Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Reasons Being an Older Runner Doesn't Suck

But I don't feel old...

Yesterday, I turned 55. Over the past couple of years, I've struggled mentally with the concept of aging. Turning 50 really was difficult for me, until I turned my 50s upside down, modifying my training, setting new race PRs, and showing myself that age really is just a number. I don't feel like I'm 55 and I don't think or act like a typical 55 year old. If that makes me immature, then sign me up! Apparently, I'm not alone because I've found a peer group of women runners who think and act like I do.

Being an older runner doesn't suck. In fact, it's pretty darned awesome.



Age Groups Rock!  At least, over 50 they do. I don't know what happens to women in their 50s, but there are a whole lot fewer women in the 50s age groups. Because of that, I've been fortunate to snag a few age group awards over the past 4 years, something I would never have done in my younger years. Now that I'm in a new age group, I'm young all over again. The one caveat: many of the women still running at my age are still really fast. But don't count me out yet. Studies show that running economy remains basically unchanged into old age.

Age grading makes a runner young again.  Do you know about age grading? Age grading is a way to compare the finish times of older runners with that of younger runners. Similar to a handicap in golf, it levels the playing field. It doesn't really mean much for us amateur runners, but it's kind of fun.

With age comes wisdom.  If only I knew then what I know now--I would have conquered the world. Life experience, time on the road, and pushing through adversity builds mental toughness. As it turns out, experience on the road also fine-tunes the brain to anticipate how to control pace and run efficiently. In this analysis of Chicago Marathon finish times, 50 year old experienced women marathoners finished with similar times to first-timers in their 30s! These experienced marathoners also hit the wall with much less frequency than their younger counterparts.

You sure don't look like you're in your 50s.  Runners overall are in better health than non-runners. While the benefits of aerobic exercise are indisputable, the effects of continued running into later years of life increase as time goes on. I wasn't able to prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis but you sure can't argue the positive effects of running, not only on my physical health but also on my mental well-being. People keep telling me that I need to stop running because running is going to "ruin my joints". I tell them that running doesn't ruin your joints, arthritis ruins your joints. Use it or lose it.

A birthday handstand!
You Can Still Eat All the Food!  Well, sort of. Runners can train their bodies to be a fat burning machine by doing "depletion runs" (ie running on an empty stomach). Combined with long slow distance running, over time, running on empty trains the body to become more efficient at using fat stores for fuel. This doesn't mean you can gorge on junk food. Everything in moderation.

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While all this is good news for older runners, the one thing all these articles stressed is that older runners can't train like they did in their 30s. For older runners, that means lower mileage, strength training, stretching, and cross-training. You know my motto: quality over quantity. Make the most of your miles. Accept that you may be slowing down--for me, that acceptance is a work in progress. I keep telling myself that finishing is winning; I need to own that! I have had a lot of success with the run/walk method, particularly on my long runs. Rest and recovery are more important now than ever. Most importantly, if it feels good, do it. Don't listen to the doubters. Listen to your body. And your heart.

my parents gave me this birthday card! LOL
How do you feel about running into old age? Are you willing to give up some of your miles in exchange for cross training? Do you strength train?

I'm linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five 2.0!



63 comments :

  1. I like that wisdom one...mine would the be wisdom to train smarter, not harder :)

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    1. I've used that one too! I need to believe it.

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  2. Happy Birthday Wendy!!!! Age is just a number!

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    1. I think I finally believe it! Thank you!

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  3. Well, it's really not sour grapes (sort of) but age groups mean nothing to me. And maybe that's actually a positive, never even thinking about who you're racing except yourself. Nor can I ever eat all the food. I wasn't dealt that kind of metabolism -- but running does give me a bit more leeway. However, that does get harder the older I get.

    But as to age . . . so far, it's really never bothered me. Maybe it comes from being the baby of the family. Like, the whole family (except the next generation).

    I definitely strength train. Use it or lose it indeed!

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    1. I like the healthy competition that AG invites. Even though I mostly compete with myself, I like to see where I'm at compared to my peers. I think that's ok.

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  4. Age is relative. I still feel like I'm 15. I doubt that will ever go away. Heck, I don't even dress age-appropriate most of the time. :)

    I hope you had the best birthday celebration!!!! xxoo

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    1. Pretty sure the INB brings out the kid in all of us! LIfe's too short to dress seriously.

