Could it be the coffee shops? The bike riding lifestyle? Or the brick roads of the city center? No one was running on the streets of Amsterdam. My 3 guide books say nothing on the subject of running. Our smashing hotel staff suggest running in Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam.
I take an easy-to-manage tram to Vondlepark. At 8:30 am, the park is serene and verdant. Runners are doing their thing! A 4K asphalt bike route and a dirt path ring the park (with straightforward signs to guide me.) While running, I spot a tree full of green parrots! The grand Filmmuseum of Amsterdam (with requisite café) is located mid-park. Stately homes on tiny canals line the perimeter. Some vintage Clash and New Order (thanks John!…see Best Running Music) feels right as I circle the park a few times. Want to find this run? Check it out at www.stepwhere.com. This great site lets you zoom in and follow the path step by step.
The Dutch, the tallest people on earth, are invariably fit and great looking. We see few cars in the city and nonstop bikes. People of all ages and manners of dress ride them. The bikes are often decorated with Mexican oilcloth bike bags. The fashion: think Eileen Fisher goes Scandinavian hippie princess. Men and women wear messenger bags of smart design; a jewelry of sorts.
The bike riders are patient with Karen (quirky art teacher and treasured old friend) and I as we inadvertently step into the bike lane (watch out!!) People seem relaxed, open and friendly. In a country where tolerance prevails and people are directly connected to their environment, who needs to run and run? Very often, we spot men with their children. Is there a saner work/family dynamic here?
Coffee shops are not the totality of Amsterdam. In fact, the Dutch smoke less marijuana per capita then Americans. Coffee shops have a diverse vibe and clientele. Many are quite civilized and economical. Others are filled with exuberant kids with unfortunate tee shirts.
When it comes to getting around, Amsterdam is the great leveler. The city is not built on a grid. The canals ring the city in a mind boggling manner. On any given corner, people from all walks of life can be found scowling at their maps. The coffee shops cannot be helping this effort!
We visit the Van Gogh Museum. Only 1 wing of the Rijksmuseum is currently open due to renovation. We take in the spectacular Rembrandts, still lives and Vermeers. The fantastic modern art Stedelijk Museum is also currently closed for renovation. Some of its art can be found in the Van Gogh Museum.
Being a runner over 40 has presented new areas of interest (and concern) for me on the road and more importantly in my training & recovery off the road. I love to run and it’s great to see research being done on older runners…the Stanford study that shows that running slows aging or the Yale study that shows that older marathon runners (women in particular) are improving their running times more than younger runners.
I would like to share some insights and tips that I have learned along the way. Many of these tips can apply to all runners, but they definitely take on a new perspective as the years go on and we get older, wiser, and perhaps, faster…
(we are affiliates for some of the products listed w/ links below, however, we only recommend products that we personally use and enjoy)
1. Adding Miles:SLOWLY! Use the 10% rule. Add no more than 10% increase of the mileage each week. Here’s more detailed explanation and chart from FitSugar. 2. Warmup:As we get older, the body needs time to get going and giving it that time will help avoid injuries. See “The Perfect Warmup” from Runner’s World.
3.Cross-Training: Is a must for any runner, but as you age the relationship between cross-training and running becomes even more important. For a different, low impact, cross-training option, see our recent post on Aqua Running (or Pool Running). Core exercises have become another essential, here’s some good ones from Runners World.
4.Strength Training: There is a lot of information out there on lifting weights and strength training, but being careful to start this in the “right” way is important as we get older. Running Planet has done a nice job w/ laying out “The 8 rules of Strength Training”. We have some good videos on our Resources page.
5.Stretching/Yoga: Another must for the aging runner (and this has certainly been debated by many). Dara Torres proved this in her Olympic effort that stunned us all. She adhered to a strict resistance stretching regime (see previous post – Doing the Home Stretch with Dara Torres). I am not a huge fan of yoga, but here’s a good article by Runners World about a runner w/ a ITB injury who didn’t like yoga at the beginning, then became a convert. My always injury free LDF swears by power yoga!
6.Rest: This has become one of the most important parts of my training. If I don’t get enough rest, my body begins to break down. Listen (very closely) to your body.
7.Massage: Another Dara Torres staple and one of my personal favorites. It does not matter if you have a fabulous husband like I do or get from a pro, it works to relieve the stress of training and tired muscles. You can even do it yourself w/ some videos by Rich Poley who wrote “Self Massage for Athletes”.
8.Set a Goal: Having a goal or a race to strive for makesthe training have a purpose and keep me focused.
9.Training Programs: A little planning goes a long way. If possible, try to plan your training to run more often on softer surfaces like trails, dirt roads, grassy parks, or even the track. A few good programs are on our resource page. There are many good ones out there–find one that suits you.
10.The Track: Most marathon training programs will include track work as it helps develop the fast twitch muscles to build speed and lung power during a race…getting older does not mean getting less competitive:) If I am training for a marathon, it really makes a difference for me especially in the later miles of the race. Good article from Runner’s World called “Running in Circles”.
11.Injury/Recovery: This one is hard for me as I have had many… at 46, I still like to run fast. There are several common injuries to running and I think I have had them all. See “Coming back from an injury” posts. I have learned to recognize my body’s warning signs and back off. Many of these tips (see Rest, Diet, Stretching/Yoga, Massage, Weight/BMI, Orthotics, and more) are meant to help avoid injuries or help w/ recovery.
