Attrition

Over the years, we get used to going to key races, such as the regional USATF Grand Prix Series, and seeing our friends and rivals there.  That’s a big reason why we travel to these races.  Many of us keep track of our times and places at these events and maybe note who we beat or beat us.  Yes, this can be obsessive, but it’s also part of the fun! Yet, as we age, we see fewer of our cohort showing up.  We invariably hear directly or through the pipeline about the reasons why: an acute or chronic injury; a serious debilitating illness; an unwillingness to train as workouts feel harder and less fulfilling; less motivation due to slowing times; and even death.  The data bears this out.  Results from the 2019 BAA Distance Medley Races (5K, 10K, Half Marathon) with over 23,000 finishers, showed that 80% of the field was under age 50; 14% were 50-59 and just 6% over 60.  Last Saturday’s New Hampshire 10 Miler, a tough, hilly Grand Prix race that weeded out some younger casual runners, drew 1,088 finishers.  Of those 33% were over 50 and 11% over 60, with just 23 runners 70 and older.  It would be an interesting longitudinal study to … Continue reading

The Morning Shakeout

The Internet is a crowded place.  Depending on your interests, there is a myriad of topics and themes to choose from.  The running space is no different.  I Googled “running-related podcasts” and came up with a list of 19 compiled by Run to the Finish.  There’s only so much time and attention in the day and week.  So, how to choose? Recently, Kevin, a member of my running club, suggested I listen to an interview with Pete Magill on The Morning Shakeout,  a weekly podcast hosted by Mario Fraioli since December 2017.  Kevin knew as a coach I recommend Magill’s book, Build Your Running Body.  After listening to Mario’s conversation with Pete, I scrolled through the archive and saw and listened to conversations with Alex Hutchinson, author of Endure, George Hirsch, founder of the New York City Marathon and former editor of Runner’s World, Amby Burfoot, and Bill Rodgers.  It didn’t take long to conclude TMS was a mother-lode of great stories about everything running on roads and trails.  Now 40, Mario has spent most of his adult life involved with the sport.  Through writing, editing, coaching, his own running, and an outgoing personality that enables him to easily connect with folks, he has a deep e-rolodex to draw on.   TMS now has an archive … Continue reading

Goals for Senior Runners

In my Sports Psychology class at UVM this fall, we were able to choose a topic for a research project on goal setting.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to do this for senior runners!  And for this post, I’m drawing from my project write-up.  Goal setting theory (GST) is used to improve performance in many endeavors.  In sport, GST has been applied to both teams and individuals, with clear links to building skills and task achievement.  Goals have been broadly grouped as subjective or objective.  Subjective goals could include “I want to keep running” while an objective goal might be “I want to run competitively until age 80 and maintain a 70% age-grade standard”.  Objective goals can be subdivided into process, performance, and outcome goals. In sport, objective goals should be: (1) moderately difficult to achieve; (2) both short and long term; (3) specific; (4) feedback looped.  An oft-used acronym to critique goals is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound.  It’s no secret we senior runners encounter constraints not faced by younger runners. These include various physiological changes that begin to appear in our 30s but accelerate with aging.  These include changes in: (1) … Continue reading

Prehab

We all know the word rehab.  Whether it’s a house or our running body, it’s working with something that has fallen apart, or at least not functioning properly, and making it whole or materially better – restoration!  Prehab is something of a contraction of preventative rehab.  Meaning, if we do things to ward off injury, we may avoid the need for rehab.  Makes sense, of course, and we could agree nobody wants to deal with an injury.  We just want to run!  So, what to do? First, there are some pretty basic exercises that can/should be done on a near-daily basis.  They include eccentric heel dips — (see November 10, 2015 blog post), against-the-wall calf stretches, standing quad stretches — pulling your bent leg back from the ankle and feeling the stretch in the hip flexors, rope pulls – lying on your back and pulling your leg up with three progressive 15-20 second pulls, weighted knee extensions – most easily done on the leg extension machine, and goblet or wall squats.  See the Runner Resources – Resistance Exercises section on my website for descriptions of several of these. Nothing really fancy with this battery, but they strengthen and stretch multiple … Continue reading

