Why I (mostly) run every day

run every dayI am a runner who started late in life. Thirty months after starting regular running at the age of 68, I mostly run every day. I’ve written about how I started running, and what I wear, seasonally and on my feet. This post is about my why and my how — the journey to this point.

Why I (mostly) run every day

I still haven’t experienced a “runner’s high”. Until recently, I was not enthusiastic about going out on my daily run. Yes, when it was over I felt good, but psyching myself up to start and the actual running itself was challenging.

It stayed that way for a couple of years. Running got easier (see below), but running every day felt more like a have-to than a pleasure.

And then, a few weeks ago, something changed.

To run every day felt easy enough. It felt comfortable and right.

I didn’t expect to get to this point. At 70, I’ve become familiar with a typical growing host of — to date, relatively minor — ailments and declines in functional abilities. My short-term memory is not what it was, and my stamina has decreased. Small aches and pains are a part of everyday life, and I heal slower from injuries.

So to actually get better at doing something physical as I age, and gain a corresponding better attitude surprises me!

Here are the components that seem to have contributed to this change of circumstances.

Successfully dealing with physical issues

As described in this post, when I started running I just went out and ran. I didn’t research how to begin this new activity. I didn’t consult a trainer. And I didn’t ask my few friends who run for help.

As you might expect, I encountered a series of physical problems that could have derailed my running completely. They took quite a while to resolve.

One thing I had in my favor was that I wasn’t interested in competing with others or even myself. I was only looking for enough exercise to elevate my heart rate over most of a thirty-minute period. Today, I am still running the same route I set myself when I started. Aware that a physical problem could curtail my running, I also listen to my body. A knee twinge makes me slow my pace or walk. When the problems described below occurred, I sought help.

Shoulder issues

After a couple of months of running, I realized that my shoulders were hurting. (It took a while to make the connection between running and shoulder pain; at first, I thought it was some other activity that was responsible.)

It turns out there can be many different reasons for shoulder pain when running. (Here are a couple of articles that may be helpful [1, 2].) In my case, I figured out that running was exacerbating existing minor rotator cuff pain. The causes, identified over the next few weeks, were poor posture, clenching my fists too tightly, and over-pumping my arms while struggling up hills. So I started running with my arms dangling by my sides, which helped immensely.

Eventually, I cautiously introduced a less pronounced arm motion, keeping my fists relaxed. As my legs grew stronger over the next few months, running with an easy arm motion became habitual, and my shoulder issues disappeared.

Tight hamstrings

During my second year of running, I noticed that my hamstrings felt sore after running. Initially, the soreness would manifest at the start of the next day’s run. Eventually, the discomfort continued during running and afterward. My physical therapist prescribed hamstring and iliotibial band (IT) stretches, which I now do faithfully after each run to avoid this problem.

Right now, things are good!

It’s taken a couple of years, but I now routinely run most every day and have not had any significant physical symptoms for some time. Perhaps I could have avoided some of the problems I’ve described by getting more advice when I began. From what I’ve read, however, it’s hard to give general advice on the kinds of problems novice runners may experience — we’re all so different! Regardless, I’ve learned a lot!

Figuring out what to wear

I’ve already covered elsewhere what I’ve learned about what to wear when running, both seasonally and on my feet in winter, so I won’t repeat it here. I’ll just add that I’ve upgraded my dirt road running shoes to Hoka — specifically their Men’s Challenger ATR 6 — with the addition of custom orthotics. This has been a great choice for me (and, I’m told, many other amateur runners).

Being comfortable in a wide range of climate conditions is essential if you’re going to mostly run every day.

My cardio fitness level has improved a lot!

My Apple Watch can estimate my cardiac fitness, based on the time it takes for my heart rate to return to post-exercise levels. The watch calculates a cardiac fitness metric called VO2 max. The graphic below shows Apple’s guidelines to VO2 max ranges for average cardiac fitness. (VO2 max units are mL/(kg·min), in case you were interested.) As you can see, the range depends on sex and age. For me, a VO2 max greater than 36 is above average.


I began running in July 2019. Here’s my VO2 max graph for the period February 2019 through December 2021. Since I started running, my VO2 max has increased from 38 (slightly above average) to 48 (well above average), a ~26% increase. For what it’s worth, according to this academic publication, “An increase of 25% in VO2 max…is equivalent to gaining back an estimated 12 years of vigor to one’s lifestyle.”

