On Monday, April 29th of this year I received an email from a runner named David that might change how you think about training. It sure did for me!
You see, David was 72 years old at the time. He’s now 73. And in the past nine months, he’s run two marathons and qualified for Boston.
But the fascinating part of David’s story is how all of this has happened after he tore his hamstring off the bone in 2013. Then, he broke a metatarsal during a marathon in 2014.
Despite making a comeback and running another marathon in 2016, David said:
I thought my running days were coming to a close. However, I was able to continue running and in fact ran another marathon in 2016 but it always seemed like there was constantly something wrong with me.
At that point I decided to do more body weight exercises. They helped but I still felt like there was more that I should be doing.
Rarely do you see runners making epic comebacks and qualifying for Boston late in life after a major injury…
How Did David Turn His Running Around?
David is different. Even at 72, he knew he needed to take “the next step” with his training to keep improving and finally escape his cycle of injuries. Despite quite a few reservations, he started lifting weights.
Strength training for seniors can often be controversial so I asked David if he’d be willing to be a case study to showcase his progress. It’s always helpful to know that even older runners can keep improving and prevent more injuries. Luckily for us, he said yes!
David used to be a typical, average runner. He wrote:
I am about as opposite from a weight lifter as anyone can be. The classic 98 pound weakling.
My biggest problem was that I felt intimidated by the gym and disliked working out in front of others. I could do the body weight exercises in the comfort of my own home which allowed me to work out whenever I felt like it.
However, it was not really enough. I needed the benefit of the weights.
David is the perfect candidate for a weightlifting program for a variety of reasons:
- He is a runner (all runners ought to be doing some weightlifting)
- His age (strength training for seniors is even more important than when you’re younger)
- He has a history of significant injuries
- Like me, he’s naturally thin and needs strength work to stay strong
Of course, most seniors over 70 aren’t starting new strength training programs… So how did this work out for David? What were his struggles?
And most importantly, was he successful?
The Importance of ‘The Next Step’
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Strength training for seniors is critical for injury prevention
To continue improving, runners must always be taking the next step:
- Gradually increasing weekly mileage over time
- Being more and more consistent with strength training and injury prevention efforts
- Workouts become longer, faster, and more complex
- Long runs get longer, more consistent, and/or more complex
David knew he needed to start some type of strength training program but he was lost. He told me:
I had always felt that lifting was the next step that I should take but I really didn’t know where to start. I read several books on the subject but I always found them to be confusing. None specifically spelled out what I needed to do as a runner.
I felt that it was the next thing that I needed to do to improve and to hopefully lessen my injuries.
So, David got started. He invested in a strength training program from Strength Running knowing that a lifting program must be specific to runners, adaptable, and focus on strength and power (rather than on endurance or building muscle).
After David got over his fear of working out in front of others, the results turned him into a believer.
David’s Next Marathon
David ran the Columbus Marathon in 2018 in 4:20:07 – a frustrating finish time since he missed his Boston Qualifier by 7 seconds!
But, he did finish 2nd in the 69-74 age category and got through all of his marathon training with no injuries. He emailed me to say:
Thanks to you, my training went exceptionally well with no injuries! I also felt that weightlifting was really the icing on the cake which helped it all come together.
I finished 2nd in the 69-74 age category at the Columbus Marathon and really felt strong the entire distance.
After years of ongoing injuries, a healthy season and marathon race are surely things to celebrate!
But the real celebration came just a few months ago when David ran the Illinois Marathon. In his own words, here’s how it went:
I am writing to thank you for the lifting program. I placed second in my age group at the Columbus Marathon. Well, I did it again at the Illinois Marathon last Saturday, only this time I came in first! I was 15 minutes faster than second place at 4:15:27. This is also a BQ by 4 minutes and 33 seconds which was a goal of mine.
As I said in my last letter, the lifting program was truly the icing on the cake. I was able to complete twenty weeks of training with zero injuries.
Before using your training and lifting programs, I seemed to be constantly injured. Now I am able to run 5 days a week without any problem. I thank you so much.
Incredible! How would you feel if you finally got over your string of serious injuries, qualified for Boston, and did it all healthy and pain-free?
Strength Training for Seniors: What Happened?
I asked David how he felt about his progress. What was most important to him? What did he experience during this transformation?
He told me:
I’m a much stronger runner. I’m not that much faster but I feel like my stride has improved. I feel much more comfortable when I run.
It has helped to improve my running posture. I always use to get shoulder pain when I did a long run. That has now pretty much disappeared. In fact, I had no pain at all when I ran the Illinois Marathon. That alone has made the lifting worthwhile.
It has improved my consistency. I seemed to always lose it in the last part of my long runs and marathons. Consequently, my times would suffer. However, since I have been lifting, I have felt almost as strong at the end as I did in the beginning.
My fourth and most important result: NO serious injuries. Let’s face it, I still have aches and pains, but that goes with the territory. The injuries that I suffered before have all but disappeared. I’m not saying that it won’t happen at some point but I feel like the chances are much less than they were.
I have been able to run 40 to 50 mile weeks without breakdowns. Plus I can now run everyday instead of every other day. It has really been encouraging and has helped me fall in love with running all over again. Without a doubt, I recommend your lifting programs to anyone.
If you’d like to see how strength training can improve your running (whether you’re older or not), sign up for our free course to get started.
From Weakling to Injury-Free Boston Qualifier
In about six months, David stayed healthy while improving his marathon by 4:40 and qualifying for Boston.
His transformation is so profound that I was curious what he learned from his experience with strength training as a senior.
David wrote (emphasis mine):
Be consistent with your lifting. The program builds upon itself so it is very important that you follow the program. It’s amazing how it all comes together at the end. I could never accomplish that when I tried to do it on my own.
You have to do more than just run if you are to stay heathy. I didn’t start running until I was 35 and had no idea what I was doing. I read Runner’s World and numerous books but never really had a plan other than to just run. Strength Running’s lifting program has helped to put it altogether. I now feel very confident in my training.
Don’t be afraid of the gym. Even if you’re a skinny guy like me. I use to think that I needed to press 200 lbs if I were to get any benefits. I now know how wrong I was.
I’ll never be an elite runner but I don’t know many 73 year old guys that can run 26 miles without breaking down. That in itself makes it all worthwhile.
I was going to wrap up this incredible case study with lessons we can learn from David’s progress. But he’s done that far better than I ever could have.
So if you’re new to lifting weights – or if strength training for seniors sounds intimidating – you’ll love our strength programs.
We’ve built a collection of resources over the years to help you start properly, improve your rate of progress, stay motivated, and learn proper form in the weight room.
Get started here and I’ll send you a video presentation about how to lift for speed.
But you’ll also get a series of coaching lessons designed to make strength training for seniors simple:
- The changes that you should expect both in your body and with your running
- Common pitfalls and training errors that can derail your progress (and spike injury risk)
- Case studies and examples from other runners just like you
- Example exercises, form tips, and a lot more
Our goals are to help you train well, reduce your risk of injury, and get as much as possible out of this incredible sport – no matter how old you are.
Sign up here and let’s see if we can get you to a healthy, pain-free Boston Qualifier just like David!