It’s life, gym, but not as we know it…

Hey Siri, show me a plank…

Like many runners, I try and keep up to speed with current trends in training. That’s not even an attempt at a gag, by the way. For the vast bulk of us enthusiasts and amateurs, it stands to reason we would have more than a passing interest in our hobby. And so we subscribe to the magazines, we buy the latest runners, and we trawl the web looking for those ‘marginal gains’.

And when you are in your fifties, you can add to that list. Your internet searches now include ‘running for the over fifties’, and ‘gym exercises for the over fifties’ and so forth. Most runners know the value of the gym, even if we don’t actually get as far as the gym door. The world is full of decent folk extolling the virtues of a healthy diet, for example, though it turns out theirs is quite the opposite. Do as I say, as the saying goes. Runners are no different.

Most of my running colleagues are in the same boat. We can talk a good game about strength and conditioning, but we rarely do any. We can list off the various exercises that target particular muscle groups with abandon, but again, we baulk at actually trying them out.

And so, it’s that time of year when I put together yet another gym programme designed to keep me running on for a few more years without too many injuries. I still haven’t figured out why I got injured recently, as hamstrings for me are not usually a problem. It wasn’t sudden, dynamic movement, anyway, so I can only put it down to over-training and my rather gallant (read: over-ambitious/foolish) attempt at a marathon PB…

Anyway, I found a wonderful article online, and the link is here if you want to read the whole thing. I’m not normally a big fan of these ‘feel good’ pieces, not least when you are looking for the in-depth data ‘granularity’ of some retired Olympic running coach who’s going to divulge the best way to use your V02 max in conjunction with your heart rate to optimise your cadence… or something; I don’t know… I may have made that up.

Here’s a quote from that site:

It’s inevitable. At some point, you’ll realize you can’t run a sub-20 minute 5K anymore. In fact, it may be a struggle to run a sub-30. And guess what, that’s just fine! Rather than being demoralized by the phenomenon of slowing down with age, either live in the moment and be content with the runner you are now, or flip that comparison on its head and be proud of your experience and all the things you know now that you didn’t know then.

And there are other gems in there too. For the mid-lifers like myself, I found this piece resonated with me, and gently coaxed me back in from the window ledge where I was staring down at a world of sweaty gyms, unobtainable ‘bodies’ and diminishing performances.

For those science-types who would rather stick needles in their eyes than read that article I mention above, you can have this for balance:

It’s quite a good indicator for runners who, like me, have sustained some kind of injury that is keeping them off the tracks and trails. The takeaway from it, on the basis that you are too busy to read it, is that you won’t lose all your fitness if you stop running for a couple of weeks. Ta dah!

Now excuse me while I go and finish off yet another gym programme. It will include many of these exercises. And for the discerning runners out there, none of this will be news to you: some upper body stuff, plenty of core, and some leg work.

There are also a few pointers in here, which are worth sharing. The first is that you are not power-lifting; runners (especially longer distance ones) do not benefit from disco muscles. On the flip side, don’t lift too light, with numerous reps either. You’ll help your endurance, but in truth, that’s something best left to the long runs. You are lifting weights (either free or body) for strength and some power, and stability. You can share the love too, by making sure you get an overall workout, rather than, for example, just trying to get big biceps or a six-pack. Also, no need to get involved in the high-intensity circuits that promise a ‘fast and furious burn!’ and all that lark. You get your cardio out running. And especially when you do pace and speed work, and hills and repeats. You do those, right? Right?

As the the article states, you’re a runner using weights to improve your running, not a weightlifter who runs.

Here endeth the lesson. Go forth and plank…

12 thoughts on “It’s life, gym, but not as we know it…

  1. I’m 57 and dealing with an injury.
    As you say, many runners can tell you about cross training. But most of us show up, go running and go home with very little stretching or warm up. And when we are not running we avoid the gym since it is just a waste of time.
    My PT is teaching me the importance of cross training and yoga.
    If I want to keep running through middle age, I need to change my ways.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ll see OmniRunner’s comment and raise it to — if you want to keep running (or whatever) PAST middle age, def don’t skip the stretching and stick some balance work into your routine somewhere. Strange but true, the more your body slows you down, the harder it is to keep steady.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another book I would recommend is Fast after 50, had some great “ahhhhhh” moments

    I have always enjoyed the gym, although less so the type of routines that would benefit my running/biking. I do wonder why I find it so hard to spend an extra 20 minutes stretching and strengthening the right way, but so easy to spend an hour watching videos explaining all the reasons I should.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the way it starts, frequently, with 3 sets of 12 – and then says in a couple of months it should be fewer reps with more sets “4 sets of 3 reps, for example, with heavier weights”. If I could do 36 and am now doing only 12, I hate to think how much extra weight I should be lifting. I, of course, recently went in the opposite direction by keeping the weight the same in increasing the reps. As ever, I don’t really know what I’m doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m beginning to think none of it makes much sense. For us, I consider it necessary maintenance and no more. I’d be aiming for somewhere in between; very modest increases in weight and reps, but only if warranted. The one thing runners are particularly adept at is ignoring the warning memos from the body🤒

      Liked by 1 person

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