Tips for the Aging Runner (and We’re All Aging)

Meditations in Motion

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?

Meditations in Motion

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.

Meditations in Motion

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.

Meditations in MotionNutrition 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.

Meditations in Motion

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 Β for the Coaches’ Corner, and My Random Musings for Anything Goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

88 comments

  1. I’m so happy to hear you’ve added back in healthy fats & decreased sugar. I think you’re going to see much better results that way. I was biting my tongue over here but those were sort of my thoughts (and some people just make a lot of cholesterol naturally).

    I have written about recovery again and again and again and I’m a not-so-old runner (although older than 40, LOL!).

    Great tips, Laurie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I think this is a much better plan. I’m so glad my friend said something to me about her experience. She did the keto diet and her cholesterol went down 24 points in 3 months. I can’t do the keto diet and run, but I did cut out the added sugar. The only problem is, my energy levels have definitely decreased!

      Thank yiu, Judy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Running is so personal, as is mileage. Granted, miles need to be logged in training, but I’m always surprised to see how many seasoned runners still over-train, because that’s what they know. I have tried the higher-mileage thing, and I just cannot do it. I love running, but not enough to be constantly forcing the miles. It makes me wonder, though, as I age …will I need to scale back, or will I be able to maintain my low/moderate ways because I’ve always kept it low-key? Thanks for linking, Laurie, and thanks for another great though-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Kim. We each must be able to find a level of training that works for us and be happy with that. You certainly seem to have accomplished that. Good for you!!!

      Like

  3. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to run long distances but I would still like to be able to do 5K and 10Ks as I get older.

    I feel that if I could get a handle on my nutrition that my running would improve, especially my recovery days. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fuel enough before or during a run.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this, Laurie: it applies to those of us who don’t run (but who are active) just as well. I have great trouble accepting the fact that I can’t do as much at a time, or bounce back as quickly, as I did ten or fifteen years ago. After all, at my age that seems like it was yesterday πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like a lot of it is just taking better care of ourselves — not pushing all the time, fueling and refueling with healthier foods, focusing on balance in all aspects of life. I love my yoga instructor so much, I hate it when I miss her class, but I haven’t crossed the line into going twice a week!

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  6. As I get older I feel my best advice is to adjust expectations. I’d be a fool to say my paces are improving and I’m getting better at this point. And I’m fine with it πŸ™‚ My husband is still struggling with that concept though. I’m sure eventually he’ll get there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, adjusting expectations is important to maintain happiness. I struggle along with your husband on the same concept. I know I am slowing down, but I don’t like it! πŸ™‚

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  7. While I don’t consider myself as old, I do find that I need more recovery after long runs.I have also been trying to cut sugars the last few years. I also agree that adding in healthy fats has helped me a lot as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That was interesting Laurie. This is the third time I’ve heard the importance of exercising because of balance issues when you get older this week. I think I need to pay heed. I may walk a lot, but I am not limber in the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have never had great balance, Linda. The balance poses in yoga were always my undoing. I was just saying to Bill I need to do more yoga for balance as well as to stay limber. Our muscles tighten up as we get older. My mom used to say “Getting older is not for sissies!” She was right!

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      • Yes I was watching the runners head out to do post-race stretches today. Never saw that before, but this was an 8K race as well. I cannot haunch down and I haven’t been able to do that for years. I cannot put anything in the back of the kitchen cupboard because even getting down on my knees is difficult. I don’t know why and that is why I initially began the walking regimen as I felt I was not limber enough and was sitting too much. I really believe all the sitting is not good.

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      • Where I walk at the Park, there is an older guy (maybe early 70s) and a younger guy (maybe 40s) who walk every day. They meet there every morning. I never asked, but chat with them about the weather and assumed the younger guy was his son. Yesterday I saw the younger guy at the race. We chatted a little and he was running in the 8K. He said “I’ve been running this race every year since I moved to Grosse Ile, but this is my last 8K – I’m beat!” So when perusing my wonderful stats later on, I looked to see how old he was – he was 60 … looked a heck of a lot younger. So running/exercise is good for keeping you healthy. But I have to step away from the computer, or get a stand-up desk for at night. I do not think all the sitting is good, notwithstanding the walking regimen.

