Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Review: Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb

Disclaimer: I originally reviewed Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb in 2014. This is an update of my original post. It's such a great book that I wanted to revisit it. This post contains affiliate links.

I hope you don't think I'm being pompous by saying that I could have written this book. At age 51, after being plagued with running injuries, I decided to work with a CrossFit coach to get stronger so that I could keep running the rest of my life. She worked my muscles, while I was in charge of my running. That year was incredible for me. I ran my second Chicago Marathon, finishing with a 1 hour, 10 minute PR. That was the year that I finally felt comfortable with the fact that I'm in my 50s. I was in the best shape of my life and that reshaped my attitude about growing older.

Five years later, I still find this book as relevant as before. Those of you who regularly follow me, either here on the blog or on Instagram know that I've continued running, although my marathon days are behind me. I've increased my strength training to twice weekly and have continued to get stronger. While I don't buy into the "age is just a number" nonsense, I do believe that growing older doesn't have to mean giving up active pursuits! We just have to be smarter about it.


At the time Older, Faster, Stronger was released, I was drawn to the book--because Webb's goal, at age 51, was to have her "fittest year". A lifelong runner, she wanted to shake off her midlife malaise and regain the level of fitness she enjoyed in her 20s as a collegiate runner. Her race goal? To place in the top 10 for the half marathon at the World Masters Games. Along the way, she consulted with experts and legends in women's running, using this information to crush much of the so-called wisdom about aging athletes.
"The difference between the front and the back of the pack tends to widen in older age groups, and often the vastly superior winners of older age-groups ran fast enough to be competitive in age groups younger than their own--clearly able to maintain their incredible speed through training, talent, or some other means of resistance to aging."
This is something I've noticed at races as I've moved through my 50s. The women at the top of the leaderboard are still amazingly fast. When I first saw this, I was shocked at the speedy finish times of some of the women in my age group. I can't help but wonder why? Is it genetics? Training? Diet? Webb tries to sort some of this out. She talks about the importance of sleep and diet in older athletes. While younger athletes can skip a night of sleep and still run well, can feast on junk food and not have it affect performance, the same does not hold true for the older athlete. I also liked her information on carb loading, which essentially is bad advice for older female endurance athletes. Apparently, we don't burn fuel like men do. Interesting! Webb also stresses the importance of cross-training, including yoga, which is so good for runners.

The iron nun, Sister Madonna Buder, at age 83, one of the women featured in the book. She has completed 300 triathlons and 45 Ironmans since taking up running at age 48! She qualified for Boston with her first marathon at age 52. 
There's a lot of detail in the book, and keep in mind that this book is really for running junkies and women looking to maintain or maximize their fitness as the years march on.
"A lot of research now shows that training--aerobic, anaerobic, and strength--has effects on the human body at any age. At any age, you can improve the human body. Exercise can literally keep you young. "
Now, this is good news!! These studies also show that all this exercise causes the release of growth hormone and that may very well be the fountain of youth. Interestingly, human growth hormone (HGH) has been used by endurance athletes to improve performance but is a banned substance. The research to support HGH in endurance sports is limited. That doesn't stop athletes from trying it.

In Older, Faster, Stronger, Webb outlines her race strategy in great detail, including the use of mantras or power words, in her case, one word for each loop of her race:
"fun, stronger, faster, and fearless" 
While I won't share the outcome of her race in this review, I can attest to the power of positive thinking and the use of mantras during a race. I often use mantras during a tough race. Mostly I remind myself to "run your own race" and not get caught up in what is going on around me. Listening to music, especially in long races, can help me shut out the world and get in my head to keep myself focused.

Webb also stresses the importance of bonding with other racers, particularly pre-race:
"For women, this prerace hug fest may be a potent secret weapon, as social bonding can release the hormone oxytocin, which has been credited with reducing fear, anxiety, and even inflammation" 
I completely agree with this, in fact, I just published a post on how to meet running friends. As I've grown older, it's become more important for me to have a sisterhood who 'gets' what I'm going through. Having those friends with me at the start line really helps me stay calm and makes the experience much more fun!

Webb encourages us to be proud of our efforts, whether we reach our goals or not:
"But an important lesson I have learned from my running career: While we can't control the outcome of a race, we can control the effort we put into it, and its important to celebrate that effort, and to celebrate ourselves."
I really enjoyed Older, Faster, Stronger. There are so few books that address the concerns of women who want to keep running as they age. If you are looking for a weight loss book or a guide for beginning runners, this is not that book. Older, Faster, Stronger is written for women endurance athletes who are looking for encouragement and guidance about running the rest of their lives. Webb nailed it, in my opinion. The book is well written and easy to read. Really, for me, I felt like I was talking to a friend about running.

I want to be fitter, faster, and stronger! Older? Not so much. Doing it my way!  /via @oldrunningmom @MargaretWebb @RodaleBooks #running #runchat 

Are you an 'older' athlete? If so, what are you doing to 'stay young'? Do you have any goals that you want to achieve? Do you use mantras at races? 

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.


