5 Tips for OVER-40 runners

Runners tend to slow by three to six per cent over the course of their 40s, 10 per cent per decade in their fifties and sixties, and 15 per cent per decade after 70, as strength, flexibility, and bone density diminish. But much can be done to fend off the decline.


If you haven’t started strength-training (which helps runners at any age), it’s more important now than ever. Muscle mass declines by about eight per cent per decade after age 40. Strength-training counteracts that while building muscular scaffolding to ease the burden of running on aging joints. Spend 30 minutes twice a week targeting muscles running often misses (such as glutes, hips, core, and arms). Use your own body as weight with squats, lunges, pushups, and planks.


Flexibility is another casualty of age, and a daily session with a foam roller can preserve and restore it. Rolling over hamstrings, quads, and glutes loosens up connective tissues and promotes bloodflow, much like a massage.


Old injuries and a declining VO2 max (the body’s capacity to transport oxygen to muscles) can dissuade ageing runners from continuing speedwork. But practicing quick leg turnover is key for maintaining neuromuscular coordination, range of motion, and fitness. Start by adding some short pickups (10 to 20 seconds fast; 30 to 60 seconds recovery; repeat 10 times) to a routine run. For a harder bout, try 60 seconds fast, two minutes slow, three times.


To counteract bone density loss, which can increase the risk of stress fractures in older runners, make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D daily (1200 milligrams calcium for women over 50 and men over 70, and 600 IUs of D for people over 50). Good sources of calcium include dairy products, tofu, spinach, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. Good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, cod liver oil, and exposure to sunshine.


Vow to “slow down as slowly as possible.” Look forward to birthdays that put you in a new age group. Explore new distances (parkrun, a marathon) or events (triathlons, trail races) in which you can still notch a PB. And remember: even if you have slowed a bit, at least you’re still out there.

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