How To Start Running At 40 – Beginner’s Running Guide

Our 12 Top Tips To Start Running At 40 And Beyond!

As a certified running coach, many non-runners assume that I mostly work with competitive half-marathon and marathon runners who want to run faster in big races.

However, while I certainly work with advanced runners who are following a training plan with impressive time goals, I also work with many new runners who are looking to start running well into their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s.

In fact, the majority of beginner runners who are looking for run coaching seem to be older runners in their 40s to 60s who are either new runners altogether or runners who have fallen out of a running routine for years and want to start incorporating more physical activity and potentially even competitive running into their workout routine.

In this guide to how to start running at 40 and beyond, we will discuss whether you can start running after age 40 and provide tips for beginning the exciting sport of running as a masters or senior athlete.

A group of people running.

Am I Too Old to Start Running?

Although it’s natural to worry if you’re too old to start running after the age of 40, the simple answer is that whether you’re 40, 50, 75, or even in your 80s or 90s, you’re never too old to start running.

Moreover, research shows that consistent running workouts can actually reduce the magnitude of expected age-related decline in athletic performance.

Although most runners hit their “prime” years of peak performances in their later 20s or early-to-mid 30s, the physical and mental health benefits of running reach far beyond crossing the finish line with a fast time.

Furthermore, some master runners (runners aged 40 and older) run impressively fast times and take podium sports at top marathons and distance races, outperforming competitive runners a decade or so their junior. 

In short, don’t let your age keep you from starting running after age 40 or even as a senior.

The backs of the legs of runners.

Tips for How to Start Running After 40

Ultimately, starting running after age 40 is exactly like starting running at any point in your life, even in your youth. 

Starting running is all about taking the first step. 

That said, older runners who want to start running for the first time or return to running face more challenges simply because the aging body isn’t as spry and tolerable to the physical stresses of demanding high-impact exercise. 

Below, we share the best tips for how to start running at 40 and beyond:

#1: Speak With Your Doctor

Even if you don’t have underlying health conditions, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider and get medical clearance if you want to start running after age 40. 

High-intensity physical activity like running is demanding on your cardiovascular system, and running is a high-impact activity.

Therefore, particularly if you have been sedentary, have underlying joint pain, osteoarthritis, health conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications, it is important to check in with your healthcare provider to make sure that your overall health is in a place where you are ready to run.

If not, you may need to start with just brisk walking first and then progress to a run/walk training plan. 

A person speaking with their doctor.

#2: Work With a Running Coach

New runners can always benefit from working with a running coach because running coaches have the expertise to create a customized training plan based on your fitness level, training goals, and overall health status.

Older runners, in particular, can benefit from the guidance of an experienced running coach given the fact that the risk of injury can be higher for older runners, and the best approach to how to start running safely can be different for beginner runners who are in their later years of life.

#2: Follow a Training Plan for Beginners

A couch-to-5 K training plan or other run/walk running program for new runners will help ensure that you are not progressing your training too aggressively while still providing enough training stimulus for the muscular and cardiovascular adaptations you need to run longer and faster without stopping.

Even if you don’t want to train for a race, a couch to 5K training plan serves as a good roadmap for building cardio endurance and muscle strength that you will need for longer workouts.

There are also running apps for beginner runners with running plans that take you from your first run and walk workout through a gradual run/walk build-up.

The Nike Run Club app1Nike. (2023). Nike Run Club App. Nike.com. https://www.nike.com/nrc-app is a free running app with guided running programs for new and intermediate runners.

You can follow guided runs with coaching and listen to motivating playlists to keep running fun.

A person's running shoes, and I phone and headphones.

#3: Get Proper Running Shoes

Older runners typically have a higher risk of injury relative to new runners who are younger because recovery after workouts takes longer after age 40.

It is important to get running shoes that fit properly and provide the cushioning and support you need based on your body weight, biomechanics, the type of training you will be doing (running on a treadmill, trail running, road running, etc.), and your running gait.

New runners often make the mistake of buying a random pair of running shoes on Amazon or choosing the latest Nike running shoes without even trying them on simply because the reviews are positive or the running shoes look nice.

However, while wearing the right pair of running shoes for your needs won’t guarantee injury-free running, wearing shoes that don’t fit right or don’t provide the cushioning and support you need for your own unique biomechanics can increase your risk of injury, blisters, and foot or knee pain while running.

The best way to get the proper running shoes for your needs is to go to your local running store and get a free gait analysis.

#4: Warm Up and Cool Down

Make sure to do a warm-up and cool down of brisk walking and some dynamic stretches2Behm, D. G., Alizadeh, S., Abdolhamid Daneshjoo, & Konrad, A. (2023). Potential Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Injury Incidence of Athletes: A Narrative Review of Risk Factors. Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-023-01847-8 before your run/walk training sessions.

As your fitness level improves, the warm-up and cool down can be an easy jog.

Two people doing lunges.

