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Do runners slow down with age?

Age seems to slow down many runners, Nandini Reddy explores if its just age or are their other factors.

Young runners seem to be faster. Some believe that it is because younger runners use their leg muscles differently. But is it only age that causes this change in gait and running speed? While most of us accept this logic that as we age our speed would diminish there is little to prove that this true. Today senior marathoners are flooding the marathon corrals. They even clock better timings than their younger counterparts, so what then what is it that slows us down?

A study states that muscles can be reinvigorated to perform at peak levels at any age if the person follows the right type of strength training. As we grow older our aerobic capacity decreases and with each passing decade it reduces by a further 10%. So while an octagenarian runner might have better aerobic capacity than a sedentary 40-year-old, there is still an amount of training that needs to be done to ensure that the body is in tune.

Strengthen the Muscles

So what is it that really slows us down as we age. With regular exercise, aerobic capacity can be improved or maintained – so that means you can keep up your pace. There is evidence that shows that muscles in the lower legs age earlier than others. That means that without adequate care the muscles will start losing strength and subsequently lead to injury. The two most important muscles that should be focussed on are the ankle and calf muscles. If these muscles are not strong enough then the chances of Achilles tendon and calf injuries tend to increase.

Weight

Another reason why we tend to run slower is our weight. As we grow older our metabolism slows down and the ability to lose weight reduces. Fit people who eat slowly, include protein and vegetables in their meals and watch their junk food intake will not have this issue. But if you don’t watch your food quality and quantity then maintaining a healthy weight becomes an issue. Running when you are overweight comes with its own range of injuries.

Motivation

One of the biggest reasons people slow down as runners when they grow older is actually the lack of motivation. One starts to become more conscious and careful to avoid injury and in the process, they stop doing the exercises which would help them avoid those injuries. Changing your mindset is the best way to stay active at any age.

Take the time to smell the roses but keep running because age doesn’t slow you down only your mind does.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

 

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Keep those legs pumping

Running isn’t just for the young ,today we have 80 year old setting new records  so how do you keep running at any age asks Nandini Reddy.

This erstwhile young man’s game has now become a playground of grit and mental strength for senior runners. However, as we age, there are a few things we need to keep in mind if you want to keep your legs pumping.

Just pounding the pavement isn’t easy on your body. You need to first keep in mind that as a senior runners you need to adhere to certain precautions and limits. These are not to discourage you as a runner but to keep you running longer.

Understand your Limits 

You may have been an aggressive runner when you were younger. Your training schedules might have rivaled elite runners but as an older runner you need to be a little smarter when it comes to knowing your limits. It is as important to be aware of when to back off as it is to understand how hard to push. Taking an easy day doesn’t make you a bad runner  it will help you become a smarter one.

Always run hot 

A cold body is prone to injury. Racing out of the corral without a warm-up is no longer an option. You should never do that. Warming up properly is even more important than it once was. You can opt for body weight moves like lunges, squats and dynamic stretches before you start running. You don’t have the burst out when you start. A slow jog or brisk walk that leads to a run is way smarter than a sprint burst. Ramp up your pace as you cover more distance. You can always gain back time in the second half of the race.

Pace it right 

Many senior runners will notice that their pace has changed over the years  As you get older you need to re-evaluate your pace. Set new goals that match where you are now, and be realistic with your expectations.

Walk Run is a good thing

If you are trying our running only now then you should consider the walk – run routine.Even runners who feel a little more fatigued than they’d prefer can get major benefits from simply walking or using a walk/run combination. If you are coming back to running after a break then it’s better to start slow and then move to running.

You are important

Watch what you eat because nutrition is extremely important for runners. If you want to become a serious runner then you need to eat like one. Whole and nutritious food with plenty of proteins and vegetables is essential. If you have aches and pains, then immediately check with sports therapists or a doctor. Never ignore slight nagging pain either.

