I need your advice. I just turned 60 and thought I would always stay physically active, even though I’m only a recreational runner. However, last February I took a nasty fall while running with a friend and badly fractured my left ankle. After months of agonizing physical therapy (and, I must admit, feeling sorry for myself), my heart is saying, “You’re ready to start running.” However, my mind is screaming, “Are you nuts? You’ll just get injured again!” What should I do? Surely, I’m not REALLY too old to run! – Love you, Petrified in Portland
My Dearest Petrified,
I’m so sorry to hear about your running injury last year. I know how painful broken appendages can be and how long it can take them to fully heal. Having gone through a similar running fiasco myself two years ago (broken arm, torn ligaments, bruised ego), I truly can empathize with you. The good news is that it’s completely natural for you to be experiencing a modicum of mental and emotional anguish. Your body has experienced a traumatic event. What you DON’T want to do, however, is let your inner dialogue devolve into a good, old fashioned “pity party.” Believe me I know….Mine lasted for 18 months….It was ugly.
If you truly enjoy running, begin with baby steps. Start by heading over to your local Fleet Feet and donating your old running shoes. This modest, first step will be especially satisfying if you’re experiencing flash backs just seeing your old running shoes…sitting there in your closet…silently mocking you. While you’re at Fleet Feet, give yourself the luxury of a brand, new pair of running shoes. Mine are Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17s, and I got them on sale for less than a hundred bucks. Score!
Next, set a modest goal for yourself, like “This week, I’m going to walk for 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, sporting my sexy, new, running shoes.” Then, lace those babies up and walk for 20 minutes—no kidding. Just breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sights and sounds. You will be transported–I promise! If walking too close to home takes you near the ‘crime scene’ (i.e., damned park where you took the fall), then hop in your car, drive to one of your favorite running spots, and enjoy just walking there.
Once you begin your new regimen, don’t go too crazy! Baby steps, remember? Instead, commit to walking three times a week for at least one month, working up from 20-minute walks to 30-minute walks by adding three minutes to each walk per week. In short, remember the cardinal rule for all runners, novices, and seasoned athletes alike: build mileage or duration weekly by adding 10% of the prior week’s total distance or duration. (Agonizingly slow-going, but safe and effective.)
After a month of consistent walking, you should be ready for an easy jog.
If you’re really serious about getting back into running, particularly longer distances, definitely check out Bingham and Hadley’s blockbuster book, Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon. Not only have I used their book to successfully prepare for a half-marathon in my 50s, but I also am using it now to get back into my own running at 60.
Hopefully, this information helps you to rediscover and embrace your Inner Runner. Let me know how things are going in a couple of months. Perhaps, we can even share tips for running successfully at 60+. – Yours truly, GiGi Newheart