#5: Prioritize Strength Training 

Strength training is important for all runners, but particularly older runners because resistance training can attenuate age-related sarcopenia3Vikberg, S., Sörlén, N., Brandén, L., Johansson, J., Nordström, A., Hult, A., & Nordström, P. (2019). Effects of Resistance Training on Functional Strength and Muscle Mass in 70-Year-Old Individuals With Pre-sarcopenia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association20(1), 28–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2018.09.011 (loss of muscle mass).

Exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, glute bridges, single-leg deadlifts, planks, push-ups, and pull-ups, can build muscle, help identify and correct muscle imbalances, improve running economy, and reduce your risk of injury.

As a certified personal trainer myself, I highly recommend working with a personal trainer to master the technique and to create a strength training program to supplement your running plan, especially if you are not sure how to perform basic strength training exercises like squats and lunges.

#6: Supplement with Cross-Training 

Low-impact cross-training activities like swimming, rowing, cycling, and the elliptical machine reduce the stress and strain on your bones, joints, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons while still giving you an aerobic workout and serving as a form of active recovery from running workouts.

Reducing the number of days per week you run and supplementing with cross-training workouts is particularly important as you get older, as our bodies become less tolerant of excessive high-impact stress from running.4NILSSON, J., & THORSTENSSON, A. (1989). Ground reaction forces at different speeds of human walking and running. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica136(2), 217–227. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1989.tb08655.x

#7: Work on Mobility, Stability, and Balance

Mobility, stability, and balance work can prevent injuries and leave you feeling limber and loose rather than stiff and tight. 

Yoga, foam rolling, single-leg drills, core exercises, and massage are great accouterments to a running program for any athlete, particularly older runners.

A person hydrating with a water bottle on the beach.

#8: Prioritize Recovery

Most first-time runners experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS),5Cheung, K., Hume, P. A., & Maxwell, L. (2012). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Sports Medicine33(2), 145–164. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333020-00005 which may appear approximately 12-24 hours after exercise.

While some muscle soreness after running is unavoidable for beginner runners, you can help promote recovery by doing a warm up, cool down, and running at an easy, comfortable pace. 

Be sure to stretch after running, foam roll before and after running (target your quads, hamstrings calves, glutes, low back, and IT bands), have a post-workout snack high in carbs and protein right after your run to refuel, and focus on hydration.

#9: Set Realistic Expectations 

Research shows6Hawkins, S., & Wiswell, R. (2003). Rate and mechanism of maximal oxygen consumption decline with aging: implications for exercise training. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)33(12), 877–888. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333120-00002 that our aerobic capacity decreases with age. 

When you first start running, set small, manageable running goals rather than lofty, loose goals. 

For example, set a goal to run/walk three days a week at first or to try to run a mile without stopping after three weeks of running and aerobic cross-training workouts.

A person with their feet up resting.

#10: Take Enough Rest Days

Rest days are an essential component of your training plan, especially for older runners who start running at 40 and beyond because muscle recovery can take longer.7Harvard Health Publishing. (2014, March 9). Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time – Harvard Health. Harvard Health; Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-and-aging-can-you-walk-away-from-father-time

#11: Support Your Overall Health

Whether you are running for weight loss, to meet new running friends, to decrease blood pressure, to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, or to cross the finish line of your first race, you should make sure you are supporting your overall health.

Get enough sleep, follow a healthy, balanced diet, and take care of your body so that you feel your best and are able to reach your fitness goals.

#12: Be Proud Of Yourself

Lastly, no matter how old you are when you first begin running, embrace your new identity as a runner. 

You, yes you, are a runner. 

Don’t forget to join the Marathon Handbook Facebook group for more support and guidance from other runners!

A runner celebrating by holding their hands in the air and looking at a view.


Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

6 thoughts on “How To Start Running At 40 – Beginner’s Running Guide”

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I started running last year at 40. It was thr first time in my life and I took it really slow in the beginning using intervals (30 second run / 8 min walk then 1 min run / 7 min walk, etc) until I could run for 10 minutes straight. But when I tried to follow a different plan to get up to 5km I had hip pain that stopped me for 3 weeks. I realized I was just going to have to adjust my training plan to work within the limitations of my body. This year I am incorporating a lot more strength training and rest days and (hopefully) reasonable expectations.

  2. Great article. I’m early 40s and a couple of weeks into the “running outdoors” journey after running short distances indoors for a couple of years on a treadmill. For some reason even after 2 years running on the treadmill I never considered myself a runner, but after I finally decided to give it a go outdoors it has really opened up a whole new world.

  3. Hi Amber,

    Thank you for this article, I started running this year aged 46 and am so happy I did. I tried a few times in the past and struggled, I think I wasn’t doing my research so I didn’t find info and advice like yours and found the whole thing demoralising. Before coming across this article I found various other pages that gave similar thoughts but you have crystallised them very well, in my opinion, and also given more advice that I will definitely be taking on board.

    To anyone else in their 40’s who is considering starting running I can say that here Amber gives great advice that works, that comes from my own personal experience. I would add that a bit of patience is important, psychologically. I find that I notice a step forward in my development, be it more endurance or a faster time over some distance, and that I then need to keep on being consistent and patient, the next step will come in time but probably not tomorrow. Be realistic with your expectations and consistent with your attitude and training, the results will always follow.




Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.