Running as a Master Athlete presents some definite challenges, and we have to accept the fact that we’re just not going to be able to run as fast as we did in your youth. As we age, our bodies don’t respond as they once did, which can translate into injuries that take longer to heal and more general aches and pains.
By this point in life, most of us are hopefully a little wiser and we can use this experience and knowledge to our benefit to stay healthy and motivated so that we can continue to do what we love for years to come.
Over the ages of 40, 50 and 60, our natural strength decreases. In fact, the medical community says our muscular strength peaks at around age 30 so by the time we reach age 50+, we’ve lost a significant amount of muscle mass unless we’re doing some strength training to stem the tide.
Another important change occurs in our ability to process oxygen. Our VO2 max decreases about 1% for every decade that we age. As our ability to process oxygen decreases over time, we’ll notice a definite change when doing speed workouts or when running shorter distances where the effort required is greater. The decrease in VO2 max has less of an impact when running longer and slower so many Masters runners gravitate towards longer events like the half or full marathon.
Running offers numerous benefits for Masters Athletes that can help improve physical and mental well-being including:
Cardiovascular Health: Running can help improve heart health by increasing cardiovascular fitness, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease. It strengthens the heart and enhances circulation.
Weight Management: Running is an effective way to burn calories, which can help with weight management and maintaining a healthy body weight. This is especially important as metabolism tends to slow down with age.
Bone Health: Weight-bearing activities like running can help maintain or improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, which become more prevalent with age.
Muscle Strength and Endurance: Running engages multiple muscle groups, which can help build and maintain muscle strength and endurance. This can improve overall mobility and functionality in daily life.
Joint Health: Contrary to common concerns, running can be good for joint health when done with proper form and technique. It can help maintain joint flexibility and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
Mental Health: Running is known to release endorphins, which can reduce stress and anxiety. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment, boost self-esteem, and improve mood.
Cognitive Benefits: Some studies suggest that regular aerobic exercise like running can have cognitive benefits, including improved memory and mental clarity, which can be especially important as people age.
Social Interaction: Running can be a social activity, with the opportunity to join running clubs or participate in group runs or races. This can help maintain a sense of community and combat loneliness, which can be a concern for some older adults.
Enhanced Longevity: Regular running has been associated with increased longevity, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and an improved overall quality of life.
Stress Reduction: Running provides an opportunity for solitude and self-reflection. Many mature athletes find it to be a meditative and stress-reducing activity.
Improved Sleep: Regular physical activity, including running, can help improve sleep quality, which can be particularly important as sleep patterns often change with age.
Stronger Immune System: Exercise, including running, can boost the immune system, making you less susceptible to illness.
Just keep running as recent statistics have shown that those who run live an average of six years longer than those who don’t. This stat alone should keep us motivated!