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      • The next time you see the man again, you should tell him you thought he was in his 40s. What a great compliment! Too bad he thinks it is his last 8K, but I have had a bunch of friends who said they would not race again and they almost always break down and run more races! πŸ™‚

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      • He’ll know I was peeking at his stats. πŸ™‚ Well he always wears a baseball cap and yesterday he didn’t have it on, and he has a full head of hair and a very young face – no kidding, I thought he was in his 40s. I will tell you that there were very old guys running yesterday … they were not running at the speed of sound, but they were not shuffling along either and they would be running faster than me. I am saying they are older as they were bent over a little, unless they just had osteoporosis and a little more wrinkly than most of the others. I saw an older woman in a 5K last year – 75 years old. I think I mentioned that to you and we agreed “we want to be that gal”. Maybe saying that is your last race is like childbirth … not to be repeated after all the agony!

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      • Just like childbirth, you quickly forget, or else every child would be an only child and no one would do more than one race! πŸ™‚ there are a lot of fast old guys! I can’t believe the winning times for the men in our age group!

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      • That’s something to aspire for isn’t it? I’m going to share a story about Michael Posner in tomorrow’s post … he was in Michigan a few days this week for a family wedding and a fundraiser for a deceased relative’s kids. This is the story.
        https://www.detroitnews.com/story/entertainment/music/2019/05/28/walking-walk-mike-posner-travels-across-america/1257242001

        I have walked at night the last few nights and today we have a stormy day. I have issues with my computer and remoting into work. The computer guy has to stop here at the house and try to fix it and bring the Windows 10 laptop (six weeks after he got it) … he believes I am “blacklisted” from getting into the office site – my boss can get in and so can the computer guy. Go figure. I’m not going to whine about the weather and walking – too much severe across the nation, including in your state! I have to write Mitch an e-mail. He was in Haiti over Memorial Day and Tuesday and now in L.A. – they are making a movie of one of his books, so will wait until he is back in Michigan and he is juggling less balls in the air (speaking of which … how is the juggling going?) πŸ™‚ (Nice segueway, I know.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! I love how you did that! πŸ™‚ Juggling is going very well. Once I begin practicing, I don’t want to stop. There are plenty of other things I need to do, but I keep juggling.

        Thank you for sending along the link to Michael Posner’s story. I will check it out.

        Computer issues are the worst, aren’t they? I remember when I was teaching, I relied on my computer for everything – taking attendance, my grade book, lesson plans, I even had most of my course on a program on the computer so kids could have access. When I had “issues” it was not fun! So frustrating. I hope yours are quickly resolved.

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      • Yes, I was creative there just a little. The juggling sounds fun and soon it is a new month, so a new item for you to learn. There was another story today about Mike Posner today in the local paper written by the entertainment writer, more of the musical aspect – he had a benefit concert last night. I am including the one I sent you in tomorrow’s post. I have it written and did that earlier today, but have to fill in the mileage. As of five hours ago, these are his stats:
        539/2790 MILES WALKED
        Much better than my stats!

