1. Use it or lose it. Many older runners lose speed simply because they do less speedwork, opting instead for endurance workouts. Ultimately this makes them less flexible and decreases their stride length. Thus, they get slower.
Incorporating at least one speed session into your weekly training plan will do wonders for your fitness. And you'll maintain better leg speed than if you didn't do any speedwork. A good session: six to 10 x 100- to 200-meter speed bursts during a regular training run.
2. Give yourself a boost. All of us lose bone-mineral density as we age. While running helps, strength training may do an even better job of preserving bone density. It's best to do both activities to protect against the debilitating effects of osteoporosis.
Try to spend at least 20 minutes strength training twice a week. Each session should include eight to 12 repetitions with each of the body's major muscle groups: legs, hips, abs, chest, back, arms and shoulders.
3. Stretch it out. Stretching is essential for maintaining range of motion, which normally decreases over time. If you stay flexible, you'll retain your stride length, which will help you keep your speed.
Before a race or hard workout, warm up for at least 10 minutes to let muscles loosen. Then it's time to stretch when muscles are loose and warm. Stretching after a race or workout also improves your flexibility, and can help ease muscle soreness.
4. Power up with protein. Protein builds, repairs and maintains muscle, fights off disease and controls the hormones that regulate metabolism. Studies have shown that consuming adequate protein helps older people maintain their immune systems. For sedentary people, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.36 grams per pound, but runners need more between 0.50 and 0.72 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So a 120-pound runner should take in around 70 grams a day, while a 150-pound runner should consume closer to 90 grams.
5. Take your vitamins. Our metabolism slows as we age, which translates to lower calorie needs. But no matter how old you are, your body still requires its full complement of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.