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Sometimes running life begins at 40 and, as a result, you should continue to see improvements in running pace and performance. But, even if your running life began several decades prior to your fortieth birthday, you can still run faster in your forties and beyond.
Consider Kevin Castille of Nicholasville, Kentucky. In 2012 the 41-year-old set an age-group national record of 48:56 for 10 miles on the road. A couple of weeks later he broke his own age-group record for 10,000 meters on the track, running 28:53.54. That time is within four seconds of Castille’s personal best for the event, which he set when he was 32.
How did he do it and how can you mimic it? Let’s take a closer look:
TAKE MORE TIME IN BETWEEN HARD EFFORTS
In running life after 40, recovery is key and you will need more time to recover from hard workouts. Masters runners can shift their training and mindset by adapting an 8-10 day cycle of training rather than planning out a typical 7 days. The extended schedule allows for the recovery time needed but also keeps key workouts, like speed and tempo, on in regular rotation.
Yes, you read that correctly. If you want to run faster after 40 you will need to take recovery seriously and you will need to implement more cross training. Your body most likely cannot endue the same 50-100 mile weeks of continuous running and instead needs to build up key muscles to support the quality runs you are doing.
Consider cycling for some of your cross training as it’s a great alternative to the pounding on your joints and has been proven beneficial to running endurance. If you have access to an ElliptiGO, even better! We already know a certain decorated, over 40 runner named Meb who has been training with an ElliptiGO for years with much success.
TRAIN SPEED DIFFERENTLY
Yes, you can still go fast and harness some speed out of those legs and lungs but you will want to incorporate strength training and hills into your “speed work” days. Add more explosive strength training days (think plyometrics) since your body can tolerate strength work better than a day at the track. And, instead of doing something like 10×400 do shorter hill sprints like 10 x 30 seconds at 4 percent incline. Lastly, keep a speed component in your training at all times, even the offseason, so you can better maintain your body’s tolerance for it.
FOCUS EVEN MORE ON FOOD
If good nutrition is already a focus (as it should be) you will need to hone your eating skills to adapt to your aging body and it’s changing nutritional needs. Nutritionist, bestselling author and runner Matt Fitzgerald has a system that ranks food types by quality as defined by their effect on body composition. The 10 types are in descending order of quality:
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish and lean meats
- Whole grains
- Refined grains
- Fatty meats
- Fried foods
Fitzgerald suggests tracking how many times you eat each type of food and then use the data to move your eating habits toward mostly the top of the list. He also emphasizes that none of these food groups needs to be eliminated.
Whether you started running at 40 or are still looking to push yourself as you enter this new decade, know that you can run faster after 40 and beyond as long as your adjust your workouts and your mind to a new way of training.