Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Getting Older? Running Can Save Your Life

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to keep running until I die. I hope to be the one raising money to build a track around my nursing home where I can do my Yasso 800s before a lunch of strained peas and fruit cocktail (after which I will change my Depends). Okay, maybe speed training will not be in the cards (or the Bingo game), but I fully intend to run until my body gives out on me (hopefully this will not be later this year).

One true advantage of continuing to run while I age is that I just might be able to qualify for Boston one more time in my life. The standard to qualify when you’re 80+ years old? 4:55 for men and 5:25 for women. I wonder if they allow walkers (not walking, but an actual device that helps you walk) on the course.

Harriett Anderson, age 77,  was one of my fellow Athleta sponsored athletes last year. She just completed the Ironman World Championships in Kona and has done countless IMs. Amazing!

My desire to run to my grave is precisely why I loved an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday: “Marathon Runners Stop Aging Out of the Race.” What I learned made me smile. Did you know that runners who are 50 years and older are becoming one of the fastest growing age groups in marathons?

Certainly, continuing to run as you get older is not without risks. As the article points out,

The stresses of long distance running are harder on aging joints, feet, muscles and backs, leaving older marathoners more prone to injury than younger competitors.”

On the flip side, running keeps you younger as you age. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, depression and other diseases. No doubt running can improve one’s quality of life. Some studies have even shown that runners live longer because running keeps every organ system in your body healthy. Lastly, did you know that running can create new cells in the brain that actually boost memory? {source}

That said, as we age, how can we combat the risk of injury and continue to be healthy and strong runners? Let’s face it, just like recovering from an all-nighter at a frat party is much easier when you’re 21 than when your 41 (you shouldn’t be there anyway if you’re 41, what’s wrong with you?), recovering from long runs or races takes more out of you as you get older. (Hell, I know some 21 year olds who could probably run a marathon after an all-nighter at a frat party).

Here are a few ways to remain a healthy runner as you age:

  • Scale back. If marathon or half marathon training, consider doing a long run every other week as opposed to every week.
  • Chill out. Remind yourself as you get older that you are running because you love it and for the health benefits. You don’t always have to try to be competitive in races and to obtain new PRs. Slowing down and focusing on your love for the activity may lessen your chance of injury.
  • Alternate running days with low impact days that include swimming, yoga, getting on the elliptical or cycling.
  • Rest and recover. Yes, this is important for any runner, but it becomes even more important as you age. After a hard running day, consider taking two easy days instead of just one. The same goes for recovery time after a race.
  • Build strength. Sure strength training can be ho-hum compared to running, but it is an essential component to staying healthy as you age (see sample basic strength training plan for runners HERE).
  • Hit the trails. The soft surface and varied terrain of trails can be easier on the body than running on asphalt or cement. However, do watch out for roots, rocks, dead bodies, etc, because falling is a reality on the trails.
  • Drink up. Did you know that as you age, your ability to feel thirst becomes less strong? This means you might not feel thirsty, but your body desperately needs hydration. One way to know you’re getting enough fluid is too look at your pee. Your goal is to have urine the color of lemon juice. HERE is a good guide to what your pee color is trying to tell you.

Here’s to a long life filled with running and lemon juice piss!

Are you an “older” runner (40+)? How do you stay healthy? Yes! I am 45 and ran my first marathon at 41. Hope to be doing this for awhile!

Do you see yourself running until you die (or at least until you can no longer walk)?

SUAR

56 comments:

  1. I'm almost older - 38. And I plan on doing sprint tris FOREVER!

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  2. Thanks SUAR for all the great stuff (fun but not only) that you are putting together. As a french runner (who just finished third of the age group 50-54 at the last Marine Corps Marathon), I do agree with everything you write. Merci. Et longue vie. Pascal

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  3. I am an "older" runner? At 41? Dude, I am just getting going! My first marathon is in 10 days. I would love to keep running and competing in triathlons into my golden years!

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  4. I love it! As a 51 year old that has run two marathons in the last year, I totally agree!

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  5. I hope to look as awesome in a sports bra as Harriett some day. Wowza!

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  6. I'm 21 and have been running for about 3 years now. I feel like "older" runners are the best runners. They seem to be faster because they have been training and working at it for years! I'm still taking time off of my mile and hope to outrun my grandkids!

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  7. I'm over 40 and I limit my running to 3x a week. I swim 3x a week, strength train 2x a week and I try to fit the occasional bike ride in there as well. Seems to be working well for me. I plan on running for as long as my body lets me!

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  8. I will be 40 in June. I struggled earlier this year with the fun of running, but finally realized that I while I might not get faster, I am doing something that is good for my body and my mind. Now, my goal is to cross each finish line with a smile on my face. To enjoy and appreciate being able to run, and to continue running as long as I can.

