Running as an older athlete - You're never too old!

‘’If you decide you have some degree of control over your destiny as a senior athlete, then you are taking the first step towards improved performance. Ageing is first and foremost an attitude. Whether you decide you are over the hill or not, you’re right’’ (Joe Friel., 2015)

Let’s face it, getting older is something that no one can avoid, however that doesn’t mean that we have to feel old or even stop running!

Running regularly and maintaining a physically active lifestyle into middle and older age brings so many benefits; it reduces the age-related reduction in bone mineral density, muscle strength, and cardiovascular health compared with those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. These tremendous benefits lead to reduced musculoskeletal pain (those aches and pains we all get) and reduces coronary heart disease, if that’s not a reason to stick on your running shoes and get out the door we don’t know what is!

Of course, there are some things to consider when aiming to keep running for as long as possible, we have put together some of our best running advice below.

Injury in the older athlete

With age there is the increased risk of developing running related overuse injuries, especially over the age of 45. These may include Achilles's tendinopathy, plantar fasciopathy and degenerative knee and hip pain. They occur partly due to the ageing process itself (something even athletes can’t outrun!), and reduced muscle strength and flexibility. However, this does not mean that you should stop running. You may need to adjust your training approach and incorporate some supplementary strength-based exercises to help your body respond to training loads.

Importance of strength

Sarcopenia is the technical term referring to the loss of muscle mass associated with ageing, it can lead to loss of muscle strength and physical function. There is growing evidence suggesting that progressive strength training can combat sarcopenia. Strength training has a profound effect on all physiological mechanisms in the nervous system and muscular systems that help us to remain stronger for longer, and we all want that!
Not only can strength training help negate age related muscle loss, but it has also been proven to improve running performance. It can significantly help improve a runner's VO2max (the amount of oxygen that an individual can utilise during exercise) and the amount of force a runner can produce with each step. So, while also combating the effects of ageing, you may also improve your running performance, it is a total win.
The national guidelines for physical activity recommend that adults incorporate two resistance training sessions into their week. These training sessions should include exercises for each major joint and muscle group, such as your ankles, knees, hips, and so on. We know you’re thinking, where do I find the time, but this type of training can be done at home. Delving deeper into the strength requirements for running, single-leg strength is vital. It is estimated that runners subject ground force reactions of 1.5 to 3 three times their body weight, just imagine that over the course of a marathon! Being able to tolerate these repetitive forces is essential and single-leg strength training can help with that. Below are some examples of strength exercises that you can consider incorporating into your routine.
 

Managing load. Goal is to keep running for as many years as possible.

The best way to keep running for as long as possible as we age, is simply to keep running! However, it is even more important to allow greater time to recover from training. Our muscles cannot recover at the same rate as they could when we were younger. This may mean having more rest days and for those who are new to running it’s important to gradually increase your training. We see so many running-related injuries occur from doing too much too soon. If you feel any niggles, always allow your body some extra time to rest before running again. If pain or niggle persists or gets worse, it is important to see a physiotherapist for the best advice.

Extra little bits to include are things like mobility work, stretching, foam rolling or sports massage. They can be great for your general health as well as helping with your running performance and helping to keep us going for longer!

 

Strength Exercises

Stretches/Mobility

Calf Raises

Calf Stretch

Double Leg or Single Leg Squats

Quad Stretch

Double Leg or Single Leg Hamstring Bridge

Hamstring Stretch

Press Up

Glute Stretch

Shoulder Press

Spinal Segmentation (Cat & Cow Yoga Poses)

Bicep Curl

90/90 Hip Transitions

Tricep Dips

Thoracic Spine Rotations

 

This blog was contributed by our partners Coach House Physiotherapy (CSPC). Find out more about the team and the work they do here

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