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Why older runners need to strength train (and how to get started)

If you're over 35, it's time to start adding some strength to your routine. Here's why (and how)

masters runners jogging together

There’s no way to stop time, but strength training will help you run stronger for longer. Strength training is particularly important for older runners, as it helps counteract age-related muscle loss, enhances bone density and improves overall stability, reducing the risk of injuries and promoting longevity. Here’s what you need to know to run long and strong.

middle-aged men running

Combat age-related muscle loss

One of the most significant concerns for older runners is the loss of muscle mass. Scientific studies consistently emphasize the effectiveness of strength training in combating this age-related decline. Resistance exercises like weight-lifting trigger muscle protein synthesis, promoting the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. Not only will this improve running performance, it also plays a crucial role in supporting overall mobility and reducing the risk of injuries.

masters runner lifting weights

Enhance bone density

Aging often brings a decline in bone density, increasing runners’ susceptibility to fractures and injuries. Strength training is a powerful ally in maintaining and enhancing bone density; weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone-forming cells, leading to stronger and more resilient bones. For older runners, this means a reduced risk of stress fractures and a safeguard against the impact-related challenges that can accompany running over time.

woman doing strength exercises midrun

Boost your metabolism

Metabolism tends to slow down with age, contributing to a potential decline in energy levels. Strength training, particularly high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can rev up the metabolic rate. This not only aids in weight management, but also provides older runners with the energy needed to tackle longer distances. As your running efficiency improves, your overall performance is enhanced.

older runner doing bodyweight strength training

Get started today

No idea how to begin? If you have access to a local gym, it’s a great idea to invest in one or two sessions with a trainer to get used to the equipment and learn a few exercises you can do on your own. There are plenty of ways runners can work on strength at home, though, and YouTube has many videos that are useful to help figure out how to strength-train at home correctly and safely.

Try bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks, which require no equipment and effectively target key muscle groups for runners.

Incorporate resistance bands for added challenge; they’re affordable, versatile, and can be used for exercises like leg lifts, lateral leg raises, and upper body workouts.

Start with a set of light dumbbells for exercises like bicep curls, overhead presses and weighted lunges, gradually increasing the weight as you get stronger.

Incorporating some strength training into your routine doesn’t have to take a lot of timeā€“even fifteen minutes after a run a few times a week will make a real difference.

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