Running isn’t a young man’s game, but there are 80-plus year olds out there setting records and steadily hitting mileages that would intimidate some 25 year olds. However, as we age, there are a few things we need to keep in mind before we pound the pavement. In his upcoming book, “Run Strong, Stay Hungry,” running coach and longtime running journalist Jonathan Beverly dives into the key components of a long, happy running life. We got him to share a few of his top tips with us.
1. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
As a younger runner, you may have been able to push through tough training blocks and come out the other side feeling stronger. While you should still be pushing boundaries and trying to stick to your training, Beverly says older runners need to be a little smarter when it comes to knowing your limitations and when to back off and take an easy day instead of an interval day.
2. WARMUPS MATTER
You can’t sprint out the door anymore. Really, you never should have been doing that anyway. But, as an older runner, warming up properly is even more important than it once was. Beverly is a fan of walking lunges to stretch dynamically before running, and there’s no shame in starting at a walking pace and slowly ramping up. (Cooldowns matter more, too, so make sure you’re walking and stretching post-run.)
3. ACCEPT YOUR PACE
You won’t hit that same PR you did 10 years ago even if you’ve been a serious runner your whole life. For most of us who have spent many years running, we have to accept that our 5K time might never be sub-20 minutes again, says Beverly. Set new goals that match where you are now, and be realistic with your expectations.
4. NEW TO RUNNING? WALK
You know that walk/run thing everyone talks about when they talk about getting into running? This is especially important for older runners new to the sport. Even runners who feel a little more fatigued than they’d prefer can get major benefits from simply walking or hiking. Remember, you’re the only one who’s judging what you do: get comfortable with walking! For new runners — or those coming back to it after a few decades off — start slow walking, then add bursts of easy running, slowly building up.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOU
Self-care and nutrition become even more important as we age, says Beverly. If you’re serious about being a lifelong runner, you have to treat yourself like the athlete you are. That means eating a clean, whole-food diet, getting plenty of protein and properly hydrating and fueling your runs. It also means taking time for self-massage, the occasional sports massage and seeing a physical therapist or doctor when you find yourself with a nagging pain — even a slight one — that hasn’t gone away after a few runs.
6. ADD STRENGTH
If you never lifted a weight before, now is the time to start, says Beverly. He’s a huge fan of active mobility as well — even if yoga isn’t your thing (though it should be!), his other recent book, “Your Best Stride,” offers tons of easy mobility and bodyweight strength movements for runners. Don’t be afraid to be the new guy in a yoga or strength and conditioning class, either. Your runner’s endurance will take you far, but a bit more muscle will help you stay running injury-free a lot longer.
7. TAKE A DAY OFF
Even if your schedule doesn’t list a day off, if you feel like you need one, you probably do, says Beverly. He sees plenty of runners avoid major injury because they were smart enough to take a day off — and he’s seen runners out for months because they were too stubborn to deviate from their training. Can’t handle not being active? Take a walk or an easy bike ride instead.