Staying Fit As You Age
Darnell Crawley, 44, Atlanta
When he was 38, Darnell Crawley weighed about 200 pounds and had high blood pressure. "The doctor said if I didn't change my exercise and diet habits, I'd need to go on medication." He started running shortly thereafter. These days, Crawley faithfully fits in four, 3.1-mile sessions each week. He also charts one 10-mile run on the weekend and does strength training, primarily for his upper body, every other day. "A morning run gets my metabolism going and my energy up," he says. "Some people need coffee; I need my run." That routine helps him maintain a regular presence on the race circuit--he's raced every distance from 5-K to 26.2.
Biggest concern: The state of his knees; injuries from playing football and basketball have morphed into a significant case of patellar tendinitis. "If I try to run fast, my knees complain."
Crawley’s Success Secrets
1. Hit the Treadmill
To minimize impact on his knees, he does his shorter runs on the treadmill. "I'll do intervals, change the incline, or do a tempo run. I keep it interesting so I don't plateau mentally or physically."
2. Have Realistic Expectations
"My race goals are to enjoy the run and finish below a 10-minute-per-mile average pace."
3. Be Diligent About Prehab and Rehab
He stretches and ices religiously, wears heavily cushioned shoes, and shortens his stride on downhills.
Lower the impact: Masters runners should definitely integrate cross-training, which minimizes the pounding on their bodies without sacrificing their cardiovascular fitness. Crawley is contemplating a sprint triathlon, which would be a smart choice, as the swimming and biking required will give his knees a break. Similarly, when you do run, pick soft surfaces such as well-groomed trails and gravel paths.
Strengthen the lower half: The natural loss of muscle mass and the muscular imbalances that running can cause make strength training non-negotiable for masters. Angela Horswill, a certified coach in Chico, California, recommends a simple body-weight circuit of planks, side planks, bridges, squats, and lunges.
Emphasize the warmup: Muscles start to lose their "give" with each passing year. The added stiffness limits range of motion, which in turn increases the risk of injury. Horswill suggests a circuit of leg circles, grape vines, and toe walks. Afterward, stretch copiously to limit age-related stiffness.