On a recent run, as I learned the hard way that 90 minutes between eating and running apparently is no longer sufficient, I came to realize that running gets harder as you get older. Naturally, a few miles later, I felt fantastic and was convinced that running actually gets easier as you get older.
Both statements are true. Certain aspects of running improve with age; others, not so much. This post will focus on how (and why) running gets harder as you get older. I’ll cover the positive stuff in a subsequent post. (Note: None of this is actually scientific.)
- You need rest. This comes in two forms: Sleep and days off. In my 20s, I could party into the wee hours of the morning, wake up a few hours later, and run a PR. You probably could, too. Now? Hangovers last two days. Forget it.
- You need to stretch constantly. Did you stretch after every workout in high school? Didn’t think so. Now, if you don’t stretch before you get into bed, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to get out of it the next morning. In fact, you should probably be stretching right now.
- Everything hurts. Even when you rest, stretch and foam roll, you’re sore. You can’t complain about it, either, because then everyone will just tell you to stop running.
- You need more downtime. As a result of everything described above, I usually need at least one day off after a hard workout -- sometimes two days.Same goes for bouncing back from races.
- Life gets in the way. You have a real job, real relationships, a home you actually care about keeping clean, a car that you don’t always want to smell like wet running shoes, pets, children, in-laws, school and 47 million other things to get in the way of training. This means running in the morning when you're tired, running at night when you're tired or running in the middle of the day when you're tired. Awesome.
- Your GI system gets sensitive. Back in the day, I used to eat dinner and run 45 minutes later. That was fun. Now my body apparently needs two hours to process a banana and some yogurt.
- You have to watch what you eat. Sure, publicly we brag about eating “whatever we want,” but privately we carefully measure out portions of proteins, carbs, fat and water so we don’t gain or lose too much weight. It’s a far cry from literally eating whatever we wanted while we ran in high school and college.
- You have to pee more. Didn’t wait in those pre-race PortaPotty lines in the halcyon days of your youth, did you? And just reading about having to pee made you have to pee, didn’t it?
- It’s more complicated. I started running in 1995. It took six years for me to even buy a watch. Now I wear a GPS-enabled watch that tracks distance, pace and time and input that data to a website that lets me track every workout. Oh, and then there are the shoes….
- It’s too hot. Now it’s too cold. Sensitivity to temperature only increases as you age. The days of wearing only shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt on a 30-degree day are long gone.
- You never have leftovers. After running for more than 18 years, I need such ridiculous amounts of food to fuel my metabolism that I never get a doggie bag from restaurants, I need to cook for four if I want leftovers at dinner, and friends and family gawk whenever I eat.