Lessons for the Aging Runner from Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat

enjoy the journey

One of the big draws for me with the Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat (other than Kara Goucher!) was the focus that it promised on running as you age and on injury prevention.  Because for me, the 40’s are NOT fabulous in terms of my running.  I just turned 44 and I’ve been injured and NOT running for more of my 40’s than I’ve been healthy/running.

Before I get to what I learned at the retreat, however, I do want to make a pitch to aging women runners to consider getting tested for hypothyroidism (and Hashimoto’s Disease) if you are feeling any of the following symptoms, many of which can be written off as “normal aging” (I did – only to discover I had hypothyroidism – which is now controlled by a daily magic pill of thyroid hormone): gall bladder issues or pain, feeling tired and very low energy – all the time, brain fog/memory issues, problems concentrating, irregular periods, joint pain, weight gain, depression, constipation, dry scalp, extreme emotional swings, always being cold.  Seriously – if you are feeling these symptoms, get your TSH level tested (but make sure the testing lab is using to correct range – many labs still use the old guidelines).  The test is easy.  The fix is easy (for me; knocking on wood). And SO many people – especially middle age women -develop hypothyroidism.

As I think about what I learned in terms of aging advice and injury prevention advice, much of it is common sense and/or stuff that we have all heard.  But we all ignore it.  We tell ourselves we don’t have time for it.  Or we don’t need it, because we have been fine and fast up until now.  But the truth is that the things that were talked about are so important to being a healthy masters runner.  So, without further ado, here’s what I learned at the retreat (from speedsters Kara Goucher, Janis Klecker, Katie McGee and Dr. Ann Sudoh):

  • You have to get more creative on how you get fit as you get older.  You can’t run every day, or do doubles, like when you were young. You MUST have a non-running activity that you enjoy.  It’s important for injury prevention (you can’t run every day – you need to cross train with something to stay healthy and fit).  But it’s also important so you don’t have all your eggs in the running basket – so that when you get injured (because you probably will, as you age) you don’t let yourself fall apart mentally and physically. So pick whatever you like – skiing, yoga, cycling, elliptical (do people really like that thing??), swimming, walking, pilates.
  • You MUST strength train.  I am SO guilty of ignoring this one.  Mostly because I don’t have a clue what to do in terms of lifting weights or using weight machines.  I can’t remember the statistic Dr. Sudoh gave us, but it was some significant percentage of muscle mass that you lose each decade after your 30’s, just by virtue of aging.  So you NEED to do strength training to remain strong and healthy.  No more ignoring this – I know I’m going to FOR SURE find a strength program and figure out what I need to do to get stronger.  Someone check back in with me in a month and kick my butt if I haven’t started strength training!
  • Obey your stress/rest cycle.  You know – the old hard day/easy day/hard day thing.  Only as you age you need to change this for something that works for your aging body. Listen to your body.  Your new “older” stress/rest cycle might be:  hard/easy/easy/easy/hard
  • Consider doing 10 day training cycles instead of the “normal” 7 day training cycle.  This will give you more days to get the key workouts in and to recover/rest properly.
  • Consider doing longer rest intervals.  If you used to do 1000 meter intervals with a 60 second recovery, your aging body may now need 90 second recovery.  It’s more important to take the longer time to recover and hit your paces.
  • Post hard workout you NEED to be taking in recovery nutrition in the very short window that it matters, which is like 15 minutes after you run.  You need to replenish with carbs/protein with one of those recovery type drinks (I don’t know the exact carb/protein ration – but you all know what I’m talking about).  Kara Goucher’s post hard workout (long runs and fast efforts) is tart cherry juice (antioxidants) and a garden of life protein shake.  But whatever works for you – ensure, chocolate milk, whatever carb/protein drink you can tolerate – just get it in you within 15 minutes of running.  Kara described how much more difficult her runs are the next day or two after a hard effort if she skips her recovery nutrition.
  • Prehab.  You know, like how we rehab after an injury occurs.  Prehab, before an injury occurs.  Stretch. Foam roll.  Massage.  Baby those little “niggles” that pop up, before they become full fledged injuries.  Side note:  I found it so reassuring to hear that Kara and Katie (both younger than me) wake up in the morning and their bodies feel creaky and old. It happens to all of us – we just need to adjust our routines to work with the creakiness!
  • Rule of Too’s (via Katie McGee):  Don’t do anything Too Hard, Too Fast, or Too Often.
  • Masters racing is about getting to the STARTING line.  Love this.  So true.  As I’ve been in my 40’s I’ve had to back out of two marathons because I was too injured to even make it to the starting line.  Which sucks.
  • Better to be 4% under trained than 1% over trained.  Over training leads to injuries, blow ups and not meeting your goals.
  • Train your weakness in your off season.  Instead of marathoning all year round, take a break and do shorter distance in the off season.  Or focus on strength or whatever your weakness is.  Give your body a break and a boost.
  • Think about the choices you are making each day.  Ask yourself “is this choice I’m making allowing me to stay even, move forward or go backwards”?  (Side note:  I thought about this during the retreat as I helped myself to seconds on brownies and thirds on red wine – but I justified it with “I’m on a mini-vacation – I’ll start making good choices on Monday!”)
  • Still keep pushing yourself to reach new goals, explore new things.  Always be curious and ask what’s possible.

Good stuff.  I swear I’m not going to ignore this advice anymore – I want to be running when I’m a senior citizen!

3 thoughts on “Lessons for the Aging Runner from Minnesuing Acres Women’s Running Retreat

  1. +1 to all of this! the ST gets ignored by many (myself included). as i approach 39 (gulp), i keep all of this at the forefront of my mind! thanks for sharing 🙂

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