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Shona Hendricks

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How many of you actually incorporate strength training into your running routine? 

If you just answered yes… fantastic! If not… don’t worry because we’re about to change that!

Strength training is extremely important for runners, for two main reasons. The first is for injury prevention, and the second is to improve your running performance and make you a faster and more efficient runner

Whether you know a thing or two about strength- training or have never thought of doing it before… many benefits come with it but there’s one that always seems to get noticed the most and it’s that strength training will improve your running.

On that note… let’s have a look at some other reasons why runners should include strength training into their routine.

Why Should Runners Strength Train?

Strength training is absolutely pivotal to include in your running plan. 

We know for a fact that runners know this,  yet they still don’t do it. 

We believe the reason for this to be is that they know it’s important, they just don’t know why strength training is so important. 

Why Strength Training Is So IMPORTANT

  1. Strength Training Helps With Injury Prevention

The reason strength training helps with injury prevention is that when your smaller muscle groups aren’t working,  the bigger muscles take over… So your body always ends up compensating somewhere

It’s your smaller muscle groups that are your stabilizers, they help your hips stay in place, and they help your foot and landing mechanics, this is why we need to ensure that those stabilizing muscles are working well and also contracting at the right time / recruited correctly.

When this doesn’t happen the foundation becomes unstable, misaligned, and abnormal movement patterns of the trunk and lower extremity occur. This can then lead to injury

Running is a repetitive sport and there is a constant repetitive action, which leads to your muscles getting tired and fatigued quite quickly, this stops your muscles from working in their normal function.

That’s the reason why from an injury prevention point of view it is extremely important to include strength training in your training plan. 

  1. Strength Training Improves Your Running Economy

Think of your running economy like the fuel economy of your car… We want to be able to go as far as possible with the most efficient amount of fuel.

By incorporating strength training in your running program you will be able to go further and be more efficient with less fuel in your body. 

Strength training can improve your running economy by 4% to 6%, depending on your level, how much strength training you are doing as well as the type of strength training you are doing. 

I mean, who wouldn’t want to become a better runner just by doing strength training?

FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PLAN HERE!

  1. Strength Training helps delay the onset of fatigue. 

A study was conducted on two groups of 10000m runners (1 control group and 1 strength group). 

There was a clear distinction between the runners who did strength training vs the control group who did no strength training. 

The group who did strength training fatigued way later than the control group.

Now that you know it’s SUPER necessary… Let’s have a look at some tips you can use to incorporate strength training into your routine.

10 Strength Training Tips For Runners

  1. No Time To Strength Train? No Problem…

We completely understand that life gets busy and some days are absolutely chaotic…

2-3 strength training sessions per week are ideal…

2 sessions are better than 1 and 1 is better than none. 

So I would rather have an athlete that does 1 strength session per week consistently than one who does 2 strength sessions inconsistent every 3 or 4 weeks.

The first thing runners tend to leave off of their to-do list to save some time is strength training and that’s a HUGE mistake to be making… That’s why we created this video for you.

In this video, sports scientist Devlin Eyden shares an insanely simple, 5 exercise routine that every busy runner should incorporate into their training.

(You can see the set and reps list in the pinned comment.)

  1. Periodization For Strength Training

Periodization is about your overall plan and how it pertains to every week or month.

Running is your main sport so this is about how strength training works in and around your overall running plan and specifically to your main goals for the year.

This is how you balance your weeks, months, and overall year. 

  1. Why You Should Periodize Your Strength Training

Much like you would with your running… where you periodize your running over a period of time, where you lay the building blocks of your foundation…

The exact same thing applies to strength training. 

The idea of strength training is to complement your running training.

When you are in a phase where you focus on your running and trying to build some strength and for example, you run some hills… the same applies to strength training.

When you are trying to build up your running speed the strength training that you do will complement that. Therefore it’s important that your strength training and your running speak to each other and work well together.

For example, coming into your taper before a race and in recovery weeks you should also reduce your strength training volume. 

  1. Balance Your Strength Training As A Runner

A nice way to work on your balance is to do a combination of some stability or proprioceptive exercises (exercises that throw your body slightly out of kilter). This involves doing something simple like balancing on an Airex pad or a Bosu ball, or a hedgehog if you are in a gym environment.

You could even use two pillows if you’re at home, just to create an unstable surface. 

This will help teach muscles when to switch on and off at the appropriate time so that you build joint stability.

Even just training barefoot helps!

The kinesthesis of your feet on the floor often helps with proprioception, whereas shoes mask this and make balance much easier.

Building up your joint stability will minimize your risk of injury because there’s a lot less movement in the joints themselves.

Movement In The Hip Joints – This one is important.

We need to have strong stable hips. We also need to have mobile hips. 

Lack of mobility means that we lack the range of motion and often compensate with other muscles. 

With good strength and good mobility, you will be able to maximize your potential in your running gait too.

  1. How To Plan Your Strength Training

Just focusing on strength training…think about your overall year plan…

Laying The Foundations: 

You should periodize or move your strength training around so that you are not doing the same thing all the time. You should also create foundational work so that you are not diving into high-intensity training without being prepared and layering those building blocks first.

From a year’s perspective, you should create your plan in accordance with specific seasons. 

For example… You have your goal race, you take an off-season and when you start your new year plan, that is where you will start your strength training.

In that strength training block, what you should be focusing on is building some pure foundational strength to get stronger and prevent injuries in the future, and to build your body up to become more sustainable and able to go through the expected loads from getting into heavier running blocks. 

Once You Have a Proper Strength Work Base:

Once you have a nice base of strength work from the first block, you can start moving on to a bit more of a functional type of strength training. 

Closer To Race Day:

For the last part of your strength training, once you’re getting closer to your race day… You should be REDUCING the load of strength training and perhaps do some slightly more high-intensity and sharpening exercises to get ready for your race day.  (But this is specific if you have good strength training experience otherwise there  is a high risk of injury)

(The above is an overall yearly plan, we can take this down into smaller blocks and then into your week-on-week plans.) 

NOTE: Technique is extremely IMPORTANT!

It doesn’t help if you do all this with the wrong technique – you will get injured.
It’s important to remember that without proper form and technique, the benefits of these exercises are negligible. 

You run the risk of seriously injuring yourself if you make a habit of using improper technique when strength training.

When you’re strength training, you should make sure you’re able to do the exercise with the correct technique before you move from beginner classes to advanced classes.

  1. Strength Training During Your Taper

As you would taper leading up to a de-load week or an event, the same needs to happen with your strength training, this is done to ensure the body is feeling fresh and to ensure none of your muscles are feeling sore. 

To do this you should take some strength training out during the week of a race or your recovery week. 

  1. Strength Training In Race Week

For the shorter distance races like 5km, 10km, and 21 km we are happy for you to carry on with strength training till two weeks out, and in the final week (race week) you should just keep to the lighter sessions. 

The lighter sessions should be one strength session a week (at Coach Parry we call this our Band and Core type of work) as well as a foot core session.

For marathons and ultra-marathons, it becomes important for two weeks out to REALLY reduce the load on your strength training, you can still do the foot core sessions and band and core sessions. 

In race week you can leave out the band/core session and just do the foot core session. 

  1. Different Kinds Of Strength Training Exercises For Runners

You’ll be able to find a few different strength training exercises by using our FREE Masters running strength training plan that you can do twice a week, at home and with no expensive gym equipment needed.

You should focus on prime movers for running. quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. 

Don’t forget the stabilizers! (Pelvic stability, lower limb stability, foot core, and posture.)

  1. “I don’t have a gym to do strength training…” 

A lot of people believe that strength training is sitting in a gym and doing bench presses, leg presses, and just pushing as much weight as you can…

A lot of people DON’T do strength training because they are worried it is exactly that… They are worried that it will bulk them up and make them heavy which will affect their running…

This is not the case as it all depends on what strength work you are doing. 

Remember… You need to do A LOT of weight combined with A LOT of protein to bulk up!

The type of strength training you should be doing as a runner is generally lightweight, higher reps, bodyweight type of exercises that won’t let you bulk up but rather get so much stronger, and that is the key to strength training. 

There are times (beginning of the season) when using weights is a good idea. 

This idea that runners shouldn’t lift weights is old school.

At Coach Parry, we like runners to lift weights. It just needs to be at the right time in their training program and with the correct technique.

  1. Strength Training For Older Runners

Running fast well into your fifties is DEFINITELY possible. 

Our Strength & Conditioning expert Shona Hendricks talks about what strength training you can do that will help you run faster after 50… 

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

“Should I be eating carbs?”,” Supplements… Yes or no?”, “What protein should I be eating?”,”Why am I still picking up weight???”

There are so many mixed messages & conflicting advice when it comes to nutrition for over 50-year-old runners.

All you really need is no fluff, science-based nutrition training, and relevant nutritional advice that tells you how much to eat and drink and why you need to eat and drink those certain things. 

Doing physical activity such as running brings a lot of advantages such as a lowered risk of chronic lifestyle-related diseases as well as longevity, but one of the amazing benefits that you get for free, when you train regularly is good bone health. 

