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How age affects running performance

MAY 12, 2023

Minute 1: A guide to midlife fitness

“Youth is wasted on the young,” says one of our middle-aged running friends. By the time many athletes figure out this sport, they think they are among the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free again. Even though PRs may be in the rear view mirror, we can still carry a torch forward in a monumental way. This new story rekindled our optimism this week: “The dos and don’ts for midlife fitness.” The first tip is to walk a little faster. Research shows fast walkers’ biological age is about 16 years younger by the time they reach their 50s. Next, have a healthy respect for the risks of HIIT, but don’t feel like you have to give it up entirely. Speak to your doctor about your ability to perform high intensity exercise, and if you’re able, fire up some HIIT to keep your strength up and your blood pressure low. Training Peaks offers some good analysis in this piece: “How Age Affects Your Performance.” The main message is optimistic: “There are many reasons to continue to train and race after the age of 40, well into your 50s, 60s and beyond. The theory that making athletic gains after 40 is a much greater task than it is in your 20s may not be as accurate as once thought.” After a taxing workout, you’ll want to follow the advice in “Running Recovery Over 50. How To Out Run Aging For Longer.” Their main observation is that older runners require more rest, so after a track workout or long run, it is important to swallow your pride and take an easy day or a full day off.

Minute 2: Can you train with an injured muscle?

From time to time, we all “feel the burn” as we work out, signaling that we are grinding hard. Just as a little bit of sun delivers a healthy dose of Vitamin D, too much gives us a sunburn. Intensity is admirable, but burning muscle fibers too intensely will backfire. If you happen to overcook one of your major running muscles, this new story can help get you back on track: “Can I Run With A Hamstring Strain? + How To Recover Properly.” Strains in your hamstrings and other muscles have a wide spectrum of severity. Sometimes, it’s mild inflammation. Other times, it’s a full tear in the muscle. Experts use a grade system to classify the injury, with Grade 1 applying to minor inflammation and damage, Grade 2 for partial muscle tears, and Grade 3 for complete tears. By performing a range of motion or strength test, you can quantify how severe your injury is, letting you know what your road to recovery should look like. For Grade 1 injuries, active recovery in the form of low impact, low intensity exercise can improve blood flow and reduce lactic acid buildup. That’s one of the “6 Ways to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery.” Prioritizing sleep, getting or giving yourself a massage, and eating foods that promote recovery are a few other tried and true methods to treat your injuries.

Minute 3: How to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule

No matter how well you plan your schedule, or how many reminders you set in your iPhone, there will always be times when life throws you a curveball. Having a contingency plan to still get in a workout can be a game changer, according to this new story: “Sneak More Exercise Into Your Daily Routine: 7 Steps That Actually Work.” One of the most clever methods listed is called habit stacking. That’s when you perform multiple tasks simultaneously, like doing your stretches while your coffee brews. The idea is that you’ll save time and associate one task with the other, making it less likely you’ll forget to do it. Another avenue to explore is finding ways to stay active at work. Things like taking the stairs to your office, rather than the elevator, or doing one-on-one meetings on a walk can make a big difference. In fact, your commute itself can be an opportunity for growth: “I Tried It: Run Commute - Benefits + 8 Tips to Try.” Who likes sitting in crowded traffic or public transportation, anyway? According to some research, running to work has been shown to improve your mood and productivity. Not to mention, you’ll save money on transit costs. If you live far from work or the weather is hot, you may want to consider wearing some of “The 15 Best Anti-Odor Workout Clothes of 2023.”

Minute 4: Gear Review: Suunto Vertical GPS Watch ($629)

Normally we rely on Brian Metzler for some of the most respected shoe reviews in the industry. Brian’s expertise, however, goes well beyond running gear for your feet. Today he branches out to gear for your wrist as he gives us the pros and cons of the new Suunto Vertical. The company’s name is derived from the Finnish word “suunta,” which means direction or path. According to Brian, this latest watch from the Finns is definitely headed the right way. You can check out Brian’s full review of the Suunto Vertical on our website, but the highlights are below.

