However, this recent spike in the number of older rookies has, not surprisingly, been paralleled with a spike in the number of soft tissue and stress-related bone issues in this age category, such as stress reactions and fractures.
"Tissue responds differently to the jarring impact of running on say a 55- or 60-year-old compared to someone 20 or 25 years of age, and frankly we are seeing more masters runners training harder than ever before," said NY sport based Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Thomas Graves.
Staying healthy and arriving at the starting line in one piece requires a slightly different training approach for older runners than for young runners. Top masters runners are utilizing non-running exercise more and more as both a supplement for and a compliment to a traditional distance running training program. While there are a myriad of non-running activities, there are five that soar above the rest.
Pool Running1 of 6
Long used by injured runners as a means of rehabilitation, deep water pool running is arguably the most running specific non-running exercise available, and it is increasingly being used as a part of a normal distance running training week. Additionally, as a non-impact option, pool running can be implemented regularly at a higher intensity without the risks of regular running. Try this simple workout to get started:
Note that this should all be done with a flotation belt or vest on.
1. Begin by warming up with an easy 15 to 18 minutes of lap swimming or easy pool running.
2. Do six sets of 2 minutes of moderate running with 30 seconds of recovery, one minute at 90-percent effort with 5 seconds of recovery, 30 seconds at 100-percent effort, then 2 minutes of easy-effort running.
3. Cool down for 15-18 minutes.
Elliptical2 of 6
The elliptical and other related Elliptigo machines are excellent non-running exercises that will effectively improve your overall aerobic fitness in a weight-free environment. The overall motion of the elliptical replicates running to a large degree. However, it is worth noting that problems can arise with the elliptical as it relates to a runner's hips and hip flexors due to the lack of natural cross over found in land-based running. The elliptical machine by design keeps the hips on a T plane, maintaining space between your legs. This is contrary to a runner's natural follow-through pattern where the hips create a Y to allow your feet to land in a line and occasionally, hip flexors can be overloaded in trying to maintain balance between both legs.
Stationary Biking3 of 6
Athletes of all sports have used the stationary bike for decades, but only recently have researchers and exercise physiologists looked at the effects of using regular stationary biking workouts to improve running-based performance. And the overall results—particularly in regard to cadence—were surprising.
Stationary biking, when executed properly, can improve overall leg speed as well as hip flexor strength and even the range of motion through your hips. Critical to these improvements includes positioning yourself properly on the bike and keeping the resistance of the bike to a minimum. Maintain a quicker rotation with less resistance, and consult your local bike shop owner for insight into how to best position your seat height and angle.
Cross-Country Skiing4 of 6
There is a reason why cross-country skiers have recorded the highest VO2 Max tests (a measure of oxygen consumption) in history. In short, almost every part of the human body is used in the sport of cross-country skiing. In an ideal world, there is perhaps no better non-running exercise for runners than this Nordic, virtually non-impact sport. Few, athletes globally have a climate in which skiing can be utilized regularly throughout the year. However, most gyms possess Nordic trainers and the upright Versaclimber, which simulates a similar movement. Adding one to two sessions every 10 days of this exercise, even as a light supplementation will boost your endurance throughout your training cycles.
Walking5 of 6
Yes, walking. The simplest of all exercises is ironically something many runners do not do enough of. Walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily has been shown to improve recovery time after harder and longer running efforts and is used by coaches around the globe as a warm-up routine for some of the most elite athletes. The late, great nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist Paavo Nurmi would often walk 3 to 4 hours daily as a means of aerobic supplementation and injury prevention. Add walking to your routine each evening and feel those legs recovering more readily for your next running workout.