BY STEVE WATKINS
I went jogging recently with my 7-year-old daughter, Lili. Not far, just to the end of our street and back, maybe half a mile.
I had a notion that I should get back into running, add a cardiovascular component to my workout schedule, which for the past several years has consisted of a lot of yoga flavored with the occasional swim, bike ride, power walk or session with free weights.
Half a mile, I reasoned, would be enough for the first time out—especially because I wanted to take it easy on the kid.
When I was younger, coming back from an extended hiatus from running was no big deal: lace up the shoes and take off, using the pace from my last 10K as a measure of how much I’d lost and how hard I needed to train to get it back.
Now that I’m north of 50, though, and haven’t run regularly in a good 10 years, I figured things would be a little different. They were.
Lili sprinted out ahead, predictably, and I let her go. It was a classic tortoise and hare situation. I knew I’d reel her in. And a mere tenth of a mile into the run, that’s what happened—though it was possible she got distracted by a bug crossing the sidewalk. She fell back in step beside me as we continued down the street.
Near the halfway point, at the end of the cul de sac, Lili pulled ahead again, and once again I let her. I’d run my share of marathons back in the day, competed in some triathlons, was a decent master’s swimmer and have been teaching intense yoga classes for years. I knew I could catch her.
Plus, I’d done my due diligence about taking up running again at 50:
- I’d checked with my doctor to make sure there was no reason for me not to run. I don’t have asthma, COPD, osteoporosis, or arthritis—conditions that can make running difficult, and call for other low-impact workouts like swimming and yoga.
- I’d started off slow, and followed the advice of a Livestrong columnist to make a long-term commitment to running from the outset, which would help keep me from pushing too hard (and increasing my risk of injury) to get faster.
- I’d built up to running with low-impact cardio workouts like power yoga, and planned to continue mixing up my workouts to help strengthen my heart and my conditioning without the pounding the body sustains if I’m just running every day.
- I’d made sure to run with a partner (albeit a small one)—a particularly good idea since past 50 we’re all more prone to injuries and health problems and never know when we might need help in an emergency.
- And I’d had plenty of water beforehand—and planned to drink more after—since the effects of dehydration become more pronounced as we get older.
Lili was still ahead of me as I finished circling the cul de sac, and now we were headed back to the house, a quarter of a mile away. I still felt good, holding to a not-so-blistering 12-minute pace, even though I was barefoot.
Lili, meanwhile, was wearing brand new aqua and black Shaun White sneakers that must have been aerodynamically engineered, as fast as she was going. I kept her in sight, though, and sure enough, after another tenth of a mile she paused for a second time.
Granted, it was at a stop sign, but still.
Once we got through the intersection, we were in the home stretch, and I shifted into a higher gear. Lili seemed surprised when I passed her, and a little winded, though that might have been because she was singing a Justin Bieber song.
I kept pressing, my gaze now locked on the finish line, though I couldn’t seem to find that kick I remembered once having.
Small feet pounded the sidewalk behind me, drawing closer. Twenty yards to go. Fifteen. A pair of aqua and black Shaun Whites flashed past.
By the time I covered the last 10 yards Lili was already down the block playing basketball with some neighborhood kids.
I dutifully warmed down, dutifully hydrated, dutifully stretched—an activity properly saved for after a running workout, contrary to what most of us were taught in gym class.
At dinner that night, Lili let everybody know she’d won—and wasn’t even trying that hard. I let her have her bright shining moment. And besides, it wasn’t as if we were really racing.
“Rest up,” I told her—good advice for both of us. “We’re going again tomorrow.”
Want to read more? Check out these tips for running after 50 at the Livestrong website: bit.ly/HATDMQ.
And Runner’s World has a host of helpful tips for women runners of all ages: bit.ly/INb1vV.
Steve Watkins teaches power yoga at the YMCA on Butler Road in Stafford County. He also is an author and a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. Send comments, questions or ideas about his column to http://firstname.lastname@example.org.