Running and aging

Keep your speed up as you age

Jack Nicklaus said it. So did 1960s running great Jack Bachelor. It's not the desire to race at a world-class level that wanes, rather it's the fact that the body loses the ability to do so.

There's more to capturing all that your body still has to give than just getting out the door for your daily run. Running is one of the sports that obviously has a good side; but it also has a dark one. Here are some essential strategies to help keep aging -- and running's dark side -- in check.

Maintain your VO2max

Those who lose huge helpings of their VO2max are either not training enough, or not training at all. Aerobic capacity is measured by that most exulted of figures, VO2 max. Here's what happens if you're sedentary: By the time you're busy rolling through your 30s, you can expect to dribble away about one percent of your body's maximum ability to use oxygen every year. Ouch.

Action plan: Being a runner is a powerful remedy, thanks to the application of the use-it-or-lose-it principle. By stressing your VO2max with good ol' consistent, hard training, VO2max losses will diminish accordingly.

This is why runners 40 and over have clocked sub-four minute miles. Occasional bouts of high-intensity running and racing will do a nice job of keeping your VO2max high up off the ground.

For many aging runners, the problem here isn't motivation. They'd run 140 miles a week if they could. It's the annoying injury problems that seem to creep up more and more as you get older.

Take an attitude check

Prevent overuse wear and tear by keeping any tendencies to be stubborn in check. In other words, be open-minded about how to train and how to stay healthy.

Action plan: First of all, be aggressive in your injury prevention. Keep in mind that at any given moment, your love of running can be torn out from under you. Here are more specific actions you can take against injury:

  1. Know your feet. Whether you suspect a problem or not, spend some time talking with a top-notch running podiatrist, or visit a site like A properly made set of custom insoles can work wonders.
  2. Ice away. Treat every minor beep of discomfort with an onslaught of attention. Taking a bag of frozen peas to a knee or Achilles tendon that has issued even the tiniest of complaints can go a long way to warding off problems.
  3. Work with a coach. A coach can help analyze your training, your gait and your diet and help you deter problems.
  4. Perform speed work on soft surfaces. The track is a lovely thing to work out on, but it can easily be too much of a good thing. Performing interval work, tempo work and Fartlek running on roads, trails or grassy fields will not only help prevent certain types of injuries, but can also naturally enhance your balance and certain types of musculoskeletal strength.
  5. Cross train. When you feel tired or beat up, switch gears and get in the pool or on your bike. You'll get your exercise fix, maintain your fitness and build some valuable strength as well.

Reprinted, courtesy of Windy City Sports Magazine. For more articles and information for Windy City Sports, please visit

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