A New Year!

Most people I know are glad 2020 is over!  As discussed in my previous blog: “2021: Here It Comes!,” there is reason to hope for an end to the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions during 2021, as we move towards some kind of normalcy.  While we each have a role in containing the virus, certainly much about COVID is beyond our control.  Nevertheless, the new year provides an opportunity to take stock of what happened with our running in 2020 and plan out 2021, as best we can.

Most runners I know, of all ages, regressed some during 2020.  Part of this is due to a lack of “real” races to target and train for.  For the younger set, maybe that’s not bad, giving the body some needed rest. For those of us 50, 60, or beyond, it’s likely another year beyond our PRs and a time when our capacities are progressively aging. 

Regardless, for us seniors (50 YO+) it is probably best not to dive into 2021 with unbridled enthusiasm, pretending to some degree 2020 didn’t happen and we’re ready to rock n’ roll.  It would be a shame to push it early and bring on an injury that persists for several months.  Thus, prudence suggests we look at some basics and go from there.  Here are four topics to consider as you plan out your year.

  1. Total mileage.  Best to adhere to the 10% rule (OK, maybe ~15% will suffice).  Meaning if you ran 1,200 miles in 2020, plan to run 1,320 to 1,380 miles, with gradual month-over-month increases during the year. That may seem tough, if mileage was 1,500 miles in 2019, for example.
  2. Racing.  Too many senior runners over race.  This is a prescription for injury, not to mention dampened enthusiasm from going to the well too often.  Racing is a stress that takes longer to recover from as we age.  Particularly coming off of 2020 when most races were cancelled, it’s a time to move easily back into racing.  Maybe shorter ones to start, building up to longer races by the fall.  And to fulfill the yearning to be around the races and see friends, consider helping out at races previously run.
  3. Speed.  We all want to run fast!   That’s in the runner’s DNA.  Again, 2021 may be a year to progressively recoup some of that speed.  You may say, “I’m a year older and getting slower and don’t want to hold back.”  As we age, abilities diverge within our cohorts depending on a bunch of factors.  As a result, speed (or the loss of it!) becomes a more individual challenge, with effort partially transcending time as a measure, though for sure a competitive runner always checks his/her pace!
  4. Balance.  If there ever was a year to diversify our training to incorporate more cycling, swimming, water running, skiing, yoga, and weight training, 2021 is it!  Let’s give our bodies a chance to settle into an increasing workload without breaking down.

All this takes careful thought.  But it’s worth the time.  Planning out a year gives us something to measure our progress against, taking into account at least the prior year.  As we age, it becomes an increasingly customized exercise.  Nobody knows our bodies better than ourselves.  Stock training plans become irrelevant as we age.

So, I hope 2021 starts well for you and you ramp up your running in a progressive way.  By September, perhaps much will be in the rear-view mirror, including our regressed running fitness!

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