Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aging and Running

I am often perplexed and somewhat amused when I hear people who are "old" make these two comments: "If I had to go back and do it again,I wouldn't change a thing," the other one is, " I wouldn't want to be (pick an age) again for anything." I say this to those two statements, gosh, would I ever like to go back and change many things I've done in the past,and, although I consider myself a very youthful 61,it would be OK with me if you wanted to take ten years off my age.There is however one advantage to the aging process, and that is that for most with age,comes the attainment of a certain amount of wisdom that's gained from your life experiences.For those of us who live for the run and have been at it for years,we've learned many things about running and training. With me,when I think about some of the things I once did and thought in regards to running,training and racing, I just shake my head. Much of what I did wrong was done either in ignorance or because I allowed myself to get so neurotic about trying to be a better runner.What follows are some suggestions as to what to do with your running as you get older,it's by no means the definitive and complete list.
I'll begin by stating the obvious,with increasing age comes a drop off in not only racing performance, but there is also a change in your ability to train hard and recover from workouts. Here is an interesting point though,everyone has a different age where they reach that drop off. For some it may begin at 35, for others 40, or for some of the lucky ones it may even be 45.Every experienced runner who is at least mildly in tune with their body recognizes when that point is. It's foolish to recognize this point and continue to train as you once did.So,what follows are my humble suggestions and guidelines to deal with advancing age.
1.We all want to run forever so we must recognize that our running should no longer be primarily focused on optimal racing performance. I'll quickly add that this doesn't mean you shouldn't try and want to race faster.I'll address this point a little further down the list but keep this in mind,hard training and racing month in and month out is not condusive to a long healthy life.This is not my opinion,it's the belief of Docs and athletic experts who are runners and work with athletes, anerobic training and racing is very stressful on almost all parts of your body no matter what your age.
2.As we age there is a tendency to put on weight. To minimize stress on your joints and heart we must keep our weight at an optimal level even if that means making changes to our diet. I know I can no longer drink the beer and eat the pizza to the frequency and degree I once did.I find it amazing at local road races when I see overweight runners running as hard as they can.I give them credit for wanting to run fast but there's no way they should until they lose the weight.For them,longer,slower training interspersed with walking breaks should be the key as well as eating less(the VanAaken method).
3.Here's something I found to be essential as far as dealing with advancing age,maintain regularity with your running,don't take breaks from running. I realized that when I somehow wasn't able to run for several days I was more prone to things like calf,muscle and tendon problems. If I take any days off from training it is spent walking with some brief 10 minute per mile jogs thrown in.
4. Finally,as mentioned above,with age must come a decrease in the amount and degree of intensity of your running. Consider Ed Whitlock who set an outrageous marathon record for 70 yr.old runners by running well below the 3 hour mark. What made up the bulk of his training? Easy 2 hour runs daily at a park near his home. More of an emphasis on aerobic training is needed but Arthur Lydiard adds: "as we get older we are inclined to lose our speed;therefore it is necessary to put in more (aerobic) training to retain suppleness and also do some sprint training workouts.A good idea is to bring into your weekly training one or two sessions of fast relaxed running near your best speed but still keeping relaxed over over about 100 mtrs. with a 250 jogging interval before starting another." I have found that doing an easy 10 or 15 minute jog before starting say 2 or 3 sets of four reps,depending on your level of fitness, is very effective.Ideally, these workouts finish with a slow jog and are run over a stable,firm grass or dirt surface.Once again,why run on concrete or other hard surfaces if you can avoid doing so?
There is nothing sadder than seeing a runner whose running career was cut short far too soon because he didn't know or ignored the necessity of making some concessions to age. I'm sure we all know people that this has unfortunately happened to.
For those who might be interested, Meyer and Meyer published a book by Arthur Lydiard called, Distance Training for Masters which is quite good,you can purchase it used at Amazon for a fairly low price.

FYI,for those new to this site; a new article is published each weekend day, then on another one or two days during the week a quote with a commentary is posted. Also,if you look to Blog Archive on the right side of the title page,you will see 2010,click there and you can read, First Post,What This Site is All About.It is my goal to provide something you don't find at most running blogs and sites.

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