When I was young, I ran every single day and somehow remained injury free. I ate a steady diet of pizza, beer, and dessert with zero attention to a carb-to-protein ratio. Occasionally, I lifted weights, did core work, and sort of knew what tempo, speed and hill workouts consisted of.
Then I grew up.
I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes and start implementing masters training techniques, even if you’re in the infancy of your running years.
Why over-40 runners do it: One thing typically all athletes, experts, and coaches agree on is getting adequate sleep for optimal performance. As you age, you need more recovery time between hard efforts for your body to properly repair.
Some masters elite athletes are reported to get 10-12 hours of sleep per night and sometimes a nap during the day.
Why you should: Runners literally pound on their bodies and need to repair the damage to properly rebuild the muscle tissue so it becomes stronger. Adequate sleep not only supplies that time but allows the mind to rest and recover as well.
Female Fact: When it comes to injury risk, women over 40 have a double whammy. According to Bennett Cohen, president of the International Association of Women Runners, “Testosterone promotes protein synthesis which is critical for muscle repair and growth. Therefore, women (in general) require more recovery time from tough workouts than men and more rest and recovery time built in to their training programs.”
Why over-40 runners do it: As we age our level of thirst decreases, which can lead to insufficient fluid intake. Sweat rate also decreases with age, and kidney function is reduced. As a result, you’re more likely to become dehydrated.
Masters athletes should always start taking in adequate fluids in the 24 hours prior to training or racing and continue to hydrate during and after activity.
Why you should, too: Consider this fact: if you lose as little as 1 per cent of body weight during a run (due to sweat), your performance goes down by 2 per cent! However, we also now know you can take in too much water, a condition called hyponatremia. So the general rule is to drink when you’re thirsty.
Female Fact: Those at greatest risk for hyponatremia (consuming too much water and therefore reducing the sodium in your blood to dangerously low and potentially fatal levels) are women! Why? According to a Runner’s World article, “…they’re smaller and less muscular than men, so they don’t sweat as much. They also have a smaller blood plasma ‘tank’ than men, which is easier to overfill. Many women are new marathoners who are happy to finish in five hours or more. They have heard that marathoners must drink as much as possible, so that’s what they do. They reach the 40 kilometre mark exhausted (who doesn’t?), and think, ‘If I can force myself to drink more, I’ll feel better.’ It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Why over-40 runners do it: Many studies show that as we age we lose muscle mass if we are sedentary. These losses can be offset, however, with dedication to movement and strength training as shown in a recent study of masters athletes.
Why you should, too: No matter your age, studies show distance runners can expect up to an 8 per cent boost in running economy after performing a dedicated resistance-training program. Need some ideas?
Female Fact: According to the latest statistics, 63 per cent of women runners get injured every year. Older female athletes, who train harder and longer, often wind up with overuse, overtraining and acute injuries. To continue a successful running program, older female runners especially should engage in a strength-training program.
Don’t misread or misunderstand this. You shouldn’t be careless at anytime during your running career, but you can care less about pace, race location, gear, and clothing.
Why over-40 runners do it: We’ve earned it. And because we have had many years of both life and running experience, we know that at the end of the day the important thing is just to keep running.
Why you should, too: Think about how long you want to run. Is it just for this week? This month? This year? Or is it for many years to come? Once you figure out running is a lifelong journey that gives back what you put in 10-fold, you’ll make better decisions about running…and life.
May you live long and run faster!