Running Considerations For the Masters Athlete
As we get older, our bodies change so it makes sense to adapt our training to adjust to these changes. Here are some tips for masters (35-40+ years old) runners:
1. Masters runners tend to experience more injuries that are below the knee and soft tissue injuries, such as Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, calf strains and other plantar flexor injuries. Incorporate strength training into your weekly workout routine to increase the strength of your muscles and tendons so that they can manage the load that is placed on them while running.
2. Fifty percent of our body support while running comes from our calf muscles. As we age, these muscles lose mass and tendon stiffness. We see this with runners losing step length from ages 20 to 60 due to loss of ankle power and push off while running. To slow these changes, do standing and seated calf raises with heavy weights. Standing calf raises strengthen our gastrocnemius muscles while the seated calf raises strengthens the soleus muscle.
3. If you are finding that you are having a hard time managing the training volume that you were doing in prior years, try splitting up your runs. Do shorter runs 2x a day rather than really long runs all at once. This allows your body to continue to benefit from a higher volume of training, but with less recovery time and strain on the body.
4. Doing speed training once week can buffer age-related changes. This does not mean do all-out sprinting once a week. Focus on intervals of 3-10 minutes at a 10k/1-hour pace. This pace will train all cellular systems that are needed for endurance athletes to get faster. If you want to focus on maintaining or improving your VO2max, running at 90-95%% your maximum heart rate is all you need to improve this. Again, there is no need to do full-out max sprints. This type of running leads to less training gain for the amount of recovery burden that is created.
5. Avoid having many rest days in a row. Masters athletes need regular exercise to best adapt to running. Running creates a different load on our body than swimming, biking, hiking, strength training, ect. Other types of exercise are fantastic so that we do not focus all of our time doing a repetitive sport, but since running creates such a specific load on the body, it is important to do it consistently during the week so that our body can adapt effectively and avoid injury.
6. Try to consume 30-40 g of protein every 3-4 hours due to our bodies not using protein as effectively as we age. This will help you maintain your muscle mass and allow your body to optimally repair after each run.
References: Father-Son World Record Marathon https://www.scienceofultra.com/podcasts/121
Are You Lying to Yourself and Others About Your Running? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElKiL6zrisI