Though I don’t know the accuracy of my watch’s estimate, this trend is encouraging!

Conclusion

I run most days, not every day. And that’s okay. In general, I only skip running if:

  • I’m sick or injured. (This hasn’t happened for quite a while now.)
  • The weather is appalling, and I don’t feel like facing it. When this (rarely) happens, it’s easy for me to substitute some other kind of exercise, like stacking wood, working at my treadmill desk, or shoveling snow.
  • My day is too busy for me to spare 30 minutes to run. (Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your perspective — the COVID pandemic has almost eliminated my opportunities for extensive work and vacation travel that sometimes made it hard to fit in a day’s run.)

Even after a couple of years tracing the same route most days, running can still surprise me. The bird songs and chirps I hear change with the seasons. A few months ago, I saw a black bear and her cub drinking at the pond I run to. And recently, I spent a while communing with this barred owl on a wire, just fifteen feet away.

run every day

At my age, I’m aware that a single injury could bring my running experience to an end. So I’m careful, avoiding ruts, slowing down for super slippery conditions, and doing my best not to overextend myself. Nevertheless, the eventual slow decline of my physical capabilities will eventually change what I’m capable of.

Until then, I plan to (mostly) run every day!

What I wear for running

Exactly one year ago, at the age of 68, I started running daily for the first time in my life. Since then, I’ve shared a few things learned along the way. Today I thought: why not provide a seasonal guide to what I wear for running?

[Note: There are no affiliate links in this post (or on this website), and I have no connection with any of the sellers or companies mentioned.]

How far do I run?

If you’re looking for advice from a grizzled running veteran who thinks nothing of a quick fifteen mile run before breakfast, you’ve come to the wrong place. I live in rural Vermont on a moderately hilly dirt road that’s quiet enough for me to run a couple of miles daily. I see one or two cars a day, and two or three pedestrians a year. Pre-pandemic, I traveled fairly frequently for my work as a consultant on meeting design and facilitator of meetings, and would try to run a couple of miles every day, wherever I was. Over the last year, that’s included Arizona (at 5,000′ elevation), the Caribbean, Boston, Estonia, Washington, D.C., France, New Mexico, and Texas.

Environment

Obviously, what you wear to run depends on where you live, and the associated weather.

Temperatures in Vermont range from 0 – 90 °F. My driveway and the road are plowed fairly reliably, so snow is rarely a problem (though ice definitely is).
wear for running
I’ve divided my running gear into three sections: year-round, summer, and winter. Despite the jokes about Vermont’s five seasons (Almost Winter • Winter • Still Winter • Mud Season • Road Construction) we do have spring and fall seasons too. During these seasons I switch between the gear below as needed.

Year-round gear

All three items in this section are, to some extent, a matter of taste. For a casual runner like me, comfort is the most important consideration — I’m not trying to break any records or compete with other runners.

Underwear

wear for runningI’m a recent convert to high-tech fabrics for underwear, shirts, and tights. I love Uniqlo‘s underwear, not only for running but also for everyday wear. Why? It’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable, and it can be worn several sweaty days in a row, drying out on a hook, rack, or line each day, before it needs a wash. I wear their Airism Boxer Briefs: one pair for running, and another for the post-shower rest of the day (~$15).

Socks

Wear what’s comfortable for you. For me that’s thick socks: long ones in the winter, short ones in the summer. I’m very happy with the inexpensive EnerWear Cotton Moisture Wicking Heavy Cushion Crew Socks (long) and Gold Toe Cotton Quarter Athletic Socks (short).

Those are just suggestions; buy what’s comfortable for you.

Shoes

OK, many are going to be unhappy with what I am wearing. I have extremely wide feet (5E or 6E or XX, depending on manufacturer). Since almost all the fancy running shoe brands are not available in this width, I’m restricted to a few manufacturers. Major brands of extra wide shoes are Propét, Altra, and some New Balance models. Be careful if you have wide feet like me; many manufacturer’s “extra wide” shoes simply aren’t wide enough.
If you’re still with me, my go-to shoe for walking and running is the Propét Stability Walker. Its 5E (XX) fitting is extremely comfortable, and the shoe holds up well for extensive walking and casual running. I’ve linked to the shoe on Propét’s website, but you can buy them in numerous retail and online stores ($70 – $90).

