Expert Panel Question???
“There are many training schedules for a marathon but there doesn’t seem to be anything tailored for an older runner. I’m 59 and would like something geared more to me. I just can’t run fast.”
(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts here)
Response from Paul Pilkington:
I would follow one of the marathon training programs, but would make some adjustment on the recovery days between hard workouts. As older runners we tend to need more recovery. Once we get over 40 years old we start to lose muscle. Training helps to offset the loss, but an untrained over 40 year old will lose around a pound of muscle a year. As a result, instead of 1 easy day between quality workouts you might need 2 or 3 days. You’ll still run on those recovery days, but don’t be afraid to slow down and listen to your body. If the schedule says go hard on Tuesday and Thursday you might want to experiment with Monday and Thursday to get an extra day of recovery.
Response from Janae Richardson:
I recently read an interesting article in the November 2009 issue of Running Times* called “The Science of Aging”. It talked about four changes that take place in our bodies as we age and how we can best deal with them. The first change is a decrease in VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen our body uses). To slow the rate of VO2 max decrease, many experts suggest training consistently (moderate paced runs and speed work) and racing frequently. It’s a good idea to race a 5K or 8K every three to six weeks. The second change that comes with age is a decrease in flexibility. A decrease in flexibility can cause a loss in range of motion, which affects how smooth and efficient you are while running. The solution is stretching, using a foam roller 4-5 days a week to help retain or restore flexibility, and a massage every week or two. The third change that takes place (as Paul Pilkington mentioned in his response above) is a decline in muscle power. However, vigorous weight-training can help offset this decrease in muscle mass. Two to three days a week of some type of weight training is the key along with staying consistent with your running. The fourth change is a decrease in recovery and healing rates. You should still do the same type of workouts that younger runners do, but you may need to alter your schedule to allow yourself enough recovery time (Again, refer to Paul Pilkington’s response).
* Resource: Lovett, Richard A. “The Science of Aging: Why your body slows and what you can do about it” Running Times November 2009: pg. 62-66