011 Boston Marathon
2011 Boston Marathon | Source

Mix it up

So how do we do it? How do we stay healthy when the repetitive process of running for years starts to take its toll? The answer is diversification. Or in running lingo it’s time to mix it up and do some cross training. Instead of running everyday, which I’ve never really been a big proponent of, it’s time to mix in some cross training and even add a day or two off every week.

When I was younger my running regimen usually consisted of running between five and seven days per week. This ultimately led to a variety of overuse injuries from achilles tendinitis to plantar fasciitis to shin splints. It wasn’t until I discovered the sport of triathlon that all this began to change.

To be young again!
To be young again! | Source
Triathlon | Source

Cross Train

At some point during the early to mid 1980’s I became interested in the sport of triathlon, probably after watching Julie Moss crawl to the finish line of the Ironman in 1982. Trying to fit in the time required to swim, bike and run just naturally led to a decrease in my running mileage. But a funny thing happened on the way; in addition to an increase in my overall fitness level I actually was running faster.

Back then I’m not sure that I really figured out that it was the cross training that led to this. Today I know for certain that once I started running less and mixing in some other workouts my overall fitness level increased and the running injuries disappeared.

Some Cross Training Options

So what kind of cross training should one do? That depends on the individual and what your interests are. Cycling makes for a great alternative as it takes the feet off the ground while still providing a pretty good aerobic workout. The same can be said of swimming, which just might provide the best all-round conditioning workout.

Mixing in some weight training is also a great way to work on your core fitness and overall strength, with the added benefit of helping to increase your metabolism. Yoga has numerous benefits as well that can benefit your running and is used by many of the top athletes in the world as part of their fitness regimen.

Deciding what activities to add to your routine ultimately comes down to you deciding what other activities interest you and figuring out how to add them to your schedule.


Perhaps the best thing that you can do for your body at this point in your life is to take a day off every now and then. It’s no secret that the body just doesn’t recover as quickly at fifty as it did at twent five. So why not add in a day or two off every week. It can be a total day away from exercise or it can be an easy cross training day. Either way you’re giving your body a chance to rest and recover and that can only be a good thing.

Air Force Marathon
Air Force Marathon | Source

My weekly regimen now consists of three to five runs per week depending on whether I have a race coming up or not. In addition to the running I also do one to two cycling workouts per week. Monday to Friday my day starts with a visit to the gym where I’ll do some stretching and core strengthening and on three to four of these days I’ll do some weight training.

On weekends I always take one day off and reserve the other day for a longer, slower run. If I’m overtired and feel that I need an extra day off I will not hesitate to take a weekday off to help recover. For me the combination of running, cycling, weight training and stretching has resulted in just an overall better fitness level. At this point in my life I know I'm not going to get faster, my priority is to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as possible and to stay as fit and healthy as possible.

The gang after the Lake Placid half marathon.
The gang after the Lake Placid half marathon. | Source

Staying Motivated

The other issue facing runners over fifty, especially those who have been running for decades, is how to stay motivated and into the sport. No matter how competitive you are we all go through periods where we just can’t seem to keep the motivation level high? So what can you do? Well, there are a number of things that might work. First of all there is nothing like knowing you have a race on the calendar to get you out the door. Knowing that a race, whether short or long, is looming on the horizon definitely keeps me going. So, if you find your energy and motivation waning, find a local race that supports a good cause and enter. And if you don't want to compete, why not volunteer at one of your local road races. This is a great way to give back and there's nothing like watching a race to get you motivated.

Spectate or Volunteer
Spectate or Volunteer | Source

Change is good

What else can you do? Try mixing up your workouts. Sometimes I find that I tend to do the same workouts and run the same routes over and over. To mix things up change your workout, try adding a hill workout once a week or go to your local track and run some repeats on the track. You don’t have to kill yourself with these workouts. You’re adding them to infuse some variety and to change the pace up. If you’re not already doing this, add a longer, slower run to your regimen. This will help your overall fitness level and help you hone your pacing skills for those longer races.

Still not feeling it? How about giving a triathlon a shot? Maybe start with a sprint race and see how it goes. Don't want to compete? Sign up for a spinning class or a yoga class. Do you run with a group? The country is full of local running clubs and organizations, why not join one and meet some new people with whom to run with. Ever think about taking a running vacation? Why not sign up for a race in a beautiful location and combine a vacation with a race?

