Fabulous at 40: Top 40 tips for women over 40 runners

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by Monica on August 14, 2009

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)

Training Tips:

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 makes the 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:


16. Running and Sex: Here’s an interesting article by Running Times that quotes an Israeli scientist who declared “Women compete better after orgasm, especially high-jumpers and runners”…who am I to argue w/ Israeli scientists?
17.  Fartlek Training: Sports Fitness Advisor has some good tips on how to incorporate fartlek into your training  (psst…if you don’t know what fartlek is, check out 10Ktruth.com’s “Runnerspeak – Dictionary of Running Jargon and Other Sport Terms” ).

Nutrition and Hydration Tips:

18. Type of Diet: Adhering to a well-balanced, low-fat, wholegrain diet that is higher in carbs has always been the best route for me.  I love a good smoothie (see post “Smoothie Operator –quick nutritional training meal”) while training.  Here’s an interesting article w/ good tips on eating from Cool Running called “The Runner’s Diet”.
19. Hydration: It used to be all water and Gatorade for me, but now as I get older I don’t want the same amount of calories.  I opt for the lower calorie alternatives like electrolyte powder mixes (see post: “Water log: Hydration and road recovery options for runners”).
20. Eating after Running: The window for eating after running is small, but important.  See post “Refuel ‘Right’ after a Run”

Gear Tips:

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.

Here’s a great video from Howcast that covers many of these tips: “How to Choose a Running Shoe”

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.

Racing Tips:

30. Finding a Race: Marathon guide or Racevine can help you find a marathons and other shorter races.  These sites not only list races, they rate them.
31. Racing for a Charity: Millions of dollars a year are raised by runners for charity.  It can make the race more meaningful if you have someone in mind as you run the miles.  Supporting a good cause can also be a way into a sold-out race.
32. Women only Races: More magazine’s Marathon/Half-Marathon (they have the best expo), Zooma Women’s Race Series, Nike Women’s Marathon and See Jane Run are just a few of the women only races out there.  They are fun, lively and a bit more polite then the co-ed races:)
33. Pace your Race: It is helpful to know your race goal and have the mile split times easily accessible.  PaceTat is a durable, lightweight (actually weightless), and unobtrusive way to keep track of your pace while racing.  These are simple transfers that you apply before you race and shows your mile split goals in clear large font.  Brilliant idea, and only $2.00 – $2.99 per transfer.  Or go the simple and FREE route w/ this tool from Clif Bar.
34. Speed at 40/Beating your PR: There have been numerous articles about how women are older women are getting faster and staying there (see ABC News article on Yale University Study).  As we gain experience, we become more efficient runners.  We know to run the tangents, prepare properly, and read tips like many we have listed here.  We also have more time to train as our children get older.
35. Qualifying for Boston/The Boston Times: Boston is a great, tough race.  It is an honor to run it.  This is not one to be missed if you qualify.   See some of our posts about the Boston Marathon.  Check out the  Boston Marathon Qualifying Times.
36. The Race Day Survival Kit: You don’t want any last minute surprises on race day.  Having a race day kit can help you to know you are prepared and keep you focused on the race.  Assuming you already are wearing your clothes, shoes, have your watch, etc…there are still some items you need.   There are two options… you can use a “check-in bag” where you have to wait in-line to get a claim ticket or use a “disposable bag” that has just the essentials and can be tossed.  Here are checklists for both:

Check-in Bag:

    ____Extra Clothes: Nice to have a spare top, shorts, and socks to change into after the race.
    ____Sunglasses and sunscreen: If it’s a hot and sunny day, you’ll be glad you have these.
    ____Towel: There may be a shower at the end of the race, but even if not, nice to have to towel off.
    ____Phone: To contact friends after race
    ____Money: For any emergency needs
    ____Pre-race food and fluids
    ____Post-race food and fluids
    ____Race Number (if already have) & safety pins: Bring a few extra and you’ll make lots of friends:)
    ____Race Chip (if already have)
    ____Course map/Race instructions
    ____Band-aids/Athletic Tape/First aid
    ____BodyGlide/Vaseline/Chafe Free
    ____Deodorant
    ____Large garbage bag: Helpful if windy or raining before the race or just to sit on.
    ____Wipes: useful for nasty porta-potty
    ____Magazine: Nice to catch up on Vanity Fair while waiting in line for race to start:)
    ____Extra Goo packets: Use safety pin to keep a couple with you for during the race.

Disposable Bag:

    ____Pre-race food and fluids
    ____Wipes: useful for nasty porta-potty
    ____Throwaway old clothes: Sweatshirt or long-sleeve shirt.  Most races donate discarded clothes to charity.
    ____Race Number (if already have) & safety pins: Bring a few extra and you’ll make lots of friends:)
    ____Race Chip (if already have)
    ____Magazine: Nice to catch up on Vanity Fair while waiting in line for start:)   Put in garbage before start.
    ____Large garbage bag: Helpful if windy or raining before the race or just to sit on.
    ____Extra Goo packets: Use safety pin to keep a couple with you for during the race.

