With special considerations for master’s runners
Runners come in all shapes in sizes, each with our own unique recovery speed, predisposition toward endurance or speed, and mental barriers to overcome. This includes master’s runners – runners who are over age 40. One of the great things about aging is that as we mature, we tend to understand what does and does not work for our particular body and metabolism.
I don’t like to generalize. Still, here are a few general tips that are important for all runners, especially for masters runners:
Recover. Recover. Recover. Or you will get injured, injured, injured. Take time after a hard workout (long run or taxing speed work) to allow your body to repair. Take power naps. Put your feet up on a pillow and chill. Ice those niggles. Foam roll. As for active recovery, do an easy recovery run, keeping your heart rate in zone 1. Cross train in zone 1. Or take a rest day – or two.
Protein is your friend. Take this seriously. Consume about 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes after a workout. Timing is everything. The sooner you take in the protein, the easier it will be absorbed. I’m not always hungry after a run, especially in the summer heat, but I recently adopted the habit of drinking a small protein smoothie right after any run of 8 miles or longer and it’s made a difference in my recovery.
Build up your mileage base slowly. When building up a base, follow the 10% rule by only adding 10% more mileage each week and then enjoy a cut-back week every 3 or 4 weeks, more often if your body demands it.
I would run nonstop if I could, but I currently run about 50 miles per week with one rest day (and I sometime do very light cross training on my day off). When I am training for a marathon, I may peak at 60 or 65 miles per week. This is not much mileage for a competitive runner, but this is what I can realistically manage in terms of my work schedule and my body’s ability to recover. I try to focus on quality rather than quantity.
Strength train. Sad fact: We lose muscle mass as we age. Happy fact: Strength training can help counter this loss. You can even build muscle as you age (“If you don’t use it, you lose it.”) This also helps with metabolism and weight loss, if that’s what you’re after.
Full disclosure: Strength training is not my favorite activity. I would rather do 24 Yasso 800s or hill sprints than spend 40 minutes at the gym working on strength. But nevertheless, I do the work. The results are worth it. A strong core and stabilizing muscles help prevent injury and keep me running. To prevent boredom from setting in, I mix up my exercises every few sessions. Sometimes, I take a weight or yoga class at my gym. Sometimes, I do core work in front of the TV.
Stretch. We also lose flexibility as we age – and running tightens your muscles, so please make time to stretch. And foam roll.
When I was a gymnast in high school and even through my 30s, I could do right and left splits and straddles with ease. When I injured my illiosacral joint after the 2015 New York City Marathon, I could not run – nor could I touch my toes. After physical therapy and daily stretching, I am now able to touch my toes again – and I made it to the start of the Boston Marathon!