As with any sport activity it is always advisable to get the okay from your doctor. This is especially true if you have been inactive for awhile and are thiinking of starting an exercise routine. There are so many benefits to making running a part of your life. Recent statistics have shown that those who run live an average of six years longer than those who don’t. This alone should keep you motivated. Running helps to keep your weight consistent and in check. It helps to decrease your bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL). It also helps to lower your blood pressure and improve the function of your heart and lungs while strengthening your muscles and bones. We all want to have as good a quality of life as possible as we age. Adding running and cross training to you fitness routine will help you to live a longer and more productive life. Run on.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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Comments 44 comments

erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

You are welcome. It is always good to stay in touch with someone like you to talk about sports. I am going to follow your advice on cross training mister Bdigiulio. You have a great weekend too.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Ana Marie. Sounds like you keep very active, which is great. One of the benefits of running is being able to eat more :). The cross training helps to keep me from getting injured. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, have a great weekend.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Kirsti. Thanks for stopping by. It's great to still be getting out there at 50 plus. I enjoy running now more than ever. Have a great weekend.

erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

Yes, I run mister Bdigiulio. When I was a teenager I won the third place. I made my trainer the happiest man in this planet. He was excellent. This days , I do most exercises than running. I like yoga, aerobics, pilates, weights . My trainer told me.I need to cut on the Gymnasium work out. I love sports. My belly is not easy to keep it flat. I love to cook, so I love to eat. Running is easier than other exercises. Thanks mister Bdigiulio. You too. You have a good happy weekend.

HealthfulMD profile image

HealthfulMD 2 years ago from Northern California

Thanks for the tips. Now running over 50 and enjoying it more than I did in my 30's.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Ana. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the hub. I've been running for over 30 years now so I thought I might be able impart a little of my experience. Do you run?

Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

Mr. Bill, thank you for writing about running. The information on your article it is important . I like your hub.

sstanton profile image

sstanton 3 years ago


Great way to lose weight and increase stamina!

sstanton profile image

sstanton 3 years ago

I found this really helps to increase weight loss and stamina

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Sure. Any athletic activity can be a great form of cross-training. Just don't get injured with a contact sport. Otherwise it sounds like a great way to increase your strength and stamina.

Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by. Have a great day.

zamboy321 profile image

zamboy321 3 years ago from Philippines

Is combining with boxing or some martial arts and ball sports a good idea too?

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Arun. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for stopping by.

ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 3 years ago from KOLKATA

The tips are very good and inspirational. Thanks.

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very useful tips and suggestions Bill. Thanks for sharing. Voted up, useful and shared.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

I am right there with you September61. I've been running for over 30 years and yes, it is different, and it does require a new and different mind set. For me, I look at it totally different now from when I was younger. Back then I was about competing and setting pr's. Now, I run for the enjoyment, the participation, and the health benefits and I do a bit of destination racing, where we go someplace nice to get away, and run a race while we're there. The aches and pains are a part of life. I look at it like this, those who don't run have more aches and pains than I do so the benefit to continuing to run is there. You have brought up an excellent point, starting to run at 50 is so much different than running at 50 after doing it all of your life. Thanks for the insightful comments.

September61 3 years ago

I really liked your article, best one I have found for over 50 running. Running after 50 is distressing. You spend your previous running life just improving and all of a sudden life puts the brakes on. It's defeating. I still do it cause I love it but - it's different. It's a different mind set as well as being a physical change. If you have been running for decades by 50 it's a different story than beginning at 50. Those beginning should be psyched, I think they will have (ok some aches) but really positive benefits, on the other hand if you have been doing it for decades - it seems to be all downhill and not in a good way. Any words of encouragement to deal with the slow down, and how you handle it would be much appreciated.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi khmohsin. Thanks for the great comments. As you pointed out there are many benefits to running. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

khmohsin profile image

khmohsin 3 years ago from London,UK

Physical activities like running can boost your energy, making you less tired during the day. They can also help normalize your sleep cycle, allowing you to get a better night's rest.

However, running too close to bedtime may interfere with your ability to fall asleep, so you may need to plan your runs earlier in the day. Your hub is simply unique, helpful and amazing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. :)

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Yvonne, there really is no right or wrong with running. If you are getting out there, getting some exercise, and challenging yourself then you are doing A-okay. Don't second guess yourself. Everyone has different form, ability, potential, and reasons for running. If it is something you think you will enjoy then go for it. Best of luck and thanks for stopping by.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK

This is very interesting information. I only took up running after 50, and I have to confess I've never progressed much with it because I've not been sure if I was doing it okay. I did have one run with a seasoned runner who said my technique was fine, and having read this I think I will feel more confident about getting back to it.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Belinda, good for you for starting to run at 50 plus. Please do not be discouraged. I think you are doing great. Your running friends are absolutely correct, it's about getting out there, participating, making new friends, and doing what you enjoy. Just look what running has done for you so far, you lost 40 lbs, congratulations. It really is not about how fast you can run. In every event that you enter there are only a handful of people who have a chance of winning. Everyone else (including me) NEEDS a reason to be out there. Do it for yourself if for no other reason. Best of luck to you.

