Saturday, September 24, 2011

Top 10 Lessons from an Over-40 Newbie

A year ago I started this blog about running, thinking I would blog as I learned.  As it turns out, that hasn’t been so easy.  There are many reasons for this (I figure) but chief among them is I just didn’t have enough information to work with.   So it was hard, and I let it slip by.  Now with a year of running under my belt, and my first marathon a mere 2 weeks away,  I think I’ve learned some important lessons that, prior to being a runner, I would not have realized.

As a new post-40 year old runner, I could break them down into a top-10 list that would go something like this:

1.  Respect the age of my body.  I am not invincible, it breaks down and it doesn’t recover like it did 20 years ago.  I cannot train the way all the books and articles tell me to, I am not 25.

2.  Consistency is important, but it’s not everything.  Corollary to #1 I suppose.  I can have my 3-4 runs a week spaced with a day of rest.   I cannot run every day and expect consistency, my body will break down.

3.  Speed is nice, but it comes slowly.  Force it too much and the risk of injury rises dramatically.

4.  A minimalist shoe is better than conventional/monster shoes, but barefoot is probably best.   This is a topic of future Learning Runner blog material

5.  Consistent with #4, give your body adequate time to adjust to minimalist shoes.  Vibram Five Fingers are wonderful but my naiveté let me over train in them too quickly (contrary to everything I read before buying them).   42 years of living in padded shoes did not prepare me for a rapid adaptation to VFFs, no matter the sense of pleasure they give.  See #1.

6.  The treadmill is not my friend.  Too much repetitive movement on a constant never changing surface does not prepare my feet and legs for road running.  Treadmill running does not replace the road, there is no comparison.

7.  Running is healthy.  Despite aches and pains, there are benefits experienced by nearly every system in my body.   Especially psychological.

8.  Running is selfish.  By committing to running I ask my family to let me put aside timely commitments or set them aside entirely.  That prevents, many times, others from doing the same for themselves.

9.  Running against traffic is smart.  But road camber does wreak havoc on my knees even in Five Fingers.  I seek seldom trafficked roads where I can run the high point (usually the center) or switch sides when running into a blind curve (not uncommon on country roads).

10.  Ditch the music when running in the midst of nature.  I’ve learned to listen to my breathing, my heart, my legs and joints, and my thoughts.  After a time I do find a rhythm that matches the environment around me, and the greatest satisfaction is finding that oneness with the world, where I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at that moment.  

Easily, each of these is their own blog material.  But in the event I don’t get to it (blogging is also a selfish act – see #8), at least I’ve put what I’ve learned out there in brevity.  This is not exhaustive - there are plenty of other learnings – from strength training to injury prevention to injury recovery, from diet to supplementation to run preparation and on-the-run fueling, from technology to statistics and the best software, and from running books to gear to minimalist shoes.  

Many of these items are individual in nature and requires diligent observation and a willingness to mess with “what works” to find something that works better.   

That’s all for now.  Run better, run well!

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