Keep on Running!
So a lot has been said recently about myself and other athletes (especially females) continuing to train and compete at a high level into their late 30's and 40's.
I thought I would share with you my own tips for longevity in running.
My own story is that I got into international level athletics in my mid 20's, I had run for my club, Preston Harriers, since the age of 11 but didn't train too hard or even realise what my potential was until my 20's so I guess I hadn't hammered my body, I let it mature into adulthood before I began to push the training on. I believe for that reason I am younger in athletics terms that those who have trained at a high volume since their teenage years. Just a thought!!
I know my body, I have had regular sports therapy since I made my first GB team in 1998 and I believe that this has helped me know my body, I know if something is tight and can address it before it becomes and issue.
I know when I am getting run down or ill and rest or back off the training; this is definitely something I have got better at as an older athlete. I have made the mistakes of training through illnesses and seen that this just makes things worse.
I never used to stretch much but after spending some time in my mid 30's training in Jenny Meadow's group I saw how much time she dedicated to stretching and started doing more. I saw big improvements in my general feeling and recovery. Since then I have spent time trying various methods including pilates and active isolated stretching using a rope to assist the stretch which I really like. (google Phil Wharton there are plenty of video clips)
I have been brought up doing running drills from my early days with my first coach Jeremy Harries, these have helped me become strong, balanced and helped me to improve my sprinting and running economy. Learn how to run properly and you will run for longer with fewer injuries.
Keep things interesting
I think I am so lucky to have been a distance runner as there are so many options.
Track in summer, cross country in winter, indoor athletics, road racing - I have kept on changing my focus over the years and believe this has kept me in the sport and my interest hasn't dwindled.
My training has changed quite a lot through the specifics of focussing on other events, I have never been shy about saying how I hated my time running the 3000m steeplechase but actually I am so grateful I did that as I believe it kept me in the sport, which led me to move up to 5000m and in the process win the European 3000m indoor championships aged 37.
So keep challenging yourself!
I think as an older athlete I am more confident. I know how to train to suit me, I know how to race, I am not afraid to freshen up before a race rather than getting that last workout squeezed in. I am lucky that I have had some brilliant advice from my coaches over the years and respect that I need longer to recover these days, as much as it pains me to admit it! So after a race I make sure I just steady run for a few days before I do another workout.
Go to the gym
I have always spent a good amount of time on Strength and Conditioning and think that this goes a long way to keeping my body ready to run.
I think us older athletes are happy in our personal lives and we have nothing to prove and actually see it as much more fun than when we were younger. I personally see each race as a bonus and if I can still be competitive with the younger runners even more a bonus!
I have a fab group of guys to train with here in Preston and it inspires me to still put the effort in knowing that they are all improving. Most of all we have a good laugh, its a social thing too so I enjoy going to training.
Just my views! I hope to keep on running for a lot longer than my 40's ( which apparently is so OLD!!)