5 Training Rules You Can Bend, Not Break

Stretch, Strengthen, Cross-Train

"What works for you in your 20s and 30s may not work in your 40s or 50s," says Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D, an exercise scientist, coach and marathoner in Colorado Springs. Age-related physiological changes usually demand some effort to keep your body performing well—and out of rehab.

A Month by Month Guide to a Fitter Faster You

Bend (Don't Break) The Rule

Strength train. In your 30s, muscle mass starts to shrink. This can slow your metabolism and reduce your running economy. But you can stall—and even halt—muscle decline with strength training. Research shows that the rate of muscle loss tends to be greater in the lower body than the upper body, so doing exercises like squats and lunges just twice a week can slow, or prevent, that loss.

Cross-train. Tissue repair and replacement naturally slow over time as do the shock-absorbing characteristics of your muscles, which may mean you need to take more time off between hard efforts. Biking or swimming on a non-running day can be used as a way to add volume to your training without the strain that comes from additional running miles.

Stretch. Loss of range of motion intensifies with age. Muscles and tendons become stiffer as you accumulate scar tissue. Plus, if you have a desk job or long commute, your muscles are probably less flexible. Dynamic stretches at the beginning of a run get blood flowing through the muscles and connective tissues to improve range of motion. Or try yoga to build strength, improve flexibility, and cross-train.

More: 4 Essential Strength Moves for Runners

Eat Meat for Protein Power

The idea that runners can't be vegan because they won't get sufficient protein is less of a rule than an outdated myth. "Some people will do better on a vegan diet than others," says sports nutritionist Tracy Stopler, R.D. "But protein is not the concern. If they get enough whey, nuts and soy, they're going to be fine."

Bend (Don't Break) The Rule

Proceed cautiously. Stopler recommends starting with eliminating one animal source of protein per meal. That means skipping the eggs for breakfast, but still having high-protein Greek yogurt.

Sub in plant-based proteins. If you normally would've had, say, eggs for breakfast, turkey for lunch and beef for dinner, replace the meats with a plant-based protein-source—such as high-protein oatmeal for breakfast; soy meatballs or veggie burgers for lunch; or Portabello mushrooms for dinner. (Or, try these 5 Protein-Packed Staples for Vegetarians.)

Snack well. Include a protein source in every snack.

More: 10 Healthy High-Protein Snacks

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