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  9. I'm 65, training for a half marathon in December. My goal is to do another marathon when I'm 80. I run 3x week, strength train 3x a week (sometimes 4 or 5) and do yoga 3x a week. Oh, and working two jobs.
    An important component, I think, is good, clean and mostly plant-based food choices. I plan to keep going as long as I am able.

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  10. I’m one of those freaks that didn’t start to run until I was 39, and then my first race was the Ragnar Las Vegas… Ya… I know…
    I have a goal to run a minimum of 4 times per week (Mon, Wed, Fri, & Sat) giving me every other day to recover and to do some strength training on my core. One of the reasons I started running was to get rid of a few extra pounds and to try to be the first male in my family not to die while grasping my chest in pain.
    I basically live on the side of a mountain, so running flat distances is pretty much out unless I go to the Olympic Oval and run their track (which I try to do at least once a week, because it’s easier on my knees). Otherwise I just pay attention to what my body is telling me, and if it tells me that I need to take an extra day off, or need to cut a run short… I listen.

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  11. Terrific post! Thank you! And, yes, I do intend to keep running - until I'm 100 if my body cooperates. I figure that, since I didn't start until I was 40, I shouldn't be able to wear anything out. LOL!

    It's true though that it takes more maintenance to look after a 50 (almost 51! yikes!!) year old body than a 20 year old one. I focus on getting enough rest, paying attention to my form (like you, I'm into Chi running) and practice yoga regularly.

    Thanks for doing what you do. Whatever blahs or mehs strike, your blog always manages to inspire.

    Happy Hallowe'en and Happy Running!

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  12. Ha! I STARTED as an older runner!! I've been running for 4 years and started when I was 41 because I have a family history of early onset Alzheimer's that seems to strike in the early 50's. I feel and look better than I did in my twenties. Running my second marathon this weekend in Indie, will never be fast enough to BQ, but wouldn't trade my running shoes for anything. Angie

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  13. What's the saying? "Old is always ten years older than I am now?"

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  14. I'm one of the cool kids - 46 here! I'm constantly surrounded by other runners who are younger, but I remind myself that although I'm certainly not 70 or 80, I'm most definitely not in my 30's anymore. I listen to my body and, so far, it's working for me. My marathon times are extremely consistent and I'm heading into my first ultra (50 miler) this Saturday.

    Great article!!

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  15. I am 48, have been running for almost 4 years, and training for my first full marathon. I was overweight most of my life, and been at a healthy goal weight for just over 3 years. Running is now part of my life. I too hope that I will be that 90-year-old lady running through town and signing up for events just because I enjoy it.

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  16. Wahh! I hate thinking about getting old. I am going to look so bad with white, short curly hair. :(

    I think I'll forgo running and just sit on my ass and eat cookies all day.

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  17. Ran my first marathon this year at age 48 so I qualify as "older" but don't feel like it. Definitely not fast but I love running and staying fit. My grandmother was still walking 3 miles a day into her 80s - I want to be just like her when I grow up.

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  18. I qualify as older and yes, I plan to keep running. I expect to rack up trophies by just outlasting the competition. I switched to 3xweek running (FIRST) when I started triathlons and never looked back (although group runs are still my favorite). I love that my some of my running and swimming peeps are 20 years younger than I am. I plan to live a long time and want people I know at my funeral - so you gotta recruit younger friends.

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  19. running my first marathon this year at age 50! and yes, i agree, longer recovery times, injury prone but i love to run... and am learning to listen to my body.. unlike 20 year olds, who don't have to!
    i plan to be running in my 80's as well!

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  20. I am 52 and just started up running again...did it in HS and college for fun..quit when I became pregnant...just recently lost 55 pounds with the help of a trainer...and am loving to run..I do not have the drive to train for anything but like doing 5ks and will try maybe up to a 10k.. I run every morning that I can...only 2 miles...am thinking I should take it easy but the days I don't run I feel crappy!

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  21. Oh crap....I'm almost 40, so I suppose I'm in the older runner category. Crapola. Oh well. Heading up in my mileage per run...so excited because I ran 6 miles straight last night for the first time since I was 21! Looking at my first half next March and maybe, just maybe, I'll try a full the following year!

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  22. I'm 51 and will run my 10th half marathon in two weeks. Training for a full marathon.

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  23. I'm older, and I ran my first and only marathon last year at age 49. It took a toll on me. Now that I'm running well again, I think I'm going to plan on a couple of halfs next year. Yoga is my best friend, and I think it will keep me running into old age. I love running and am so sad when I am sidelined. I'm going to work on getting smarter about my training. I've found that I just can't wing it anymore. I've been thinking about getting a heart rate monitor, after reading your posts about training with it. I'm going to continue to do cross training on my bike (indoors on a trainer this winter).

