June 2, 2014

Tips for older runners

First let me start by saying I am not a fitness or running expert.  But I have been running since October of 2010 (starting when I was 57) and ran my first half marathon in February of 2011.  So with a few years of running under my belt, or should I say on my multiple pairs of running shoes, there are things that have proven very helpful for me, as an older runner, that may help you.

* Longer Recovery
Most every running book you pick up will have a chapter on race recovery and long run recovery.  What they may not always include is the fact that as we age, certain things will take longer.  When I come off a race such as a half marathon, my recovery time is probably double what someone in their 20's or 30's would need. Your body will thank you for taking a few extra days off from exercise.

* Annual Physical Examination

This goes without saying, but make an appointment with your doctor and tell them exactly what you are doing in terms of physical activity.  They can assess your fitness level and give you some guidance, especially if you are a new runner.

*  Balance, Strength and Flexibility Work

As you age, so goes your strength, balance and flexibility.  My gym routine always includes time working on all three of these issues.  One simple thing you can do to work on your balance is to brush your teeth while standing on one foot.  Sounds simple, but after a minute or so, it is easy to lose your footing.  I also try to fit in some yoga moves each week and stretching is part of my post run recovery.

*  Diet

We all know a healthy diet is important at all ages.  However, from my personal experience, a few days of poor eating impacts my ability to perform at my best.  Most older adults will find that focusing on a balanced diet each and every day will increase your performance and give you a better quality of life.  It really is that simple.  One little tip I learned was that everyone should shop the perimeter of a grocery store.  Let's just think about that for a minute.  All the produce, dairy, meat and fresh items are all shelved on the store perimeter.  Everything that has been processed sits in boxes in the middle.

*  Sleep

Everyone needs sleep, and how much depends on your own body. As we age, it is more difficult to have a full night sleep without waking up a few times.  Therefore, a nap in the afternoon can be the perfect way to get that extra sleep we need.  Recently, I saw an article stating that Ryan Hall, the superb marathon runner and Olympian calls his afternoon nap his office visit.  Rest is critical for optimal performance and the best athletes get plenty of shut eye.

*  Routine

Every elite athlete will have an exercise routine that they follow to the minute.  While I do not mean to compare older runners to the elite group, it is beneficial for older athletes to follow a routine to produce the results that we are hoping for such as a PR at our next race.  Keeping a log of your workouts and making sure you have rest worked into your routine will also make it easier to find why certain things are working and others not so much.

*  Speed

Last but not least, speed is something all runners think and talk about. We all want that PR at our races, but as you age, speed decreases after the age of approximately 35.  This should not stop anyone from trying to improve, because many runners start running after the age of 35.  If you keep your goals modest, you will have a much better chance of reaching them.  Shooting for the stars may be fine if you are in your 20's or 30's, but not so much as you reach those birthdays with candles on the cake that light up an entire room.

Please take a look at this article yesterday that Runner's World magazine posted on their Facebook page.  Harriette Thompson proves that anyone at any age can meet their goals and achieve their dream! Someday, I hope to grow up and be just like Harriette!
(Pam)





27 comments:

  1. Well said!!! I am looking at 40 in the face and it takes me a bit longer to recover. I am "new" to running, but have been a hard core "bootcamper" for about 5 years. I love your tip about the grocery store and I have never thought about it that way. Thank goodness 80% of what I need is on the perimeter.

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    1. Amy, sounds like you are already a very conscious shopper. I'm working on doing better. Those middle aisles have many tempting things!

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  2. Great tips! Even though I am not an older runner, I think everyone can benefit from these. With my crazy schedule, sleep is a big one for me! ~L

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    1. I actually don't feel guilty if I have a little nap on long run days. After reading about Ryan Hall, we all can benefit from a nap!

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  3. I doubted myself when I first started at 37 and thought to myself "Am I crazy?!!!!!" but quickly learned better late than never and look at all I would have missed out on. You are an inspiration to many Pam. Congrats on all that you have accomplished and keep pushing forward :)

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    1. Thanks Nicole. It is so much fun sharing running with so many others. I love cheering our pals on at their races and look forward to hearing about lots of new PR's!

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  4. These are great tips Pam! I will be 48 this year and I started running in july 2010. The 2011 disney princess 1/2 was by first race :) I think I need to remember the sleep and the recovery time! Lisa :)

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    1. Lisa, guess we both were running our first half at the same time, but I had run one prior race (10k) for corral placement!

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  5. You nailed it, especially the longer recovery and strength, two of the most important things for us seniors-- I'm 46, but really, I am feeling the effects of aging.

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    1. Unfortunately it happens to all of us, but we can do things to make our workouts better and to keep improving!

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  6. I concur! Sleep is KEY for sure!

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    1. I confess that sometimes I spend a bit too much time in front of the TV at night and then it becomes a late night!

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  7. All great tips for any runner!

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  8. Awesome tips Pam! I'm going to start brushing my teeth on one foot for sure! And now that I've started losing weight I definitely spend more time on the perimeter of the grocery store! I'm eating healthier which makes me feel better and I also think it's helping me run faster! :-) I also read about Harriette yesterday...so amazing!!!

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    1. It's amazing how we can incorporate little things into our routine that will help us out. I can't remember who recommended the toothbrush idea to me... but let's just blame it on my age.

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  9. Great tips! I may not be an older runner yet, but I can absolutely still benefit from this post. Thanks for sharing Pam!

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    1. After injuries, alot of these would be beneficial for younger runners too Lauren!

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  10. I think a benefit of being an "older" runner is we're not as afraid of trying to push ourselves as younger runners may be. If I had thought about doing a full marathon at 26 instead of 46, it wouldn't have stayed in my head for more than a minute. Now, we're going on about a year!

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    1. That is absolutely true Kim. I ran my first marathon as part of Goofy Challenge and let's face it, most people would not be that dumb. It worked out fine for me, but it could have been a disaster!

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  11. Great tips for old and young runners!

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  12. these are great all around tips! thanks for sharing!

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  13. I am glad that my MD is specialized in sports. I talk open to him about my activities and even though he is not really a fitness fan, he always guide me on the good path.

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  14. I think these are great tips for all runners.

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  15. Great post!!! I completed my first half marathon in 2010 at 50!!! I just completed my 20th half and have INDEED seen a change in my training, recovery and finish times. No too worry, I have learned a lot about my body through running and am simply grateful it allows me to keep it up!

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  16. Great tips for runners of any age! Thanks for sharing!

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  17. The longer recovery periods are my biggest complaint. I started running 4 years ago at age 62. I ran my first half marathon a year and a half later. This year, at age 66, I ran my first full marathon and I did it as part of the Dopey Challenge (5K + 10K + half marathon + full marathon in 4 days). Age isn't an obstacle, but reality says you need to take it slow, easy, and be very aware of the body. When it complains, you've got to go even slower and easier. I'm currently signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare + the 5K (5K + 10K + half marathon in 3 days) in August and a full marathon in January.

    Rick Stiles

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