Good bone health implies a little bit of strength, but also bone mineral density. Our bones support us and allow us to move. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.

There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong…

We know that a high level of physical activity may prevent fractures; and even if it does not attenuate bone loss, it can decrease the fracture risk. 

Something everyone needs to know is that we will always lose bone…

What we’re going to look at is how we can preserve bone mass as we get older by taking advantage of the benefits we gain through physical activity. 

So, let’s break it down…

Everything You Need To Know About Bone Health

If we have a look at the bone and what it comprises, it’s 65% of minerals. Most of those minerals are Phosphorus and Calcium.  

This is the reason why aspects of your diet become more important.

Bone is also made of connective tissue. Connective tissue contains a lot of different nutrients.

This is the reason why you need to eat a large variety of foods to maintain your bone health as you get older.

Peak Bone Mass

Peak bone mass is usually achieved by the age of 30 to 35. After this age, there is a decrease in bone mass.

A decrease in bone mass means that the bone reabsorption rate is greater than the bone synthesis rate. 

  • Resorption means a decrease in bone. 
  • Bone synthesis is an increase in bone.

Bone Mass

We refer to bone mass as bone mineral density, it is basically how much mineral is in the bone & bone strength. 

Bone strength is the ability to resist the restraint that is placed on the bone, this is done with resistant training.

To have strong bones you need to minimize the risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone becomes very fragile and brittle, it basically feeds off of the bone.

Osteoporosis can increase fracture risk and affect your quality of life. 

So, what happens to our bones as we age…

In the image above, you can see the male bone progression on the yellow line and the female on the red line.

As you can see there is a period where we attain peak bone mass, then there’s a consolidation phase, and then there is that rapid loss of bone as we then pass a certain age and as I said, the activity that we do can delay the process, but it’s not going to make you build bone at the age of 50. 

In our early 20s, about 90% of our bone mass is attained. What a lot of people don’t know is that if you didn’t attain it then… then you don’t attain it ever.

That’s why our early nutrition needs to be so good. 

All we can do now is try to preserve the bone mass that we’ve got. 

If we have another look at the graph above you can see that at the age of about 30 years, that’s where we get our highest period of bone mass, then there is a decrease of 0.5% per year after we reach the age of 40.

The goal is to slow down that 0.5% decrease in bone mass each year.

Slowing down the rate at which your bone mass decreases depends hugely on what you had before you reached the age of 40, your genetics, the physical activity you do, and your hormonal status.

Bone loss happens a bit earlier and at a more drastic pace in females compared to males, this is due to a decrease in estrogen after menopause. Estrogen has a very strong protective effect on bone, so after menopause and after the drop in estrogen there will be a steep decrease in bone loss. 

The good news, as you can see in the yellow circles on the graph above is that even though bone mass will carry on decreasing, it can be slowed down through physical activity and proper nutrition. 

Let’s find out how we can maintain what we have for a longer period…

How To Support Bone Health

Key nutrients that support bone health:

  • Protein (meats, dairy, fish, eggs,) 
  • Calcium (Dairy, spinach, kale, okra, white beans)
  • Phosphorus (Dairy, meats, nuts, fish, beans)
  • Vitamin D (Fatty fish, cheese, egg yolk)
  • Magnesium (Whole grains, spinach, nuts, quinoa, avocado)
  • Zink (Meats, Shellfish, nuts, legumes)
  • Copper (nuts, shellfish, offal)
  • Boron (Fruits, nuts, lentils, beans, wine)
  • Manganese (Tea, bread, nuts, green vegetables)
  • Potassium (Banana, broccoli, parsnips, nuts)
  • Iron (Liver, meats, beans, dried fruit, leafy greens)

As well as these vitamins:

  • Vitamin K 
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins

The crux of the matter is that we have to try and include all the food groups in our daily diet. 

Bone Health & Food Variety

Dairy is extremely important because that’s the group that supplies calcium and phosphorus, which we need to consume to strengthen our bones.

We should eat fruit & vegetables daily.  A few people try not to eat fruit & veg because they are watching their carbohydrate intake but they don’t realize how important it is because of all the micronutrients veggies and fruit contain. 

Grains and starches should be eaten every day, as well as protein as it forms the matrix in which mineralization takes place. 

In a nutshell, it is so so important that we include all food groups daily.

We should strive to eat unprocessed, in-season nutrient-dense meals so that every bite counts. 

If we have to break it down and if this is all a bit too much for you to take in… just remember these 3 nutrients…

3 Main Nutrients

If we have a look at nutrition and bone health, the 3 main cornerstones are Calcium, Vitamin D, and Protein. 

You should be getting about 1000 to 13000 milligrams of Calcium per day.

Calcium in food, especially in milk is the highest and easiest to absorb. One glass of milk or one serving of dairy products is about 300 milligrams, therefore it makes sense to have 3 servings of dairy products per day to get the correct calcium intake required.

If you are following a vegan diet then…

Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra.
  • Unsweetened soy, rice, and oat drinks.
  • Calcium-set tofu.
  • Sesame seeds & tahini
  • Brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs, and dried apricots

You should be getting about 1500 to 2000 international units of vitamin D per day.

Vitamin D is not found in a lot of food, tuna or a cup of milk do contain some vitamin D but not enough, the place where you can get a substantial amount of vitamin D is from the sun.

If you live in a place that gets little sun, we recommend that you consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement.

You should be getting 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal.

The protein you consume must be high quality so that it contains over essential amino acids. 

Nutrition Recommendations To Preserve Bone

Bone Health Problems Specific To Athletes

  1. Energy Availability
  2. Low Carbohydrate Availability
  3. Protein Intake
  4. Vitamin D Intake
  5. Dermal Calcium Losses

Energy Availability

When we talk about energy availability, we look at the dietary energy intake, so how much people eat, but we deduct from that the exercise energy expenditure, not the total energy expenditure.

For example, if I take 2500 calories of energy per day, but my exercise is 1500, it means I’ve got 1000 left….that is then what we call energy availability.

If we decrease energy availability by eating way too little or if we train too hard for the amount we are eating then that will have a profound effect on our bone health.

The 1000 calories that are left need to go to physiological functions, such as the liver to work for the kidney and the skin, for the brain and the eyes… all these processes cost energy.

If there is not enough energy left then these processes are going to slow down. 

If we have continuous low energy availability… it is strongly associated with bone health, so there will be a decrease in bone formation. 

The heavier we train, the more we need to eat to fuel the activity, therefore we need to ensure we are eating enough

For women, perimenopause changes how estrogen works and then a slow decrease in estrogen until it eventually flatlines.  The decrease in estrogen will cause an increase in bone resorption, in other words, an increase in bone loss.

There are two ways in which we can enter low energy availability:

  1. Decrease in food intake and keep physical activity the same.
  2. Increasing physical activity but not increasing food intake.

Keeping in mind that the body gives preference to activities… for example, I eat 1500 calories but my energy expenditure so that’s what I train is not 1500 it is 2000.

The body will still spend that energy on training, regardless.

Estimated Energy Requirements

The estimated energy requirements for active older people must be lower because they’ve got a decrease in energy expenditure.

These are ballpark figures of estimated energy requirements according to your age group. 

Low Carbohydrate Availability

Carbohydrates have been a controversial nutrient for years… a lot of people think by cutting out their carbs they can decrease their weight… but really it’s not like that at all.

A low carbohydrate diet will increase your risk of going into a low energy availability state… if not done well. To decrease your carbohydrate intake healthily, you need to add something else to your diet to get the kilojoules that you require. 

Different studies show us that low carb availability on its own without energy availability, without that part of the equation will also affect bone and bone loss.

The provision of carbohydrates decreases the bone reabsorption rate and decreases your post-exercise bone turnover…. In other words, it is very important to consume carbohydrates. 

The carbohydrates that you consume need to be whole grain so that we increase our fiber intake. 

  • 45% to 65% of total calories OR 5-7 g/kg/d (0.08–0.1 oz/lb/d) for general training needs
  • Endurance athletes: 7 – 10 g/kg/d (0.1-0.2 oz/lb/d)
  • Ultra-endurance events: 10 g/kg/d (0.2 oz/lb/d)
  • CHO during exercise > 1 hour → 30 – 60 g CHO (1-2 oz) per hour (food or beverage)
  • CHO after hard exercise (> 90 minutes) → ↑ recovery

For athletes who train hard and daily: 

  • Immediately post-exercise period> 1.5 g/kg (0.02 oz/lb)
  • Additional CHO 2 hours later → ↑ muscle glycogen synthesis

Protein Intake 

Protein is highly important because it is the matrix in which the bone will deposit calcium and phosphorus. It is recommended that athletes consume more protein than the general population. 

Acid Ash

For a long time, there was this hypothesis called the acid ash hypothesis…

People said that if you consume extreme amounts of protein, that will cause higher acidity levels, this is true as high protein diets do cause high acidity. 