36 comments :

  1. I'm almost finished & I'm glad I just got it out of the library. I found it to be pretty dry & both too much & not enough detail. I don't seem to get faster & I strength train & do yoga & do speed work - all the stuff you're supposed to do. It's very frustrating. Her story or personality just didn't grab me & I really didn't learn much. Just my $.02.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you considered working with a coach? I did all the stuff the author recommended too, but clearly I wasn't targeting the right muscles to make me move faster. But I wasn't doing it right... My experience this year has been really interesting and fun for me. This book validated that. I'm sorry your experience has been different.

      Delete
  2. I did weight lifting for 4 months when I was I injured and it didn't make me faster because I had to start over again with my running, BUT it made me a stronger runner. I got injured again running TOO much but when I was running every day, I did get faster. For me, the only way I can get faster is to simply run more and I really have to push myself. When I push myself I have this fear of getting hurt again. I have done very little strength training and I did not get tired out there running my 10 miler yesterday. I wasn't tired at all and the weather was warmer which usually zaps me. Fear is what is holding me back the most. Plain ole fear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read a lot about training, and there are those who believe that to get faster, you have to run more. Others believe that strength training makes a faster runner. I think you have to do what works for you. As an older runner, I know I have to run less. So far, so good!

      What are you afraid of?

      Delete
  3. Great review!!! Yet another book to add to my growing list of books to read LOL I'm dong the strength training & yoga...eager to see what else I can do to conquer these "older" years as they approach ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! This book really resonated with me. And gave me hope to keep running strong as I age!

      Delete
  4. Love this post!!! I will have to check out her book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!!! I loved this book because for me, it was so encouraging and positive about running into old age. Which so many of my friends and family are not...

      Delete
  5. I will definitely check this out. Interesting how the reviews are mixed. I think I told you this lady was speaking at the summit. Honestly I think we're all an experiment of one. We have different amounts of fast and slow twitch muscles so we respond to training differently. The key is finding what works for you and more importantly, what you enjoy enough to make part of your lifestyle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that with your background, you'll find a lot to like about this book. I do agree with you, there is no one size fits all about this crazy running thing.

      Delete
  6. I definitely plan to read this book. At 61, I am older, faster and stronger than ever. Hoping 60 is the new 30.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sure hope it is too! The book is really encouraging. I think our best years are ahead!

      Delete
  7. It's so motivating to know that many women get faster and fitter as they get older...As I have already started to fall apart at 30 I know that I need to be smart if I want to continue running for many more decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Fall apart at 30...you're not falling apart at all! You're right, you just have to be smart about your training. That's what I'm trying to do now.

      Delete
  8. There are so many great inspirational and helpful books out there. Thanks for the suggestion!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sounds like you got a lot out of this book! I started it, but found it hard to get engaged. Maybe I'll pick it up again this summer.

    ReplyDelete
  10. this sounds like a great book! I am fitter than I was 10 years ago and definitely 20. So I want to keep going in this direction. I know I'm older, I feel it sometimes. But that doesn't mean I won't try to run until my legs don't work anymore.

    I'm not sure I'm in the audience meant for the book (I don't need to be fast... though, it would be nice to be a bit faster!) but I like the general idea of it. And yes, I definitely use mantras!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think she necessarily means the book to be for fast runners--just for women who want to run their best!

      Delete
  11. I definitely use mantras during racing. Pretty much in all areas of my life. And I'm trying to do everything I can do be as healthy as I can for as long as I can. My parents may have lived long lives, but the ending is not pretty and I'd like to beat that -- although one of the problems is Mr. Judy doesn't share my enthusiasm for healthy living.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have the same issue with my husband. In fact, I made a soup this week and he told me it was 'too healthy'. Sigh.

      Delete
  12. I am 51. I want to be faster and stronger than in my 20s. I will definitely read the book.
    There was a woman back in Switzerland who was 20 years older than me. I could not keep up with her. She was so impressive. It can be done!
    (PS: I was confused at the comments - how can they be from 23 November? Until I realized that they were from 2014! Hahaha! You mentioned that at the beginning, I should have remembered).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ran a 10 mile race a few years ago and there was a woman ahead of me that I thought might be in my age group. I tried so hard to catch her. After we crossed the finish line, I congratulated her and you know what? She was in her 60s!

      Delete
  13. This sounds like a book I would enjoy right now. I could use a little positivity about getting older and stronger. This could be a good one for our holiday beach trip.
    thanks for the review

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've also noticed the "old gals" in my age group have not gotten any slower either, though there do seem to be fewer of them. I guess all the ones remaining are the real hardcore ones who have taken the best care of themselves ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if I agree with that--I think the ones in our AGs that are still running are there because they want to.

      Delete
  15. Wow, I'm not usually into running books but this is interesting. I have noticed that the older age groups ( in local races anyway) tend to be more sparse but with those who are "faster" runners. I guess as age groups rise there are less runners running for fun and more who are well trained!

    Hey, congrats on PR-ing in the marathon distance by more than an hour. I did not know that. -M

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing what good training--both physical and mental--will do for a runner!

      Delete
  16. I love reading about other runners in theirs 60s and beyond. It gives me hope! I am def going to read this book. Sounds like exactly what I need.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This sounds like such a great read! I think this is a topic that doesn't get addressed nearly enough. I'm going to add it to my reading list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should follow up with the author to see what she's up to now.

      Delete
  18. thanks for the reco - have added to my to-read list

    ReplyDelete