Hitting 40 is certainly no reason to stop running, and for many the milestone is often their reason for starting running. By remaining active and running after we hit 40 can add years to your life. However, older runners should be aware of the greater injury risks posed by their age.
Obviously, none of us can stop the march of time, and there comes a time when we have to face up to the physical realities of getting older. Trying to train in your forties as you perhaps did in your twenties or even thirties is unlikely to be possible. Some runners accept this and adjust their targets accordingly, others attempt to fight against Old Father Time, often ending up injured as a result.
Here are a few tips to help you stay injury-free if you are an age 40+ runner:
Warming up and cooling down
A proper warm-up and cool-down is important to all runners, but even moreso the older you become. Muscles lose their elasticity as we grow older, making you more susceptible to injury. By committing ten minutes to a thorough warm-up before a run, can help save months of lost time caused by an injury.
It’s crucial that stretching and flexibility training forms a major part of your training. Ideally you will have carried this out for the bulk of your thirties, but it becomes even more important once you enter the start of your fifth decade. Stretching will help compensate for the natural loss of flexibility and running stride that comes with age. By remaining flexible, you will substantially decrease your chance of pulling or straining a muscle when running.
Rest between runs
Taking time off from running becomes increasingly important as you age. It is important for performance, as well as injury avoidance. The body takes longer to recover from racing and hard workouts the older you get, so training schedules need to be amended accordingly.
By allowing your body to recover, you will actually receive greater benefits from your workouts. Rather than the hard-rest-hard routine you were used to in your twenties and thirties, it may be time to switch to a hard-rest-rest or hard-rest-cross-train regime to reap the full benefits of your hard work and remain injury-free.
Cross-training is a great way to take an extra day of rest, while still enjoying an aerobic workout. Participate in non weight-bearing activities such as swimming or cycling. Cross-training alleviates the stress running puts on your body (especially on your knees, shins and hamstrings), while allowing you to maintain your level of fitness.
Lifting weights or other forms of resistance training is a sure-fire way to help preserve your fitness and injury-free status. Resistance training will increase your muscle strength, muscle mass and bone density, all of which help to fight injury and maintain fitness.
The ageing process generally brings about a fall in performance levels. Recovery takes far longer than before and we become much more injury prone. However, by making a few changes to your schedule and routine (and you don't have to wait until you are 40 to do this!), you can remain injury-free for years to come.