by Dr. Bob Irwin
As I move toward the end of my 40s, I realize that I feel very different after long runs and hard workouts than I did when I was younger. Now I spend almost as much time on proper recovery as I do on the actual training. Typically I run about 5 days a week, resting on Monday and Friday. I tend to do my long runs on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on if there are any upcoming races. I run easy if it's not the long run. I limit myself to one hard workout a week, either on Wednesday or Thursday. The other two days of running are now very easy. I typically make sure my heart rate stays in the 130s on easy days. My max is still in the low 190s and I try to train at about 65 percent of my max on easy runs. My training pace can vary from low eight minute pace, to upper eights depending on how tired I am from the long or harder efforts. I feel better when I get more sleep, so I aim for about 8 hours a night. I spend more time foam rolling and using a trigger point ball on my sore muscles than I did when I was younger. The reasoning for this is my muscles tend to become very overworked and tight more easily now. For me, it's a part of my profession to bend over patients all day, which puts stress on my posture. This is why I spend more time foam rolling and making sure I always sit with some type of lumbar support behind me. I also do some postural resetting exercises throughout the day. I always did some type of strength work, but now I need to be very consistent with it or injuries tend to occur.
In my 20s I would typically follow a 7 day training block. This would consist of a long run on Sunday, a medium effort run on Monday, and some type of speed session on Tuesday. Wednesday would be another medium effort day with a double run. Thursday would be a longer run mixed with some type of tempo effort, also dependent on the distance I was focused on racing. That typically ranged from 1500 meters to a half marathon. Friday and Saturday would be steady runs, or maybe a day off for one of them, which didn't occur very often.
My 30s were a shift in focus to more marathon training for the most part. My schedule was pretty similar to my 20s but I started taking a rest day more often. Thursday tended to become my favorite rest day if I was racing. If there weren’t any races, I would usually rest on Fridays. When I ran at SUNY Cortland, Jack Daniels always advocated that you rest two days before a race. Through experimenting over the years, I have found that was pretty accurate and worked best for me. I actually ran most of my long distance personal bests in my mid-30s. For me that was when I had been running long enough to know what worked best for me from a training aspect.
The hardest part of the aging process has been figuring out how much recovery I need from harder efforts. I usually base it on my resting heart rate. Typically, my resting heart rate is in the upper 40s to low 50s in the morning. After a hard workout or long run it bumps up to close to 60 the day after. I have pushed workouts off a day when my heart rate hasn't dropped back to normal. Sometimes I feel like I am running harder than I am based on my heart rate on easy runs. A few times I have felt like I was working hard and saw that my heart rate was in the low 130s. I realized I have to push through a bit of discomfort to stay in a normal training zone.
In conclusion, we have to figure out what works for ourselves. As we age we have to slowly adapt to changes in our recovery needs, or we will be spending more time at the doctor’s office or resting an injury.
Dr. Robert Irwin
Functional Movement Certified