Each time that I visit The Villages, Florida, I am impressed with the activity level of its residents. According to its official website, The Villages is “America’s Healthiest Hometown”. It is difficult to argue with this given the number of fitness facilities and activities.
A surprising number of triathletes indicate that their greatest concern or weakest leg of the triathlon is swimming. The ‘concern’ element typically decreases quickly or even disappears with training, experience and confidence.
This article reviews the main features of pool and open water triathlon swimming. The characteristics of each should be factored into your training. Read More
A review of “Masters Running: a guide to running and staying fit after 40”, Hal Higdon, Rodale Press ©2005.
Staying active as we age is one way to not only live longer but with higher quality. Of the 500 respondents to a survey of runners, 93% indicated that they ran to stay fit.
In his book “Masters Running”, Hal Higdon shares advice from his life as a runner. Lessons from his experience will help you become a better runner and decrease the inevitable effects of aging.
A Little Background
Running is my weakest leg of a triathlon.
I could resign myself to the fact that, according to Dr. David L. Costill, I had simply failed to “carefully select my parents”. However, I don’t just want to participate in triathlon. I want to compete in the sport. For this reason, I have read several books on running and am following a run training program from “Run Less, Run Faster” by Bill Pierce et al.
However, I found the advice from Hal Higdon particularly useful when I started running around 10 years ago. I have also followed his ideas for the times I have restarted running after an injury or extended time away from running.
About the Author of “Masters Running”
Hal Higdon is a competitive runner and has been since he was in college at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He continued to run after college and competed internationally at Masters (over age 40) events.
However, despite his own accomplishments, he was struck by 91-year-old Duncan MacClean who he described as ‘moving young’ despite his age. As Higdon wrote, cosmetic surgery and hair color can change our appearance, but unless we stay active, the first time we move, we will give away our age. Celebrated USA Triathlete Tony Schiller made a similar comment during our conversation.
In the book, Higdon shares the results of academic research that, in the late 1970’s, documented what we now take for granted, that those who remain active, live longer on average. The more strenuous the activity the greater the effect. Swimming, biking, and running are among the activities that have the most impact on longevity.
Starting to Run
Starting from the proof provided from studies by researchers Ralph S. Paffenberger, Jr., M.D.; Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D.; Michael L. Pollock, Ph.D.; Jack H. Wilmore, Ph.D.; and David L. Costill, Ph.D., Higdon shares ideas on how to become a runner and continue running well into the senior years.
There is no argument that our abilities and needs relative to running and other types of physical exercise change as we age. Nevertheless, those who commit to running can be successful by:
- starting to train,
- training more once started,
- training smarter, and
- learning when to rest.
While it is best if we never get out of shape, this news may be too late for some. We must work with what we have and start from where we are.
If you want to start running, Higdon provides a simple plan that he calls the ’30/30 Plan’. This approach involves a mix of walking and running for 30 minutes per day for 30 days.
Improving the Run
Having started running, we can adopt Higdon’s ideas for improving our running ability by:
- gradually, but consistently, increasing the intensity (speed and distance) of running
- strength training.
Higdon makes a major case for strength training indicating that the number one goal for the book is to convince the reader to include regular strength training in our routines. The book includes an entire chapter on how to create a personalized strength training program.
Training smarter includes cross training. This fits the plans of a triathlete who must train in three sports. Higdon also identifies sports that support running, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as complementary activities such as stretching.
“Masters Running” includes information about rest and recovery. Proper rest and recovery helps to prevent injury while maintaining the benefits of previous smart training.
Order “Masters Running”
Through examples and anecdotes from his nearly lifelong experience with running, Higdon not only makes points important to becoming a better runner but also illustrates why these are important, something our inquiring minds appreciate.
Starting to Run for Triathlon Training
No matter if you are new to running or it has been some time since you ran, start slowly. Follow this advice from Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, for those in her 70+ year age group.
“You don’t have to completely change your clothes and get into special gear. Get the shoes on and go out in what you have on. Just move.”
Before you know it, your fitness will improve and you will be capable of completing your first triathlon.
Follow this simple advice for training for the triathlon run.
Many people who participate in triathlon, independent of their age, come from a background of running. That was clearly not my case. I ran my first 5-k at the age of 50. The training that I had done in preparation for this race could be best described as intuition – no reading or advice from a trainer. In any case, I easily survived.
If you have been a runner for much of your life, then you can skip through this article since it is dedicated to those who have never been runners or have not been running for a number of years. However, please check back for information in the future where lessons from experienced masters runners will be shared.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are not currently running or if your doctor has not given you permission to start running, speak with your primary care physician before doing so. My wife, who has had both knees replaced, has been told by her orthopedic surgeon that she cannot run on her new knees. She can, however, still participate in triathlon as part of a relay team. You should definitely listen to your orthopedic surgeon’s advice to make sure you stay healthy. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to learn more about your surgery and it’s recovery time and always ask questions so you and your doctor are on the same page.
If after consulting your doctor, you continue with your plan to start running, the following program, called the 30/30 Plan, has been defined by Hal Higdon, author of ‘Masters Running: a guide to running and staying fit after 40’ – click here for a review of this book:
“1. Walk out the door and go 15 minutes in one direction, turn around, return 15 minutes to where you started: 30 minutes total.
2. For the first 10 minutes of your workout, it is obligatory that you walk: No running!
3. For the last 5 minutes of your workout, it is obligatory that you walk; Again, no running!
4. During the middle 15 minutes of the workout, you are free to jog or run – as long as you do so easily and do not push yourself.
5. Here’s how to run during those middle 15 minutes: Jog for 30 seconds, walk until you are recovered, jog 30 seconds again. Jog, walk, Jog. Walk. Jog. Walk.
6. Once comfortable jogging and walking, adopt a 30/30 pattern. Jogging 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds, etc.
Follow this 30/30 pattern for 30 days. If you train continuously every day you can complete this is one month. If you train only every other day, it will take you 2 months. Do what your body tells you. Everyone is different in their ability to adapt to exercise. When you are beginning, it is better to do too little than too much.”
After 30 days you should be able to cover 1 to 2 miles by walking and jogging.
In preparing for her first triathlon at age 63, Sue Faulkner recalls “My first run was with my granddaughter alongside the canal, which was nice and flat. I could only manage 20 paces at a time before walking a short way, then running another 20 paces. It was a start.” Eight weeks later she was able to run the 2.5 km distance of the triathlon. Source: http://www.bbc.com/sport/get-inspired/28806570
It is important to not increase mileage or intensity (speed) by more than 5% per week. I have tried to do more and realized this to be true. On the other hand, in preparation for my first half marathon (13. 1 miles) last year, I learned that one can increase by small amounts each week without injury.
Before starting running, I recommend that you visit one of your local running stores (not a general purpose sports store) to review the options for shoes with people knowledgeable of the needs of runners. Most of the people working in these stores are runners. Find the correct fit (for example, I found that I needed a wide (2E) shoe width.
Also, note that you need to spend some time ‘breaking in’ these shoes, which can occur by walking or short runs. My experience is that with new shoes, the first few times that I wear them, I find an extra amount of friction between my foot and the inner sole of the shoe. This usually stops after a few miles of use.
Remember to be patient – progress consistently but modestly.
A future post will describe the importance of stretching after running and biking and a routine that I have found important for preventing injury.