If you’re a 40+ guy seeking a lifelong balance of endurance, strength and flexibility, running is one activity that’s hard to get “right” within your mix. Most of us either don’t run at all, or really like running–get addicted to it, even–and run too much.
I believe 90% of us need to either run more, or run less, than we do today.
⇒ Why we need to run (or walk/hike as an alternative)
Running is one of the greatest fitness activities. It’s the original, primal endurance builder…it’s weight-bearing, helping maintain your bone mass and strength…it works certain leg muscles really well.
Plus, it’s a great way to mentally unplug and to be outdoors with fresh air, under sunshine or moonshine (or in the rain – it’s all good). This “outdoors” part is critical to your sense of wholeness and joy from fitness – more on that here.
Finally, running is portable. You can do it when traveling for work or vacation. No club pass or equipment needed, and always doable on your schedule. Non-runners often skip workouts when they travel. Not runners (they also get a great way to tour new places).
You might think “that’s all great, but I just can’t run anymore because of [fill-in-the-blank injury or condition].” If that’s the reality, man, fair enough. I get it. Still, please read this and substitute “walking” or “hiking.” Many of the same benefits apply, and these are even more portable and lifelong doable.
But I think many of us get running-caused injuries that lead us to quit altogether, where the problem is really just running too much and/or too often. Running once a week for 3-5 miles, on a non-pavement surface if best…is something many of us should be able to maintain. In future posts, I’ll talk about physical setbacks and persevering through them.
⇒ Why we need to run in moderation, and mix running with other workouts
On the flip side, too much running is—at best—a sub-optimal way to pursue fitness.
For some, it’s worse than that – it keeps causing injuries. Running can bring you such a sense of well-being and achievement that it often drives you to keep running further and more often, until eventually something starts to hurt. I’m in the group that is susceptible to this.
For others–the biomechanically blessed—it might actually be worse. Because you love running and it “loves you back,” you may have a less-than-balanced fitness approach. Heavy-duty runners almost invariably lament a lack of flexibility. And they usually don’t get enough all-over muscle conditioning (they certainly don’t get it from running, which doesn’t even work all your leg muscles, let alone your core, back, chest, and arms). They might even be in the realm of “cardio over-do,” where you burn more calories than you really need to, depleting muscles, and wear yourself down over the long term.
I know, it’s extremely gratifying to keep running farther, to set personal records for times, to do well in road race age groups. But where’s the point beyond which more and more running is not really about fitness but rather in service of other types of needs?
Brothers, I’m not knocking these types of achievement goals…I’m just asking that you get in touch with the real motivations behind your running, and figure out whether your long-term goals are better served by adding more balance into your workout mix.
So, putting this all together, with your thriving in mind I urge you guys to either…
1. Start (or carefully return) to a modest level of running. Run slow, stretch well, and don’t be in a hurry to increase your frequency or mileage. If you don’t already use a “recovery drink” after other cardio work, start using a post-run recovery drink to replace (healthy) carbs, as well as to replenish protein.
2. Reduce your running and pick up some other activities for strength, flexibility and impact reduction, if you’re running more than 2-3 times per week right now. Add swimming or cycling as alternate cardio. Do more strength work (even if just taking 2-3 miles off a long run and using the time for push-ups, pull-ups and core work). Or maybe overcome your self-imposed barriers and try yoga.
Give this a couple of months and see what you think!
“I’m older now, but still running against the wind.” (Bob Seger, Against the Wind)