Summer gear

T-shirts

I used to buy cheap cotton t-shirts. No more! For a trip to Australia in 2018 I splurged on some fancy Ably t-shirts. Now I rarely wear anything else. [No, they didn’t pay me to write that.] All Ably clothing is treated to be odor-free and stain resistant, so less washing is needed, and the clothes look good even after wearing them for two or three days in a row. Their Tourist Pocket-less Tees have lasted me several years before the collar looks ratty. Expensive (~$50) but recommended!

Compression shorts

wear for runningI’m a big fan of Roadbox compression shorts for summer running. They are made of moisture-wicking spandex, and far more comfortable than old-fashioned cotton running shorts. You can wear something over them if you want, but there’s no problem wearing them in public with nothing on top (~$7).

Deerfly patches

I don’t run long enough in the summer to need a hat, especially since trees shade my regular route. Where I live, however, deerflies are a pesky annoyance between June and August, constantly whirling around your head and occasionally biting you. So I don a ball cap with an ingenious TredNot Deerfly Patch stuck on the back. The sticky patch attracts and catches the insects and is effective for a few days. Now I’m rarely bitten (~$1/patch).

Winter gear

Let’s start at the top and work down!

Headwear

Hats

For temperatures down to about 20°F, any kind of hat will do. I wear a thin Igloowaffle stitch” hat (~$10). It’s comfortable and doesn’t take up much room in a pocket, so I can take it off mid-run and store it if I’m getting too hot.

When it’s really cold I wear a hat from a company that no longer exists — Perigee Sportswear in Minneapolis — which is not much help to you if you’re in the market for a great cold-weather hat. But let me share why I like it, so you can find an equivalent. Since my ears get cold easily, this style of hat works well for me. It’s a thick “trapper-style” polyester hat with long earflaps that can be velcroed together under the chin. If it’s warmer, I can velcro the earflaps to each other at the top of my head. Ugly, but very functional.

Face mask

When it’s really cold, I need protection for my face. This wouldn’t be a hard problem to solve — except I wear glasses. As every glasses-wearing, cold weather runner/cyclist knows, most face masks have an annoying tendency to leak warm breath right onto your glasses, which promptly fog up.

Running when you can’t see where you’re going is a drag.

I haven’t found a perfect solution for this. And I’m not alone.

My eyesight isn’t too bad, so one approach is to take off my glasses while running. If I do this, a Tough Outfitters Balaclava Ski Mask (~$10) works well keeping my face warm (together with my trapper hat mentioned above).
Under the circumstances, the best face mask I’ve found is the Gator Face Protector (~$15). The neoprene seal helps minimize the leakage of breath onto my glasses, but they still fog up more than I would like.

Torso

When it gets cold I like to wear a warm but lightweight long sleeved top, and I’ve been very happy with L.L.Bean‘s Men’s Cresta Wool Ultralight 150 Base Layer, Long-Sleeve, either by itself, or, when it’s really cold, as a base layer. It’s very comfortable, and made of merino wool. Although the wool isn’t treated in any way, the shirt dries quickly after a run and can be worn several days in a row before it needs laundering (~$60).
wear for runningNo matter how cold it gets where I live, the only outer layer I’ve ever needed to wear over the above shirt is a Przewalski thermal windbreaker jacket. This is a great product that is lightweight, comfortable, well ventilated, and, during my short runs, wind and waterproof (~$35). Highly recommended!
wear for running
I run during the day, and there’s so little traffic on our dirt road that I generally don’t worry about cars seeing me. But, in Vermont we have this little thing called “hunting season”. As I don’t want to be mistaken for a deer, bear, or moose, I wear a 247 Viz reflective vest and armbands when hunters are about (~$20). And I usually keep the reflective armbands on my jacket, even when hunting is illegal. Just to be sure…

Gloves

At my age my hands get cold pretty easily (well, far more easily than they used to). So I wear various combinations of hand coverings depending on the temperature. When my hands need a little help, I wear a pair of Wristies Short Wristies.

When it’s a little colder, I add a pair of generic fingered gloves over the Wristies.
And when it’s really cold I break out the big boys: a pair of Gordini AquaBloc® Down Gauntlet III Mitts (~$55). They do the job!

Legs

During the spring and fall I wear a pair of Roadbox compression pants, which provide for cooler temperatures the same comfort as my summer compression shorts (~$10).

