Running is one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling exercise routines that people of any age can undertake. However, for runners over 50, fatigue can become a significant challenge. 

Fatigue can be defined as a feeling of exhaustion, general tiredness, and an inability to mentally or physically perform as usual. It can interfere with your goals or training in any facet of life, and its causes may not be immediately apparent. 

But don’t worry; this guide provides you with a comprehensive look into the causes of fatigue, along with tips that will help you cope.

Understanding Fatigue: What Is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of weariness and depletion that can affect anyone, be it while carrying out strenuous physical activities or during routine daily tasks. 

It can be experienced differently by different people and is attributed to a variety of factors. 

Age is one of the primary factors that contribute to the occurrence of fatigue, especially in runners who are over 50 years old. Fatigue can be classified into two types – physical fatigue, which affects the body, and mental fatigue which affects the mind. 

Now let’s look at the causes of fatigue…

What Causes Fatigue In Runners

You’ve trained hard, eaten well, and prioritized rest. So why are you still experiencing unrelenting fatigue?

Let’s look at some of the common causes of fatigue among athletes and how to address them to get back on track:

Lack of Sleep

It is crucial to prioritize getting sufficient sleep every night to maintain your overall health and wellness. When you fail to get enough sleep, you may experience a lack of energy and feel worn out, which can negatively impact your productivity and performance throughout the day. 

More than just “lack of sleep” hours, it is important to improve your Quality of sleep.

– Dark-room

– Cool room

– Limit screen time (no screens 30-60min before bed)

Nutritional Deficiencies

Maintaining good nutrition is crucial for a healthy and active lifestyle. An adequate intake of vitamins and minerals plays a critical role in keeping your body functioning at its best. 

Deficiencies in these essential nutrients can lead to a range of health problems, including fatigue, weakness, and lethargy, which can negatively impact your quality of life. Therefore, it’s essential to follow a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional requirements. 

By consuming a diet that provides adequate nutrients, you can maintain your vitality and energy levels and improve your overall health and well-being.


Frequent or long-term stress can hurt your overall health and well-being. It can affect your body in many ways, including physical fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, and digestive issues. 

When you are under stress, your body produces hormones that can increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure, and weaken your immune system. 

Over time, these effects can accumulate and cause more serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Therefore, it is important to manage your stress levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Water is essential to maintain the overall health of your body. Your body needs adequate hydration to perform optimally, as water plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, such as regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients, and removing waste. 

Dehydration, which occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in, can lead to fatigue, muscle cramping, headaches, dizziness, dry skin, and other health issues. 

Therefore, consuming adequate water and other fluids throughout the day is essential to keep your body hydrated and healthy.

Chronic Diseases

When a person suffers from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, it is not uncommon for them to experience fatigue as one of the initial symptoms. 

This type of fatigue is often referred to as “chronic fatigue” and can be debilitating, causing a person to feel weak and lethargic, even after getting enough rest. 

In some cases, chronic fatigue can also accompany other symptoms such as pain, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.


Certain medications can cause fatigue as a side effect. For instance, antihistamines, commonly used to treat allergies, can make you feel drowsy and tired. 

Similarly, some types of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also cause fatigue or drowsiness. 

Additionally, certain heart medications, such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, can cause fatigue by lowering your heart rate or blood pressure. 

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you experience fatigue as a side effect of any medication, as they may be able to adjust your dosage or recommend alternative treatments.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormones are crucial in regulating various bodily functions, including energy levels. 

When there is an imbalance in hormones, such as during thyroid issues or menopause, it can lead to a range of symptoms, including tiredness and fatigue. 

Thyroid issues can cause an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, affecting metabolism and energy levels. Similarly, menopause can cause a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to tiredness and fatigue. 

It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment if you experience these symptoms.


Anemia is a condition that arises when the body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells. One of the leading causes of anaemia is iron deficiency. 

Iron is an essential mineral necessary for producing hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all body parts. 

When there isn’t enough iron to produce haemoglobin, the red blood cells become smaller and paler, leading to fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, anaemia can result in serious complications, including heart problems and developmental delays in children. 

Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet that includes iron-rich foods and supplements if necessary.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can cause repeated breathing interruptions during sleep, leading to various complications. This condition occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, resulting in a blockage of airflow and a drop in oxygen levels. 

As a result, people with obstructive sleep apnea often experience fragmented sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, morning headaches, memory and concentration problems, and mood changes. 

If this condition is not treated, it can raise the chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other serious health issues.

How to Cope with Fatigue

As a runner over 50, coping with fatigue can be challenging and requires a sustained effort. Overcoming fatigue cannot be achieved in just a day or two. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to change your lifestyle and habits. 

One of the most important things you can do to cope with fatigue is to get enough rest. This means sleeping well each night and sticking to a regular sleep pattern. 

Focusing on your breathing while running is also important, as this can help you relax and avoid unnecessary tension. Try to breathe deeply and rhythmically while running, and avoid holding your breath or breathing too shallowly. 

Eating a healthy and active diet is another important factor in combating fatigue. As a runner over 50, it’s important to get enough nutrients to support your body’s needs. This may mean eating a variety of foods that provide the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to function at its best. 

Avoid restrictive diets that may limit your intake of important nutrients, and focus on eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. 

By making small changes to your lifestyle and habits over time, you can gradually overcome fatigue and enjoy running to the fullest.

How To Prevent Fatigue As a Runner Over 50

1. Incorporate strength training into your routine

As you age, you lose muscle mass, which can lead to a decrease in strength and fatigue. To prevent this, incorporate strength training at least twice a week. 

Focus on exercises that target key running muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Not only will you build strength, but you’ll also reduce the likelihood of injury and improve recovery, resulting in lower fatigue.

2. Get Rest

Proper recovery is essential in preventing fatigue. As you age, your body needs more recovery time after exercising. Make sure you are scheduling rest days into your workout routine, listening to your body when it begins to show signs of fatigue, and getting enough sleep. 

It’s also essential to avoid overtraining or pushing yourself too hard too quickly, as it can lead to injury and feelings of exhaustion.

3. Focus on proper nutrition

When it comes to fatigue, proper nutrition is a critical factor. Make sure you are getting enough protein to support muscle health and growth, especially after strength training. 

Aim for a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to keep your energy levels high throughout the day.

4. Cross-Training

Consider adding other types of training exercises to your running routine, such as cycling, swimming, or yoga. Cross-training allows you to give your body a break from running’s constant impact and build strength, endurance, and flexibility. 

Diversifying your workouts may also help prevent injury, and overall improve your performance as a runner.

5. Listen to your body

As an older runner, being in tune with your body is important. Listen to any aches and pains you may experience and take a break if necessary. Overdoing it can lead to burnout, fatigue, and injury. Don’t be afraid to adjust your routine and take an additional rest day if needed.

The Simple Hack To Help You Run Further With Less Fatigue

We’ve discussed everything you need to know about fatigue, including its effects, causes, and prevention. But what if you want to run further while feeling less tired? Luckily, there’s a simple hack that can help you push through the discomfort and cover more ground than ever before: the run-walk strategy

The run-walk strategy is a popular approach to running that emphasizes the importance of finding a balance that works for the individual, rather than pushing harder and harder. While this approach can be effective for runners of all ages, it is particularly pertinent for runners above the age of 50. 

This is because older runners often face unique challenges, such as joint pain and decreased stamina, that require a more nuanced approach to training.

By combining periods of running with periods of walking, the run-walk strategy can help older runners build endurance and strength while minimizing the risk of injury. This is because the walking periods allow the body to rest and recover, reducing the strain on the joints and muscles. 

Additionally, the run-walk strategy can help older runners maintain their motivation and avoid burnout, as they can set achievable goals and gradually increase their running time as they progress.

Overall, the run-walk strategy is a valuable tool for older runners who want to stay active and healthy for years to come. By finding a balance between running and walking that works for them, these runners can improve their overall fitness and enjoy the many benefits of regular exercise.

Fatigue can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. However, understanding why it occurs, its triggers and its symptoms is the first step towards mitigating its impact. 

From taking days off to rest to exploring nutrition strategies and strength training, it’s important to be proactive when managing fatigue. Remember to listen to your body, and don’t be too hard on yourself when feeling particularly tired. With the right approach, you can continue to enjoy running for years.


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

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