Running for the Older Athlete

Harry Health Guide
  • I have been poking around at getting back into running for the past few months, with variable success. I worked with a running coach a couple of times, to see if my technique was off, and she gave some great tips about running from the core, and stride, etc., but my feet and shins and Achilles tendon still weren't happy with the process, so I stopped trying over the summer. I did start strength training with a trainer twice a week, once using machines and once doing mostly plyometrics, squats, etc.


    Both the training sessions also involved quite a lot of core work, and it quickly became apparent that what I had been doing on my own was training to fatigue, rather than anywhere near failure. In fact, I can push myself about half as hard on a consistent basis as a trainer pushes me with respect to strength training. I am great with aerobic exercise, and that is what I like doing anyway, but I had been under-invested in the intensity of strength training, by a long shot (I had, of course, known this deep down in my heart, but denial is such a wonderful human resource, that I had fully engaged it).

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    Anyway, today I was in upstate Connecticut, and had a couple of hours to kill, so I went for a long hike on a trail I had gone on before, which has a lot of steep ups and downs, along with some flat sections. I felt pretty good, and decided to try doing some trail running after ten or fifteen minutes of hiking uphill as a warm up. The run itself was wonderful. It had snowed a tiny bit last night, and the first snow fall of the year is always fun for a skier. Today was cold, but not terribly so, and there was no wind, and a lot of sunshine, so it was a beautiful morning to be out in the woods.


    Also, I have discovered that running with ski poles when I am in the woods is a great way to keep my balance, especially as the leaves get slippery, and take the strain off my ankles and legs.


    Several things struck me as I was running, especially as I passed the forty five minute mark with no significant discomfort anywhere in my body. The run, by the way, ended up being over an hour, and as I write this afterwards, I feel great.


    The first is how important it is to realize that we truly do run from our core. This may not be apparent on level ground, which of course is where most of us do our running, but it very quickly becomes apparent running in the woods. I would like to take a closer look at this, because it is fascinating, and really does change the equation, and I think informs road running as well as trail running. It turns out that the basic mechanics of running are controlled from your spinal cord, not your brain. That's going to be a new concept, so let's break it down into small steps.

Published On: April 09, 2008