To counteract this the body must use one of its buffer nutrients like calcium to make the acidity alkaline, the body does this on its own so there is no need to take alkaline powders or any of those types of products. 

The hypothesis said that if we consume high amounts of protein, because of the acidity, the body will withdraw calcium from the bone to try and buffer the situation. 

This hypothesis is flawed in the sense that when people have higher protein intake, there was an increased amount of calcium that was absorbed from the protein intake. 

The jury’s out. It seems that protein intake might actually be beneficial for the bone because it’s an important part of the bone structure.

The indication is usually to have one to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. And then with the emphasis on the timing, to rather have a regular intake of smaller amounts of protein. 

We should try to get to about 20 to 25 grams of protein per meal that we eat, and rather have at least four to five meals per day. 

20 grams of protein equates to about 90 grams of meat or chicken or fish. The amount required is about the size of your palm.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important as we get older because as we age we become less efficient in making our vitamin D from the sun, this is because of kidney and skin functions. 

By not intaking an adequate amount of vitamin D we can experience musculoskeletal pain and a decrease in muscle strength.

The easiest way to obtain vitamin D is from the sun:

  • Moderately fair-skinned people → walk with arms exposed for 6-7 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon in summer.
  • Bare skin exposure is feasible for 7-40 minutes at noon in winter, on most days.
  • Dark skinned, indoor training or training at low latitudes → assess vitamin D status.

Good food sources: oily fish (e.g. tuna, sardines, mackerel), cod liver oil, liver, eggs, cheese, and margarine.

  • At-risk population (Those who train indoors, who are extremely fair-skinned, those who don’t get as much sun because of where they live) → blood test to see what levels are before supplementing.

Vitamin D supplementation:

• 600IU/day for people aged <70 years.

• 800 IU/ day for people aged > 70 years.

Dermal Calcium Losses

During high volume or very prolonged exercise, especially if it’s in hot and humid conditions, there is an increased rate of sweat loss. 

There is calcium in the sweat, so therefore we have to increase what we call dermal calcium losses.

An increase in the loss of calcium means there is less calcium in the serum, in the blood.

As soon as calcium decreases in the blood, the body triggers a hormone called PTH.

The job of this hormone is to try and get calcium back into the blood, it does this by withdrawing calcium from your bone to normalize the blood levels of calcium again.

Over the long term, this can lead to a decrease in bone health.

Studies state that if you consume 1000mg of calcium before extended periods of training in hot conditions you can keep the blood calcium levels neutral.

Calcium Content of Foods:

Remember to eat enough energy, it’s important that if you go on low carbohydrate diets to understand you’re harming your bone health. 

High protein can benefit bone health but just make sure that if you consume high protein you do include some dietary calcium.

Vitamin D is important, so get into the sunlight, or have levels tested if you are unsure. 

Understand that dermal calcium losses can be important. So take calcium in around your training sessions, especially before exercise. 

If you need to supplement sometimes it’s okay because as we covered at the beginning of this article… there are a lot of nutrients involved in bone. So it does sometimes make sense that if you’re taking a supplement to take a multivitamin-mineral supplement rather than individually try and manipulate nutrients. 

Remember, the greatest at risk for a poor micronutrient status is those of us that restrict our energy intake, or that are busy applying severe weight loss practices.

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

It’s incredible that a volunteer-led, free-for-all 5k event has been taken up by so many people across so many cultures in so many countries!

The first-ever Parkrun event was in Bushy Park, Teddington, in the UK, where 13 intrepid parkrunners got together on 2 October 2004. 

Fast forward a few years, with ramped-up technology and now hundreds of thousands of people make up the Parkrun community. All based on the same principle… Weekly, free, 5km for everyone!

Parkrun is a fantastic event. Now that Parkrun is open again, it’s happening around the world and people are running every weekend. 

If you’re wanting to start running, then Parkrun is THE best way to go about it…

This is how to go about training for your first one.

Runners are inevitably going to try to beat their PBs. We wouldn’t recommend doing this weekly… Maybe every 3-4 weeks.

So, let’s have a look at how you can do just that…

The Parkrun Distance Is Achievable

Part of the reason why Parkrun is such a success is that it’s one of the classic distances. 

It’s short, so if you want to get started, it’s achievable.

If you haven’t run for 30 years, then 5 km is a long way, but it’s reachable for most –  families, dogs, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all complete the 5km whether it’s by walking or running or by doing a little bit of both.  

That’s the great thing about Parkrun, you’re made to feel a part of the community even if you complete the 5 km by walking as slow or running as fast as you would like. 

For those who would like to go “all-out”, then 5K is about as close as you can come to go all out and being able to hold it for 5K’s. It’s a really great distance for people to train hard for. 

For those of you who are training hard, this might be for you!

How To Run A CRAZY Fast 5k: The Simple 5 Step Process To Improving Your 5k Time

Let’s dive into what you should be doing to beat your Parkrun personal best…

Training Consistently & Improving Coordination

Training Consistently 

The first and biggest improvement that everybody will achieve in the beginning comes from training consistently. 

Consistent training needs to happen in the aerobic zone, or as I like to say, running very, very easy.  

Although running easy isn’t the only thing, we also suggest some interval/speed sessions.

The consistency is more about building days on days, weeks on weeks, months on months. Much like a financial investment, small contributions over time yield a big result. 

One of the ways to do this is to stay injury-free and one of the ways to stay injury-free is to not run all your easy and long runs TOO HARD. 

Coordination

One of the things that we need to run extremely fast, is very good coordination. 

Part of what we do when we actually run faster and train harder and do speed work – is that we are improving our coordination and we are improving the body’s ability for the muscles to contract and relax faster, and contract and relax in a coordinated fashion. 

There are two ways to would work on your coordination… 

  1. Shorter, Faster Workouts

Have a look at your 5k time that you currently running at Parkrun and then you can design a whole lot of workouts.

Some of the workouts should be slightly shorter, and some need to be slightly longer, but they all revolve around the key concept that you want to be running between five and eight seconds per kilometer faster than you’re running in that 5k Parkrun. 

We can manipulate a couple of things around the threshold for faster workouts.

In essence, you’re forcing yourself to run faster, so to avoid injury, this needs to be done for shorter periods of time, to improve your coordination while working on your anaerobic energy system, but at a much lower risk. 

No Sprinting!

Not everything should be done at max! We are looking for repeated bouts at the right intensity and we can’t do that if we’re running everything at max,

I’m purposefully not using the words “Speed work” or “track”, because as soon as people hear those words they want to go out and sprint!

We recommend doing a variety of things that would be something along the lines of 5x 3 minutes, at three to eight seconds faster than your time-trial pace with three-minute recoveries, or 12x 1 minute, or 5-8 x 1.5 minutes. 

This will vary according to if you’re for example 18min 5km runner vs a 30min 5km runner.

You can do some hill sprints, but then the hill sprints would probably be more at that 5k pace, and because you’re now running on a hill, it will feel a lot harder than the 5K.

You should aim to add this type of workout into your training by following the 80/20 rule and then even though you Parkrun every week, that doesn’t mean you need to race Parkrun every week.

Pro Tip: Part of your success in beating your ParkRun PB is not racing it EVERY WEEK.

Incorporating Training Into Parkrun’s

You could incorporate some of these interval sessions into the Parkrun every week even, and then every three to four weeks, you can really run that Parkrun hard to test how well that program is working for you.

That test could also be used as an opportunity to adjust that speed work. 

So, as your Parkrun gets faster, then that speed work will also get slightly faster. 

  1. Running Drills

The next way to improve your coordination is incredible but a little more complicated and most people probably won’t take the time to do it.

You should incorporate 5 to 10 minutes of drills at the beginning of your interval/speed sessions after a 10 min easy run warm-up

Pop onto the internet and search running drills… There are loads of coordination drills that you can do, including the drills that the sprinters do, those are fantastic! 

They’re not that easy and you realize when you try and do them just how well-coordinated sprinters are. 

By incorporating these drills for 5 to 10 minutes, once or twice a week at the beginning of some training sessions or as a warm-up (for your high-intensity sessions), you will improve your coordination which will lead to improvements in your Parkrun time.

Here’s a super helpful resource on running drills for you If you’d like to improve your Parkrun time.

Running Drills Resource Here!

8 Tips To Beat Your Parkrun PB!

  1. Choose a fast course.
  2. Get a good starting position.
  3. Improve your running coordination.
  4. Train consistently.
  5. Warm-up properly. 
  6. Know the course. 
  7. Fuel up correctly.
  8. Remember your barcode.

Even though Parkrun is not a race, everyone still likes to run a personal best. Just remember that the best way to achieve a new PB is with some structured training rather than trying to go faster every Saturday.

Here’s the incredible true story on how Tony Vincente slashed his 5k PB from 22:53 to 20:53 (In his 50’s). 

Read Here. 

Do you sometimes experience tense, hardened, or cramped calves after or during a run? Well, you’re not alone. 

Most experienced runners can recall at least one time they’ve found themselves on the side of the course rubbing a calf to alleviate a cramp.

