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Running coach and Running Bug Editor, Fiona Bugler, has some top tips to keep you running through every stage of your life.
Aim: Get fit for the future!
Going for you: Physically it doesn’t get much better, you’ve got energy, your muscle strength and bone density are at their peak, and most likely you won’t have the ties of young children early on in your 20s.
Stoppers: Bad habits set in place now can last a lifetime, and it’s easy to have a ‘I can do it when I’m older’ attitude and take for granted a feeling of wellbeing.
Way to train: Lay good foundations for nutrition, and self-care now, and it’ll be easier to carry on into the future. You can train hard and enjoy the social element of cross training. This is a good decade to run a fast 5k and 10k as you can still generate some pace and speed. If you’re time is poor and you want to try training for a marathon, try a three times a week schedule. Try fun races like the Tough Mudder and plan weekends away with friends taking on challenges. This is a good time to try out a triathlon or other multi-sport event.
Aim: To keep energetic for yourself and your children, as well as build a foundation of fitness for middle age, and help relieve stresses from work.
Stoppers: This is very often the decade when young children arrive, families are set up and work demands more energy than ever before. Your body is already in decline as your metabolic rate is in decline. After the age of 30, on average we lose around half a pound of lean body tissue a year, but gain a pound of fat. The aim is to increase your mileage to keep this in check and keep middle-aged spread at bay.
Way to train: This is the endurance runner’s decade. Fast-twitch fibres that you use for sprinting might be in decline, but slow twitch fibres are still in tact and will help you to carry through a marathon. The average age of a marathon runner in the USA in 2011 was 39.
Aim: to prevent yourself turning middle-aged and lazy, and keep on top of health, as well as fitness.
Stoppers: Muscle atrophy, or muscle wasting, starts in your 30s and accelerates as you hit your 40s. Hormonal changes in both men and women can result in a changing body shape and a middle-aged spread. When you hit 45, V02 max can start to drop off a little, so make sure you keep training.
Way to train: Keep going at your usual schedule, don’t be tempted to stop, but do introduce core training and resistance work or circuits classes, to keep lean muscle. As your times may slow down, keep motivated by trying to up your age grading. This compares your running to the world record holders best, in terms of percentage. So, if you’re a 45 year-old female who runs a 39-minute 10k, you’re age grading will be 83.5, at 35 it would have been 78.5 and at 55 it would be 93.9 per cent.
Aim: to maintain a healthy lifestyle and fitness level, for disease prevention and to keep young!
Stoppers: Women will be approaching the menopause and it’s associated hormonal upheavals and changes to the body. As others slow down around you, it’s easy to fall into the popular way of thinking, but don’t. This is also an era when it’s easy to give up when you get injured, rather than trying to find a solution. Dr Jessica Leitch from the Oxford 3D Gait Analysis points out that injury is part of running, ‘and injuries can be fixed.’
Way to train: Why not try an off-road challenge? It’ll be kinder on your joints and if you’re an ‘empty-nester’ you’re likely to have more time to travel at weekends. This is also the decade to work on flexibility and core strength, and classes like yoga and Pilates are ideal. Make sure you balance hard days with easy days and plan in rest as part of your schedule.
60s and beyond:
Aim: Don’t stop!
Stoppers: Post-menopausal women are more prone to osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) and both sexes are likely to experience less mobility and overall weakness and dropping off of fitness.
Way to train: If you haven’t already done so build core strength, and work on flexibility and mobility daily. You can also mix running with no impact activities like swimming or stationary cycling. Keep it social, join a club, or a local gym, and ensure your whole diet and lifestyle is healthy. Finally – don’t stop til you drop.
As one past 60, I agree with cycling as a kinder no impact exercise to complement the running but not stationary cycling. Cycling should be outside. It will allow you to spend at least as much time in the outdoors getting the fresh air as you always have, and allow you to cover the same routes that you have always ran and it does not need to be fast.
Not sure about joining a club or a gym either. Some will have being doing this all along and some will never have done it but no real reason to change whatever you have been used to and suits you but agree very much with the benefits of introducing some sort of daily stretching exercise.
I'm 58 and still going strong, mainly I think, because I do most of my running off-road and eat well - I'm a vegetarian. Although, having read Scott Jurek's book, Eat & Run, I'm making the transition to a vegan diet. I'll have to keep running well into my 70's to do all the races on my 'to do' list.
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