Master’s Runners: The Party Doesn’t Have to End
For a runner, turning 40 can be a bit unsettling. After all, this is the age where things start to go downhill, right? Times get slower, aches and pains become more prevalent, and the question of just how much longer you can keep on training like you always have looms large.
But with a few tweaks to the type of training you’ve always done, the running party doesn’t have to end. In fact, it could just be getting started.
I run with a group of women who prove this to be the case over and over. Most of us are in our 40s and a couple have even crossed over into their 50s. And yet these women continue to train and race strongly. Some have even set a few PRs in their 40s, me included.
I will say this—most of us don’t train or race like we did 10 or 20 years ago. We have made adjustments to accommodate the changes we admittedly face as master’s runners. But here’s what we’ve found to be successful:
– Take more time to recover after races–It used to be that I could race long on a Sunday and be back on the track doing speedwork two days later. That’s a thing of the past—I know recovery takes longer now, so I give myself an easy week following a race. This means no speedwork and reduced volume. By the second week I’m good to go again.
– Strength train—You begin to lose muscle mass in your 30s, so to balance that out, make sure strength training is a part of your regular regimen.
– Tune into your body—It may be cliché to say “listen to your body,” but it works. Several of my friends who have long track records without injury take themselves off the roads for a couple of days if something is sore or hurting. Those couple of days off won’t hurt their overall training, but it may keep them out of the doctor’s office.
– Keep the amount of speedwork you do in check. A day, or maybe two, per week of speedwork is really all you need to stay competitive at the master’s level. Any more than that and you’re risking injury.
– Cross-train—Throwing in some sort of exercise like swimming or cycling can balance your muscles and give your body a needed break from the pounding. I find there’s nothing like a good swim to loosen me up when I’m tight.
– Get a massage now and then—When it seems that all of my normal tricks are failing to loosen me up, I know it’s time for a massage. It’s great maintenance and I can think of many times it’s kept an injury at bay.
– Always take a day off each week–Let your body rest completely at least one day each week. It will give you both a physical and mental break.
Clearly, the day is looming for all master’s runners when times do start to fall off from where they were when you were younger. My friends and I always joke that when we enter a new age group now, we get to start over with a new set of PRs. For the most part, however, you can continue with a healthy, fulfilling running and racing habit well into your later years.
Happy trails my fellow master’s! Amanda Loudin is a Maryland-based freelance writer and master’s runner. You can follow her running exploits on her blog at www.misszippy1.blogspot.com