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  5. I sincerely hope I can run into my old age... and when I can't run anymore, I hope I can walk. Hopefully the strength training, stretching, and not overdoing the mileage now will help me, but you never know what the body has in store for you! So I don't eat before my runs M-F because I do it so early in the morning that I am not hungry yet. I guess that is helping my body to learn to burn stored fat? That's a nice benefit!

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    1. 100% agree with you about not knowing what the future holds. I'm so glad I was able to climb over that obstacle life threw at me this year and keep on running! Who knows how long I'll be able to go, but I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

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  6. Well, I have never been a high-mileage runner, so I already have that conquered ;-) I do hope to continue running well into "old" age...there's a lot to be said about keeping those bones strong and the joints flexible.

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    1. I've even cut back more on my miles--just trying to get by on the bare minimum these days!

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  7. Love this! The only thing about running in my 50s I don't like is that I'm even slower than my normal slow and seem to be more injury prone. But everything else ...YES!! And I do love those 'you sure don't look 50' comments!! :)

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    1. I think the strength training has really made a difference for me on the injury front.

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  8. I have had a hard time with the concept of aging the last few birthdays as well. I don't feel old either and in fact, I think I am in better shape than I was in my 30's. Some of the women in our MRTT in their 50's are killing it setting all kinds of new PR's so perhaps there is hope! I have found the opposite on the eating though. my metabolism has slowed down and I have to really watch what I eat more which is never fun of course. Happy birthday!

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    1. This is the first birthday in a long time that I was ok with turning another year older. This year has been so great for me in spite of being diagnosed with RA and I'm really grateful for that.

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  9. Happy Birthday, Wendy! Sounds like you are feeling great about turning 55, and why not? It's pretty amazing to be this age and feel so good, right?

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    1. I think that's why I'm ok with it!. Earlier this year, I thought I was doomed! Who knew?

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  10. Yay to all of this Wendy! I have to admit I'm still trying to wrap my brain around being 51 - it's a work in progress for sure as I continue to make adjustments to my eating and training. Happy Birthday!!

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    1. 51 was almost as tough for me as 50. I never thought it would get better but it does. Talk to me in 5 years, tho!

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  11. Use it or lose it!! That is my motto :) I stop when I have too, but i get out the minute I feel better.
    Happy Birthday!! and NO you do not look like you are in your 50's :)

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    1. Neither do you--which is a testament to our sport, right?

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  12. Happy Birthday Wendy!! I hope you had an awesome birthday!!

    I hope to grow up to be half as awesome and kick ass woman as you are!

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  13. I did comment early this morning but I don't know where it went.

    Well, your memory does go as you age and there are those wrinkles.

    Besides that getting older as a runner is the best. I don't feel old and am still a lot faster than some of the younger runners. It is fun getting those age group awards as well and especially when they doubt your age!!

    So as they say "Age is a state of Mind and I don't mind."


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    1. Yeah, but at least the vision goes so you don't see the wrinkles...

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  14. Age groups rock for sure! I train smarter and listen to my body WAY more than when I was younger. I'm optimistic that I can still run well for many more years! Happy 55! I hope I am as fit as you in 10 years! :)

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    1. Pretty sure you are going to kick old age's butt!

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  15. Happy birthday, Wendy!

    I'm the weirdo who was giddy about turning 50! I don't know why but I was happy to say goodbye to my 40s.

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    1. I was not giddy about turning 50 or 55, but I'm at peace with it!

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  16. Happy birthday!

    I'm in my 30s, and already I know I'm not running like I did in my 20s. That desk job makes things difficult. I could push through a lot in college, but no more. I've learned I have to be smart, otherwise I could be sidelined. It's difficult to accept, but I know I'll be better for it.

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    1. I guess I just would say to train smarter, not harder. The strength training has been a game changer for me.

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  17. Cheers to 55! You make it look good and your attitude is even better. I hope to carry this attitude with me!!!

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    1. Thank you! I feel pretty lucky to be able to keep doing what I'm doing.

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  18. I have found that the men and women who are still running in the older age groups are the speedier ones. Or just the more dedicated ones! I have won AG awards in my 30's and I hope I can at least win one in my 40's and maybe one in my 50's. My parents are still running in their 60's and earning AG awards so maybe there is hope for me! You look fabulous! Happy Birthday friend, I hope you get to do something fun this weekend!

