Let’s stipulate that aging into the masters category and beyond isn’t exactly a bed of roses. You pull muscles that would have been fine under the same stress in the past. The quad soreness lingers longer than expected after a peak effort. You’re stiff as a board the morning after a race, and what the heck is with this back pain? Let’s face it, your fastest times and biggest triumphs are all in the rearview mirror.
But there is a silver lining. The adjustments you need to make in your running in order to stay healthy and extend your running well into the future can actually lead you to find running more enjoyable and rewarding.
A good example is the need for more rest as you grow older. Invariably, the time it will take to fully recover from hard workouts and races will be greater. If you need a whole week off of running after a hard race, instead of feeling guilty about it, think of it as simply a smart move. Two days of rest after a hard workout instead of the usual one day is no longer an indulgence but legitimately the better choice, so relax and enjoy your extra day. After years of jumping right back into hard training, enjoy the fact that it now makes more sense to take more rest days and easy run days, and dial back on the intensity. Here are a few ways to change your routine and keep injuries at bay as well as the fun meter at an all-time high.
Mix more cross training into your routine so that you’re not always just working the same running muscles over and over. Choose non-running activities that you enjoy in order to keep up your motivation and excitement. And prioritize upper body work, as that part of our body tends to lose strength as we age.
Another precaution you can take to avoid injuries is to shift away from harder training methods to less demanding routines. Instead of pushing yourself right to your limit with interval training, run a medium distance that includes plenty of hills. Don’t attack them – just relax and let the elevation change do its work as you chug up and down at a comfortable pace.
In a similar vein, instead of sticking with faster “shorter” races such as marathons and 50ks, try longer distances like 100ks and 100-milers, which are actually very well suited to older, mature runners who excel at races which require a high degree of stamina and patience. Also, try adjusting your focus by appreciating the adventure of just taking part in an ultra event, not necessarily just performance. Enjoy the setting, the feeling of accomplishment at covering a certain distance no matter what your finishing time, and especially, the ultrarunning community.
There’s no need to drop your quest for fast times, but if you haven’t already, think in terms of other goals. A goal might be completing a distance that you’ve never done or traveling to races that you’ve always heard about but never had the chance to enter before. If you still feel like competing, pay attention to your age group results. Appreciate the whole experience that you’re having, the adventure and your optimal health.