Staying Fit As You Age
Mix It Up
Mark Meyers, 49, Pewaukee, Wisconsin
Mark Meyers has been running for as long as he can remember. "I grew up on a farm and ran to get tools to repair machinery, to get the livestock for milking, and just because I loved the feeling it gave me," he says. When he wasn't on the farm, he was competing: Meyers ran track and cross-country in high school and college, ran his first marathon in 1981, and competed in the 1984 Division III Track & Field Championships in the 10-K. He went on to win the St. Louis Marathon twice and set a marathon PR of 2:25:09 there in 1985. His weekly routine consists of 50 to 60 miles, which includes track work, tempo runs, hill work, and two sessions of core-strength training. "I don't keep times at the forefront of my training," he says. Even so, his recent marathon PR is 2:47:31, and his 5-K PR is 17:13.
Biggest concern: Keeping things challenging while continuing to run smart. "My mind still thinks like a 20-year-old, and it's tempting to listen to my mind and ignore my body."
Keep your body guessing: "Competitive older runners often fall into a rut," says McMillan. "They know the workouts they like and what has made them successful, and they don't want to change anything." Speed up, slow down, hit the hills, hit the trails, do anything that feels slightly out of your comfort zone. Meyers's coach regularly has him do runs where he has to stop midrun and do sets of push-ups, planks, lunges, or squats, which help simulate muscle fatigue that is comparable to races and boost functional strength.
Go for quality: Most veteran runners likely know by now that many issues can eat away at your running time. Instead of getting frustrated, downsize your schedule, especially if you're working full-time. McMillan recommends going for six to 12 quality workouts [speedwork, tempo, hill repeats, long runs) a month, filling in with less intense workouts.
Focus on recovery: "The most important part of my routine is the first 15 minutes after I finish the actual run," says Pete Magill, a Compex Racing coach who has led masters teams to 13 national titles. (Search: What to do after a run) "That's when I rehydrate, replenish, and stretch. If I couldn't start tomorrow's workout when I'm done with today's, then I didn't do the proper postrun work."
Meyers's Success Secrets
1. Eye the Competition
"I'm a tactical runner. If I see somebody ahead of me whose shoulders are hunched, I know he's mine. Especially in the last stretch, I'll push it and see how many people I can pick off."
2. Use Perceived Effort
"I rarely clock splits, but I'm honest with how hard I'm working. I like running to the edge and pushing past discomfort."
3. Enjoy the Ride
"I love running more than I ever have. Now my competition is from within, which is a more difficult foe than any extrinsic goal."