Hamstrings and Balance

Most runners have frequent and recurring hamstring problems.  It seems endemic to the sport.  And it’s debilitating – if your hamstring is talking to you, then in Bob Dylan’s words, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” The anatomy and biomechanics of the lower extremity is complicated.  A chart noting interrelated muscular actions in Joseph Hamill’s Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement  provides a clear picture of how each muscle, joint, and tendon plays a role in proper movement in running gait.  The three hamstring muscles (semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus) form the “meat” of the posterior (backside) thigh.  And attached to these three, either directly or indirectly, are about a dozen muscles attaching to the hip and knee.  If that isn’t involved enough there are the anterior (frontside) muscles that serve as antagonists to the posterior muscles.  For example, the four quadriceps flex the hip while the hamstrings extend it.  It’s a beautiful system when it works as designed! But few of us have perfect biomechanics and things happen, the most noteworthy being imbalances. These may be minor, for which we tend to compensate without notice.  But over time these imbalances build up and result in some muscles having to work harder than … Continue reading

Slingshot Form

This week I finished my graduate program in clinical and translational science at UVM and last week presented at the department’s weekly seminar, summarizing my research interests in runner biomechanics, which I explored during my program.  Suffice it to say, at this point I thought I’d have a clear idea of next steps.  Not so!  However, in preparing for the presentation, I leafed through three running books in my library: Running Anatomy by Joe Puleo and Patrick Milroy, Running Form by Owen Anderson, and Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry.  They deliver the same message in different ways: to run fast and avoid injury, you need a strong chassis and you’ve got to be efficient in how you use your energy.  I looked through my blog posts and saw one from June 25th, 2019 drawing from Dicharry’s book that I entitled Gait Keeping.  I’m going to expand on this here, but recommend looking at that prior post too.   Dicharry suggests thinking about a slingshot, as we probably played with as kids.  You pull it back and there’s tension.  Depending on the thickness of the band and how far you pull it back, the projectile shoots out.  To maximize distance, … Continue reading

Setting the Bar

There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion we do best when we have a goal. This seems to hold for all elements of human endeavor in such varying activities as sports – achieving a time or score, or in the arts – completing a written or visual piece of work every two weeks, month, or what may be appropriate.  Whatever, the key is focusing on the end result, not the process.  If the end is clearly in mind, the steps to get there become apparent. A key question, then, is where to set the bar.  Research suggests that if it is set too high or too low one defeats the purpose of setting the goal: to maximize output or potential.  Running is a perfect example for exploring this phenomenon.  Let’s look at two common scenarios:  (1) setting annual race time targets; (2) returning from injury. Many runners sit down at the start of the year and map out a tentative race schedule.  This may be driven by a club or series schedule, races in a particular location or time of year, or ones that have been enjoyable in the past.  For recreational runners, this mapping typically includes … Continue reading

Back on Track!

I’ve always enjoyed and valued the UVM indoor track.  It’s a tenth of a mile with a very slight bank, enough to allow for efficient cornering without causing excessive torque.  If I pick unbusy times, I alternate direction.  Some don’t like the distance – they want the standard 200 meters.  But I prefer the more frequent feedback loops.  However, due to COVID-19 the UVM indoor was track shut down on November 24th, the day students went home to finish the term remote.  I did my last track workout that day.  The athletic facilities were then closed until February 4th.  Thus, what had been weekly ventures to maintain some fast twitch fiber function went on pause.  So, heading up today for my track reservation, it was with some trepidation and uncertainty about what to expect.  Could I still muster anything resembling speed after nearly 12 weeks?  After two miles of warmup, I hit the marker, pushed the start button on my old-school Timex (Garmin GPS isn’t accurate indoors) and took off on the first 800.  The first lap felt pretty good!  Then the second, then the third.  Finishing the fifth lap, I was somewhat surprised the pace was similar to the … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

When Yes, When No!

Today would have been the Stowe 8 Miler.  A marque race attracting many hundreds of people.  It went virtual this year due to Covid-19.  But a few GMAA folks decided to do it as a time trial.  I said I was in.  My week revolved around getting ready for an 8 mile time trial.  Then on Saturday two things happened.  One, the weather turn rainy and very humid.  Two, I felt as washed out as I had in many weeks.  Thinking about leaving at 6:30 a.m. and then 45 minutes to Stowe to run in the rain and another 45 back just didn’t excite me.  I went to bed leaving the decision to morning, but was pretty sure I’d do an easy run around here.  Which is what I ended up doing. During this time of Covid, we want to keep pushing, set challenges for ourselves and then meet them.  It helps having goals and things to look forward to.  But with our running, it’s also important to put things in context and focus on the long view.  If our body (and mind!) are screaming “No” and we push on anyhow, there is a chance, maybe a good chance, we … Continue reading