I see them at the fitness center where I work all the time. Former runners. Some of them are clients, others are members that I chat with. I’ll say something about running and they’ll say, wistfully, “I used to run.” I don’t want that to be you (or me). That’s why you should prepare when you’re young to keep running when you’re old.
If you’ve ever spoken to a former runner about running, they will usually tell you that they “had” to stop because of their knees, or their back, or their feet, or…
In other words, they had to stop running, not because they didn’t want to run anymore. In fact, most former runners really miss our sports and wish that they’d never had to stop. No, it seems that most of these ex-runners stopped running because their injuries finally caught up with them. And that should be a lesson about why you should prepare when you’re young to keep running when you’re old.
It is true that injuries have a way of catching up with us. And, unfortunately, many runners spend a lot of time injured. So what exactly can a younger runner do to allow themselves to keep running throughout their life? Here are a few tips.
Prepare When You’re Young to Keep Running When You’re Old
Periodize your training
One of the most important things you can do to increase your running longevity is to periodize your training. In its most basic form that means you shouldn’t be training at high mileage and intensity all the time.
Race training plans are designed on a curve, with lower level mileage to start, building a base of mileage, then adding intensity through some kind of speed work. You peek for your race, then spend time recovering before starting the buildup over again.
Even if you don’t race, think of your training as along that curve. Gradually build up your miles, add some intensity, then take time to recover. I know runners who will run the same amount of mileage, frequently on the same roads, day after day, year after year. Switching things up, taking that recovery time, will refresh your body and your mind.
Yes, I know. Runners love to run. But changing it up once or twice a week, especially with a non-impact sport like cycling or swimming, gives your body a break and works your muscles differently while helping to keep your endurance and aerobic base.
Listen to your body
You’ve heard this from me before. If you want to avoid injury and keep running until you’re old, you absolutely have to listen to your body and stop allowing those annoying aches to become all-out pains and injuries.
Ask yourself this right now. What is better? Taking a few days off because your knee hurts a little or having to stop running for months because you’ve damaged your hip because of the limp caused by running with that sore knee? Is it better to miss a marathon or miss out on years of doing something that you love?
Yes, shoes do matter. Take the time to get fitted properly, then make sure that the shoes you chose not only fit right but feel good when you run. The right shoe should not need a breaking-in period. If you feel that the shoe is not the right one for you, take it back. Most running stores have a return policy that will allow you to return a shoe within a certain period of time.
And don’t assume that the new model of your old shoe will work the same. Manufacturers, in the hope of ever improving their shoes, make changes that may or may not work for you.
It’s a good idea to have at least two pairs of running shoes that you can alternate, giving the other shoe time to “recover” and dry out. Many runners keep a shoe for each type of workout too. A sturdier model for long runs, a lighter shoe for speed, a trail shoe for off road runs.
Finally, track the mileage on your shoes. Running shoes generally have a life span of 300-500 miles, depending on the weight of the runner and other factors. Replace your shoes when they are getting near these markers.
While this is covered under periodization, I want to give special emphasis to recovery, both after a tough workout or after a race. Believe it or not, taking recovery time is the most important aspect of your training. This is when you get stronger.
Running is a wonderful way to get and stay fit, but it does not strengthen your upper body or core, and indeed requires core strength and creates imbalances in your lower body without strength training to balance it out.
Find a strength training program that you enjoy and stick with it two or three times a week. Here’s one of my favorites. In just 30 minutes it will target your major muscle groups and your core to help you stay strong and prevent injuries.
Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying extra weight puts pressure on your bones, joints, ligaments, heart, and more. Being underweight also has many drawbacks, including stress on your heart and the potential risk of the female athlete triad. Maintaining a healthy weight will help you avoid these risks. Your doctor can help you determining your healthy weight.
Fuel for the long haul
Treat your body like a finely tuned Ferrari and it will take care of you! That means giving your body the best fuel possible for the long haul. Eat wholesome food, avoid processed and fast food, and eat enough but not too much to fuel your energy needs.
Get off the roads
If you put in a lot of miles on the sidewalk or asphalt, you are creating more impact on your body, which can take its toll over the years. Additionally, most streets are cambered, which can create an effect similar to running with legs that are unequal in length.
Occasionally running offroad, whether it is trails, grass, cinders, or other softer surface, has many benefits, including improving proprioception and reducing impact.
Remember that all surfaces have their benefits as well as drawbacks. While asphalt may be harder, trails may have hazards that are easier to trip over. And if you’re training for a road race you should be doing most of your running on the road.
FYI, I wrote a post a couple years ago for Amanda called How to Run Until You’re 90. I purposely did not read it again before I wrote this post. Now that I check it I find that I offered some of the same advice, some different here, some different in the previous post. I hope you’ll enjoy both.
Do you have plans to keep on running until you’re old? What tools or methods do you use to stay young?
And Now It’s Time for the Running Coaches’ Corner!
My weekly linkups! Please stop by and check out all of the great recipes, workouts, and information that all these awesome bloggers share every week!
Meatless Monday with Sarah and Deborah
Meatless Monday with Annmarie and Dixya
Inspire Me Monday with Janice
Wild Workout Wednesday with Annmarie, Michelle, Jen, and Nicole
The Plant-Based Potluck Party with Deborah
The Running Coaches’ Corner with Rachel, Suz, Lora Marie, and Me!
Giveaway Roundup and Try Out Thursdays with Smitha
The Blogger’s Pit Stop with Kathleen, Janice, Julie, and Menaka
Friday 5 2.0 with Rachel and Lacey and Meranda
Sunday Fitness and Food with Angela and Ilka