If you are a runner, you probably get all kinds of emails related to running. I get emails from race directors and timing companies advertising races, emails from manufacturers and distributors of such running-themed products as caffeine-laced gels and T-shirts with running mantras on them (as if a runner needs more T-shirts), and emails hoping to sell me training plans, give me inspiration, or enlighten me with the latest scientifically-proven tips.
Most of these emails go, unopened, into the trash, just like the junk mail I receive in my physical mailbox. I recently opened one, however, that suggested it contained valuable tips for the aging runner.
The aging runner who was giving tips was nearly 40! My first response was “Are you kidding me? She’s a baby, still in her prime.” Can I get an Amen?
The article did make me think, however. I am getting older; everyone is. As we age, our running style must change.
One of the changes I have made is to decrease the volume of my mileage. Before I retired, I fantasized about having the time to run longer and more frequently when I no longer worked. I was combining 60-hour work weeks with 50-mile training weeks at the time.
My work week has gone from 60+ hours down to zero, but my overall yearly mileage has decreased. High mileage for an older runner not used to it is a recipe for injury. I also don’t have the energy for super high mileage weeks anymore.
Another change is that I need more recovery time between intense workouts. I used to be able to do a track session before a Body Pump class, now an easy three miles is all I can handle before tackling squats and lunges.
The day after any race, even a 5K, is now a recovery day for me. I just don’t bounce back like I used to.
Nutrition and rest are more important than ever. I need more sleep now to restore my body and diet has become more important than ever.
I recently changed my diet in an attempt to lower my cholesterol numbers. First, I drastically reduced my saturated fat intake, then, after talking to a former colleague and doing a little research, I eliminated almost all added sugar and added back in some of the fat I had eliminated from my diet, especially healthy fats like those found in nuts, avocados, etc.
As it turns out, consuming too much sugar may be more important in preventing cardiovascular disease than consuming too much fat.
When I initially tried to lower my saturated fat intake, I had switched from the plain, full-fat yogurt to which I added my own fruit, to zero fat yogurt (with added sugar). I began eating more cereal (with added sugar) for breakfast. Rather than using the dairy milk I was used to on cereal, I switched to almond milk (with, you guessed it, added sugar) to eliminate the saturated fat in 2% milk. I was sabotaging my own efforts to improve my diet.
Eliminating added sugar isn’t as easy as giving up brownies and ice cream. Added sugar is insidious – it’s in a lot of products you wouldn’t imagine. I learned to read nutrition labels more carefully.
It’s important to work on things like strength training and balance as we get older, both to prevent injury and to help maintain running speed. My orthopedist recommended doing squats and lunges with weights to strengthen the landing muscles in my legs and I am meticulous about doing whatever he says.
I like going to Body Pump class, and we do lots of squats and lunges there – many times over 100 of each. Yoga helps with balance, but I need to find time to fit more of it into my schedule.
Fortunately, I have lots of fantastic role models. I know many older runners who have succeeded in maintaining a fit, athletic lifestyle. I have written before about the inimitable Heide, the octogenarian marathoner, but Frank, Steve, and Dennis, who are running well into their late seventies, are also members of our local club. I look to each one of them for inspiration.
Here are the most important things I have learned from my role models – enjoy yourself and don’t stop.
Coming back from a hiatus is difficult, so keep going if you can. I learned this through ceasing to do my every-other-day pushups. I laboriously worked myself up from not being able to do even one pushup from my toes to doing 15, then, for some reason (probably laziness), I stopped. Now I am back to being unable to complete even one again. The old saying “use it or lose it” is very true for us older runners.
Running is something we do for fun; have a good time with it. Lose unrealistic assumptions about what you can accomplish, relax, and enjoy yourself. Be grateful for the ability to run; there are many our age who can’t.
We do need to adjust our expectations as we get older, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to be active and do the things we love. I hope the 39-year-old who wrote the article about tips for the aging runner is still going strong when she is 20, 30 or even 40 years down the road.
And I hope she still enjoys running as much as I do when she is my age.
I am linking up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Weekly Rundown, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner, and My Random Musings for Anything Goes.