Training and Racing as a Master Athlete

Mike Chambers

 

Despite the inevitable march of time a look across masters age categories from sprints, middle distance and to the marathon,

there are hugely impressive times still being achieved for runners in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.  And whilst new personal

best times maybe out of reach for some of us there are still many targets and goals to be had as we

progress through age categories.  

 

Speak to many veteran runners and they will tell you they are fitter now than they have been for 20 plus years.

But there is a harsh reality of getting older and if we want to keep running and stay injury free we need to accept

we are not 25 anymore and make some changes to how we train, race and recover.

 

In 2017 I was racing well and holding top 20 UK rankings from 800m to the mile in the V40 age category and fully focused on going to the world masters championships the following summer….surely I just needed a good winter and to train harder? But after the entire 2018 season was missed through injury I had to look at how I train, race, recover and my wider lifestyle to ensure I could actually get on the start line again this year. And I am back at it and as ever loving competing….but trying to avoid the pitfalls I had fallen into.

 

 Here are some of my top tips for running as a master athlete:

 

  • Train Smart – less is sometimes more. We have to accept what our body can tolerate and not compare to others even those older than us. 

    • Find a balance of how many days a week you can train – better to only train 3 days a week than 5 if this is likely to lead to injury and fatigue. 

    • Consider if your previous weekly hard effort track session should become once a fortnight.

    • Whenever possible get off the track and run on grass to reduce muscle load and fatigue. 

    • Listen to your body and take that extra recovery day or cross train.

    • Save your spikes for race day and keep in racing flats as much as possible for track work.

 

  • Strength work – the reality is we are losing muscle mass as we age and at the very least regular weekly strength sessions will help us maintain what we have got. 

    • Focus on core and hip strength as a priority. Running is the art of balancing on one leg and we loose balance through the ageing process so constantly challenge your body to balance on one leg under load. 

    • Mobility work is key – maintaining good range of movement through our spine and hips will help keep good running form and reduce injury risk. 

 

  • Recovery – never be too proud to take that extra day off running. 

    • Cycle or swim to maintain fitness but reduce impact on our soft tissues. 

    • Review your diet and ensure taking in good quality protein to aid recovery.

    • Hydration – our muscles need water to work effectively – be kind to them and ensure always fully hydrated pre and post run.

    • Stretching, foam rolling and sports massage should play a regular role in your weekly recovery plan. 

 

  • Race smart – its great to have races booked in the diary to keep our motivation high but we need to choose key races wisely.

    • Our bodies will take longer to recover from a track race so think about key races and be realistic with how many and how often. 

 

  • New Goals – set a target or goal for each race, not just the whole season. 

    • Ask yourself what you want out of the next race? Is it a specific time, or about how you will race, or your pacing strategy. 

    • Enjoy racing – its too easy to base everything on finish time. Our sport is racing not chasing times. Nothing beats a personal dual in the middle of a 3k or 5k race even if the time is slower than you would have liked. 

    • Mix it up – try a new distance. This gives fresh motivation and a new challenge. 

 

There is no better feeling than pulling on your club vest and getting out on the track and the joy of our sport is there is little to stop us doing that for many years to come if we use some of the wisdom that comes with age. Train smart, race smart and just keep going!