It was SO much fun watching all of the racers at the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend! And – of course that has gotten me super excited to continue with my training. I do need to tell you though, as a runner over 40, I’m beginning to notice a slight decline in my recovery ability. Not a huge deal – but it is something that I need to think about. How to keep my body healthy while I continue to train?
The effects of aging on muscle function are different for each person, depending on other factors relative to your lifestyle, as well as genetics. But medical research has shown that in general a gradual loss of muscle function occurs, due to a decrease in both the number and size of muscle fibers. These changes may directly affect our ability to run by decreasing our endurance capacity and our overall strength and balance. The good news is that we can minimize the rate of decline by continuing to run – but giving our regular training routine and lifestyle a bit of an overhaul.
Here are 4 things to think about as we continue to do amazing things throughout our life!
Quality Over Quantity
Consider reducing the amount of time you spend running and then add value to your workouts by making each one count. In other words, don’t just run to add miles to your weekly training log, but make each mile count. When I was training in my 20s I just did more – adding more miles every week. Now I keep the mileage lower – but each run has a purpose. For example, I try and do one HIIT workout, one easy-paced mid-distance run, one tempo run, and one long run. I am certainly not perfect – but it helps to keep my mind interested and my body healthy.
One of the bonuses of reducing your overall mileage is that it opens up extra windows of time to dedicate toward strength training. Too few runners give credence to the value of strength training and then wonder why they repeatedly suffer from injuries.
Doing a few strength exercises two or three times a week will help to keep injuries at bay by avoiding imbalances in overall muscle strength. Furthermore, stronger muscles improve running efficiency by enabling you to maintain good form when the body starts to fatigue. And of course, greater muscle strength may help you to run faster and longer. Here are 12 exercises I like:
- Forward Lunges: Hold weights in both hands. Lunge forward with your right leg. Then back to start position. Lunge forward with left. Repeat 20-30 times (10-15 reps on each side).
- Deadlifts: Hold weights in both hands. Stand upright. Then lean over at the waist and bring weights to your toes. Stand back up. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Box/Bench Steps: Hold weights in both hands. Use a 12-18 inch high step. Step up with your right leg and bring your left knee to your chest. Put your left leg down on step. Step down with your right and then left. Repeat with right leg 10-15x. Repeat with left leg.
- Side Bends: Hold weight in right hand at your side. Left hand on hip. Feet shoulder width apart. Bend to the right so you feel the stretch on your left side. Repeat 10-15 times. Then repeat with weight in left hand.
- Foot-Elevated Single Leg Squats: Hold weights in both hands. Use 12-18 inch step (keep it behind you). Keep right foot on step and go up and down so you are lunging with your left leg. Repeat 10-15 times. Then repeat with the right leg.
- Push-ups (1 minute): I do as many regular pushups as I can before going to my knees.
- Squats: Hold weights in both hands. Legs should be shoulder-width apart. Go all the way down (don’t let your knees pass your toes) and then up. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Plank with leg lifts (1 min): Get into normal plank position. Lift right leg in air and hold for 5 seconds. Lower. Lift left leg and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat.
- Wide-Stance Leg Squats: Hold weights in both hands. Open your stance wider than shoulder width and turn your legs out (toes are not pointing forward). Squat down and then come up. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Russian Twists: Sit down. Keep your back at 45 degree angle with your legs either on the floor or in the air (more advanced) so your body is making a “V”. Start with no weight and twist your upper body to the right, then to left (that’s one rep). Repeat 15-30 times. Build up to 10-15 lbs of weight.
- Wall Sits: Lean against wall in a sitting postion, as if a chair is under you.Can be done with or without weights. Start with 30-45 seconds and gradually increase by 15 seconds.
- V-ups: Lie flat on the floor. Keeping your legs straight, then lift them up in the air. At the same time, bring your upper body up to a sitting position so you can touch your toes. Let your upper body and legs return to the starting, flat position. Repeat 10-15 times.
In an article on older runners, fitness columnist Jill Barker explained how aging causes muscles to tighten up and lose their suppleness. For runners, this means a shortened stride and consequent increase in risk of joint pain and injury. By adding yoga, some of the aches and pains brought on by muscle tightness might be prevented. It also helps me be more mindful when I am running.
While I continue to eat a plant based diet – I am focusing more on anti-inflammation. There are many reasons including cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, even Alzheimer’s disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation. The big reason for runners need to pay attention is the impact of recovery. Including cruciferous veggies, turmeric, blueberries, ginger and garlic will help you recover and be ready for that next run!
What are your suggestions for maintaining your health and workout routine throughout your life? Need some additional suggestions or a big of accountability? Be sure to check out the coaching options I offer.
Move your body, put good things in and ENJOY every day!
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