And when it’s colder, I’ll add another Australia trip find: prAna Stretch Zion Pants. These pants are 97% Nylon, 3% Spandex canvas, and have a water repellent treatment. They are not the most stylish pants in the world, but they are lightweight, made of incredibly tough fabric, comfortable, of course, and a pair of them lasts me for years. You can roll up the legs and keep ’em rolled up with snaps if you want, but I never do. I wear these pants (not the same pair) when I’m not running too (~$90; some colors and sizes cost more and some less).

Feet

wear for winter runningI’ve saved the best for last. These things are so good I’ve already written about them: The most important thing to wear for winter running. Read the post to find out why, if you run on ice or snow, you need a pair of Kahtoola NANOspikes. I keep a pair of my Propét shoes (see above) with these beauties strapped on all winter. Don’t leave home and run without them.

Conclusion

Wow, that was a longer post than I expected! I hope this review has been helpful for anyone like me who wants some guidance on what to wear when running. And I expect that some readers will have their own suggestions on what to wear; perhaps items you’ve found to be superior, less expensive, etc.

I’d love to hear what you think! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The most important thing to wear for winter running

wear for winter running

What’s the most important thing to wear for winter running? Six months ago, at the age of 68, I began running daily for the first time in my life on the dirt roads that surround my rural Vermont home.

It was summer when I started, and the roads were easy to navigate. At my age, unathletic for most of my life, I’m naturally concerned about injuring myself. In winter here, there are days when our steep 600′ driveway is a patchwork of frozen ground, snow, and ice. Given these treacherous conditions, I assumed that I wouldn’t be running outdoors much of the time during winter.

Then I talked with my friend Lois Sparks. Ten years ago, she began running outdoors. Today, whatever the weather, she and a group of friends meet at 6 am and run five miles, six days a week. She runs marathons. She is kinda addicted to running.

Thanks to Lois, I learned how to dress and be safely equipped for running in the winter in Vermont. And the most important piece of equipment she told me to wear are these slip-on, instant traction Kahtoola NANOspikes.

Lois told me that she and her friends had tried everything, and these things were the best for running without slipping on icy treacherous ground. I was skeptical. She told me she and her friends had never slipped while wearing them, which was not the case with rival devices.

So I bought a pair for $50 and strapped them on.

The first day

I was incredibly cautious the first time I ventured down our steep driveway. It was covered with irregular patches of ice and snow and snow over ice. I’d normally exercise extreme vigilance walking it in my trusty winter boots. Surely those ten little studs couldn’t make much difference?
wear for winter runningAfter a few yards, my hesitant sidle became a trot. It felt like I was jogging on bare ground. I slowly speeded up. Though my running sounded noisier than pre-NANOspike days, my workout remained sure-footed: each step solid without a hint of slipperiness.

I was psyched!

Three months later

After a hundred or so runs, I’ve found NANOspikes work incredibly well under a variety of conditions, which include dry and slippery pavement too. And they’ve never come off.
wear for winter running
For some reason, the strap at the toe of my right foot shifts slightly off-center during my run. I don’t know why this happens, but the effect is barely noticeable. (I tried to wedge something in the strap, but was not able to prevent this from happening.)

Because the NANOspikes work well under all conditions, I simply leave them on my running shoes, rather than removing and replacing them. Lois says her set has lasted over four years so far (and she runs far further than me) though she cautions that if you regularly remove and replace them they may not last so long.

Conclusion

I’ll start with the usual disclaimer: I have no relationship with Kahtoola. I’m just a satisfied customer.

And while my experience with NANOspikes is limited to a few months use as a novice runner, I trust Lois and her friends’ experience over many years in recommending NANOspikes as the most important thing to wear for winter running.

Folks with a lot more experience than me may have different opinions about the best products for improving running traction on icy surfaces. Feel free to share them in the comments below!

The first hill is the hardest

first hill is the hardest

At the age of 67, after returning from a meditation retreat, I started running daily for the first time in my life. And I soon learned that the first hill is the hardest.

Beginnings

It was summer, and I had no idea what I could do. So I began by exploring without expectations. I dressed in my regular sneakers, some shorts, and a tee shirt. I live in a rural town with 60 miles of dirt roads, so I ran out of my home and down the 600′ driveway. Wanting exercise, I turned left on the town road and started up the hill. Way before the top I was out of breath, so I slowed to a walk until I got to the top. I ran down some of the other side, decided that was enough for the first day, and turned around and retraced my path. I had to walk up most of my driveway.

The total run and walk was a mere mile.

I wondered if I’d ever be able to do better than that.

What happened

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