The Secret to Running Through the Years
Written by: Alicia Walker, PT, DPT, CMT, RYT
This year my grandmother won the San Diego Track Club (SDTC) Senior Runner of the Year award. She’s in her 80s and started running in her early 40s. I work with patients of all ages and complexity of injuries and repeatedly see that age really is “just a number” and that mindset plays a huge role. But there must be more to it than just internal motivation, so let’s dig into the many factors at play in maintaining a long running career.
First a little background on this inspiring lady, my grandmother. Over the 40 years she’s been running, she completed and won countless marathons, half marathons, and has competed in the SDTC Dirt Dog Cross Country Series every year for the past 20 years. The walls and closets of her home are lined with medals and plaques of races won 1st, 2nd or 3rd for her category.
The Dirt Dog Cross Country series in San Diego, CA is a series of five, 5K races and one 4 miler put on by the SDTC every year. The trails wind over dusty, hilly terrain. The races attract all ages and some of the fastest runners in San Diego, and that’s where you’ll find my grandmother along with many other women and men over 65 running year after year.
What’s their secret? Here’s my grandmother’s advice: “just keep trying even when you are discouraged, each try lifts your spirit. Also, when you are surrounded by an encouraging community as I am it really helps.” My grandmother then went on to talk about the variety of exercises the track club puts them through and how she’s recovered and kept running through several injuries and health problems.
I worked with my grandmother to create an easy to reference list for how to keep running through the years and in turn increase your longevity:
- Just keep running: even when you get discouraged or feel tired, get out there and run. Even a 10-15min run is better than nothing and will help boost your energy and confidence.
- Find a community: search for local track or running clubs in your area. The wisdom of my grandmother is backed by research, if you have a group or buddy to hold you to you accountable, your chances of following through increase up to 95%! 1, 2 .
- Help your body heal: If you’re injured, switch to active rest and seek advice from medical professionals. Find a pain-free way to keep moving, such as swimming, cycling or walking depending on the severity of the injury. Seek out your local physical therapist or primary care doctor for advice on safe and effective ways to get back to your sport!
- Cross-train. To be a good runner is to be a good all around athlete. Imagine visiting your grandparents house and rather than sitting around drinking milk and eating cookies, you end up doing plyometrics in the living room before jogging around the neighborhood! Dynamic stretching and core strengthening exercises have been shown to improve performance and reduce the chance of injury.3,4,5
- Be kind. What does this have to do with running, you say? This may be anecdotal, but I see the generosity and kindness of my grandmother infuse her with an energy most others her age only wish for. On her daily neighborhood run she feeds the homeless, and she regularly volunteers her time at the track club where she is loved by many.
These items are not only helpful for running, but could translate to any sport you want to continue doing over the years. Find something you enjoy doing and stick to it, be mindful of your body and it’s limits and find a community to cheer you on!
Find me or other skilled Physical Therapists to help you work through injuries and improve your performance at PacificPro Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine.
If you live in the San Diego area check out the SDTC!
- Oppong, Thomas. “This Is How to Increase The Odds of Reaching Your Goals by 95%.” Medium, Mission.org, 16 Jan. 2017, https://medium.com/the-mission/the-accountability-effect-a-simple-way-to-achieve-your-goals-and-boost-your-performance-8a07c76ef53a.
- Frink, D. D., & Ferris, G. R. (1998). Accountability, Impression Management, and Goal Setting in the Performance Evaluation Process. Human Relations, 51(10), 1259–1283. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872679805101003
- Herman, S., Smith D. Four-Week Dynamic Stretching Warm-up Intervention Elicits Longer-Term Performance Benefits. J Strength and Conditioning Research (2008)
- Peate, W., Bates, G., Lunda, K. et al. Core strength: A new model for injury prediction and prevention. J Occup Med Toxicol 2, 3 (2007) doi:10.1186/1745-6673-2-3
- Fredericson, Michael et al. Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle- and Long-Distance Runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics, Volume 16, Issue 3, 669 – 689