Belinda 3 years ago

I am a fairly new runner who is very discouraged because I am SO SLOW. I don't feel like I am as slow as I am but when I am at the last of the pack, or when I see my speed (about 13.00) I feel like I have failed at just putting one foot in front of another! In fact, true story, I walk faster than I run! I came upon this article and it gives me encouragement, because, yes, I am getting older and started running at age 51 3/4! I am not a failure, just noticing my age. I have lost strength (and also 40 lbs) and my stride is short. I'll keep on huffing and puffing and hopefully my new running friends mean what they say when I hear "It's not about speed, it's about getting out there and doing it!"

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thanks dwachira. As my father keeps reminding me, "don't get old". But alas, we are all afflicted with the same faith, we will all grow old. You are correct, listen to your body and you will stay motivated. Thanks for reading and commenting.

dwachira profile image

dwachira 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Sometimes we refuse to accept that we are getting old or we are old. If we listen to our body demands i believe we can be motivated to remain fit and healthy. Great hub, thanks.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Congratulations. Sounds like you have all the motivation you need at the moment. The benefits of a regular exercise routine are endless. Try spectating at a local race first, you will be amazed at the energy and upbeat atmosphere that it creates. It's a little premature but happy 50th. Thanks for reading and commenting.

American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA


I turn 50 next month and 60 days ago I started running. My legs are getting stronger and my resting heart rate is lower.

I find the cardio not only helps my heart but also my skin.

I have yet to get into a real routine.

A race...hmmm....not too certain about that one but you have at least motivated me to consider it. Will keep you posted.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Debbie, sounds like you've been doing great with your fitness, keep it going. It does happen to all of us, unfortunately, but it's a part of life and it's up to us to make it a positive thing. I'm just thankful that I can still do all of this. At one time it really bothered me that everything I did was slower but I've gotten over it and I really look forward to the experience of participating as opposed to competing. Don't get me wrong, I still work hard at it and try my best but I'm no longer hung up on pr's and that sort of thing. My goal is to stay as fit as I can so that I can continue to be very active for as long as possible.

Don't worry, you'll get your mojo back. Enter a race and before you know it you'll be back in the groove. Appreciate you reading and commenting. Best of luck.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Zac. Thanks for the comments and for reading. Enjoy your youth..... It doesn't get any easier. But, just being able to run and be active is a great thing so I'm very thankful. Thanks again.

ZacLegoManiac profile image

ZacLegoManiac 4 years ago from New York, NY

Great tips. I'm 35, but already starting to see some changes myself. Guys like you inspire me to keep going.

debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 4 years ago from Greece

Hi bdegiulio, your hub was music to my ears, the last few months I've been losing my mojo for running, still do three short runs a week and always feel great after. Have started cycling more and using the elliptical trainer and kettle bells more just to jiggle things up a bit. Just feel like I am battling fitness, after feeling the fittest I have felt last year.

You hit the nail on the head when you said get a race lined up and this is the first time in a long time that we have not had a run lined up. The last few years we trained through the hot summers for the Athens runs progressing from the 5k to the full marathon and at this moment I am not sure that I have the mojo to train for the full again.

I hope to regain my enthusiasm and focus soon and want to be keeping fit well into my old age.

A good, well written hub that makes me realise it happens to us all.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thanks MPG. Yes, I have definitely noticed changes over the last few years. While it may not be getting any easier it can be more fun and rewarding. Hopefully the yoga is helping your back. Thanks for reading and voting.

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I'm not a runner but I walk 4 times a week and do yoga regularly as well. With a bad back and being over 50 I have to take things easy. Exercise is important for all ages but age definitely slows you down. Thanks for a great hub and good for you for keeping motivated. Voted up and interesting.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi BJC. Running over 50 is indeed great. It's my favorite activity. But, like you I've had my motivational moments over the years. How does the saying go? Too much of a good thing......... Today I've learned to temper my expectations and the cross training has helped to keep me healthy. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hi Lesley. Thanks for the visit and comments. That's great that you get out every day. If you get to the point where every day is too much trying mixing in another activity just for a change of pace. Ever enter a local race? They're great fun and the atmosphere is always so upbeat and full of energy. Thanks again.

