Running seems to divide people into two camps: love it or hate it. For those who love to run, a large community of like-minded addicts (!) and a huge industry supports them with gear, apparel, food and beverages, clubs, training plans, coaching, workshops, races, and much more. Whether recreational or competitive, many runners are consumed by passion for their sport and a relentless pursuit of better performance.
Because running subjects the body repeatedly to high impact forces, it is hard on the joints and muscles, particularly as you age. The drop-off in runners after age 44 is huge, and continues after age 54. Committed runners typically don’t willingly choose to abandon their hobby, but may feel like it is their only option due to injuries, pain, discomfort or declining performance.
The good news is that running longer and stronger is a possibility. With smart training, attention to the body and a flexible outlook, more people can maximize running longevity and performance.
Runners should consider implementing the following suggestions:
- Train smart — Even if you don’t participate in races, it’s important to have goals and a plan. Running the same 3-mile loop week after week and year after year is fine, but won’t improve performance. Your goals should dictate your training, whether you want to take on your first 10K or set a PR.
- Cross train – Of course, you must run to improve here, but don’t just run. Too much of a good thing can lead to injuries and overtraining. Mileage isn’t everything, and incorporating other cardio and strength training leads to gains in overall fitness and endurance that enhance your running.
- Manage impact – Hitting the pavement for multiple decades is hard. Running on softer surfaces, such as tracks, trails, grass, treadmills and even the pool gives your body a welcome break from all the pounding. Or try the Zero Runner from Octane Fitness, which lets you replicate your natural stride without any impact. This way, you still benefit from using the same muscles and motion as you do running outside.
- Address injuries – The injury rate in running is extremely high, and even worse, many runners choose to ignore pain and continue running until they are even more debilitated. What once was a relatively treatable issue can become a major derailment that sidelines runners. RICE is a first treatment for minor aches and pains, but if the issue persists more than a few days, see a doctor, get a diagnosis and focus on recovery.
- Take care of your body – This means eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, taking vitamins, stretching regularly, using a foam roller, and more. Replace your running shoes often, don the proper apparel for the weather and choose safe routes.
- Feel better – As an adjunct to the previous tip, indulge a bit so that you can run longer and stronger. Dip into an ice bath or a whirlpool periodically, take advantage of chiropractic services and get regular massages.
- Rest – Take a day off. Or two. And give your body a break. Studies show that recovery is critical to longevity. Sleep and naps are good.
- Adjust your mindset – Striving for improvement is admirable. But even as you age and it becomes more difficult to maintain your mileage or times, don’t beat yourself up. If you need to slow down, cut short a run or skip a workout, allow yourself that freedom without shame. Be flexible, because there is always tomorrow. Be grateful that you can still run and appreciate the extraordinary capabilities of your body.
Every step forward is a success! Stay Fueled.