The 4 tips I stress to all my runners, especially those who are working adults
Let’s all face it: if you’re reading this, you’re just like me. How am I going to set a new PR when my old PRs are from when I was much, much younger?
I’m totally with you.
This isn’t a shock to me anymore, but maybe it is to you: we’re not getting any younger. And since neither you nor I have figured out how to turn back the clock, we have to now figure out how we can keep within reach of our lifetime PRs.
My goal today is to help you come to the realization that being older doesn’t have to mean being slower. We can shift our goals away from time specific and more toward competition based. Having an Age-Group award can be just as rewarding as setting a brand new personal best.
Similarly, if I do intend on setting a PR, it’ll be in a new event with a new set of challenges and that in itself can be very rewarding too. We can still aim for Boston qualifiers. We can still aim to be top 10 in a mid-major race. We can look to come close to or beat our times from last year’s event.
We can still be very competitive.
Besides being competitive – which I have in abundance – I can also focus on different aspects of running that might have been neglected over the years of trying to cram as many miles as possible into a given week or month.
I can relax and enjoy the training. I can log miles at whatever pace I feel like. I can continue inspiring and being inspired by other runners. I can choose to chase after new goals.
And I’ll damn well love it.
So, in the spirit of finding new goals to reach for, like running 1,000 miles in a calendar year and fighting the good fight, here are the 4 ways I’m combating Father Time and enjoying my journey as a middle-aged former middle distance runner.
What runners can and should do to work with, instead of against, Father Time
Accept Slowing Down
Part of becoming older, as I’ve learned, is that I cannot do everything I used to be able to do.
90 miles in a week ✓
330-mile months ✓
Warm-ups at 7-minute pace ✓
Long gone. Those “good old days” were high school, college, and in the few years after college. Now, I run closer to 8:00-8:15 pace and besides marathon training, I hover in the 15-20 miles a week range.
I’ve accepted slowing down, but can still crank out some good miles if I have the need to. I’m not saddled with forcing myself to run too fast or too slow. I just run by feel. And running by feel allows me to always have the desire to go back out because I’m never crushed or wiped out!
Recover like a CHAMP
When I was in my 20s, my best cycle of training had me running 21 straight days, take a day off, run 14 days, take a day off. In those 37 days, I was able to amass boatloads of miles. Keep in mind, the training I was doing was comparable to the life I was living: young, single, and working part time at a running store. I was able to run my best half marathon and the training was on par for what I could handle at the time.
Now, I work out 3-6 days per week, depending on my goals. During marathon training, I did 5-6 days a week with 2 rest days (usually Monday and Friday). When I’m not in marathon mode (which is most of the time), I run 4 days a week and cross train once, while also strength training 1-2 times a week.
My focus has shifted from how many miles I can run to how many hours I can sleep. I have a different barometer for success: am I having fun and am I enjoying myself? If they are both yes, then I’m tapping into the correct zone I’m looking for.
The first few minutes of a run are a big indication of the type of run you’ll have. If we go too fast, too soon, we’re likely to burn out way before the run is intended to be over. Start easy, build the pace and your momentum throughout the run and finish fast[er] than you started.
Finishing fast is really good practice for how you’ll ideally want to race. When you are finishing strong, you’ll be passing runners and feeling good about doing so. On the flip side, going out too fast and fading is bad for the mojo. It’s tough being the person getting passed.
Don’t let small issues become big ones
We’re older, which means we’re supposed to be a little bit wiser. But are we really? Let’s keep our stubbornness out of the equation when we feel something coming on. Maybe it’s a cold or maybe it’s a pain in our shin. Whatever it is, deal with it. It might be a few days off or a quick trip to your running doctor.
What could be only a few missed days might turn into a month if you don’t react quickly and logically. The pain/discomfort is your body’s way of saying something is up and you should do something about it!
Father Time is catching up with all of us. We can mope around and complain that we’ll never run fast again, or we can embrace getting older and enjoy the running we’re able to do! It’s a shift that some runners aren’t comfortable making, but worth the effort to try and figure out.
One thing that could help is making some changes in our training. Instead of focusing on miles per week, perhaps it’d be best to look at active minutes per week or even time spent running.
Regardless of how long you’ve been running or what your current age is, there’ll be a time when you stop setting lifetime personal bests. When that time comes, we’ll get savvy and smart about shifting our goals from setting PRs to having a blast with our running!
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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