12.Running with Music:Running with music can help motivation and provide a needed distraction. There are many studies showing how music can improve your performance. Obviously, you also need to be aware of your safety and surroundings when running, but most runners can practice common sense here. If you make a playlist, be aware of a song’s BPM (beats per minute) and be sure the songs you choose are not too slow as you may unconsciously slow your pace to the beat. Find out more about BPMs and find over 30 hrs of music specifically selected for running here: Bold Pace Music
13.Weight/BMI: It seems that fast marathoners have a low Body Mass Index (BMI). Marathon Guide has a quick tool to calculate your BMI. Knowing yours can help to find the “right” BMI for your best running performance. See also post: “What’s the ‘right’ BMI for a woman marathoner?”
14.Running in Different types of Weather: I am not a treadmill runner, so I will run in anything short of a blizzard. With the right layers of clothing this is possible. However, if you are training in summer for a fall race, beware of weather differences. The weather during your race may be very different then when you are training. Don’t be discouraged if you are not able to run 17 miles the way you think you should when you are in 80-90 degree heat and high humidity. Here’s some good tips for running in the rain.
15.Travel Running: Always bring the running shoes along! Some of my best runs have been among the monuments of parks, cityscapes and beaches of sand. Hotels (see this post that mentions WestinRun) now will provide maps (and sometimes runners) to guide you. With the help of MapMyRun you can find a route from anywhere. Take a look at some of our Travel running posts. Become a MapMyRun.com Member and get access to Free Running Cue Sheets and Printed Running Maps.Type in City, State, and Zip to see maps here:
21. Running Clothes/Bra: I like my running clothes sporty–not funky, but this is obviously personal preference. A good running bra will go a long way…avoid cotton at all cost. I have learned that running skirts are the most polarizing of all apparel items. However, if you love wearing a skirt, check out the Skirtchaser Race Series…looks like fun!
22.Running Shoes/Socks: Running shoes are so personal the only way to really find a pair is to go to a running store and keep trying them on until you find one that feels comfortable. There are tons of shoe guides for different types of feet that are helpful in narrowing it all down. Learning about pronation and choosing a shoe that fits whether you have normal pronation, underpronation (or supination), or overpronation (or hyper-pronation) is key. Runner’s World has a good article along with videos on pronation here. I have changed my shoe once. I alternate pairs of three for marathon training (it used to be two but with my foot issues, it’s now three). Here’s Runner’s World’s “Spring 2009 Running Shoe Guide”. The Asics Gel Kayano 15′s are the “Editor’s Choice” winners and also the shoes I use. A few other quick tips:
Measure your feet: As you age, your foot size may gradually change. Make sure salesperson measures your foot while you are standing up
Shop later in day: As the day goes on, you feet get slightly larger.
Orthotics & socks: Wear socks you use and bring orthotics to store when trying out shoes. Find “dry-wick” type of socks instead of cotton.
Check wear: Most shoes give you between 300 – 500 miles of running. Keep track of the miles (see #23- Running Log). Replacing shoes can avoid unnecessary injuries. Check for wear on soles and inside the shoe as well.
Local running store: Find a good store that specializes in running shoes. Bring in your old shoes when looking for new ones. A good running shoe specialist should be able to look at old shoe and note the wear/fit when choosing a proper new shoe. As about return policy, many stores will let you run in the shoes and return them if they cause problems. Once you’ve found the shoes that work for you, you may be able to find the shoes again on-line at places like Runners Warehouse (a bold pace readers get 15% off), Overstock, or Holabird Sports.
Break in the shoe: Don’t wear a new shoe to a marathon, be sure you have had time to break it in. However, when buying a new shoe, it should feel good when you are trying it on.
Thumb-width: Have a thumb width between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. I wear a 1/2 size bigger to make sure I have room in the toe box.
Get medical advice: If you have a persistent problem with your feet, get the advice of a medical professional. Believe me, waiting for a foot to heal can be agonizing. Don’t make it take any longer by waiting to get help.
23. Orthotics: I overpronate and could not live without these. If you have foot issues (plantar fasciitis, heal spurs, significant overpronation or underpronation, etc.), I’d recommend seeing a sports doc to consider orthotics as your new sole-mates:)
24.Running Log: Memory is not one of my strongest assets, so having a log to record my training keeps track of: weekly mileage, meals, shoe purchases (so I know when to retire shoes), favorite routes/runs, etc.
25. Running Watch/GPS: At heart, I am more of a zen runner (would rather not wear a watch or calculate each mile’s pace…just run), but the NYC marathon last year changed that for me. I went out too fast and had a hard time at the end. I now wear one again. There are great watches and GPS devices (see article from NY Times) that make it easy to calculate pace/time/distance. Another option in a marathon is to make use of “pacers” at a race…here’s Clif Bar’s Marathon Pace Team info.
26. Running Bag: See “What’s in your Running Bag? 10 Essential Items for Taking your Run on the Road”
27. Chaffing: Avoid blisters, use BodyGlide, Vaseline or new Asics Chafe Free. Apply anywhere that rubs…feet, nipples, etc. For more on Asics, see “The End of Run Chaffing?”
28. ipods: The must have for runners (even if you need to borrow from your child). I understand why a lot of runners do not like to use during races , but if you love music, this can be a great way to relax and keep going (ipods are now allowed at some races, see post “Music to my ears”). Be sure to choose songs that work w/ your pace/BPM. Want to get a weekly “running song of the week”? Follow @boldpacemusic on Twitter.
29. Reading about Running: There are so many fabulous books out there on running that are fun to read. They can motivate and excite you. We have a few posted on our Amazon Store.