BJC profile image

BJC 4 years ago from Florida

Running over 50 is great! Through the years staying motivated was an issue, so I enjoyed your input.

thanks for writing the hub!

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Bill, this hub is packed full of helpful tips and interesting information - a lot of work and research superbly done!

I am over 50 and do some jogging every day, maybe I should try to do more, your hub is certainly inspriational!

Voting up and shared.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Tony, good for you for getting back into the sport. If you've been away for a number of years then you may indeed continue to see some improvement with additional training. It sounds like your doing it right and enjoying the social aspect of it. This social aspect can be a great motivator as we often meet other people during or at races who have similar interests. I have always found it so much easier to run with a group as opposed to going out alone although we all sometimes have that need to collect our thoughts and running is great for this. Good of you for beating some young un's, must mean you still got it! Best of luck and keep running.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Hey there tirelesstravler. Sounds like you have this routine down pretty good. Swimming is one of the best exercises one can do. And working in some cycling has helped me for years now. When I was younger it was run often, run hard, just forge ahead, no pain no gain, etc. Today I have to learn to be a little smarter at this to insure that I can continue doing it for the foreseeable future.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Teresa, thanks for the comments. Race walking is certainly a great training/cross training activity. I know many runners who work in some walking when doing long runs. For me the key has always been consistency in my training. I try to avoid long layoffs so as to not have to go through the whole start up process again. And, the cross training has been a life saver. If I tried today to just run I think I would be injured more often than not. It sounds like your doing things right, entering some races so you have something to work toward. Your running credentials are impressive..... And yes, once it's in your blood it's always there. A smart move to limit your boys, you don't want them getting burnt out at a young age. It is a tough thing knowing what we were once capable of, I struggle with it also but I have found other ways to enjoy the sport and I hope to be able to run forever..... many thanks for the comments. Best of luck to you and keep us posted on your races and running.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

Cross training is the key. My bike riding is so much faster since I have been swimming.

Teresa Schultz profile image

Teresa Schultz 4 years ago from East London, in South Africa

Excellent tips - I'm 43, but so out of how I used to run in my teenage years and 20-something years, that now when I run, I feel like I'm 80, not 50, or 43. My cross training only includes walking (race-walking) and I'm currently actually enjoying race-walking 15km events - I try run the 10km events and then race-walk the 15km events. My running absolutely sucks at the moment though, so barely make the 1st km of a 10km before I need to walk - then I run-walk the rest of the race - sometimes jogging; sometimes race-walking. Would like to get back to gym some time for some circuit training.

My better half, Tony, is 52, and is also doing the 10 and 15km races.

Finding races to enter definitely helps keep one motivated - we are trying to do as many 10km and 15km races that the local area offers, rather than just one or two races a year.

Getting the kids involved too, also helps keep one motivated - my 13 and 14 year old sons have taken a bit of interest in road running (10km and 15km) - more so the older one.

I think I burnt myself out as a youngster - training sometimes as much as 8 times a week during my high school years (when I used to be able to do a 10km in 41 mins, 4km in 16 mins, and an 800metre in 2min24) and I'm carefully monitoring my sons' training and racing.

I have done only two full marathons (best in 3.49) some years back now, before having children, and I plan to not allow my sons to run even a 21km until they're at least 17 or 18, and not too many either.

Hm, I think I miss doing well, that's why I've rambled on and on here - but I'm hoping to improve somewhat as long as I'm careful not to overdo it. Once running is one's blood, it kinda stays there forever, don't you find?

Your article is excellent, and full of helpful tips for all runners, or wanna-be runners, and not just for those over 50 years old.

Tony Flanigan profile image

Tony Flanigan 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

So there is some hope for me! I stopped running for over 25 years, and then ran two 15km races 3 years apart, before deciding that I really needed to get just a bit more serious than I had been.

It did bother me that my pace is so much slower, but, I am the first to concede that I can speed up at least a bit by training more.

Every race I do my pace improves but I'll never get near the front of the mob - mostly because I enjoy the "social" vibe so often found among the less serious athletes. And I do beat young'uns, so I'm happy.

Thanks for a wonderfully encouraging hub, with loads of good tips I may never use, but certainly do appreciate!

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Thanks shuck. As I get older I have to find ways to stay healthy and on the road. Appreciate you stopping by. Stay healthy.

shuck72 profile image

shuck72 4 years ago from Seattle

Good recommendations, I just hit 40 and I think much of what you say applies to my age group as well. I admit I don't cross train as much as I should but I will think about adding some, thanks to your article. Great pictures too.

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