Happily Ever After...
Running and Walking into 'Older' Age with a Smile
At the age of 73, Helen Hayes said that the hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy. But running doesn't have to be that hard. Really.
Running and walking should be a refuge from life's complexity---not an extension of it. In fact, as we gracefully age, I believe that you can continue to be a `happy runner'. No burn out. No injury. No boredom. No sitting on the bench.
In fact, I have a few secrets to guarantee lifelong running and walking bliss for you and for me.
1. Find joy in running and walking at your own speed...not just speedy. We all slow down as we age. The last time I checked, I was not running down Erie Avenue as fast as I used to. I guess it's inevitable. So if your enjoyment of running depends solely on fast times and measuring yourself against that clock, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. When I finally learned to appreciate even my slowest runs, I was much happier. It opened up a whole new world.
2. Get stronger. We all lose muscle mass as we age. That means a lower metabolism, you burn less calories, and ultimately gain weight. It also makes your runs and walks a little harder and perhaps could lead to an injury. If you do some form of weight training or strengthening exercises two or three times per week-- starting now-- you can reverse this process. Better muscle tone also will help protect your bones and preserve your balance.
3. Take care of yourself. A massage. A day off work. A vacation. I'm just getting started. These all might seem like indulgences; but the key to staying healthy is to gift yourself everyday. This will help you deal with stress, fatigue and injuries which could ruin your run...or worse, ruin your day.
4. Be social. Run and walk with others whenever you can. People of all ages and sizes and shapes can be a wonderful support network, providing energy, inspiration and motivation--which is exactly what we need at any age.
5. Keep going to the races. The camaraderie and spirit of a race will keep you excited about running---even when you're no longer crossing that finish line as quickly as you used to. There are so many reasons to race anymore. Grab your kids for a `family race'. Run to find a cure for cancer. Race just because you want to run in the middle of the street. Success is measured in so many ways.
6. Cross train. Too many people turn to cross-training only after they've become injured. By incorporating a day or two of cycling, swimming, yoga, or Pilates into your weekly schedule when you're healthy, you'll help prevent both injuries and burnout.
7. Listen to your heart. Learn to rely on your body's signals, rather than some predetermined time on your watch or steadfast "rule" you have set for yourself. If you are exhausted, give yourself a break. The last time I checked, running and walking was about going out to "play". If you are too tired, take a nap instead. Nowhere is it written or proven that this "game" is supposed to be serious.
I'm sure you have a few secrets of your own to keep you running and walking strong and healthy 5, 10 even 20 years down the road. Check back in ten years. Let me know how it's working. I'll be the one running down Erie Avenue a little slow, but always happy.