Spring is in the air – and for Bostonians (and runners across the world), this means that the Boston Marathon training season is in full swing. On Monday, April 20, thousands of runners (and hundreds of thousands of spectators) will gather to watch the annual journey from Hopkinton to Copley Square. It’s one of the most famous marathon races ever, and participating in it is a dream for many runners.
“While the idea of running a marathon in your senior years may seem overly zealous to some, the truth is that there are many runners in their 50s, 60s and 70s who still participate in marathons,” says Greg Lazzaro, Life Enrichment Director of Waterstone at the Circle. “While senior runners do have some specific watch-fors and training needs that are different than younger runners, there’s no reason why you have to give up your lifelong dream of running in the Boston Marathon just because you’re a particular age.”
As we get older, our body structure changes and is less “tough” than it was in our youth. It can be harder to build up stamina, and can take longer to recover from something as brutal as a marathon race. However, as our bodies age, our brains age, too – which can make us more mentally tough and wiser about what our bodies can take and how far we can push.
“Many runners discover that their pace slows down as they age, which means that running a marathon takes longer and has a bigger toll on their bodies,” says Greg. “However, with proper training that’s modified to meet the needs of the senior runner, seniors can get in shape and prepare for the Boston Marathon starting today. At Waterstone at the Circle, our partnership with Train Boston can help residents of all ages increase their stamina, build their strength and prepare themselves for a celebratory run this April.”
Marathon Training for Seniors
If you are giving us the side-eye about extolling the virtues of running marathon in your senior years, take a look and be inspired by these senior athletes:
- Joe Kregal is 70 years old and runs races where he’s the only one in his age group. He considers himself victorious if he finishes in the top 20%.
- Margaret Davis ran her first marathon when she was 79. At age 80, she climbed Mount Whitney.
- Jeff Galloway, an American Olympian, trains people over 50 to run their first marathon. He says that even if you’ve never gotten off the couch until you were in your 50s, you should be ready to run a marathon in a year.
With that in mind, here are some of the tips from Train Boston® to help get senior runners fit and ready for the Boston Marathon.
Listen to your body.
Your body will tell you when you’re pushing it too hard. Those warning signs – twinges, aches and pains – are a signal for you to slow down a little. Many senior runners have had some sort of injury in the past, so before you begin training for a marathon run, talk to your doctor (or personal trainer) and discuss a fitness plan that can help you build strength safely. You may wish to “warm up” your routine by biking, swimming or other moderate-yet-low-impact aerobic activity. Ease back into running slowly, and pay attention to what your body’s telling you.
Add strength training to your routine.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, which makes strength training that much more important. Focusing on your muscles will strengthen your bones, give you better balance and stamina, reduce your risk of falls and allow you to run longer lengths with less wear and tear. Strength training increases and improves stride length as well as joint flexion and impact. Squats, lunges and leg lifts are all great exercises to help improve your legs – but be sure to balance it out with upper-body workouts, too.
Balance your running.
Many older runners have great success by doing a day on, day off of running. Giving your body a chance to recover every other day will help reduce the effects of exercise on your body and give you more time to recover. You will also want to make sure that most of your training runs are done at a slow and easy pace, which will make sure that your higher-intensity runs are more productive. Another way to balance is by using shorter training cycles. Most marathoners will do a 10-day training cycle, but you may find that a five or seven-day cycle is more beneficial to your individual situation.
Go by time, not distance.
Studies show that we don’t really receive any extra benefit on super-long runs. Any run longer than three hours simply doesn’t justify the wear and tear on an older runner’s body. Instead of committing yourself to running a certain number of miles each day, focus instead on running a certain number of hours. The aerobic benefit you get will be the same, without wearing your body down too much.
Focus just as much on recovery as the training.
An effective recovery routine is just as important as your training routine. This can include things like massage, compression gear, foam rolling, a balanced and healthy diet, drinking lots of water and scheduled rest days. Talk to your trainer to see what would work best for you – and you may find it shifts and changes over time. You may also need to up your rest days following particularly difficult workouts. The key is, as we said before, listening to your body and what it’s telling you. It’s better to rest an extra day than push yourself too much and run the risk of serious injury.
Work with a trainer.
Senior runners may find that working with a personal coach is the best way to get in marathon shape by April. Train Boston® staff members will help create a personalized workout and training plan that takes into consideration your age, health level and senior-specific factors. Trainers are also able to help gauge if you’re working too hard, or assist if you’re training following an injury – and are also great accountability buddies.
“It’s a lot easier to say, “oh, I’ll sleep in today” if you’re training on your own, but knowing that you have a morning session with a trainer may be the boost you need to get out of bed and get running,” says Greg. “Thanks to our Train Boston partnership, Waterstone at the Circle residents can train for a marathon, pick up a new fitness routine or simply do what’s needed to stay in the best possible shape. It’s just one more way that we provide a lifestyle beyond compare at our luxury senior living community.”
If you’d like to learn more about training for a marathon as an older runner, or if you’re wondering how a luxury senior living community like Waterstone at the Circle can help you live an active and fulfilled life, contact us today at 617.431.1880.
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Waterstone at the Circle, located in Boston’s historic Cleveland Circle neighborhood, is more than just independent living in Boston … it’s a sophisticated urban setting for today’s active seniors. Enjoy best-in-class service and an urban lifestyle with arts and cultural, and historical attractions right outside your front door. From high-end amenities to gourmet dining and more, experience the best of city and suburban life at our upscale senior living community located on the crossroads of Brookline and Chestnut Hill.
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The best part? Residents don’t have to leave our senior living community – or even their apartment – to receive high-quality support. They can receive the services they need, when they need it, in the comfort of their own homes or in our on-site therapy gym.
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