Focus on Mobility

A lot of older people lose mobility and experience stiffness in their knees and hips. Strength training along with mobility work is important to ensure the body is well-oiled. You can split your training days into running days and days for strength and mobility work.

Schedule rest and recovery

Plenty of runners avoid major injury because they were smart enough to take a day off. You need to pencil in a test day into your schedule. If you need to be active then choose a light workout like a walk or yoga. The idea is to keep it easy and simple.

Remember that being smart about your running when you are a senior runner is extremely important.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

 

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How does a Senior runner prepare for a Duathlon

Senior runners are experimenting with all forms of endurance sports and the Duathlon is another amazing event to consider, writes Deepthi Velkur.

Swim-Bike-Run races or the Triathlon are challenging and fun, but what happens if you can’t (or don’t enjoy) swimming?

Does that mean you miss out? Definitely not, the answer lies in Duathlon.

Duathlon is often scoffed at for being triathlon’s poor cousin. However, if like me, you’re addicted to running and cycling but dread that swim leg, then the run-bike-run could be the challenge for you.

The classic duathlon challenge involves a 10K run, 44K bike, and 5K run. There is also the Ultra Duathlon that has a 20K run, 77K bike, and 10K run.

While getting through the initial run and bike challenge seem straightforward enough, it is the last run (5K) that kills you and make your legs feel like jelly, though this can be avoided with proper training.

To get the most out of your training please make sure you follow a customized program. Runners who are senior in age need to be cautious and have race-specific training plans. This approach is necessary as over time the wear and tear of the body,  as well as adaption to multiple forms of past training, make the body’s response to new training a lot slower.

As a senior runner, your years of training and racing have helped you understand your body better. Use this knowledge to make amendments and build a good training plan.

Your training plan should include 3 – 4 sessions a week of threshold and muscle training while other days must include strength or cross training. Senior runners should exercise caution when running fast as they are more susceptible to injury due to the loss of muscle and tissue elasticity.

Here are some top training tips when preparing for a duathlon:

Keep it simple: Make sure you have the basics – a bike, water bottle, helmet and a good pair of running shoes. Do make sure they are in good working condition.

Build up your training intensity gradually: Always ensure your training intensity increases gradually because a sudden change can lead to injury. Follow the 80:20 rule – 80% at an easy and conservational pace and 20% at a moderate to high intensity.

Pace yourself: Just like with your training pace yourself through each obstacle – run the first leg at a comfortable place, build intensity with the bike and finish with a flourish in your last run.

Practice transitions: You can lose a lot of time transitioning from your run to a bike to a run again. The key here is repetition. Practice by setting up a mini transition area that is safe and has marked entry and exit lines. Post a warm-up, set a timer each time you run in, change shoes, put on your helmet and run out to mount your bike and again back to the run mode. This helps you to better understand what went well and what changes are needed with respect to your last transition. Aim to get quicker with each session.

Run first, then bike: Incorporate brick sessions as part of the training program – these include a short, sharp run right after your bike ride. This way your legs get used to this transition of getting off a bike and then doing a fast run. Once you’re done with 4-8 weeks of base training, the short bursts off the bike are excellent for building muscle memory ahead of your race day. Try doing a run before a bike ride instead so you know how exactly it would feel to ride after running on race day.

Whether we like it or not our body never ceases to change through aging. You must factor in these changes as you customize your training approach.

That said, make sure you have fun, stay in the moment and enjoy yourself!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Age no bar. Determination compulsory.

This mom and son running duo will give you serious fitness and parenting goals, writes Capt Seshadri.

While it is quite customary to hear of couples running together, or even families running for fun, it must be quite a rarity to see a centenarian mom and her septuagenarian son in competitive athletics, that too in World Masters competitions across the globe.