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    1. That's great about your parents! I love hearing that--there's still hope for me! LOL

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  19. How many ladies in their 50s do you know who can still slalom? Two? Bahahaha.... I'm going into my senior years kicking and screaming, fighting tooth and nail, and doing what I want -- no matter what my number is. And I expect you to be beside me.

    Happy Birthday, Sista.

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    1. You'd need a crowbar to pry me off your hip! So glad I have a buddy who gets my crazy.

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  20. Happy 55!!! You are amazing... I'm only 44, but the girls I usually run with are in their early 30's, so I feel pretty good about that!!! Still can't do a handstand and don't necessarily have a desire to, but I'm going to work on more cross-training post Chicago!

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    1. You have to hang out with younger people--It keep you young!

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  21. This was a difficult post for me. As you know, I will be 65 in a few weeks and I have come to that impass where I can no longer run. It's been hard to accept. I miss it more than I can express. And yet I am grateful for all the joy and sense of accomplishment and the friendships that running has brought to my life.
    I salute you and wish for you at least ten more years. Knowing you, you will far surpass that mark.
    I agree: you don't look fifty-five. At least a decade younger.
    Happy Birthday, my friend. Keep on running. Keep on kicking ass. I will be following your adventures for a long tome. A verg long time.

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    1. From everything I've read, the 60s were a turning point for a lot of runners. I do hope to run through my 60s, but everything is a crapshoot now. Every run is a blessing.

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  22. Happy Birthday!!! Age is a number and arthritis ruins your joints, exactly. Thank you for saying that I need perspective. I am loving 50, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about turning the big 50, it's been the best so far, despite feeling like the warranty on my body has run out. This too shall pass. I am very willing to give up the miles for cross training, seeing the changes in my body with cross training is all the encouragement I needed. Keep on keeping on!!

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    1. Cross training gave me a whole new lease on life! I've loved the changes in my body and I feel so strong. I'll do whatever it takes to keep moving. Besides, it's fun!

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  23. Happy Birthday! I love how you are winning AG awards in your "new" age group.

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    1. Well, I haven't run any races in my new age group yet, so that remains to be seen!

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    2. Oops, what I meant to say was in the 50 group.

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  24. Happy Birthday! I love that I know so many runners who are older than me and still doing awesome. It definitely gives me hope that I have some great running years ahead of me...even though my body is already falling apart in my 30s.

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    1. You aren't falling apart! You just need to figure out how to train to make your body happy. It's been hard to watch you struggle this past year. I hope you find the keys to keep yourself on the road.

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  25. Happy birthday, Wendy! I only just turned 40 last month, so am I am "older runner"? Probably not quite yet, but I certainly hope to keep running as long as I possibly can.

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    1. You're still a kid! You've got lots of good miles left in your 40s. In fact, the 40s can be one of the most competitive decades in long distance running, especially for women.

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  26. I started strength training as a freshman in high school, when I suffered a knee injury in cheerleading, so I have always had some sort of strength training component to fitness because I just love it! I've never been one who wanted to run every day, so I am happy to give up miles to cross train (weights, gym classes, yoga)!

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    1. I'm really embracing strength training now! I find that I can still get stronger, but I'm not so sure I'm going to get faster. I'm all about the rewards, I guess!

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  27. You are such an inspiration! I have to admit that I loved aging up this year to a new group :-)

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    1. Thank you! I'm not so sure I loved aging up...

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  28. Happy belated birthday! And you definitely don't look your age--I like to think we're only as old as we feel, and like you said, with age comes wisdom too! :]

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    1. I sure don't feel old. I really think that's all that matters.

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  29. Keep running Wendy. As I've hit 50 I realize that age is definitely just a mind set. Yeah, I'm not running as fast as I would like but it's the fact that I can do it. The fact that you are out there getting faste gives me hope I can, too!

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    1. I love what you've done this year! It's pretty amazing!

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  30. Happy Birthday! This was a good one for me to read because I am approaching 40. And I'm struggling with it. Thanks for such a positive outlook.

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    1. 40 was tough for me. 50 was tougher. I'm sure 60 will be really hard!

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  31. Happy birthday! I often forget how old I am because I still feel so young at heart, haha! I hope to take advantage of the age group awards one day, but just running will be ok too.

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    1. I agree. I'm grateful to be running at this advanced age... :p

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