Line up at a local race and you'll likely see several generations of women, standing side-by-side, ready to share the challenge ahead.
Running welcomes all ages. Regardless of how many candles blazed on your last birthday cake, it is a good time to start. And if you've already accumulated lots of miles, there is no reason to stop because of your age. Success, as a lifetime runner, means adapting your training and expectations as strengths and limitations change. Here's how to thrive at any point in your life.
Running in Your 20s"No matter what I was dealing with, running always gave me a sense of control and accomplishment in my 20s." -- Susan Airheart. Accomplished runner and age group triathlon champion. She started running at age 19.
THE PERKS As a 20-something runner, you have the ability to train hard, race well and recover quickly. Your bone density and muscle mass are at their highest, which translates to better strength and speed as well as a reduced injury risk. Since your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use) peaks, you are explosive for quick starts, surges and final kicks.
THE CHALLENGES Most running challenges lie outside the body in this decade. From late nights out with friends to poor eating and sleeping habits, training can fall prey to a typical 20-something's erratic schedule. In the days leading up to your period, you may feel as though you are working harder to maintain your usual pace. Thanks to an increase in respiratory rate (due to peaks in progesterone), exercise will feel more labored. Even if you don't feel like running, the resulting endorphins will help to alleviate mood swings, fatigue, cravings and cramps.
MAXIMIZE POTENTIAL Experiment with how far and fast you can run, but be smart about it. Although you feel invincible, avoid over-training and always running hard. While 20-something runners are strong and quick, flexibility starts to decline from its peak in the teen years. As a result, it is important to stretch and follow hard run days with easy ones to avoid injuries. Since bones are still developing, you should incorporate explosive movements, such as plyometrics, into your training routine to ensure strong development.
Running in Your 30s"Running friends became my social circle. The fun I had with this close group was important to me." -- Susan Airheart