If ninety three is a ripe old age to start an athletics career, Mann Kaur epitomises it. Having watched her 71 year old son Gurdev Singh run a race at Patiala, sometime in 2007, Kaur was inspired to start running, ‘just for the heck of it’. If genius were truly 1% inspiration, this nonagenarian genius proved that it is also 99% perspiration, by beginning her training in real earnest. Preparing for the Chandigarh Masters Athletic Meet, she sprinted 50 m five times and each of 100 m and 200 m at least once each, every alternate day. That was to prove more than sufficient for the ‘Miracle Mom from Chandigarh’. In 2007, at the very same meet, she won her first medal. There was no looking back at the track.

Mom Kaur and son Gurdev have participated in several Masters Athletics meets around the world. In 2017, in Auckland, where over 18,000 competitors from over a hundred countries participated in 28 disciplines in these quadrennial games, Mann and Gurdev once again covered themselves in glory. While the ‘younger’ Gurdev won silver in the long jump, bronze in the 100 m and was placed 4th in the 200 m, golden girl Mann Kaur finished first in all her three events – the 100 and 200 m and the shot put, in the process earning her 17th international gold medal.

The dashing duo was well prepared for the World Championships at Rugao, China, but were sorely disappointed at not being granted visas. They were supremely confident of more medals and more glory for India. Sadly however, that was not to be. A consolation of sorts came by with Mann Kaur being featured as one among just six nominees worldwide, for the Laureus World Sports Awards in 2017. This award is an annual feature, often considered the ‘Oscar’ of sports, to honour sporting individuals and teams for consistent achievements throughout the year. Kaur, although unlucky to have lost out to Usain Bolt, can count her name against sporting luminaries like Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

In Canada, where she is now settled, Mann Kaur is to be bestowed a lifetime achievement award. Her happiness is in getting to travel across the globe at her advanced age.” Kaur attributes her longevity and athletic prowess to her healthy lifestyle of clean living and a diet of boiled vegetables and wheat bread. “If you take junk food, then how can you run? I avoid fried food”, is her mantra. This simple centenarian world beater, who has even run a non-stop 3 km race in Mohali, near her home town of Chandigarh, along with legendary centenarian marathoner Fauja Singh, has this to say: “I will continue to run and take part in competitions as long as I can. It gives me a lot of happiness when I run. I believe that age is no bar to chase and realise your dreams.”

Age is no bar indeed. All you need is a road to run on.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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It’s never too late to start running!

Deepthi Velkur catches up with senior runner, Rajendra Kumar from Bengaluru on how he fell in love with running. 

Running is not a sport reserved only for the young and elite but rather an all-inclusive lifetime sport that challenges you from the moment you start  and all you have to do to get started is have the will to put one foot in front of the other for miles.

The growing phenomenon of senior citizens taking to running is evidence enough that it’s never too late to start running and talking to them you will see that they have all good things to say about how they’ve improved their physical and mental health.

One such gentleman I spoke to is Y.S. Rajendra Kumar, a retired Assistant General Manager who was with State Bank of India for nearly four decades.  An inspiring individual to youngsters and old people alike, he took to running at the age of 74 years in the year 2014. I was curious to know from him, how running became a passion at the age of 74. These are the excerpts of our conversation.

What motivated you to take up running at an age where most people put their legs up and relax?

Prior to me taking up running, I have always kept myself physically active over the years by doing yoga as well as taking long daily walks with my wife to the temple. In one of my discussions at home, my son suggested that I take up running and join his club “Jayanagar Jaguars”. The thought appealed to me; I started in 2014 and here I am 4 years later still enjoying every run.

Can you tell us from your experience what kind of changes running has brought into your life?

Before I took to running, the winter season was quite challenging for me. I used to suffer from a cold and chest congestion but that has now completely vanished since I started running. The bigger impact that running has brought to me is a more pleasant psychological change and cheerful attitude that I can attribute to my experience in running alongside the youngsters in the group.

To encourage more senior citizens to run, how should they start their process?

I would think that there are 2 primary steps that need to be in place:

  • Following a structured training program and
  • The able guidance of a coach providing them with the required direction to follow the training program.

