How Can I Keep Running Safely as I Get Older?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center


Image of Dr. Boyd HaynesBoyd W. Haynes III, MD

Want to make a runner unhappy?  Forbid them to run. People who love to run, either competitively or just for fun, want to be able to run…forever.  I admire their dedication, but as a Sports Medicine Physician, I see many runners who face obstacles in their quest to keep running well and safely as they age. 

Let’s face it, getting old is not for sissies and runners are no exception.  While runners are typically healthier and more physically fit as they age than other folks, there are still some hard truths to consider about aging. After the age of thirty, runners can expect to see a 0.7% decrease in performance per year, which equals 3.5% every five years.  They can also expect to lose muscle mass, equaling as much as 30-40%, by age seventy.  VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen that can be used during intense exercise) also decreases.  Flexibility lessens.  Recovery after a race takes longer.  Aging runners are also more susceptible to injury and arthritis

Make an Appointment

Even so, you CAN keep running, even competitively as a Master during the Golden Years, if you follow a few suggestions:

  1. Change your training and workouts as you age
  2. Gain muscle strength and flexibility by lifting weights and cross-training – join a gym and hit the machines and weights, do yoga
    • Reduce running mileage and rest more – added recovery time is vital
    • Focus on calf strength, hip flexor flexibility and hamstring health for safe running into older age
    • Start being more cautious when training
    • Run on softer surfaces whenever possible
  3. Become an expert at training and race recovery self-monitoring
    • Base your recovery on your body alone – not what is “normal” for your age group
    • Heed twinges and pains – rest more to run for more years
    • Don’t continue painful running – have a consultation with a SMP
    • Partner (long-term) with a Sports Medicine Physician who can help keep you running if you get injured or need advice
  4. Find a running community to support you
    • Don’t listen to those who tell you to stop running because of your age.  Find a group, club or friends to support you, train with you and compete with you.
    • Accept that your performance will change as you age – times will be slower, races fewer, recovery longer
  5. Remain positive
    • Celebrate your past successes and running achievements
    • Appreciate your healthy body for what it CAN do, not what it CAN’T do
    • Look for new running challenges – i.e., Masters’ age group races
    • Instead of new “personal worsts” – find new “personal bests”

If you love running at a young age, you probably want to continue doing so for as long as possible.  By being informed and understanding that aging is a normal process that does not preclude running, you can look forward to many years of racing against top athletes or just jogging down the beach with your dog.  All you have to do is listen to your body, change your training as you age, rest more and enjoy!


Make an appointment with Dr. Haynes or another OSC provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.