The Running Psyche Tips:

37. Making time for yourself: Running =  sanity.  Alone or with friends it has fantastic therapeutic results that last all day.  I find doing it early in the morning is best as I know I’ll get my run in and “life stuff” during the day will not get in the way.
38. The Running Group: One of my LDFs and I always joke how we are going to write a book about the nuances of our running group.  Finding friends to share running with is a wonderful thing and helps you to stay motivated and enjoy the company along with the run.
39. Running Websites/Blogs: There is so much on the web now that you can tap into for running advice, training, support…see our blogroll.  It’s a great time to be a runner.  If you’re not getting automatic e-mail updates from a bold pace, don’t miss out!  Or if you prefer, get our RSS feed.
40. Going beyond your limits: I have to add this because it is the reason I give my son every time he asks why I run…”running for me is about going beyond the limits I have of myself in my mind”.  He’s very logical and always answers…”limits are definitive–you can’t go beyond them”…I keep trying to prove him wrong.

Perhaps it is the fresh air or the hours of laboring over one subject with LDFs but from running has come some profound realizations.  My LDF Heidi and I have decided that everything our children need to know about life we can relate to running.  A life manual in the making perhaps?  There is always “One for the THE Book…” decided on a run.

Have more women’s running tips?…please comment and share!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Felice September 1, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Great post! Lots of good tips –especially for those of us who are “getting up there.” ;-)
.-= Felice´s last blog ..Fueling for the Distance: Guest post with Dr. Susan Kleiner. =-.

Danna September 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Monica- Thanks for the heads up for your article- LOVE IT! I will check back often, great information. Thanks for checking our blog! Danna

Denora October 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Thank you for this website and all who contribute. I am 48 and have a neurological disease. Before I began to get sick (10-2004) I was an avid runner/fitness instructor. Things are very different now. You probably get the picture no need to go into details. I got the go ahead (per neurologist) to try and run/walk. Finding this website has given me courage to begin again. By the way did I say I was 48! No. That’s not too old.

Monica October 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Hey Denora: Thanks for checking out our blog. Sorry to hear about your illness. Good Luck with your walk/running! I think it’s great that you are thinking of heading back out there. Go for it! p.s.48 is not too old…48 is the new 28! :)

Constantine October 23, 2009 at 5:07 am

Thanks for this running tips, I believe the most important has to be stretching and massage, do those and your muscles will remain young.
Everyone should watch those Rich Poley videos
Warmly Constantine
http://dailyrunningtips.com
.-= Constantine´s last blog ..Nike Lunarglide + Shoe : Nike Marathon Running Shoe =-.

Molly May 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm

The only part of this article I take serious issue with is the i-Pod while running. I know people have been running with personal listening devices of one kind or another for ages, but what’s rarely taken into account, especially for women, is the impact on her SAFETY. As someone who has faced violence on the streets, I always struggle when I see women blithely running along some street, completely oblivious to most of what’s around them because they’ve got their ipods and can’t hear anything. What do runners need to hear? Bikes, cars, attackers – when oh when is someone going to step up and discuss this? It’s way easier to attack a woman from behind if she can’t even hear her attacker comning. I thought the article was great – loads of terrific tips – but I’m saddened to see yet another writer ignore this key part to women’s safety – using ALL your senses to increase your awareness of the environment as you run.

Angela June 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm

In reading this post, it looks like you used to have gear discounts available for readers. Are they still valid?

Monica June 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Hi Angela– I think you are referring to the 15% discount mentioned on #22. Yes, it is still available…just use the link listed in the post.

Dominique May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

i had read your blog it has a lot of information related gears for runners.Thanks for sharing it.

Ren July 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I realize this is an older post, but wanted to thank you anyway for such a helpful list!

Pandora January 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

It is really older post and really helpful.

John January 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Pandora–Glad it helped…good luck on the next race!

Mel April 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Very helpful – some say controversial info as to using Ipods. I love the motivation of the beats (music) – a solution I use is to only use 1 earbud. you just have to pay attention to your surroundings. use caution and above all else, use common sense. stay safe. Started running at age 50…2 yrs later…still running ! :-) Happy feet.
Happy heart. Happy head !

Nike Canada August 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Superb tips and information Monica! Will print the checklist out for future uses. Thanks for the great article :D.

jackie harvey June 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Hi; I am 71 years old and run 6 miles 4 days a week and love every min. of it. I have been exercising most of my adult life but in the last 3 years I have been very faithful in my runs, I also go to the gym 4 days a week and lift weights and work out for 45 min. Would love to hear from others my age.

Monica June 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

Hi Jackie–
Thank you for stopping by the blog. That is awesome that you maintain your running at 71! I aspire to do the same. I have heard that weight training is a key part of the routine. Do you think it helps you? Do you race? We would love to hear more from you. Join us on Facebook!
Happy Running!
Monica

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