I consider myself a runner. I love competing in longer endurance distances. I consider myself a half/full marathoner. Present tense thinking. However, after my left ankle broke during a house party on 01/01/16 (very freaky accident!) I haven’t been able to build up running miles or speed. I was cleared by my physical therapist in September of 2017, after completing rehab, to begin a senior runners’ training program to race half marathons again. Remember I said I consider myself a half marathoner? Well, I began my comeback training like I was that former 63 year old athlete, and not a recovering-from-an-injury 65 year older runner. Through trial and error, and many mistakes, here is some of what I have learned as I began my walk, jog, run back to my former athletic self.
TOP THINGS TO KNOW AS A SENIOR RUNNER
VISIT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE RESUMING/BEGINNING SENIOR RUNNERS’ TRAINING
Starting of the list is *always* discuss your senior fitness plans with your doctor and receive clearance to proceed. Your medical doctor knows you and your physical capabilities and will offer medical parameters for you to follow. Oftentimes, your doctor may offer suggestions for the kind of diet you may want to consider to boost your performance even further, containing quality calories from nutrient dense, health protective foods.
I worked very closely with my PCP (primary care physician,) nurse practitioner, chiropractor, massage therapist, and physical therapist for over eighteen months after my ankle broke. Each has been instrumental in their own unique way in my senior recovery training plan.
RE-EVALUATE YOUR GOALS/ FORGET PAST PERFORMANCES
Senior runners must accept that things have changed. They must now evaluate results in direct relation to their workouts. Adding extra recovery time and cross training is one of the most important tips for aging runners.
I used to train four or five days a week, but currently I can manage three good solid training runs a week. I am racing only 5ks right now and aim to earn an “age group” award at each race. I also realize I require more recovery time between training runs/races, which I supplement by swimming on the Clearwater Masters’ Swim Team.
I am actively working on revising my expectations of senior training and racing, and reducing my training and racing volume. And if you don’t think this is excruciatingly difficult for me, think again!
SENIOR RUNNERS MUST MAINTAIN MUSCLE STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY
As we age, our muscles lose elasticity, making them more susceptible to aches, pains and injuries. We aging runners simply must take more precautions. One great way is to warm up smarter when we walk, jog or run: fifteen minutes of easy running or fast walking or five minutes of dynamic stretching are two great examples. Gone are the days when aging runners can get away with some perfunctory stretching, then head out to run. Top areas to target for any runner are the calves and hip flexors. Also, running on soft surfaces as often as possible decreases unnecessary pounding on the pavement.
SENIOR RUNNERS: MONITOR YOUR RECOVERY
We senior runners runners need to recognize and admit we don’t recover as easily as younger runners. We have to become experts at monitoring and judging our own recovery and not rely so much on the scheduled days off on our senior fitness training schedules. The top priority is to do the next workout only when you feel recovered. May take a day or two, sometimes longer depending on the session. From a training perspective, caution now rules!
Personally, I believe in active recovery. I train a minimum twice a week with my swim coach on the city if Clearwater’s master swim team and plan to soon resurrect my long distance biking (triathlon season is just around the corner!)
DOING RESEARCH IS ONE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR AGING RUNNERS
I’m currently reading former Olympian runner Jeff Galloway’s Book, Running Until 100, because I plan to live till I’m one hundred years old, and I’d certainly like to run and compete as long as I can. Mr Galloway’s books have introduced me to his run-walk-run senior training method which I personally use during all my training runs. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr Galloway several times at various run expos and I strive to attend his clinics when he is in town.
I was forced to take an ego-bruising, cold hard look at my current expectations and training plan, and what physically I am capable of as a recovering injured Masters runner. I now race less, recover longer, have active recovery days. I am a huge proponent of yoga post run. My body thanks me in dividends for the slow and gentle stretching yoga brings!
What are your training tips to stay physically healthy to walk, jog or run faster and farther? Post comments below. I look forward to learning from you.