Amanda Loudin

Written by Amanda Loudin

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10 Things You Think Will Change as a Older Runner (But, Don’t)

Remember the days you used to practically spring out of bed?

Soreness, tightness, ashiness. What was that anyway?

Maybe when you had a really hard workout the day before, you might feel a bit sore….for a day or two!

Getting older has many downsides, and we’ve written several articles dedicated to masters running training, and how it changes as you age–because plenty of things do!

It’s worth it to pay attention to those factors and adjust as needed.

But that doesn’t mean that everything about your running will be different for masters runners, and if you are looking for marathon training for older runners, our marathon training schedule and guide will help you with every aspect of getting ready for a marathon as a master.

There are some aspects of master runners training that will remain remarkably similar in your 40s and 50s (and beyond) to running in your 20s and 30s.

Simply put, running really isn’t that complicated and what works for younger runners often works just as well for older runners.

Plus, if you’ve been at it for years, you probably have a very good sense of what your body needs when it comes to training, nutrition, recovery and racing.

Keeping many of those aspects the same will probably keep your body ticking along just fine.

Take a look and the list we’ve compiled—and enjoy the familiarity of a road well traveled.

How many of these are you guilty of falling for? Masters running is a little different to running in your younger years, but older runners do not have to change everything, and actually many of the training aspects are the same as before; what works for you! Before you change everything about your masters running training, take a read of this.

What Works for You Doesn’t Work for Me

In other words, every runner is unique and should therefore tread carefully when it comes to canned approaches to training.

You may or may not have learned this the hard way, perhaps comparing your running partner’s typical marathon mileage to your own and then ending up injured.

Or perhaps you’ve found you can run more than your masters’ friends and stay healthy.

The popular “10 percent” rule is a perfect example of how one formula may work for some and not the others. For some runners, the concept of not progressing mileage more than 10 percent per week might apply.

But for many others—experienced runners in particular—this might be overkill.

Avoid hard and fast rules with your running, at any age, to find the right formula for you.

What’s the bottom line?

By the time you’re a masters runner, you probably have a good understanding of what this means for you. Stick with it and it should be smooth sailing.

Strength Training For Masters

For masters runners, more so, and we covered the best of strength training for masters runners in a previous article, but a good strength training program should be a part of every runner’s regimen.

Maintaining a dedicated strength routine two to three days each week will not only improve your running, but help stave off injury as well.

I’ve learned, for instance, that three days per week of strength training help me stave off injury and run strong.

I have a friend, however, who can get by with just one day per week of strength training.

No matter what, it should be an established part of your routine by now.

What’s the bottom line?

Finding a good strength training plan is important, no matter what age or experience level you are.

You Can Still Compete in Masters Championships

There is absolutely no reason racing shouldn’t continue to be a part of your running.

You may find your times start to slow in your late 40s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to be competitive.

Racing for placement in your age group, among fellow masters, and in smaller races, against the entire field, is a great way to continue to feed your desire to compete.

Many masters runners even turn to track races for a new lease of life. 

If you have never raced track before, a masters guide to track running could set you up for success in a different kind at the masters championships, just make sure you understand how to use age graded calculators correctly.

Maybe you will even end up like 85 year old Ed Whitlock, who has over 40 world records in his age group, including a 1:50 half marathon at aged 85!

What’s the bottom line?

Keep your favorite races on the calendar and simply reframe your parameters for success. 

My PRs are definitely behind me, but I still race and I still compete—the best part? 

The joy of racing is no less than it was when I was faster.

Follow the Same Recovery Principles

While you are probably more focused on your need for recovery as a masters runner, the same tricks and tools you used in your younger days will still work today.

For instance, an easy cool down run post-race or post-track session is a great way to jumpstart the process.

Stick with the activities that have worked to bring your legs around in the past and they won’t fail you now.

If you’ve always had a massage post-race, keep at it.

Love your foam roller?

Don’t stuff it in a corner now.

What’s the bottom line?

Recovery is important at every age, and yes, you may need a few extra days between hard workouts, but the tools you use to help you get there will be the same as always.

Eat the Same as Your Younger Years

Not much needs to change with your nutrition as you age.

