I always laugh to myself when I hear someone say, “age is just a number.”

“Oh, really??” 😊

Yeah, not so much. When I wake up and feel that little extra stiffness getting out of bed in the morning, I realize that, you know what? Things aren’t quite as they used to be when I was 20, 30, 40, or even 50 for that matter.

Can you age gracefully and dull or even significantly reduce the impact of the years piling on? Of course – hell yeah. I literally live for this!

But the fact remains… your age IS your age. And if you’re like me, looking back on your 30s and maybe even your 40s as a very distant memory, you probably get it. Ask any runner who’s willing to be honest and who’s hit their 50s and beyond – they’ll tell you that training, racing and recovery – well, they’ve changed.

That doesn’t mean they have to suck. Or come to an end entirely. Far from it.

But just like the training and racing and recovery have changed, we also need to change.

The secret is accepting that every one of your daily habits, looking back on the past or what you do right now, are all coming home to roost. You have to do some things you may not have wanted to in the past. Your margin of error has shrunk, my friend. It’s time to pay up.

It may sound daunting, but all that’s really required are some adjustments to the daily training routine – to how you think about training, how you approach it, and where you place your priorities on a daily basis.

I’ve learned all of this the hard way. 😊

And I’m always happy to share.

So here we go, three tips that will make a huge difference in your ability to get the most from your running past age 40, 50, and beyond.

Three Training Tips for the Masters Runner

1. Be flexible with the structure and your plan: Masters runners, more than their younger counterparts, need to take each day as it comes and not force the issue if “it” isn’t there. In other words, it takes longer to recover from longer or harder training.

This means don’t be a slave to the plan, whether you wrote it or a coach wrote it. Because sometimes the plan says to do “x” but your body just isn’t ready for “x”. Rather than force the issue, keep things easy that day and perhaps try again tomorrow.

At our age, recovery just takes longer. Respect it. Don’t force it. In the end, being able to actually DO the quality training in the way it was intended, even if it took a day or two more to get it in, is what matters.

2. Running makes you stiff. To counteract that, commit more time and energy to flexibility and mobility: One thing that many older runners refuse to accept is that running is the activity that, while it keeps you younger in many respects, also makes you stiffer. Stiffer in every way. (And longer, slower running makes you even more stiff!)

Whether it’s getting out of bed in the morning, or the lingering stiffness in the evening after you sit in a chair for a few minutes, running unfortunately contributes to that stiffness. So, what to do?

The more you run and the higher quality your running is, the more time you’ll need to spend counteracting that stiffness with some stretching, and addressing mobility deficits. Even if you never stretched when you were younger, you’ll need to as you get older.

(Did you see this short video I shared in an earlier email with a few stretching exercises I use to stay loose when traveling?)

3. Quality vs. quantity (less is more): To state it as simply as I can, as we age, it seems as though every force in nature is working against us and trying to break us down and forcing us to slow down, or even stop. Think of it as entropy, or the natural order of things, I don’t care what you call it. Look all around you. People age, and they slow down.

You need to FIGHT these negative forces with every ounce of your energy, every day.

The key in my opinion, is to focus more time and energy on stability and strength training, and keeping some element of quality running in your plan. It doesn’t have to be a lot. And in fact, focusing on volume or quantity can end up being very counterproductive and putting you at a higher risk of injury.

Here’s a few examples of what I mean….

  • Instead of running every day, alternate run days with flexibility and strength days. Mixing things up keeps you younger. And healthier.
  • Even as few as 6 or 8 “strides” in a run can get you out of a rut of chronically slower running.
  • Hamstrings, calves, and quads can get and feel tight from faster paced running, OR too much sitting. Spend a little extra time on these areas.
  • If you have a choice between going LONG and slower, or going SHORTER and faster, choose SHORTER and faster! Every time. You don’t lose endurance as you age nearly as fast as you lose speed.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to age more gracefully – something I’m truly passionate about and have been, for a long time.