First and foremost, know that just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop running. The bad news is that from 30s onward, aerobic capacity decreases, muscle mass reduces, muscle elasticity reduces, lung elasticity declines, bone density reduces, the metabolism slows, body fat increases and the immune system becomes weaker. Whew, that’s kind of depressing.
When applying this knowledge to running, there’s a decrease in aerobic capacity, reduced stride length, reduced leg strength, and reduced ability to store energy all contribute to deterioration in performance. In general, we appear to lose aerobic capacity at about 9-10% a decade.
What’s an older runner to do? A few tips:
- Warm Up: The older you are, the more important it is to warm up, and the more time you should spend on warming up. While younger folks get leave the gate sprinting, as you age, your body takes longer to recognize when it’s time to work hard.
- Long Distance Runs: Dial down the long run. They are more demanding on the body, and older runners find that the recovery period for a long run is just too much. Better to have frequent, shorter runs than one long run that will put you back on the couch for a week.
- Intervals: Tone down the interval training – especially if you are over 70. Instead of high intensity interval training, switch to longer but more moderate intervals.
- Recovery Days: You may hate them, but it’s important to exert self control to avoid the unintended consequences of running un-recovered. Additionally, take longer recovery periods within workouts. If you used to rest 1 minute between intervals, you should up it to 2-3 minute rests.
- Cool Down: Similar to the warm up, as you age, cool downs & after-run care become more important as well. Many older runners cite stretching, walking, foot baths, ice baths, electrolyte tablets, vitamin supplements, yoga, t’ai chi, and more as effective ways to cool down & recover after running.
- Supplementary Training: Increase weight training to compensate for the loss of muscle mass that naturally occurs with age. Also consider adding variety to your cardio training- try swimming, rowing, aerobics, hiking, and other activities.
After all these years, running is as familiar to you as brushing your teeth. However, as the body ages it makes it more important than ever to maintain near-perfect running technique to avoid injury & unnecessary stress on the body.