If you have found that a certain approach to eating works for you, then don’t make drastic changes once you turn 40.

The same goes with your training and racing fuel:

If gels have always been your go-to, there’s no need to try something different now.

Nutrition can be a delicate balance for some runners and if you’ve found what works, why mess with a good thing?

Although you may want to add in a magnesium supplement, that has been found to assist with recovery for masters.

What’s the bottom line?

Aim for whole foods from nature the majority of the time and you’re going to be just fine, no matter what your age.

Keep the Same Sleep Patterns in Place

There’s an urban myth that as you age, you don’t need as much sleep.

The truth of the matter is that as you enter your later decades, sleep can become more elusive. For a runner, it’s important to continue healthy sleep habits you established in younger years.

Swear by a post-long run recovery nap?

Keep it in the routine.

If you’ve always been an eight-hour-a-night person, continue to ensure you get that rest.

What’s the bottom line?

Remember that sleep is a wonderful recovery tool, and now’s not the time to start shortchanging yourself.

Stick to Your Training Cycles if They Work For You

Some runners like to run on a basic, seven-day week cycle, while others prefer something a bit stretched out like a nine-day cycle.

Others like to add cut back weeks every fourth week or so, while some find that cutting back during tapers is sufficient.

Whatever the case may be, if you have figured out your ideal training cycle, now’s not the time to change things up.

The same can be applied seasonally:

If you like to race hard through the fall and then take a short end-of-season break, by all means continue that pattern.

What’s the bottom line?

Your body is used to this routine and it is working.

Race Your Favorite Distances

Just like training cycles, most runners have a distance or two they like and where they perform well.

Your basic physiology hasn’t changed, so if you are primarily a shorter distance specialist, stick to it.

You can avoid injury and increase your speed as a masters runner, even if your fastest days are behind you.

Like going long?

Then keep following the marathon training schedule and keep them in your life, if you are handling them without injury or burn out.

I have friends who have been doing marathons for years and their bodies are quite used to the distance.

Even in their early 50s, they continue on with two to three marathons per year. Their bodies have long adjusted to training at that distance and they don’t vary it up much from one cycle to the next.

Neither has experienced an injury in years and they can still lay down low 3:30s.

Clearly they’ve found the distance their bodies like and as long as they are enjoying it, there’s no reason to stop now.

What’s the bottom line?

If you want to keep racing a certain distance, and your body can handle the training, stick with what your heart tells you!

Train With Groups if That’s Your Jam

If you’ve always trained with groups—perhaps a running club or a set of friends—you don’t need to skip this routine even if your paces are slowing.

Hopefully your group is in the same boat as you, but if not, you don’t have to abandon ship.

Seek out an easier paced group for your non-speed workout days.

Conversely, if you’re finding your normal group is getting a little too fast for you, use those runs to push your pace.

Or you can agree as a group on certain days for speed and others for easy paced running.

That’s how my group operates and it seems to keep us all fairly even keeled and happy.

What’s the bottom line?

However you need to do it, know that you can still keep the company on the road if it’s important to you.

Keep the Speed Work

If you’ve always performed speed work, whether on the track or the road, it needn’t go by the wayside as you age.

Masters runners can still improve their speed, and use it to avoid injury, it just requires a little adaptation.

You may need to adjust the splits or change the frequency of these sessions, but the very good news is that keeping speed in the mix is a great way for masters to negate losses due to age.

My friends and I dropped any specific paces for speed work a few years back, but we still do workouts in the distance range we always have.

We get the intervals in but let our bodies dictate our speed, not our watches.

It’s worked really well for us and no one has really slowed down all that much on race day.

While you’re keeping speed in the mix, make sure strides are included after most of your easy runs—they go a long way toward keeping leg turnover rates higher, fighting the loss in flexibility and shorter stride that comes with aging.

What’s the bottom line?

Speed work can still be as much a part of your training as it always was, just listen to your body rather than a prescribed pace.

Now:

Things change as we age, we know that.

As runners, we need to be cognizant of those changes and adjust accordingly.

However, the good news is that if you’ve been running for several years, there are plenty of things you don’t need to alter.

Stay in tune with your body and you’ll find that probably more things can remain the same than can’t.  

Put simply:

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

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References

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