        It is going to be beautiful tomorrow, so I’m still going to walk. I most likely will be working Saturday anyway due to the malfunction. I didn’t realize I had whined about the problem – the computer guy is almost five hours later than he estimated. We depend too much on computers these days and when things go haywire it is not good. I know my friend who is grad school tells me everything she does is online. She, like me, graduated back in 1978 from undergrad, she went on and got a MSW but could not find a job. So, at 60, she went back to school for a degree in gerontology administration. Half the time I don’t understand the computer lingo she talks about for her schoolwork.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, so sorry you have to work on Saturday. That cuts into your walking time. Glad that you could still write your post, even though the computer guy did not show up yet. Priorities! πŸ˜‰ Wow! Your friend is amazing. I am sure I would not have the energy to go back to school at age 60! I was ready to retire and slow down by that age. The computer was probably the biggest change I saw in my years of teaching. When they worked, they made my life so much easier, but when they didn’t work…well, you know!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I stayed until 7:45 and got all the bills out – I decided that if I wanted that walk tomorrow, it was the way to go. (Anything for a walk … and I saw four sets of goslings at the Park today so I’d like to return tomorrow and hopefully get more photos of them.)
        My eyes were running together from all the numbers all day. When we got the computer issue resolved I knew I could try to get it all done today. Also, we are having two bouts of storms tomorrow, one maybe severe. We have the Grand Prix in Detroit this weekend; it was Free Prix today on Belle Isle where they run the races and they have races both Saturday and Sunday. So, the race coordinators and founder (Roger Penske) worry how to get everyone off the island if it is lightning, high winds and hail as they are predicting. They will get everyone out of there on shuttle buses to safety. So, I was thinking I did not want to be on the laptop in the stormy weather, so I stayed tonight. I would not have the energy to return to school either Laurie. I am like you and after 60 have felt my age more than before – it was time to start slowing down and I will retire when my boss retires. He is currently 72. (Swims a mile or more every morning and rode his bike to work today – 18 mile round trip). My friend did quit her job to do this though. She was a legal secretary like me (our firms merged). Her mom passed away in December 2016 and she used her inheritance to begin grad school and began in August of 2017. She has graduated but has to finish her 600-hour internship at a nursing facility before she can look for a job.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Man, you are just getting one storm after another, aren’t you? I’m glad that you got your work done (even if it did make you crosseyed!) and you don’t have to work today. I hope you get your walk in before the storms roll through.
        What is it about 60? I didn’t feel much different at 40, 50, but at 60 things began to go downhill. Ugh! Good for your boss. I love to swim. I used to swim a mile twice a week before school, but I haven’t done it lately, even though I have more time now. Good luck to your friend. I guess she is working on her internship now?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, today was particularly stormy Laurie and I’m still here online, but mindful of the rumbling. Losing my power 3 1/2 hours was a surprise to factor into my day (see I was smart getting all my work done but had a 3 1/2 lapse in my Saturday anyway). I don’t like being too far behind here and had counted on catching up this afternoon as I knew I didn’t have time to upload still more pictures I took this morning before the first round of storms came in. I have a lot of photos now and hopefully will get a few more posts done while Robb is off this week. I must have taken 150 of the goslings so have to sort them down. The four families were all together – usually they are all over the park and there were only three families before, so one of the families have very young goslings, still fluffy and yellow. Four families in one big happy group and a big black dog was being walked and scared them and they all ran into the water at one time – must have been 40 geese running to the Ecorse Creek in a long row!
        Sixty was bad for me – the other times didn’t affect me either. Even though you and I exercise, I just don’t jump out of bed with that same energy I once did and if I’m doing something boring for work, I’ll nod off at the computer. Robb and his wife both swim every day. They swim with a group of young adults who train for a swim team. They pay for pool time at 6:00 a.m. so they swim for 45 minutes every weekday, two nights a week, and Sunday mornings. Their community has a huge pool so after school closes for the Summer, they swim at that pool every morning – they go there in the 5:00 o’clock hour. He has an exercise bike at work and rides it there and rides at Belle Isle every day if his schedule permits (about 20 miles). He is very active. Evelyn is doing the internship and I think will finish in August and has a paper to write on the experience. The 600 hours began in March. She goes three days/week for a 7-hour day and it is a 70-mile roundtrip from her house. She likes the internship but feels they often exclude her from meetings and give her “busy work” to do reviewing files instead. She asked her advisors if she should stay or try to switch to another facility but they said to stick it out and ask for inclusion in all meetings as she needs it for experience. Sometimes they are reluctant to do this however.

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      • Your weather is just unbelievable! We got a thunderstorm this afternoon. It ruined my plans to have dinner at our house with Bill and an old friend of ours out on the deck, but we did get to have appetizers on the deck before the storm blew through. We had to move inside for the salad and the main course, though.

        I see there is a new post from you in my inbox, so you must have been able to sort through the photos. I should be able to read it tonight before I nod off at the computer! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it has been terrible and a rainy, chilly and gloomy June is in store. That’s too bad your majority of the dinner plans were rained and you were forced indoors. I am going to try and catch up in Reader – I am very behind due to workiun glate on Friday and yesterday’s power outage, then stormy weather and it took me a long time to sort out those pictures. I took a lot of pictures plus trying to reach myself this new camera, so took pics on automatic and on manual. Automatic worked better … some pics were blurred the other way. Good thing it is not regular film – I’d be in the poor house. Many times I nod off at the computer and the sad thing is, sometimes I am proofing or writing my own post – now that is pitiful!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Pfft! People who are 40 aren’t OLD!!! I like the way my body feels after eliminating added sugar, but it definitely affected my energy level in a negative way!

