Training for Older Marathoners


Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise
Published on 06-09-2009

Running a marathon is a pretty impressive feat for a 20-year old. But what about a 50-year old? How many 50-year olds actually make it through a tough as nails marathon training regimen? Probably not very many. Those that do, however, must possess a strong knowledge base of both the body and exercise in general.

Running the marathon distance of 26 miles as a 50-year old is much different than running that distance 30 years earlier. Everything must change. Both training and preparation become even more important as age increases. Simply put, the human body just can’t handle the same activity as well after a few years are put on it. Muscles degenerate and joints weaken as life passes by. While this cannot be stopped, it can be slowed down with the implementation of proper training.

As an older runner, focus must be put into the following categories:

  • Training. This aspect must be even more carefully planned and well thought out than in the past. A 50-year old body just can’t take as much intensity as a 20-year old body can. So to avoid injury, the level of intensity and volume must be turned down greatly. The key here is to start slow. Find out what your body is capable of and then proceed from there. Too many older runners push themselves just as they did when they were younger. Unfortunately, that doesn’t end up working out so well. Once the limits are seen, push for them at a safe and controlled pace. It would be such a shame to push just a little too hard and injure yourself, thus removing you from the competition entirely.
  • Preparation. This word encompasses all parts of training, from nutrition to warm-up. Because the system is so much slower and more delicate at an older age, nutrition is more important than ever. Follow what goes in very carefully. The energy levels just aren’t the same as they once were, so carbohydrates become a lifeline. Without the proper fuel, the body will not respond well at all to the trials of marathon running. Watch the nutrition side just as closely as the training side.

    The warm-up is just as important as nutrition, yet in a different sense. While nutrition relates more closely to the ability to perform based on energy, the warm-up provides an injury defense system. This injury defense system is incredibly helpful now that the body has begun breaking down and is more susceptible to injury than it used to be. Before any type of training, make sure to perform a low -intensity movement, such as rope skipping, to get the juices flowing. Cold muscles are much more likely to strain than warm muscles.

  • Safety. As the years pile on, the body begins to wear. Although it may seem difficult to counter this, it is entirely possible with a little work. A little implement known as the foam roller may serve to take years out of your muscles. Tiny scar tissue adhesions build up over time in various areas of the body. The foam roller allows for the elimination of these adhesions which greatly reduces the risk of an injury on the tissue level. This activity is commonly referred to as soft tissue work. Similar to the foam roller, a tennis or lacrosse ball may also be used to reach some of the more difficult areas, such as the gluteus group and rotator cuff complex.

The take home point here is that safety comes above all else for the older runner. A little precaution never hurt anyone, right? Of course not, but it definitely has allowed for many to continue doing what they love regardless of age.


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