Video Q&A: How should my running change as I get older?

We can’t run the same way year after year. Indeed, running has to adapt to fit our age.

When taking the USA Track & Field coaching course, training age was taught as an important concept to consider when coaching any runner. If you’re 30 years old but have only been running for two years, your training age is two.

This critical concept influences the type of workouts that you should be doing, how fast you build your mileage, and when you should begin training for your first marathon.

But today I want to talk about your physical age and how it impacts your running. High school kids train very differently from 30 year olds, who train very different from 65 year olds.

Recently I got a question from Tom, who asked:

I’m 42 years old and a sub-three hour marathon runner. What different training methods are there for masters athletes? Should I be running different workouts than what I was doing 10 years ago?

This is a GREAT question. The short answer is yes! Older runners have different needs than those in their peak years (generally 25-35 years old).

I think Tom is still young to make dramatic changes to his training at the youthful age of 42, but I wanted to answer this question for SR readers over 50.

At the end of the video I mentioned several resources that older runners can use to ensure they stay healthy and reach their goals.

These are the “big wins” of adjusting your training as you get older. Of course, once you start becoming a senior citizen you may have to eliminate truly difficult workouts like VO2 Max sessions and hard 20 milers. At this point it’s very individual so you may want to talk to a coach who can plan training around your abilities.

Older runners may also want to become more disciplined with their diet to prevent additional weight gain, get frequent massages or ART sessions to keep their muscles supple, and reduce their overall mileage to focus on quality days.

Thanks for sending your question Tom!

What are your running questions? Leave one in the comments and I might just make you a video…

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  1. Good stuff Jason. Unfortunately for those of us getting older we must adapt to stay healthy. Your strength work definitely helps with that.
    How is your USATF cert going? Are you going to any upcoming conferences? Let me know, I’m shooting for one in Rockford, IL coming up.

  2. …and speaking of age differences I’ve been coaching jr high kids and adults ranging up to in their 50’s. Some things stay the same but life and years seem to really take a toll on speed if its not kept up with. There’s something to be said about what Bernard Lagat just did and the value of maintaining conditioning and overall speed.

  3. Jason, I have a couple of questions:

    Do you recommend some treadmill running for those of us in our late 30’s? Just maybe doing a couple of our runs per week on the treadmill because it’s easier on our legs.

    Have you ever dealt with an athlete who has trouble sleeping? I have a hard time falling asleep and wake up often throughout the night. I can tell it affects my running/recovery. I know you’re not a “sleep doctor” but I thought I’d see if you saw it as a common problem among runners.

    • Who says running on a TM is easier on the legs? It’s a very different experience, just like running on concrete vs. rolling asphalt vs. trails. Just vary the terrain and you’ll be set.

      The best way I’ve found to get a good night’s sleep is turn off any screens (TV, computer) within 2 hours of going to bed and read fiction for 30 minutes before you go sleep to turn off your “to-do list” brain. Other things might help like white noise, blackout curtains, humidifier, or finding the right temperature. Good luck!

  4. I never did like treadmill running. I am 58 years old and have had to adjust my running styles over the years. So will most people.
    Great infomative post.

  5. Very good video.
    I find most training programs on the web are aimed at younger runners.
    As a result I have started working with a personal trainer and he has me doing alot of the things mentioned in your video.

  6. Thanks for this informative piece Jason. A great guidance for older runners.

  7. Great stuff Jason. I have a question for you:

    Cramps are common while running. But does these cramps catch only as the person gets older or even younger runners? How to avoid cramps or what should be the sudden first-aid for cramps?