I would like to think that I am a lot like many others who are considered Baby Boomers and decided or figured out that retiring to the couch is not the answer I am looking for. Nope, I want to stay active, keep running, be competitive and who knows maybe even (if it can be believed) improve as a runner.
Over the past 4-5 years, I have read a lot of books, blogs and articles on running, aging, nutrition and healthy living, especially where the focus is on aging and running in the same book.
Now, I am not going to bore you and give lots verbatim quotes from the book, I am going to limit this review to my impressions and takeaways from the book.
This is not a book review - it is more how I plan to integrate what I learned from reading it, into my lifestyle and running.
I will start off by saying - it was a very good book, well written and while many of the things that Friel wrote about I had read in other places, he put the information together in one place in a very readable way. He re-emphasized and reminded me of things that I had heard about, read about and forgotten over the years, which was necessary.
Also, it is not just written for runners, but endurance athletes - you know those people who bike, swim and do other things - that I try to avoid.
The other part was important to me, is that Joe Friel is one of those older runners who is now in his 70's and has a lifetime of experience as a competitive endurance athlete at a very high level. He isn't just some hack off the street giving his opinion on this aging athlete thing or someone in their 30's/40's giving their opinion on how/what older athletes should or could do.
He has gone through and experienced much of what we have or are facing - some of that real life stuff versus just theory or how it should be.
Which meant that I took what he said a little more seriously and didn't regard it as drivel or part of the aging propaganda (that there is a secret formula, cure or instant fix) that is often provided to my cohort.
The short version is that:
- You have to still work hard
- You have to know what you want to do
- Strength training is not a visit to hell
- Plans are flexible guides but need to be done
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses
- Watch what you eat - older runners need more protein
- You do not recover as quickly from workouts or injuries
- That you do have to do things differently
- How badly do you want it
- Finally, you have to do the work
All those inconvenient truths about running, getting older and how the two work or don't work so well together, especially, if I continue to keep doing the things that I have always done them.
You know that train smarter/differently thing.
One thing that I was surprised about was that Friel didn't condone the usual recommendations that seem to dominate the conversation when writers "talk" about aging and running. The idea that as we age that most older runners probably should switch to long slow distance as the best way to train. Instead Friel advanced the idea that if we want to continue to race well, train smart and listen closely to our bodies, that high-intensity training should be a integral part of our training plans.
Which suits my personality, but we need to remember that each person's HIT is different and is definitely different today, than what it meant 10, 20, 30 years ago. You need to do what your body can do now, not what you remember that you used to do. That training smarter thing that I and so many others have such a big problem with.
Going out and slogging mile after mile at a slower pace, probably isn't going to make you all that much faster in the races you want to compete in, whether it be in our age groups or whatever. If you want to race faster, you gotta train at faster paces at some point, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure.
When comes to nutrition I am most definitely a carb monster, I like carbs and know that I eat too much of that food group. I have read about having protein after workouts "that magic 1 hour window" that so many others have also stated, but something that Friel wrote about nutrition and I am paraphrasing - is that older athletes probably need more protein than the Daily Recommended Allowances - probably much more. That is something I need to look into more closely. Now to cut back a little more on the sugar (which is one of his recommendations) and continue to increase my fresh fruits/veggies, while staying away from pre-packaged foods.
Older athletes need more rest and he devotes a lot of space to getting quality sleep as being something that as we age, we tend to not do as well, which interferes with our body's natural healing process. Napping is a good thing (I love it and had mine earlier), but that many of us do not sleep as deeply as we did when we were younger. It was an interesting section and many of the things I had read or heard before.
The idea he provided about a 9 day alternative training routine to the typical 7 days weekly training cycle, provides for more recovery between quality workouts is probably sound, but not one that I can see myself doing after 40 plus years of using a 7 day cycle. Just me. I understand the why, but actually doing it, ain't going to happen.
Planning your training
Yep, he is a big proponent of planning out your training and the need for periodization, needed to achieve your goals, but then being realistic enough to know when to change the plan, if and when life, injuries or goals change. Over the past year I have moved away from detailed training plans to a training routine that I use weekly, but since reading Friel's ideas, I will use more of a periodization or training cycles as I plan next year's goals. He gives a lot of information on successfully creating training plans that make sense and are not overwhelming or at the same time condescending to older athletes.
The reality is that
There is no Fountain of Youth, book, magical pair of running shoes, wonderful training plan, supplement, one way to eat that will turn back the clock or stop the aging process. The best you can do slow it down or delay the effects a bit.
The other thing is that as we age, we will slow down at some point.
Yeah, all very inconvenient truths, but the truth nonetheless.
Friel's book has made me think about what comes next for me as an old fart who loves to run, but at the same time, secretly still wants to be at least semi-competitive within my local age group and doesn't want to give in, to being the old slow guy with gray hair -- quite yet.
To do that, I have to train smarter, accept that I need to be more flexible about how I get to achieve my goals, let my body recover more and strengthen my weak points (muscle strength and flexibility). Which is easier to say than do for me.
I have a feeling that I will be reading sections of this book along with a few others, a lot over the next few months as I attempt to figure out where to go from here with my running and how I want to train in the future. Fast After 50 does give me hope that I still have some room for improvement - I just have to do the work and be smart about it.
Well...I know that I can do the work, it is the being smart part that I am worried about.
Read the book, there is a wealth of information in there, that I didn't cover and I believe that many older athletes would find interesting. Well worth the read.
What running books do you recommend for the aging runner or any runner? Why?
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