Do you want to start running at forty plus? Before you start, please read this blog post. I made all the mistakes for you; please learn from them.
I’m not a trainer, I’m not a fitness expert, I’ve nothing fitness related to sell you. I’m a 45-year-old man who started running at the age of forty-two and started taking it more seriously at the age of forty-four.
I’ve learnt a lot in the last three and a half years, and I figured, why not write some of it down. I’ve a suspicion that over the next couple of decades there are going to be many more people who get into running or fitness in general once they reach forty plus.
Before we get into all my mistakes, a little background about me. I’m 177cm tall and when I started running in 2020, I weighed 86kg, these days I weigh 80kg. The weight didn’t start to drop off till 2022, more on that later.
I made many mistakes over the years; I’ve split them all up below by year. The hope is if you read this, you’ll not make the same mistakes or if you do, not make them for as long as I did.
Mistakes in 2020
2020 was my worst year, I’m incredibly surprised I didn’t quit. Things really didn’t go well but I’m grateful I kept at it.
I’d ‘run’ 2.5-3km, stopping regularly because I thought I was dying. My heart would be beating at 180bpm and feel like it would jump out of my chest. I soon realised the problem. I was running too fast; you need to start slow. When they say slow, they really mean slow. If you follow the advice, you might need to walk rather than run, low heart rate training is hard.
As mentioned above, I’m on the heavier side for a runner, gear is important for everybody, but it is particularly important when you weigh a little bit more. Running is hard, the shoes cost the money they do for a reason, they help prevent injuries. Take your gear seriously, buy good shoes, this is especially important if you run too hard or too fast.
Although I was running, I wasn’t committed. My running wasn’t consistent, I didn’t enjoy it and it was an awful experience I would put myself through it 1-2 times a week.
Mistakes in 2021
2021 wasn’t much better than 2020. I fixed my gear issues but other than that, it was business as usual and although I made progress, it was slow.
Still not committed
I still hadn’t committed to calling myself a runner. I was running but I didn’t feel like a runner. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I fixed this; I decided enough was enough, I’m a runner! This was why 2022 was so much better.
After two years of running, my weight was still hovering around 85kg. This isn’t because running isn’t good for weight loss. It’s because I hadn’t looked at the other side of the scale. I was doing a little more exercise, but I wasn’t reducing my intake. To lose weight you need to eat less and do more, the eating less is the part that matters, especially at the start.
Mistakes in 2022 and 2023
In 2022, I fully committed to running, I ran over 1200km, I lost 6kg in weight, my VO2Max improved, everything was great, or so I thought.
Wrong gear and old gear
For the majority of 2022, I had sore shins, all the time. My youngest son has an amazing superpower, no matter how much I do to protect my shins, his little feet always find a way to connect. I wasn’t too concerned about the pain; it would subside a little and generally it didn’t stop me running. Well, that was until February 2023.
At the time I had all the gear, New Balance 1080 road shoes, New Balance Hierro trail shoes; I was sorted. If I were running on the road, I’d wear my road shoes, if my run would include some trails, out come the trail shoes.
Randomly in February, I ran a half marathon, it wasn’t planned. I was out with my oldest, him cycling me running and before we knew it, I’d run 21km. I wore my trail shoes because I was running on a light trail, it wasn’t until I looked later that I realised 17km of the run was on the road and pavements.
My shins were sore but there was something else, I had an ache in my bones and walking became painful, running was impossible.
My self-diagnosis, shin splints, it is the only thing that makes any sense. I’d worn the wrong shoes and more importantly, my shoes were worn. As soon as the outsole on your running shoe wears, replace them.
It took me over two months to recover and when I started running again, I had to build up slowly. Altogether, it has taken me three months to get back to the running volume preinjury. I’m still working on getting back to the same fitness level although that is difficult to judge as I have slightly different goals to before I got injured.
If you managed to get this far, you have read about all my mistakes, now onto the tips.
Buy the right gear and replace it when it wears out. Review the soles of your shoes after each run. Ideally have multiple pairs and rotate them. It is also worth tracking your runs, that way you can track your mileage in each shoe. You’ll start to get an idea about when you need to replace them. My shoes last anywhere between 400km and 650km, it depends on what you do.
If you can, buy the Tech. A running watch is good, a running watch and a heart rate monitor is better. As an older person, you have more commitments than the 20-year-old version of yourself. We need to be more efficient with our time and training. Training at the ‘correct’ pace for us is much easier with the Tech.
Work out why you are running. I became a father at 36 and again at 41. When my sons are older, I want to be able to do all the activities with them, I don’t want to be sitting on a bench watching. Both my sons know what they are getting on their 18th birthdays, it is a whooping in a 50km race, I’m going to show them that age is just a number. I’ll be 54 when my eldest gets to 18 and 59 when his younger brother gets there, I’m hoping my decade of experience in ultramarathons (at that point) will mean I finish first, it is easy to mess up on your first ultra. I’m running my first ultramarathon in September; I’ll report after how it went.
I’ve always been driven, yes, I make mistakes, but the drive is there. If you want a little guidance, check out Atomic Habits by James Clear, it is an incredible book and it may just give you the shove you need.
You need to enjoy running, if you don’t you will not be able to keep it up. My advice, try trail running, it is better for the ankles and far more interesting. I used to skip running on a Tuesday because it was bin day and I just couldn’t be bothered dodging them or jumping off the path, it was all too much effort. Now days, I walk to the canal and make my way towards our local greenery.