There is a growing number of senior people who are running marathons around the world. What is your take on this growing phenomenon?

With the amount of information available online and the increased awareness among seniors on the benefits of running, this phenomenon does not surprise me. I welcome it and think that we as a society should be more open and encouraging to senior people taking to running.

In terms of your runs so far, how many 10k’s and half marathons have you completed?

Since my first competitive run in December 2014, I have completed ten 10K runs and six half-marathons until now. I am also proud of the fact that I have been able to achieve a podium finish in 2 of the runs –Ajmera Thump 10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:13:47 in December, 2014 and TCS World10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:05:58 in May, 2017. Some of other running courses I have completed are: Scotia Bank Calgary Run (Canada)10K, Spirit Of Wipro 10K, SCMM Half Marathon, Bengaluru 10K Challenge, Bengaluru Half Marathon, Chamundi Hill Challenge Mysuru 10K, Celebration Mysore Half Marathon and the Tata Mumbai Marathon.

That’s quite an impressive list and hopefully this will encourage other senior citizens to take up running as well. In your group of runners, is there a large percentage of people over the age of 60?

Not quite – in a group of over 600 signed runners, training across ten locations in Bengaluru, we are four runners above the age of 60 years.We are hopeful that other senior citizens will soon take to running as the benefits definitely outweigh the initial challenges that they will face.

In terms of your training sessions, can you give us some insight into your weekly running schedule?

We are currently in the middle of getting ready for our next half-marathon and our training schedule includes running 3 times a week with a mileage of 25K – 30K per week. Also, there are specific drills and exercises that we go through under the guidance of our very experienced coach, Pramod Deshpande and this helps us get stronger and stay injury-free.

To complement your training schedule have you made any dietary changes since you took to running?

Yes; I have made some dietary changes to boost strength and stay healthy. I have increased my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried, oily foods and minimizing my intake of sweets. Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is paramount to supplement my training and overall running activity.

I have also learnt that your entire family is into running. That is quite an achievement, how did that happen?

Yes, it is true that as a family we all love running. It all started out with my daughter-in-law, Padmashree; she has long been into running and over time introduced my son Darshan to the sport. With the growing enthusiasm of seeing my daughter-in-law and son involved, my grandson Tanmai soon joined the running group.

During mid-September 2014 at the age of 74, my son suggested that I join him as well. While it did appeal to me, I was hesitant at first but decided to give it a shot. In the beginning, I found it a little difficult to run. However, I persisted and my continued efforts with proper guidance and encouragement enabled me to develop a passion for running.

Today, as a family we collectively participate in certain important running events through the year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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The Runner who talks to God

The name Fauja Singh is an inspiration to senior runners the world over, Capt Seshadri takes a look at this remarkable runner.

An 89 year old Punjabi man in London, wishing to train for a marathon, landed up at Redbridge, Essex, probably in deference to the formal attire of the country of his residence, dressed in a three piece suit, much to the bemusement of his coach. To further add to the trainer’s surprise, the bearded and turbaned old man confessed that he thought the marathon was run over 26 km and not miles. Not that it mattered at all. His training began in complete earnestness and dedication. The outcome? In 2003, at age 92, he completed the London Marathon in 6:02 and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5:40.

This is the saga of Fauja Singh, a name that must now be familiar to every marathon runner across every continent. This was the same person who, born on April 1, 1911, in the village of Beas near Jalandhar, the sports goods capital of India, struggled to walk on his weak and scrawny legs until the age of five. One hundred years later, the very same ‘old’ lad set eight world age group records in a single day at the Ontario Masters Association Invitational Meet: 100 m in 23:14; 200 m in 52:23; 400 m in 2:13:48; 800m in 5:32:18; 1500 m in 11:27: 18; the metric mile in 11:53:45, the 3000 m in 24:52:47 and the 5000 m in 49:57:39. A series of events that no professional athlete would dream of attempting even at the peak of his career!

