45 to 54

Runner's World (UK) - - Coach/ training -

While the in­crease in your re­cov­ery time and the de­cline in top per­for­mances can’t be ig­nored, this age can be one of the most re­ward­ing of a run­ner’s life. Each age group is a chance to be the young run­ner again, pro­vid­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion as the turn-year ap­proaches and of­fer­ing the thrill of set­ting new marks as you en­ter the new group.

Some peo­ple who had busy fam­ily lives when they were younger may find new time for train­ing. An­other mo­ti­va­tion is sim­ply to beat the age­grad­ing curve. In fact, you can chan­nel the en­ergy you once put into chas­ing PBS into chas­ing age-graded PBS, with sim­i­lar, if not greater, sat­is­fac­tion as you defy the hands of time.

But this is also the pe­riod when mas­ters re­al­ity sets in. If you haven’t al­ready ad­justed your train­ing to your chang­ing body, you’re in dan­ger of spend­ing this decade fight­ing off in­juries. ‘Keep your health be­fore your fit­ness,’ says run­ning coach Tom Cot­ner.

Part of stay­ing healthy is main­tain­ing mus­cle strength and flex­i­bil­ity. Two mus­cle groups of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance are the calves and hip flex­ors.

For the calves, the most com­mon prob­lems are in­flex­i­bil­ity and mus­cle pulls. But age­ing calves can also lose power. To see if this ap­plies to you, Cot­ner sug­gests find­ing a steep hill and run­ning up it, count­ing strides. He uses a hill that’s about 500 me­tres long, with a gra­di­ent of 12-14 per cent. The fewer strides it takes to cover the course, the more power you have in your calves – Cot­ner rec­om­mends you re­peat this test on the same hill pe­ri­od­i­cally to see whether you’re im­prov­ing, de­clin­ing or main­tain­ing power.

As for hip flex­ors, they are the mus­cles that help lift your knees and swing them for­ward be­tween strides – mean­ing there is a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween hip flexor strength and run­ning speed. But they can lose strength and flex­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially if your job en­tails lots of sit­ting.

Tight hip flex­ors can also lead to ham­string prob­lems. That’s be­cause the hip flex­ors at­tach to the pelvis and to sev­eral ver­te­brae of the lower back. When they get tight, says Cot­ner, they change the tilt of the pelvis. The re­sult is less abil­ity to ac­ti­vate the glute mus­cles, less hip ex­ten­sion (the up­per leg go­ing out be­hind you) and ham­strings that are overstretched and weak – so much so that Cot­ner sees the com­bi­na­tion of th­ese prob­lems as a com­mon syn­drome. The so­lu­tion to any of th­ese prob­lems is strength and flex­i­bil­ity train­ing – see p80 for a mas­ters-tai­lored work­out.

Other train­ing tips for run­ners in this age group are sim­pler. Most coaches, for ex­am­ple, rec­om­mend spend­ing as much time as pos­si­ble run­ning on soft sur­faces. Cot­ner ad­vises that even tempo runs should be done on a track, trail or other soft sur­face.

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