Older runners, whether that be over 35 or over 90 are producing some fantastic performances in the 21st Century. Who would have thought that until recently that a 40 year old could run 20.64 for 200m, or a 73 year old could break 3 hours for the marathon - let alone the performance of Merlene Ottey who at 46 ran 100m in under 11.5 seconds!
Lest we forget, 100 years ago the average life expectancy in the UK was 42!
The performances of older athletes will continue to improve dramatically in the years to come as we understand more about how our body work and the way it needs to be trained.
Here we are going to try to identify some of the ways in which it is possible to help ourselves run better. This applies to all age groups, but particularly to masters runners as we need to look after our bodies a little more as they are slightly more fragile.
Advantages of Older Runners
Generally (and I stress, generally), older runners have
Are better at listening to their bodies
Have a healthier lifestyle
Have a bit more money
and have a bit more free time
Obviously, this is a gross generalisation, but it is something that we should try to work to our advantage.
Disadvantages of Older Runners
Recovery Time is much longer
Any years of inactivity or residual problems from old injuries etc can lead to lack of strength in key areas and poor balance / technique, which in turn can lead to more injuries.
One of the key things to try to do is to ensure that you don't get injured. This sounds very obvious, but with it taking significantly longer to recover from injuries, it is worth training a little less hard, but consistently. An injury which might take a teenager a week to get over (not a significant amount of time in a full training year) might take an older athlete 4-6 weeks to recover from, in which time much of the training gain made will be lost.
Training in a Smarter Way
So, with this in mind, what are the steps we can take to optimise our performances when we run.
There are a number of step that are worth taking to help maintain consistent training. Some are reasonably obvious, others less so, but doing some or all of these will help you run better.
Don't make big jumps in training intensity, but gradually increase mileage and pace.
Try to run on soft surfaces where possible to reduce injury risk.
Work on strength and technique, often ignored, but vital to keeping injury risks down (and has the extra bonus of making you run faster!)
Maintain fluids and eat well.
Get decent shoes to run in - these can be fitted properly in specialist running shops.
If you are very tired, don't be afraid to have an extra days recovery.
Listen to your body (this matches the above point) and learn to adapt your training depending on what it is telling you.
Work to recover as quickly as possible- this includes stretching, refuelling and potentially ice baths.
One final point is that as you get older your peers who don't run will tell you many things along the lines of "you are mad", "you're too old", "you are not up to it any more". Don't listen to them, a lot of it is jealousy and the rest is that they are not informed.
Remember - ENJOY your running - that is the best way to make it a lifelong pastime.
If you would like some help getting the most from your running, why not have a look at our Online Coaching to see if we may be able to help you run faster.