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  24. I'm 52 and been running for 9 years. I don't run on consecutive days to try and keep healthy but my damned achilles is still acting up! Haven't run a full marathon yet but I hope to do so at some stage if I can keep the injuries at bay, just have to accept that it's all part of aging. I have friends who are in their 60's and still running and I want to be still doing this at 80.

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  25. I'm 48 and have been running for a long time. Yep! to all of the above. I find it is important to not be too hung up on speed, mileage etc...I fully intend to keep on running. I can honestly say my fitness level is still the same as when I was younger, what I do need is longer recovery though. I love running and my goal is to just always be able to do it. I am trying to find a way to incorporate some yoga, core and balance type exercises into my routine and that has been a bit of a challenge. I have bursitis in my shoulder currently and so my usual weight lifting is not really possible right now.

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  26. I had a goal to be fitter at 40 than I was at 20. I'm not as fast, or weigh as little as I did then, but I'm running twice as far, and am in better shape than any of my friends. I can't wait to be the gray-haired guy that passes some young runner who says to himself, "Crap! I just got passed by an old guy!" (grin)

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  27. Yeah, I'm an older runner. I could almost have a child that qualifies as an older runner. My "older" fitness inspirations are Sister Madonna Buder; how can you not be inspired by her completing an ironman at age 82?

    Yeah, I'm going to keep on running, and swimming and biking, and yoga, and whatever else I can do, for as long as I can do it.

    My advice is that it is essential to really understand your body. To know when something is a niggle that will go away pretty quick, and when something is the first signs of something going badly wrong. Yet you can't weenie out every time something isn't perfect either. Rather than running a schedule I find it's better to do what you can on the day. Some days feel like a long and slow day, others feel like intervals. Mostly it works out, though that would drive the type A's crazy.

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  28. My mother in law is my running hero. She started running at 40 and last weekend she ran her 14th marathon in DC at 60. She's qualified and run Boston. She is amazing.

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    Replies
    1. I LOVE stories like this, thanks for sharing.

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  29. I just started running this year at age 45. I raced a 10-miler on Sunday and have been feeling pretty done in all week. I have been dealing with hip pain since August, and I just can't seem to get a handle on it. My Chiro cannot figure out if it is tendinitis, bursitis or IT band issues. It may be a little bit of all 3. UGH! I recently switched back from my Kinvaras to my GoRuns and that is helping a lot with pain I was having in my feet and hopefully will help my hips as well. Getting older sucks... but at least at this age I have enough money for a massage twice a month :)

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  30. Love this post. I am 59 years young.

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  31. Love this advise...as a 56 year old who has been running on & off for 40some years I think that the most important factors are to LISTEN to your body; eat well and remember to switch it up a bit to keep your overall strength levels steady. I plan to just keep running - now that you've told us what the qualifying times for Boston will be I might even put another marathon back into my plans for next decade or so!!

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  32. Yay! Apparently I'm not the only 50 year old runner out there! Thanks, Beth, for this great post - I love this site so! I'm getting ready for a marathon on 11/11/12 (Harrisburg, PA). It will be my 4th marathon but the 1st in 20 years. Training has been tough but (in addition to my age) I must also blame 20 years of 4-inch heels - I know - NUTS - but they're so pretty! It's so great to be back out on the road with a goal in mind. Even better knowing that not all other runners are 20 years younger and 2 minutes a mile faster than I am - thanks again!

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  33. I don't know what's more depressing. Me thinking about getting older or the fact that I'm not even 40 and I've run two marathons and have failed to break 5 hours both times. Which means there are 80 year old people faster than me.

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  34. I'm almost 48 and only ran my first marathon at 45 and have BQ'd. Not sure if starting late in life makes a difference on how long I can run or not but I hope so. I plan to keep going as long as I can as well. I have always respected rest a lot and take 2 full days off per week of no running. I try and rest a day before and a day after my long run. I try and take a full week off after a marathon as well. Hoping to add ultras to my futures as well!

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  35. Hi from Holland. I just discovered your blog. I am 51 now and my first race was in 2008. So I am in the first 7 years to get better ;-) I run from 3-4 times a week and once I do fitness. I did 2 marathons. My recepy for stayin healthy is use everything as a free training but do not overload it all the time. One day tough training, next day lower impact training. So one hill training in 14 days, one interval in 14 days. Not too may long runs before the marathon. Not too many races. And challenge yourself from time to time. Last week I did almost 90 km by running dayly, this week I do less. Further I never forget to stretch and I buy goods shoes and clothes. I love to run and I avoid injuries this way. I had plantar facietas years ago and a bad achilles, but since I manage my training I have no problems any more.