Where most master athletes would take weeks to recover from such a strenuous ordeal, just three days later, on October 16, 2011, Fauja Singh scripted history as the first centenarian to complete a full 26.2 miler, running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06. Sadly, this amazing feat never made it to the Guinness Book of Records, since he had no birth certificate to prove his age, despite a passport confirmation of his date of birth.

Even though he was undeterred by age and never laid low through injury, this living legend decided to call it quits from competitive running after the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24, 2013, where he completed the 10K in 1:32:28, a timing which is just outside the qualifying limit of 1:30 set for the Tata World 10k, and meant for runners who would qualify as his great grandchildren! The proud moment of his running career was when he carried the Olympic torch in July 2012. The retired Fauja now runs for pleasure, health and charitable causes. Fauja Singh was honoured with the British Empire Medal in 2015, for his outstanding contribution to sports and charity.

The 52 kg, vegetarian Sikh attributes his longevity, stamina and outstanding fitness to his non-meat diet comprising roti, dal, vegetables and curd. Good hydration with plenty of water and ginger tea, early sleep, an abhorrence towards smoking and alcohol, and a professed diet of love and respect from the world around him, keep him going strong. His take on running successful marathons at such an advanced age: “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last 6 miles, I run while talking to God”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The Man who ran Forever

Legendary Senior Runner, Ed Whitlock is remembered for his indomitable spirit by Capt Seshadri

It was a warm summer day in Toronto, on March 13, 2017. It was a day of mourning for the marathon runners of the world. The day marked the unfortunate demise, due to prostate cancer, of a master athlete, just a week past his 86th birthday, the only runner to complete a series of marathons at an age past 80, in less than 4 hours. RIP Ed Whitlock!

Born on March 6, 1931, this English-origin Canadian did not start running again until he was 41, concentrating at the time on middle-distance running, and after several years recording best times of 1:59.9 for the 800 metres and 4:02.5 for the 1500 metres. His initiation into marathon running came at age 48, from a spat with his 14-year old son, who Ed could not dissuade from competing but, rather, ran alongside and casually completed the course in 2:31:23. Now he was bitten by the running bug!

Well into his 60s, he turned his attention to road racing. However, it was as late as in 2003, when at age 72, he ran the 26.2 miler in 2:59:49. Two years later, the time was 2:58:40, creating the record for the oldest man to run a marathon in under 3 hours. The number crunchers confirm that, if extrapolated in age with a 20-year old runner, this time would have been equivalent to 2:03:57, probably one of the fastest marathons of all time!

Fifteen minutes at eighty years; that was the improvement Whitlock made to the world record for his age category, with an astonishing time of 3:25:43 at the April 2011 Rotterdam Marathon. Not satisfied with this superhuman effort, he improved the timing in October the same year, at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, to 3:15:54. Nothing could stop this remarkable athlete, least of all age. In October 2016, all of 85 years old, he became the oldest marathoner to complete the course in less than 4 hours, with a run of 3:56:34, once again at Toronto.

Ed’s running career and training program are unusual and unorthodox. His running shoes are worn out and outdated. His running vest is probably a couple of decades and a half old. He has never consulted a coach or trainer and has no records of his training mileage. And, unimaginable to any hardcore runner, he had no masseur, did not do weight training or stretching and abhorred supplements of any kind. What probably worked in his favour is an extraordinary lung capacity and a lean mass. But, above all, a dedication to win against time, against the track and against the body clock. With a cemetery as a running ground, Ed trained all alone, running around it for over 3.5 hours at a time, day after day.

Aging is an argument among the medical fraternity when it comes to Ed Whitlock. His running records at such an advanced age have prompted scientists and geriatric specialists to take a relook at the processes of aging and athletic performance. However, Ed’s own philosophy is quite simple. “I believe people can do far more than they think they can. You have to be idiot enough to try it.”

In a fitting tribute to a senior runner, Ed Whitlock, the super marathoner with undying stamina and indomitable spirit, was inducted into the Milton Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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