I’ve been running regularly for a long time. I don’t say this to brag, but to point out the kinds of issues I struggle with now might not be the same as the ones a beginner runner finds most difficult. Depending on where you are in your fitness, just starting, somewhere in the middle, or a long-time veteran, you will likely encounter different struggles both mentally and physically.
In my experience, beginning runners tend to struggle most are with warding off the everyday aches and pains that come with the change their bodies are making. Shin splints or delayed-onset muscle soreness, for instance, are a good example of the kind of injury new runners are often afflicted with and have to learn to adapt to in order to continue running.
Experienced runners, on the other hand, have adapted to the stress that regular running can create and don’t have to worry about small niggles and soreness derailing their training as much as they did when they were starting out.
In my experience, these runners, myself included, have to figure out balance. Typically, this will be both life balance and workout balance.
Life balance is finding the proper equilibrium between time with family and time for those long runs. Getting in the proper mileage for a marathon or ultra to meet you running goals might butt up against other priorities in your life. Something’s going to have to give. Balancing family, career and running can be a daunting task for anyone to conquer.
Workout balance is another side of the coin. You’ve likely been running long enough to do all the hard workouts and push yourself close to the limit. You’ve likely hit or gotten stuck on a plateau. Doing more and more training in the gray zone will not yield anymore benefits and likely will lead to injuries or burnout.
Workout balance is being smart enough, experienced enough, and confident enough to know that not every workout has to push your VO2 max or make your suffer. There is just as much to be gained by going slow, padding the aerobic base and getting in consistent, pain-free time on your feet.
It also pays to listen to your body more as you grow older. Ignoring warning signs to slow day or take a recovery day are ignored at your own peril. Often a day off now can save you a week off later in the season.
Experienced runners know that getting to the start line injury-free is just as important as getting to the line in peak condition.
A workout is no longer just lacing up the sneakers and jogging out the door. I simply won’t last long just doing that. It’s tempting, but it’s a road that leads to misery and injury.
Ahem, masters runners, sorry. The second biggest thing I struggle with now that I’ve crossed the Rubicon into masters territory is all the other self-care, ancillary things I need to do along with the actual miles to stay healthy and active. A workout is no longer just lacing up the sneakers and jogging out the door. I simply won’t last long just doing that. It’s tempting, but it’s a road that leads to misery and injury.
A workout now consists of a set of dynamic warm-up exercises, an actual warm-up, the workout itself, a cool down with stretching and rolling, plus recovery nutrition. If that sounds like a full day in and of itself, you’re not far off! But extending your workouts to include these type of self-care routines can keep you active, supple and limber well into your master’s career.
Running is a great sport with many physical and mental benefits to offer for those who enjoy it, but it’s not without its challenges either. The longer you run, the more challenges you are likely to encounter. Figuring out the right balance for running in your life and taking care of yourself as you hit that master’s age group are two challenges you shouldn’t overlook.