For runners, tight calves are a very common problem and can range from being a mild nuisance to being quite painful. There are a variety of conditions that affect the calf muscles and cause tightness or soreness in the lower leg.

The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable and preventable.

So, what are the symptoms of tight calves?

Symptoms Of Tight Calves

There are so many different causes of right calves which make the symptoms vary considerably. 

Symptoms of tight calves include: 

  • Cramping in the calf muscle.
  • Sudden pain in the back of your calf or behind your knee.
  • Difficulty standing on your tiptoes.
  • Pain when resistance is applied to the muscles.
  • Pain in the calf while resting or during exercise.
  • Limited mobility in your ankle.
  • Numbness or tingling along the lower leg.

What Causes Tight Calf Muscles

Tight calves may be the result of a strain or tear in one of the calf muscles or it could be due to a cramp or spasm in the muscle, which is painful.

We actually don’t know how to treat cramping. If we did we would be millionaires living on an island somewhere…

Tightness in the calf muscle is also sometimes a symptom of overuse so if you are experiencing some pain and stiffness it might be a signal from your body that you are placing too much of a load on your muscles. 

5 reasons you may have tight calf muscles:

  1. Cramps in the calves
  2. Overuse – Simply training too much/not recovering enough
  3. A muscle strain or pulling a calf muscle
  4. A lack of warming up 
  5. Poor biomechanics in the foot

Let’s have a look at these reasons in more detail…

Cramping In Your Calf Muscle

Cramps in the calf muscles are very common.

We do not know EXACTLY what causes cramps.

Cramps are seldom caused by a lack of electrolytes and in cases where this is the case, it’s generally accompanied by nighttime cramping.

It’s important to note that while a shortage of electrolytes in extreme conditions can contribute to cramping, too high a concentration of electrolytes will have the same impact as too little.

There is only one mechanism for cramps: Cross Bridge fatigue.

Simply put, as we proceed with exercise, there is an association with fatigue, a gradual decay in the signaling that instructs the muscles to contract and relax.

As this process delays we get to a point where your agonist (calf) and antagonist (peroneal and/or anterior tibialis) contract at the same time, this leads to cramping.

The cause of this cross-bridge fatigue is most commonly from muscle fatigue and in less than 30% of cases from nutrition (low magnesium, calcium, and/or potassium).

Strength training is likely contributing to this fatigue in the shorter term but should assist in the longer term.

Overuse

Just like any muscle in your body, adaptation to increased training load takes time. If you increase that load too quickly or if you continue to train without allowing your calf muscles to recover, you run the risk of picking up an overuse injury.

Your calf muscles are used daily, especially if you’re a runner, and when you haven’t warmed up before a run or stretched properly afterward, their flexibility is limited.

This puts more strain and pressure on other parts of your legs and makes you more susceptible to pain, tightness, and injury.

Running is very taxing on your calf muscles and lower limb stabilizers. Therefore if there is an imbalance between stabilizers and prime movers then the smaller muscles work overtime and the bigger muscle groups just take over. This then causes extra stress on ligaments and tendons around these structures, which can lead to injury. So people who train too hard or too long are at higher risk of getting calf tightness, pain, or cramps.

A Calf Muscle Strain/ Pull

Many muscles run along the back of your lower leg but there are two of the biggest ones – the Gastrocnemius muscle and the Soleus muscle.

The Gastrocnemius (prime mover) is a large muscle that runs from the top of the knee joint to the heel of the foot while the smaller Soleus muscle (stabilizer) lies underneath the Gastrocnemius and attaches to the bottom of the knee joint down to the heel.

A muscle strain is when a tear occurs in the muscle fiber. The pain and tightness of the calf will then depend on the severity of the tear. Symptoms of a muscle strain include sharp, sudden pain and tenderness around the muscle.

Lack of a Warm-Up

A lack of a proper warm-up routine before your run, or not consistently stretching or foam rolling/massaging your calves before or after running could be the cause of the muscle tightness you’re experiencing in your calves.

If you don’t stretch your calf muscles regularly then your muscles may shorten and therefore become tighter.

Note: Wearing high heels constantly also results in adaptive shortening of the calf muscles.

Foot Biomechanics

Your running style, the way your foot hits the ground when you are running and your ankle mobility could also contribute to calf tightness.

Overpronating (when the foot rolls in or flattens) can put a strain on your calf muscles every time you run or walk, which may cause the muscle to tighten in response to the repetitive strain.

We all pronate. The foot needs to pronate to create what we call the windlass mechanism. If the foot is not strong enough THEN this becomes a problem. This is why we focus so so much on the FOOT CORE in our plans.

The strength of the foot intrinsics is VITAL to good biomechanics of the foot and lower limb stability and strength.

Pro Tip: Watch this video where Sports Scientists, Shona Hendricks, and Devlin Eydin give you all the inside info you need when it comes to building strong and healthy feet and ankles for running…

Now that we’ve covered what is the cause of tight calves, what happens when you get back from a run and your calves have tightened up?… What can you do to release a tight calf muscle?

How To Release Tight Calves

  1. Stretching
  2. Compression
  3. Foam Rolling your calf muscles
  4. Sports Massage therapy
  5. The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate)
  6. Physical therapy

Stretching

Regular stretching can help relieve some of the pain and tightness in your calves as well as prevent tightness from occurring after you exercise.

It’s important to stretch after you’ve run and while the calf muscle is still warm. Static stretching before you’ve warmed up could compound the problem.

See why static stretching before a run is a big no-no: Here.

Compression

A calf compression sleeve can be used to support the calf muscles and enhance circulation in your lower leg. 

Scientific literature is not 100% sold on this, and it seems to be a very subjective feeling. So if you feel it works for you then go for it

Wearing compression sleeves can help aid in the recovery of calf tightness and can provide some immediate relief.

Rolling Your Muscles

Foam rollers can be used to relieve tension in the calf muscles if done properly. 

You can target the different muscles and areas of your calves by positioning your legs differently on the roller and applying pressure by using your body weight.

Massage Therapy

Sports massage therapy can help to relax your muscles as well as improve your flexibility. 

A massage therapist will know how to relieve the tension in your calves and enhance circulation in your calves which will help with recovery and healing.

The RICE method

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation are good rules of thumb for immediate treatment for tight or sore calves and can help reduce possible damage to the muscles.

Physical Therapy

If you suffer from chronic tightness or pain in your calf muscles, consider going to see a physiotherapist who can then recommend more specialized stretches and treatments to suit your specific needs.

There is much truth in the old adage that prevention is better than cure. 

Strength and foot core are key for this.

If you want to avoid missing out on running due to your calves tightening up then there are a few things you can do…

How To Prevent Your Calf Muscles From Tightening Up 

Warm-up Before & Stretch After You Run

Stretching is one of the main ways to prevent tightness and pain in your calves during or after exercise. Make sure you warm up before you start running to get the blood flowing and to warm up the muscle fibers in your calf.

Stretching after you run to help alleviate any stiffness or tightness as you cool down.

Improve every run by doing this first:  

Wear The Right Shoes

Make sure you have a good quality pair of running shoes that provide enough support for your feet and ankles so that you don’t put any extra strain on your calves. 

It’s also important to look at the drop of your running shoe.

The drop is the difference in height between the heel of your running shoe and the toe of the shoe. The drop affects the angle of your foot in relation to your calf muscle. 

Changing from a higher drop running shoe to a lower drop running shoe will put added strain on your Achilles tendon and calf muscle due to the change in angle.

It is therefore important to ensure you are running in the right pair of shoes for you.

Regular Massage Therapy

If your budget allows for it, try to go for massage therapy regularly. 

Massage therapy can help relieve tension and enhance blood circulation so that your muscles stay strong and in good shape. 

Regular sports massages also help pick up any problem areas before they become major injury concerns.

Eat Well & Stay Hydrated

Eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water throughout the day helps to ensure that your muscles and your body are healthy and can cope better with physical activity.

Note: It’s not an electrolyte imbalance that causes cramping.

Strength and Conditioning Training

Improving your overall fitness and adding some strength work into your training schedule can also help to prevent tightness in your calves.

Strength work will help you to condition your muscles to ensure you’re not putting any extra strain on your calves or any other parts of your body.

The free strength training plan below is a perfect addition to any running training plan.

FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM

As mentioned already stretching of the calf muscles can go a long way to preventing and treating tightness and stiffness in your calves.

Stretches For Tight Calf Muscles

Note: It’s important to do these after you have warmed up correctly and not to overextend the muscle.

The Wall Stretch

Stand with your hands up against a wall and step back with one foot keeping your leg straight and your heel on the ground or as close to the ground as you can get. 

This will stretch out the Gastrocnemius muscles.

If you stay in the same position and bend your knee, you will feel the stretch deeper in your calf in your Soleus muscle. Hold the stretch for about 30-60 seconds at a time.

To add a soleus stretch, do the same as above but with your back leg bent

Eccentric Calf Raises

Stand on a step with the balls of your feet so that your heels hang off the edge. Rise onto the balls of your foot and then slowly lower your heels below the step. 

