How to Keep Running Strong as You Get Older

This post was inspired by our interview with Marshall Ulrich who has taken on so many amazing challenges in his 50’s and 60’s (he will be 70 next year).

You don’t have to be “young” to take on challenges, set endurance goals, and follow your passions but there is an inevitable pace decline that eventually comes with aging along with a few more aches and pains.

Since we’re all getting older it’s important to be proactive about our health and training so that we can support our bodies the best way possible.

How to keep running strong as you get older

Marshall Ulrich at age 61 trekked 425 miles around Death Valley National Park

I love this quote from Dr. Stacy Sims, “As a woman, you have few precious natural resources as important as your muscles. They are what keep you strong, able, and independent. If you exercise on purpose, you are an athlete. You don’t need to be an elite to take your body seriously.”

From my perspective mobility and muscle are important at any age, but especially as we become master’s runners. That’s why I’ve focused specifically on strength training in the last few years along with my running. Here are some tips to making the most of your training as you age.

1. Balance easy and hard training.
As a master’s runner there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing hard workouts (both running and cross training). But be sure to balance your hard days with easy running and rest days. Some older runners think outside the box when it comes to their training week and do a 10-14 day training cycle rather than a 7 day cycle. That way you can add in extra rest days, strength training, and mobility work.

2. Cross train and strength train intentionally.
Adding in low impact cross training like cycling, rowing, yoga, Pilates, and swimming can be excellent ways to keep endurance high while staying mobile and strong. Strength training is also essential, especially focusing on large muscle groups with appropriately heavy loads. Strength training can do everything from increasing growth hormone levels, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, reducing risk of injury, improving the heart’s ability to pump blood, and improving tissue vascularization by increasing the body’s ability to grow new capillaries.

3. Focus on recovery.
For the master’s runner it’s important to dial in and maintain an effective recovery routine. This may include things like foam rolling, compression gear, regular massage, plenty of sleep, a balanced healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and regular rest days.  When it comes to rest days you may find that you need two days per training week instead of one. It can also be helpful to do an “off season” after a period of heavy training or tough races. This can be a great time to step up your cross training and focus on any weaknesses.

4. Ask for help when you need it.
Even if you’ve been running for many years there is still benefit in getting outside help and advice. This may come in the form of a running coach, strength coach, or even a physical therapist to work on weak areas or injuries. Make sure that you build a supportive team around you, not people who discourage you from taking on challenges.

5. Develop a strong mindset.
One of the great things about getting older is having the benefit of more time to build mental discipline and patience. Cultivate a growth mindset so that you’re more likely to keep learning, setting goals, and challenging yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to discourage you from something simply because of your age. Keep doing the things that make you feel most alive.

Related Posts:
Still Running with My Dad After 40+ Years
Interview with Gene Dykes, 2:54:23 Marathon at Age 70
Masters Runners: Body Changes and Injury Prevention Strategies

2 Responses to How to Keep Running Strong as You Get Older

  1. Alan Tofig January 10, 2021 at 6:48 am #

    I’m training for the Cleveland Marathon in May. I really love the idea of thinking about training in 10-14 day training cycles versus the traditional 7 day. How often would you do weight training in that cycle?

    • Angie Spencer January 11, 2021 at 12:46 pm #

      That’s fantastic! I’d recommend aiming for 3-5 strength workouts during a 10-14 day training cycle.

Leave a Reply