Staying Fit As You Age
Stay In the Race
Janet Sherman, 50, Cheyenne, Wyoming
The very first time I ever ran was a 5-K race,” says Janet Sherman, recalling a day she'll never forget when she was 35. "I looked back and thought I was last. I was actually the first woman." The runner, who recently clocked a 23:33 5-K, works out daily, alternating running with strength training, kickboxing, and Spinning. She enjoys competing in local 5-Ks and 10-Ks, where she often wins or places in her age group, but she's also finished one marathon and three half-marathons.
Biggest concern: Her slowing times. "I need to come to terms with where I am now, rather than working off of where I was 10 years ago."
Keep pinning on bibs: In a study that looked at how highly competitive exercise affects muscle strength in seniors, researchers found that athletes who compete have greater strength than healthy aged-matched individuals who don't race, but who do exercise regularly. "Racing keeps you accountable," McMillan says.
Rely on your experience: It's one of the biggest strengths older runners have. "Don't discount that," says McMillan. If you're at a starting line, your confidence can carry you, even if your interval times haven't been ideal.
Slow down: If most runs are about squeezing every last bit from your legs, they'll never have a chance to reap the benefits of your hard work. Make sure you have two slow recovery runs a week, says coach Brianna Boehmer, of Delafield, Wisconsin.
Mentally zoom out: Remind yourself of all the reasons why you run. Aim to become less competitively focused and more motivated by the sheer enjoyment of running.
Sherman’s Success Secrets
1. Pace Like a Pro
"In races, I start out slowly and increase my pace until I'm at, or pass, my goal. I tend to pass a lot of runners at the end. My favorite training tool is goal-pace intervals--either 400s for a 5-K or 800s for a 10-K."
2. Roll in the Foam
"My foam roller is one of my best friends," she says. "After every run, I roll out my IT bands, and hit my calves and hamstrings, too, if they're feeling tight."
3. Finish What You Start
"If I plan on eight speed intervals, I don't stop at seven," says Sherman.