Go back up onto the balls of your feet and repeat. You can hold onto a rail or wall to help you keep your balance during this stretch.

Note: This is a strength exercise not a stretch and is an important strength exercise for calves. 

You could also add in the calf raise with a ball, as well as heel walks as this strengthens the front of the shin.

Double Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your legs hip-width apart. Put your hands on the wall and lean forward while keeping your heels on the ground. 

Bending your knees slightly can help stretch the muscles more if you’re not feeling it.

Single-Leg Calf Stretch

Sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of you and the other bent inwards. Then lean forward, lowering your chest towards your leg, and reach for your toes with your hands or a band while flexing your foot.

Downward Facing Dog

This move is great for stretching your muscles after a workout. 

Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Step back onto your feet to go into a high plank and then raise your hips so that your body forms a triangle with the ground. 

Keep your back straight and place most of your weight onto your legs.

Then bend one knee and push the heel of your other foot into the mat to stretch the calf. 

Hold this position for about 10-15 seconds and then swap legs and repeat.

Tight calves are not a cause for concern unless…

When Should You See a Doctor?

Even though calf tightness and pain usually disappear with stretching, compression, foam rolling, sports massages, the RICE method, and physical therapy.

You should consult a doctor if you are experiencing sudden & severe pain in your calves,  recurrent symptoms, or when a reduction in training load has not reduced the calf pain.

Sometimes the right treatment has to be given quickly to avoid long-term health problems.

The calf muscles play a huge role in running, and avoiding tight calves by using the methods outlined above will go a long way to keeping you injury-free and on the road or trails where you belong.

I want to run like a young deer over the fields and hills, till I’m 90!” 

This was one of the first things she said to us. 

Meet Fleur Joyce

  Running & Happiness

Fleur loves the feeling of strength, body confidence, and the freedom that comes with running. 

Some days I feel like a lumpy great hippo, some like a young gazelle, but never regret getting out to run!”

Her first attempts at running as an adult came as she stopped smoking when she was 30… Trying to run reminded her of why she needed to quit and helped the cravings for cigarettes melt away better than anything. 

Fleur has done other sports, but none have been so flexible and easy to get on with than running, nor so quick to get improved fitness. 

Following the CP training program has brought me massive improvements and resolution of injury niggles, and I still think there are PBs ahead of me at my great age!” 

Recent Achievements

I just did my 5k TT with a fair bit of trepidation and not much feeling of oomph after an injury and quite a long break from training.”

Fleur did it in an incredible 26.59. 

She says that the numbers don’t matter too much to her. She thinks it’s great to see PBs happening and over the last 12 months she’s improved a lot, especially over her 5km and 10k’s which have always felt a bit too short for her strengths… but of course, they are nice to get. 

My favorite moment of last season was winning my age category in my home town’s half marathon – I so didn’t expect that I nearly left without hearing about my prize! That’s my first ever running trophy and really fun to get.”

Fleur joined Coach Parry in April 2021 after seeing the introductory video. She told us that she tends to rebel when she …’ has to do something, but that she really wanted to try a training program and give it her best shot.

I liked the idea of a system for older runners as I was struggling with plantar fasciitis that wouldn’t go. I liked the friendliness of the team which creates a feeling you can be any kind of runner and still get loads out of it.”

Strong female runner

Join us for a free live online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

11am Los Angeles | 2pm New York | 7pm London

Bigger Contributor To Her Success

Fleur says that following the program pretty much to the letter. So being consistent, and trusting the process is what has helped with her running success. 

I love the live strength sessions, I’d never have stuck to the program without those.”

When she was 12 or so, her games teacher said that she wasn’t at all sporty…

In the words of Fleur: “Ha Ha Ha”.

Motivation Whackers

Fleur has experienced some niggly injuries lately coupled with the cold, short days, which have whacked motivation for a while, but she says that it’s coming back. 

I think those psychological elements can be the hardest, when ‘can’t be bothered’ creeps in.”

The Hardest Part Of Reaching PB’s

The hardest part of reaching her goals and PB’s was balancing training against all the other demands of life… And the pain of running hard up hills!

I would still like to beat my half marathon PB from Amsterdam in 2005. But really I’ll be happy to keep the running going into the future at whatever level, just for strength and mobility.”

Keep up the amazing work Fleur, We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

See you in the strength sessions. 🙂

Urinary incontinence is a common condition that female and male athletes should feel free and confident to discuss. 

Can we PLEASE put an end to the taboo already?

Athletes (male & female) hit the porta-potties just about 7 times to prevent it. Running routes are plotted strategically to relieve it. Dark bottoms are worn to disguise it… so let’s just put it out in the open and deal with it!

Urinary incontinence is defined as “the involuntary leakage of urine” and is a common problem in the female population with prevalence rates varying between 10% and 55% in 15- to 64-year-old women. In men, the prevalence of incontinence is much lower than in women, about 3% to 11% overall.

Urinary incontinence is extremely common but not normal. Most people should be able to last two to three hours between urine breaks….

Why Can’t I Hold My Pee When I Run?

Most of the females we work with really struggle to grasp the concept that having a leaky bladder is NOT normal. It is dysfunction between your core and your pelvic floor.

Your pelvic floor is supposed to keep your urethra closed. The urethra is a tube that runs from your bladder to the outside and is only supposed to open once your brain tells it to. When the pelvic floor muscles become weak, or there is an imbalance/disconnect between deep core muscles and the pelvic floor, this is when urine will leak when you sneeze, jump or run.

Types Of Incontinence

1. Urge Incontinence

This type of incontinence is when you have the urge/ feeling that you need to urinate, but you have an empty bladder.

Urge incontinence is caused by years of bad habits, such as holding in your urine when you have a full bladder. This allows your neural pathways to get used to that feeling and then later on in life, you still have that urge/feeling.

2. Urinary Stress Incontinence

This is when you have leaking urine, this is caused by stress (any impact or pounding) and how your pelvic floor interacts with your core.

Most people think that when they leak a little bit of urine while doing exercise like running, it’s because of a weak pelvic floor. Very often it can be BUT… it also has a lot to do with how the Pelvic floor interacts with the core and can also be due to a tightness (which is very connected with the weakness) of the pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor & The Core 

It’s been said countless times that normal pelvic function is about strength…

We’re here to tell you that it is about strength but not strength alone

A normal pelvic function is about being strong and not tight … as opposed to being weak and tight.

The goal with building strength and ensuring that we are not tight is to get our pelvic floor muscles to be working in conjunction with our deeper core, with a focus on our transverse abdominal muscle as well as our diaphragm.

The pelvic floor + diaphragm working together = Intraabdominal pressure

When we run, every step we take affects Intraabdominal pressure. If there is an imbalance or weakness or something not working in the way it should, it affects the pressure and hence leakage.

Why Is It More Common In Females?

Urinary incontinence occurs more often in women than in men. This is because of two reasons: 

  1. Childbirth
  2. Menopause

Weak bladder muscles, overactive bladder muscles, and nerve damage may also cause urinary incontinence in women.

The good news is that urinary incontinence in women is treatable.

Childbirth

Giving birth is tough on the body and can affect a woman’s urinary control abilities. During pregnancy and while giving birth, the weight of the expanding uterus can weaken the strength of a woman’s pelvic floor muscles.

Natural birth

Compromises the integrity of the pelvic floor and the balance between the deep core and the pelvic floor. 

C-sections

They cut through the transverse abdominus (TA), affecting the strength of the TA and therefore the deep core and balance between this and the pelvic floor

For both – scar tissue will also play a role in affecting how the muscles contract and work together.

Menopause

We start the aging process in our third decade of living. When we get to around 50, we lose muscle mass as a natural function of aging. Therefore losing strength. 

For menopausal women, it’s not just loss of strength but also changes in ligaments and other connective tissues composition

In this article, we provide a definitive guide to running to, through, and long after menopause:

Click Here  

Staying fit can help with many symptoms of menopause, what’s even better is that all the positive benefits of running (physical and mental wellbeing) still apply.

Strong female runner

Join us for a free live online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

11am Los Angeles | 2pm New York | 7pm London

Remember, Urinary Incontinence Is Not Normal

Your pelvic floor is a muscle, there is a loss of integrity in your muscle as well as a change in your ligaments. Your ligaments become laxer, there is a loss of different collagen fibers, and this all results in everything not holding in place as it once did which leads to a leaky bladder. 

Now that we have established that this is not just about Kegels and strengthening, this is not something that you can self-diagnose. 

If you are leaking urine when you exercise, whether it be while you are gyming or running, even when you jump up and down, or when you do absolutely anything…. 

Remember it is NOT normal. 

That’s why we urge you to seek out a Pelvic Floor Specialist or a physio who specializes in female health. They can help with your diagnosis because as we mentioned earlier it’s not just about a weakness, it can be about tightness. 

Seeking out a specialist will go a long way in helping with your diagnosis. 