Enter the new Suunto Vertical, a lightweight watch with multisport functionality, a large 49mm display with a bright, easy-to-read screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, colorful off-grid mapping, extremely long battery life and solar charging capabilities. (Solar charging is available only in the high-end titanium model of the Vertical.)

From my initial wear-testing during trail runs and backcountry skiing outings, it’s been a hyper-function and extremely accurate do-everything adventure watch in a compact and comfortable package. It’s rugged and functional enough for all of the sports I do, plus it’s sleek and classy enough to wear in more formal settings. The bottom line? It’s everything I need and want in a GPS watch and much more. And for me, it means I’m back to my brand of choice dating back to the 1990s only with modern, best-in-class technology.

Key Features: First, the Vertical has an extremely long battery life, roughly 85 hours of continuous exercise tracking. In the less active tour mode, it can offer 500 hours of continuous exercise tracking. In the basic daily mode, Suunto Vertical can remain powered up for 60 days without needing a charge. If you combine the solar charging option of the titanium-level watch—which can boost charging by 30 percent on sunny days—it could, in theory, last for several months without charging.

The Suunto Vertical doesn’t sacrifice accuracy for longer battery life, though. It communicates with all five major satellite systems—GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BEIDOU, QZSS and up to 32 individual satellites simultaneously—via its dual frequency functionality, which means it can connect faster and maintain a connection with more consistency and reliability. That’s important, especially when running, skiing or hiking for long hours in mountainous terrain with deep canyons (or running or riding in a city between tall buildings).

In addition to basic daily activity tracking—steps, heart rate, sleep, calories, stress—it smoothly and accurately tracks running data, elevation and run-tracking data that syncs directly with Strava and other apps. Plus, it offers more than 90 training modes that cover a wide range of sport disciplines, including road running, trail running, cycling, mountain biking, swimming, hiking and even more far-afield activities like sail racing and mermaiding. It can provide weather forecasts, compass and barometer-based altitude readings and even storm alarms on days when I’m backcountry skiing or peak-bagging on 14ers. Heck, there is also a screen-based flashlight option.

Those are the bullet points, but to get the full memo on the new Suunto Vertical, you can check out Brian’s review here.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • There’s a lot of good that can be said about dietary fiber. It helps you feel satiated, aids with digestion, and can regulate blood sugar levels, among other benefits. If you’re looking for healthy foods that are a good source of fiber, you should check out: “The 9 Best High-Fiber Vegetables You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian.”

  • With a name like “Dead Hangs,” you may be surprised how much life they can breathe back into your body. Dead hangs are performed by grabbing a pullup bar or similar structure and letting your body weight hang for a short period of time. What’s the benefit? You’ll see improved back and core health, as well as improved grip strength, according to: “Dead Hangs: The Simple Exercise with Surprising Benefits.”

  • When you look at the history of women’s athletics, it’s clear the fight for equality hasn’t always been fair. Lots of endurance competitions could have remained male-only for much longer if it weren’t for the trailblazing female runners who challenged the status quo, and Bobbi Gibb is among the most significant contributors to that cause. Gibb’s fellow Boston game changer Kathrine Switzer sometimes gets more attention as the first officially-registered woman to run Boston, Gibb actually beat her to the starting line. A nice retrospective story just came out that describes Gibbs’ accomplishments: “First female Boston Marathon runner Bobbi Gibb on starting a running revolution: ‘We knew the world was never going to be the same’.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Everyone has bad days at work, so we are not here to mourn Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:09 Boston Marathon finish time last month. The morning after the race he told ESPN’s Eric Gomez “We slept, we woke up and we live to fight another day.” It turns out the winningest marathoner of all time isn’t bad at losing either. A few years back, we shared a video of Chicago Marathon Expo goers testing Kipchoe’s world record pace on a large soft treadmill, fondly known as “the Tumbleator.” It’s essentially the runner’s version of an angry mechanical bull. At last year’s Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge shattered his own official record by thirty seconds, now 2:01:09. We are hoping the Tumbleator is adjusted accordingly. Even so, the elite runners on TV make superhuman speed seem so effortless to the average viewer. As @erichinman reminds us in today’s inspirational video, keeping a consistent 4:36/mile pace is anything but effortless. Enjoy watching and please be careful if you plan on trying this at home.


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