      Like

  9. Thanks for the tips from an oldish runner.

    But since I am still working and no plans to retire, I find it difficult to find the time for healthy activities and have a life outside fitness.

    So I run and race. I don’t eat junk food. I have not cut anything out. My carbs, ice cream and wine make me happy.

    As I age, the mental aspect is just as important as the physical.

    I do agree that we need to active and have realistic expectations on the results of our running. I may never PR again but who cares.

    I also think low mileage is the key to not having aches and pains and injuries.

    I used to about missing runs and training. Not anymore. Just what to finish the race painfree. A lot more fun this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m starting to realize that I, too, am an aging runner. I just finished up a rough run. After a weekend-long family reunion with potato chips within reach 24/7 and the whole weekend bracketed with McDonald’s on the way out of town and the way back home, I thought a good long run would put me right. But first I fueled with a twinkie. Guess who cut his mileage short today. It’s time for me to get serious about my diet. Not only am I sabotaging my running, I’m probably killing myself too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, dietary indiscretions that we could probably run off when we were younger now become a big deal. Bill and I did a long-ish run today, but last night hosted my son and his family for blue crabs and beers. Guess who felt sluggish and tired for the entire run today? My mom always said, “Getting old is not for sissies!” She was right!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice read. Interesting as I’m a runner in my late 40s. During my 30s I used to push myself to the limit trying to better my times (my running club also encouraged this). Nowadays I just enjoy running and don’t worry about times. I also do a lot more swimming and a bit of strengthening work. I’m a lot less injury prone with this routine. Ohh and I do have rest days. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Laurie, your post has come at the perfect time as today was my kick off to eating healthy and getting more serious about walking.

    Thanks for all that you model and write about. You spur me on, girl …

    ;-}

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As someone in their late 50s who walks and sometimes runs, I agree with all your tips Laurie. I have been on the same journey as you with cutting down on sugar, and really looking at my diet. I’m feeling much better and have regular blood tests to check on my progress. Knowing when and why to take rest days is important for our recovery as you say. Really enjoyed this post #senisal

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have a friend who just ran a marathon with his daughter on May 26, her 26th birthday. πŸ™‚ It sounds like you run very wisely. That’s important so you can continue to run for years to come. I’ve been reading nutrition labels more carefully lately and it is amazing where you can find sugar! And sad. Unfortunately I love a lot of foods that are full of sugar. I have to watch that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations to your friend and his daughter! 26 miles on her 26th birthday on May 26. Awesome! I was amazed at all the sugar I found in foods I did not expect to find it in. That is sad!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I too would laugh someone who is 39 writing about aging (though truthfully, when I was 39 I did feel that way). I set all my PR in my 40s, so it’s hard to think of that as old. There are so many things we need to be aware of as we age if we want to stay strong in our sport. Nutrition and strength training are definitely important parts of it all.

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  16. As always I whole-heartedly admire your energy and spirit Laurie! I love running but have slowed down an awful lot since having my second daughter. I have been having problems with sciatica but I’m doing my stretches and trying to build up the confidence to get out there again. A lot of it is in my head I think, that I won’t be able to do what I used to do without getting hurt – but I’m going to tackle it and not let it get the better of me! #anythinggoes

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    • My hubby has been having sciatica problems too and it doing stretches that have really helped relieve his pain. When my kids were little, I ran, but very short distances and very slowly. I didn’t begin racing until my youngest son graduated from high school and I became an empty-nester. It’s tough to find the time and energy when you have young children at home, Tracey!

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  17. This was so informative and right on time for me. I’m not really an older runner (only 33) however I am trying to bounce back from an injury to my knee and my ankle. I was just telling my husband the other day that I was so frustrated because my body is not cooperating the way that I want it to. Thanks for this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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