The specialist will be able to define whether it is due to a strong concern or a tightness or an imbalance in the way the muscles contract and therefore be able to treat it accordingly…

If we try self-diagnose and we assume it’s a strength concern (as an example) more strengthening will make that muscle tighter. When in fact perhaps the muscle needs to be released as it’s too tight. 

For example, we have chatted to female health experts who mention that just one or two treatments of just trigger pointing could maybe make a huge difference, and then you should only start strengthening thereafter.

As we have established, it’s not just about strength but about how your pelvic floor interacts with your deep core and your diaphragm… So let’s see how we can help with that interaction.

Ways To Help a Weak Bladder

  1. Breathing
  2. Slow Progress

Breathing

As we established above, many people wrongly think leaking while running is just caused by a weak pelvic floor and they need to do more Kegels to strengthen it….

The pelvic floor is one part of the muscle system that makes up your deep core, it provides stability and support for your organs as well as for your urinary function. Above your organs is your diaphragm and on the sides are your abdominals. 

When you breathe in: Your diaphragm and pelvic floor both relax downward and your ribs and belly expand outward. 

When you breathe out:  they naturally draw up and in. 

The motion of breathing in and out is important as it helps to absorb impact and manage pressure. 

If you grip your abs or squeeze your pelvic floor to try to prevent urine leaking, you can actually make it worse.

If you do have weakness in your pelvic floor, doing lots of Kegel exercises alone isn’t the answer. 

In this video, I share a breathing technique that you can use at home that can make a huge difference.

Slow Progress

At Coach Parry, we highly recommend taking things super slow. Run your easy runs extra easy and try alternating running and walking. (Walk when you notice you’re not maintaining the right form or breathing). This strategy will help you feel the correct breathing pattern and body alignment. 

In this video, you’ll discover how to implement a run/walk strategy in your training.

Remember, there are lots of possible reasons your pelvic floor might not be functioning the right way. Overly tight muscles are more common than weakness, so booking an appointment with a Pelvic Floor Physical Specialist can tailor a program that will help just for you.

Running alone is the toughest. You get to the point where you have to keep pushing yourself.”

Walter Payton

Studies have found that competition allows you to go faster and that we intuitively understand that the presence of competitors and crowds allows us to push harder.
Finding the motivation to run alone is challenging because there is no one by your side in the hurt box with you. 

You’re standing somewhere in a crowd of about 600 participants, there’s a consistent buzzing sound of excitement, everyone’s keeping warm by jumping up and down and stretching on the spot. The crowds are cheering, the nerves have kicked in, your heart is already racing. Sensory overload. You feel ready, and finally, you’re off…with the other 600 competitors.

Or…

You’ve arranged to meet with 6 mates from your local running club this afternoon to smash a 15km (as you’ve all entered the same half marathon in 2 weeks’ time) and then grab some dinner after at the local favorite spot. 

Now, compare that to…

You’ve just gotten home from work or it’s a Saturday morning and you’re heading out for 15km, you’ve put your running shoes on, locked the house, closed the garage, waved goodbye to the dog’s and you’re off…alone.

Some people like to run alone and leave everyone behind and just be in their own thoughts… but a lot of people would agree that the running alone scenario sounds like the absolute worst compared to the first two. 

But what does that mean?

Why Is Running Alone So Hard?

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, affective feelings and how they may alter performance in either a solo time trial effort or an effort run with others is looked at.

Conducted by researchers in São Paolo, 14 runners completed a pair of 10km efforts, one alone on a track, and the other (a week later) competing against the other participants of the study. 

Group results: 39:32 group effort vs 40:28 solo effort.

From the results, we can surmise that running alone is hard for some runners because they don’t feel as motivated as they might feel if they were running in a group or even with just one other person. Some people are internally motivated (internal drive) and some are externally motivated (other people, competition, races, etc).

Why We Love Running With People:

  • Running with other people makes you feel accountable, so you are less likely to skip out on training sessions.  
  • Running with a group is a great way to learn tips on technique or pacing which helps you become a better runner.
  • Running groups usually have a great social side which is very important during training. You will make friends with people who have a lot in common with you. 
  • Running in a group provides peace of mind when it comes to safety and injuries. 

Some runners thrive on the sense of freedom of running alone, but many struggle to maintain motivation. So that begs the question…

How To Stay Motivated While Running On Your Own

Solo runs can seem monotonous. 

It’s important to remember that a run is only as boring or as fun as you make it. It’s up to you whether you want to mentally zone out or to take it all in.

Solo runs often make us think… Why are we even doing this? 

The fact that you’re out running means that you are improving your mood. That’s already something to motivate you… So enjoy the scenery, and list the reasons why you began running in the first place… the physical health benefits, the mental health benefits, and just the fact that no matter how hard the run was that day, you always feel good, and have a smile on your face. 

Just because you’re running alone doesn’t mean you need to stop following goals. 

Set some personal goals: running a certain amount of hours each week, or training on certain routes each day.  Having a short terms goals are what will keep you motivated for longer periods of time.

For a lot of people, their favorite part of running is the social aspect…

Just because you’re running alone doesn’t mean the social side of running has to go away, there are loads of apps out there that allow you to share your progress, connect with other runners and enter virtual challenges. 

The Coach Parry community is an incredible example of how people all around the world can communicate, help and learn from each other by sharing their success stories and progress via messages and images.  It’s like a virtual ‘locker room’.

10 Tips to Enjoy Solo Running

  1. Positive Self-Talk
  2. Focus On Pace & Effort
  3. Set Small Goals
  4. Tell Someone Where & When You’re Going
  5. Listen To Something Uplifting or Unplug
  6. Follow a Training Program
  7. Share Your Progress Online
  8. Get Competitive
  9. Endorphin Energy
  10. Feel The Sunshine On Your Face

Positive Self-Talk

You may find that you benefit hugely from encouraging conversations when running with friends… Well, why not try encouraging and uplifting yourself?

Setting a mantra or telling yourself how strong you are for example, is only going to make you feel positive about what you are doing and about your efforts.

Some athletes even write a word or their mantra on their arm so when they look down they are reminded of it.

Focus On Pace & Effort

By running alone you provide yourself with the opportunity to really focus on your pace and effort, try tuning in with your body and listen to how it is feeling when you adjust your runs in certain ways. 

Set Small Goals

If you set short-term goals that are regularly attainable, you’ll be far more likely to stay motivated over time. 

Short-term goals minimize procrastination, allowing you to focus on one thing at a time.

Tell Someone Where & When You’re Going

A lot of solo runners worry about running safety. When you run in a group you automatically feel safer. You know that if you fall and injure yourself, someone will help you, if you feel uncomfortable running past a certain area or if you just feel unsafe… It’s always comforting knowing there is more than one of you. 

You can feel a very similar level of comfort running alone too. Before you head out for a run tell a friend or family member where you are going to run and how far you plan to run. That way they can check in with you and you can let them know when you have returned safely. 

A good idea is to also use things like the Apple ‘find my phone feature’. You could do this with your group of friends to check on each other.

Listen To Something Uplifting or Unplug

If your days are filled with work, kids, chores, or absolutely anything that makes you want to escape for a short while… Then now is the perfect moment. 

This is your moment of solitude, listen to whatever you want in your headphones, whether it be a podcast or your favorite playlist. Or simply spend this time unplugged and organizing those chaotic files in your mind. 

Follow a Training Program

By following a training program you are able to challenge your body consistently in the correct ways to meet your goals.  By sticking to the program you will witness your body adapting & changing to improve your fitness. 

Coach Parry offers a variety of custom training programs for experienced to novice runners as well as one-on-one coach calls and feedback to help you achieve your running goals. Check it out.

Share Your Progress Online

Just because you can’t actually get together with your friends for whatever reason, whether it be distance or unavailability. It doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate your accomplishments or question your struggles with them.

Share it all online via social media and community forums, that way you’ll feel motivated, you may make new friends and you may receive helpful advice and praise for your accomplishments. – Which is never a bad thing. 

Just don’t let the pressure from Social Media force you to do more when you should be listening to your body and recovering!

Get Competitive

People who compete against themselves are more successful than those who compete against others because they understand that winning is more than just a competition.

Beat yourself, whether it’s day to day or week to week. There is no better satisfaction than looking back and seeing your own improvement. 

Endorphin Energy

One way to ensure that you continue to feel motivated to run solo is to really embrace that “runners high” feeling at the end of each run. You deserve to enjoy that feeling of pure positivity and euphoria. 

Feel The Sunshine On Your Face

Last but not least… and yes, I know this sounds like some sort of Alanis Morrisette song,  but running is actually an amazing way to get the sunlight needed to boost serotonin levels. 

This helps to put you in a good mood while reducing depression and anxiety.

This may sound weird… but there have been studies that show if you smile while running, your perceived effort is less… So it may look crazy to other people but smiling while running on your own may help :).

This brings us to our next point…

The Benefits Of Running Alone

  • Develops your mental strength.
  • Provides alone time.
  • Helps develop internal pacing.
  • Boosts your confidence.
  • It will prepare you for racing alone.
  • You’re less likely to push yourself through an injury.
  • You’ll become more disciplined.

