Getting Older, Running Smarter
Last month I touched on how the heat and humidity has taken its toll on me over the years and how I prefer to run in the mornings to beat the heat, but not so much the humidity. This month’s writings will further address issues as one ages while trying to continue enjoying running.
This column may be more appropriate for the over 50 crowd. However, it may also benefit the younger crowd to avoid mistakes made so that you can run and compete at an older age without beating up your body.
When you are young, you think you are invincible and can take on or handle any challenge thrown your way. I was once young and thought those very thoughts. I thought I knew my limits. I continued that thinking up to just five years ago.
If you recall, the summer of 2007 here in Georgia was much hotter than compared to our current heat wave. August that year was extremely hot! During the first few days of cross country practice that year, I had to keep my college runners inside during the afternoon workout sessions. Around that same time, I began to notice that my old body was not responding as well to the extreme conditions as it did in my youth.
On top of the heat and humidity that I’ve been dealing with, I’ve also experienced minor physical challenges. For about the past nine months I’ve had to deal with foot pain which I suspect is plantar fasciitis. I had the condition about 10 years ago, that kept me from running for a month. This time around has really cut back my running.
Part of the problem is me -- haven’t taken the time to get it properly diagnosed, treated and rehabbed. It hasn’t hurt too bad most of the time, so that hasn’t helped my progress, either. I took time off like the first time, but the pain still lingered when I resumed my running. I’ve hobble a few miles here and there. I’ve work up to some decent mileage before the foot gets painful enough to where I take a day or two off per week.
Recently, my long-time assistant made some sense when he recommended that I work more at getting variety in my running and cut back on doing (or slogging) distance runs. I’ve tried to work at shorter workouts, but with more intensity and variety.
One day a week, I’ll do some barefoot running on grass. I keep it short (5-15 minutes) so that I don’t aggravate my foot. I’ll do some shoeless jogging then I’ll do some strides or sprints. I try to vary the terrain I run on. While on vacation last month, I was able to run mostly on graveled roads and grass. I’m trying to throw in a short tempo run at least once a week while working up a “long run” of seven or eight miles.
As we age, we need to accept our limitations. Be open to adjust how you train and run. The longer you’ve been running, the rest days become more important. Grinding out the miles at a certain point in your running career will only wear you out and perhaps make running less enjoyable.
Non-runners will never understand. Running provides a sense of freedom and adventure. But don’t let stupidity hinder your ability to enjoy running, no matter how fast you slow down as you get older. Only time will tell!