    Bye bye


    Dorothé
    http://djaktief.wordpress.com

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  36. I did not start running until I was 45 and now at 47 I started doing triathlons. For my 50th birthday in 2015 I want to do an Ironman triathlon and a destination marathon/fundraiser and a 50K run. Hell no, am not stopping until my body falls apart and the Chiropractor and massage therapist can't put it together again (like humpty dumpty I guess)

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  37. I am 43 and getting ready to run my first marathon next week. I didn't start running until I turned 40. I think what has kept me injury-free is that I don't stress over hitting certain paces, etc. If I feel like crap I just don't push it.

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  38. I love that the over 50 is the fastest growing age group. I rediscovered running again at 40 and I love it. I'm like you, I'll be running until I die.

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  39. 50-year-old runner here. I've been running since Junior High. Just finished my 13th marathon in DC on Sunday. I also do tris--favorite distance is half ironman. One of my favorite things about being an endurance athlete is inspiring my daughters and their husbands & friends. Being called a badass by a twenty-something is pretty cool! I use the FIRST training program (more the philosophy than the actual numbers), and the 3x/week runs seem to work well for my body, while allowing me to train for tris at the same time. Learning to take time for recovery has been a little challenging...but I'm starting to "get" it.....

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  40. I won't stop until I'm forced to, that is for sure. And I'm going to agree with all those benefits except dementia. I really know I am headed there already at 46!

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  41. Wow. Didn't realize how old I am, til I read these replies. 61 this month. It is wonderful to be able to keep running, but it is really hard to accept the changes. So....all you 40 somethings: Enjoy your current status and abilities. Things keep changing. I ran my only marathon at 33, and I'd love to do another. Crisis of confidence, however. In the meanwhile, I try and often succeed in enjoying my 3 or 4 or 5 miles at 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 minute paces.

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  42. Running my first marathon next week at the age of 48! Love to see "older runners" in races, always inspiring. Enjoy reading your blog. Thanks.

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  43. I just turned 39 and have been running for several years(about 5 I think)....my hubby turned 50 last December and just started running this summer :) He went from couch potato to running 5 days a week and is beginning to get faster than me. He was in poor health before, 4 blood pressure meds and 2 cholesterol meds, now none :) YAY HIM!!

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  44. OMG. I am an older runner. And here I thought I was still young. Maybe that's what running does for you. You still age but you don't know it.

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  45. Last month I turned 50 and today I received my invitation to join the AARP. Yikes, when did that happen? I have only run 1/2 marathons, and have found that in the past year, it takes longer to recover. My husband keeps telling me that as I age I won't keep getting faster but I'm going to try to prove him wrong.

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  46. My dad didn't run his first marathon until age 40, and he was STOKED to turn 60 because it reduced the competition so much. I still haven't run a full marathon yet, but according to family tradition, I have seven more years to prepare.

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  47. I am 48 and didn't even start running until I was over 40. I plan on doing it as long as I possibly can. I eat a primal/paleo diet - all my blood tests came back perfectly normal last month and I FEEL so good! I also do a lot of Pilates. You get what you give to your body! I love that the odds of placing get better as I get older. BOOM!

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  48. I'm 46, just ran my 1st marathon - Twin Cities - this past month - a dream of mine since I was in my 20s! I already signed up for my next marathon - Grandma's in Duluth this June. I want to grow old running!

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  49. I'm a 43 year-old runner. I ran competive through HS, college and grad school. Sadly, I don't race much anymore because every time I train for a race I end up injured. I actually can ran faster now then I did in college - maybe because I do it for the enjoyment I get and not to compete?! If I run 3x in a week, that's a bg running week. I do a LOT of cross-training!!!!

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  50. I am 42 and running my first marathon this Saturday...the Savannah Rock-n-Roll. I eat whole grains, lean meat, lots of fruit and veggies, and drink tons of water all throughout the day. I run 3 to 4 times a week. Just as importantly, I make sure to have time for my kids and my hubby so that we all feel connected, happy, and content.

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  51. I love hearing from all these 40+ year old runners -- especially those who didn't start running until later in life. You are all so amazing! I have only been running for a few years, but hope that I can continue at least a few days a week of running as long as I can.

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  52. I'm 38 and just started running this year. I hope I'm able to keep going for years to come!

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  54. I'm a 54 year old woman and just took up running! I am using the C25K app. My goal is to run a 5 k with my daughter! I might be crazy but I am pretty darn proud of my self. I am getting ready to start week 5 of the 8 wk training program!

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