Running alone is hard for a lot of people – there’s no sugar-coating it.

Have a look at this video where Lindsey Parry shares some great advice on how to stay motivated to train when you have no one to run with.

Sub- 50 min 10 km…  Sub- 25 min 5km’s…  and Sub-3-hour marathon’s…

Most women going through menopause feel like their days of breaking Personal Records are over. 

We’re here to tell you that they most certainly are not

In fact, they’re just beginning. 

Research suggests that a lack of the correct nutrition, decreased muscle synthesis, fluctuating hormones, loss of muscle strength, and not enough recovery time – contribute to a slower running pace. 

BUT…

With the right training framework consisting of strength training, recovery, consistency, nutrition, and intensity/pace training, women going through menopause can run faster than they ever did before. 

We’ve all heard it before… “Middle-aged women should rather opt for a gentle stroll” and that’s what you’re told to believe. 

The truth is that middle-aged women, who are going through menopause are strong and capable of a lot more than society makes them out to be.

The Link Between Running and Menopause

Throughout the different stages of menopause, women experience a dramatic drop in estrogen levels. This can negatively affect a women’s physiological assets, such as lean muscles, strong bones, and the ability to bounce back from a run with restorative, protein-synthesizing sleep.

Here’s some good news for runners going through menopause: Hormonal changes are easier to combat compared to the unstoppable guarantee of time. 

It has been discovered that a lack of estrogen (not aging) is the reason for bone deterioration, fat gain, and lean-muscle loss associated with menopause. 

Running is a fantastic way to stimulate bone growth and has many other benefits that help contribute to combating the symptoms of menopause. 

Bone Density & Running

Visualize your muscles and how strengthening makes them bigger. This is how your bones can become stronger if you put stress on them. 

Our bodies build bone mass when we apply stress along the entire length of our bones. This happens when we run. 

Bones build structure in response to the stresses applied to them, and for the weight-bearing bones, such as those in our legs and hips. The greater the stress, the greater the bone-building response, which is what menopausal women need.

Bear in mind, runners with Osteoarthritis might find running on some days to be too high impact and painful, which is why we suggest following a training program that includes ongoing support, feedback, and adjustment with a particular focus on the correct type of strength training for Osteoarthritis, as well as advice on recovery as recovery becomes even more important when someone has OA. 

Running helps women address the frustrating symptoms of menopause such as reducing hot flushes, improving sleep, and improving cardiovascular function. Running has even helped women alleviate pain in their joints as well as helped in combatting depression.

Is It Harder To Improve My Times During Menopause?

We’re not going to tell you that it’s harder because that depends on a lot of outlying factors, but we are going to tell you that by adapting your training program and by following these five pillars, your chances of running faster and recovering faster will be increased. 

Five Pillar Framework For Running Through Menopause

  1. Recovery
  2. Pacing/Intensity
  3. Strength Training
  4. Nutrition
  5. Consistency

Jump over to our blog: A Definitive Guide to running To, Through, and Long After Menopause, where we dive a lot deeper into each of these pillars.

Estrogen plays a key role in the way your blood vessels expand and constrict (Vasodilation) according to what is happening inside & outside your body. 

Trying to increase your speed may feel “harder” because your blood pressure and temperature perception shift. Your running may also feel more difficult because having lower estrogen levels triggers your body to store fat instead of building muscle. 

It may seem like trying to break your PR’s while experiencing hot flushes, joint pain, muscle loss, and other symptoms of menopause would only be a difficult & unrealistic task, but the truth is that menopause doesn’t mean the end of being a competitive athlete. By modifying your routine, you can continue running longer and stronger through perimenopause into post-menopause.

How Is Menopause Affecting My Speed?

Menopause causes chaos to your physiological assets, it feels like such a setback to know that you have literally spent a lifetime building strong bones, lean muscles, and the ability to recover properly with an adequate night’s sleep; yet menopause can just deteriorate it all within a few years. 

Menopause can affect your speed, it depends on which way you look at it though.
In one way, yes, menopause can make you slower, if you allow it to – by not making any adaptations to your training.
On the other hand, yes, menopause can affect your speed, positively.

Coach Parry has helped and witnessed countless women train their way through menopause and beat the times they were running before they started going through menopause. These women followed the five pillars as mentioned above, as well as the Coach Parry Running Through Menopause Masterplan.

How To Run Faster Through Menopause

The key is to be mindful that menopause is completely natural and that even if some parts are challenging, there are better runs ahead of you as long as you understand that there are new ways to train as a 50 plus-year-old female runner. 

The Way To Run Faster Through Menopause Is To:

  • Ensure you give yourself enough time to recover from your runs sufficiently. 
  • Ensure that you are running your easy runs EASY. 
  • Ensure that you give your bones a multi-directional load via Strength Training
  • Ensure that you are eating sufficiently to fuel your training.
  • Ensure that you are consistent in following your training and recovery schedule. 

That’s just the 10,000-foot view, we dig deeper into each of these in this Running Through Menopause article.

How To Avoid Injury While Running Faster Through Menopause

  1. Strength Training is Priority number 1. (Free Strength Training Plan)
  2. Avoid uneven surfaces.
  3. Avoid an incorrect running technique, poor running style can increase the risk of injuries.
  4. Manage expectations.
  5. Make sure you recover well!
  6. Follow a structured training plan to ensure you are progressing your running slowly and properly.

Why You Should Continue Running Your Way Through Menopause

Menopause is a fact of life and it will affect each woman differently, but staying fit can help with many symptoms, what’s even better is that all the positive benefits of running (physical and mental wellbeing) still apply.

Strong female runner

Join us for a free live online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

11am Los Angeles | 2pm New York | 7pm London

 

Just a few months ago you were able to run a sub 48 min 10km, and then all of a sudden it hit you. Fatigue, running in pain, a constant battle with your weight, and a drastic decline in your endurance. 

Running simply feels like hard work. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

I often get asked by peri- and postmenopausal women if menopause signals the end of their running…

…and the short answer is no.

You can continue running during menopause. By modifying your training routine, you can continue running longer and stronger through perimenopause well into post-menopause. In fact, numerous scientific studies have proved that running can actually help relieve menopausal symptoms.

I’ll dig more into those benefits a little later in this article, but first, let’s talk about menopause.

Why do we talk about “it” in a whisper? Why are we not shouting out and celebrating that we’ve reached this milestone in our lives? We’ve ended our menstrual cycles, no more PMS! Let’s change the narrative! Let’s stop society from making women feel like they’re losing something. 

It’s not uncommon for postmenopausal women to feel empowered partly because of the biological changes that take place in menopause and because of the point in their lives when menopause occurs.

We Do However Need To Talk About Menopause & Running

Experts state that not talking openly about menopause is a mistake, the more openly women chat about how they are feeling and what they are going through, the less stress they will feel as they traverse the physical and emotional changes that come with menopause and the more likely they are to realize that they are not alone.

So, on that note, before we dive into how you can keep running well during menopause, let’s touch on the different stages of menopause so that we know how it affects your running…  

The Different Stages Of Menopause

Menopause can be broken down into 3 distinct phases: 

  1. Perimenopause

This is the transitional period before menopause. Perimenopause can last for around 4 years but can be anywhere from months, for some women up to 8 years! When you go a full 12 months without a period, menopause has begun.

During this stage, a woman’s estrogen levels will drop. Before the estrogen levels drop (and then flat-line completely) they (along with progesterone and other hormones) fluctuate. 

They no longer have a cyclic action like they used to and this is the reason for symptoms like hot flushes, irregular periods, heavy periods, insomnia, night sweats, etc…

  1. Menopause

Menopause is defined as a single point in time. 

It is the point in which you have not had a period in 12 months. Everything before that is considered perimenopause, everything thereafter is menopause.

  1. PostMenopause

A woman is post-menopausal during the years after menopause when she is no longer ovulating. This is when Estrogen and other hormones continue to get lower until eventually flatline

There are tons of women out there who are worried that running can bring on early menopause. 

We hear countless questions like: “Is it safe to run during menopause?” or “How do I run during menopause?” And even, “How will my athletic performance be affected by menopause?”

Let’s deal with one of the biggest misconceptions about running concerning menopause… 

Does Running Cause Early Menopause?

It is definitely a valid concern but the truth is that running does not cause early menopause.

The amount of physical activity, including running, that women undertake is not linked to their risk of early menopause, according to the largest study ever to conduct this investigation.

Early menopause happens when a woman’s menstruation cycle ends before the age of 45 and it can happen naturally or as a side effect of various treatments. Some reasons include premature ovarian failure, cancer treatments, and surgeries to remove the ovaries. 

With all of that said, let’s dive into what happens to your body when you run during menopause.

What Happens To A Runners Body During Menopause?

There is no doubt our bodies are changing during this phase of our lives, so it goes without saying that these changes are going to impact our running performance. 

