async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Faster
Showing posts with label Faster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faster. Show all posts

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.