Here are some of the things that will affect your running as you go through menopause:

  1. Slowing Down
  2. Weight Gain
  3. Incontinence
  4. Hot Flushes
  5. Night Sweats
  6. Insomnia
  7. Emotional Changes

Slowing Down

We get slower as we get older. There are several factors as to why this is the case but the first two are key. The first reason is due to a loss of strength and the second is hormonal fluctuation.

Firstly, we start to slow down because of a key loss of strength, essentially we start the aging process in our third decade of living, but when we get to around 50, We lose muscle mass as a natural function of aging. Therefore losing strength. 

Secondly, your hormones are out of control and eventually flatline – sounds a bit melodramatic. But from the female athletes we’ve worked with, we know that this is how they feel. 

When you are in perimenopause your hormones are fluctuating and there is no cyclical action, so eventually, they flatline, these hormones play an important part in your muscle synthesis, and as a result, your running performance. So that’s why we start to run slightly slower.

An important factor to consider is ‘Strength Training’ and it’s a topic we will delve into a bit later. If we don’t make time for strength training, we have a higher chance of getting injured, which is also a contributor to running a bit slower.

Weight Gain

Weight gain during menopause is very common. It occurs before and during menopause because of the drop in estrogen levels and because we become a bit more insulin resistant, this is the reason running doesn’t always help with weight loss anymore and why we tend to pick up that “belly fat”.

There is a big misconception out there about gaining weight during menopause because of age-related reductions in metabolism, but…

This is no longer true… A recent study released last year disproves this theory.  It states that our metabolisms (men & women) decline after age 60 by about 0.7 percent a year.

Effects Of Weight Gain On Your Running:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased energy expenditure

Incontinence

This is one that no one tells runners going through menopause about and one that people don’t really want to talk about, which is exactly why we’re talking about it. 

Urinary incontinence (UI) is also known as “loss of bladder control”. Many women experience this and think it’s normal. It’s NOT normal, it’s extremely common, not just in women going through menopause but can also be experienced due to other reasons… it should not be considered normal.

The loss of control can be very minor. You might only leak a few drops of urine when you laugh or run. The loss of control can also be major, you might experience a sudden urge to urinate, and being on a run (away from a bathroom) may result in an accident.

Urinary incontinence is very common but the good news is that is preventable if treated correctly.

If urinary incontinence is something you’re battling with, I’d highly suggest you see a physiotherapist that specializes in women’s health issues. Getting your UI under control will literally change your life and brings heaps of joy back into your running without the embarrassment of Urinary Incontinence. 

Hot Flushes

Anyone going through menopause knows that hot flashes/flushes are the absolute WORST!

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause and are due to a misregulation in thermoregulation due to the fluctuation of hormones Estrogen & Progesterone.

There are no outright solutions to this… If I had the answer, I’d be sitting on my island drinking cocktails all day. 

So the only advice we can offer for hot flushes is this:

  • Layer up so you can remove layers
  • Always run with or near water sources 
  • Try and pick up triggers/trends for hot flashes so that you can avoid running in those, eg. afternoon heat

Night Sweats

Night sweats are when you experience excess sweating during the night. Night sweats are one of the most common and intense symptoms of menopause, with two-thirds of women experiencing them.

They can be so severe that you wake up and can’t get back to sleep.

Not having a good night’s sleep means you have a slower recovery time from your runs. Interrupted sleep and lack of sleep have been proven to increase injury risk, illness risk (less than 7-8 hours!). 

Also when we’re sleeping there’s a release of specific hormones like growth hormone and testosterone which aid muscle growth and muscle synthesis.

How To Prevent Night Sweats:

  • Choose breathable fabrics (Pj’s & sheets).
  • Make your bedroom cooler.
  • Drink a small glass of cold water to lower your body temperature before heading to bed.

Insomnia

You can’t fall asleep, you can’t stay asleep and you’re certainly not getting enough sleep.

Sleeping (or not-sleeping) with menopause: 

A normal night starts with me feeling tired, crawling into my comfy bed, and falling asleep. Only to wake up again. My mind is running. Wide awake. Hot flush. Need the bathroom. Not comfortable. Bonus: Hot flush number 2! Kicking the covers off. Trapped in my covers. Finally, Sleep. Wait. It’s time to wake up already. Time to run…..what!  I’m supposed to Run??

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that regular exercise, like running, can improve the quality of your sleep and help you sleep through the night.

It may sound like a difficult task but running will make a world of difference to your sleep pattern and your sleep pattern will make a world of difference to your running. 

There is an important release of hormones when we sleep that aid our recovery as a runner and if we’re not sleeping well, it’s going to have a huge impact on our running.

I know it’s easier said than done, but getting to bed at a reasonable hour (before 10 pm) should always be the number 1 goal when it comes to sleep. Try and stay off devices like computers, TVs, or cellphones for at least an hour before heading to bed. 

Ensuring good sleep hygiene is important too. Make sure the room that you sleep in is cool and dark and that there aren’t any lights from TV’s or electronic devices. 

Emotional Changes

Going through menopause can often feel like a rollercoaster. One minute you’re feeling great, the next, not so much. Again, it’s important to know that this is normal and it will have an impact on your running. 

Some days you’ll feel like you can’t wait to head out for your run, others you’ll be dreading the fact that you need to lace up for a high-intensity track workout. I’ve worked with athletes that find themselves sitting in their car crying before going to work or before a run…

Be kind to yourself and don’t put yourself under pressure.

In the 1930s they used to put women into mental institutions when going through menopause… Not that long ago!

Thank goodness science has evolved and they have figured out that the mood swings and effects on women’s mental health (depression/anxiety) are due to the loss in estrogen affecting the movement of Troponin moving across the blood-brain barrier which affects serotonin levels.

Some of the emotional changes experienced by females undergoing perimenopause or menopause include: 

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressiveness
  • Sadness
  • Mood changes
  • Depression

I would suggest that these aspects can help: exercise, eat healthily, find a calming self-practice for yourself (like yoga), avoid alcohol, and nurture your relationships with your family and friends.

However, seeking assistance from a medical practitioner/psychologist is key. As they can prescribe medication to assist in these times

Now that you understand the changes that are going to happen or the changes that are happening to your body as a runner during menopause … here’s how you should be training as a peri- or postmenopausal runner.

How To Adjust Your Training When Running Through Menopause

So now that we know what we’re dealing with as a peri- or postmenopausal runner, let’s dig into how we should be training. 

There are 5 specific areas that peri- and postmenopausal runners should be focusing on if they want to continue running pain and injury-free for years to come.

The first is recovery…

  1. Recovery For Menopausal Runners

Recovery is important across the board, but it becomes even more important as we get older. 

People often think that it’s when you’re running or when you’re doing that session, that you’re getting fitter or stronger. 

That is not the case. 

You only get that gain of fitness, when you’re recovering from doing that run. 

What’s essentially happening is as you’re running, there’s a bit of systemic failure and muscle breakdown.

The body breaks down, it doesn’t like what you put it through, so when it’s resting it makes itself stronger, and that’s how we get fitter and stronger.

(If you want to learn more about recovery and how it impacts your running then watch this video: Here)

In a nutshell, this is how it works…

During the run, your body breaks down, and then afterward, while you’re recovering it builds itself back to where it was and then some so that it’s not left wanting the next time you run. 

And that is exactly how you become fitter, faster and stronger. 

Ensuring you recover correctly allows you to show up at your next training session feeling even fresher & stronger than before.

As we get older though, we do need more recovery. 

We can’t train the same way we did in our 20s and 30s either, because when you’re in your 20s and 30s, your hormonal structure was so cyclic. Now as I mentioned, it’s all over the place.

A lot of scientific research has also been done to prove that women have an entirely different hormonal structure compared to men. So the way we should be training as females should be slightly different from the way men train. 

It is for this reason that we have to readjust the way that we train. A lot of that comes down to the way we structure our running training.

Many times what you leave out is more important than what you put into your run training.

REST is a four-letter word that most runners don’t want to hear, and should be seen as important as your interval session or long run

That is why in our experience here at Coach Parry, having worked with thousands of menopausal runners, the vast majority of menopausal runners thrive on no more than 4 days of running a week.

Rest days are as important as the days you run in your training plan.

That then leads us to the next question we get asked all the time: 

How do you know you’ve recovered sufficiently?

There are a couple of ways we like to monitor recovery. The first and easiest is subjective, asking yourself  “How do I feel?”

Are you constantly tired? Are your legs feeling heavy? Your answers should give clear indications as to if you are fully recovered. If you’re walking up a flight of stairs and you get to the top and your legs are heavy and you don’t feel good, then you’re not recovered.

The second is to track your resting heart rate daily. It’s important to note that you’re not chasing a specific number here, you’re more interested in the trend. 

If you notice a slight increase (approximately 4- 8 beats per minute) over a 2- 5 day period, that is a red flag. It could be your body not coping with the load, it could be stress, it could be an infection… So you should back off slightly with the intensity or take a rest day. 

If the increase is higher, that is a sign that you need to rest completely or risk heading towards overtraining, illness, and eventually injury.

That leads us nicely into the second area that runners going through menopause often get wrong…

  1. What pace should you run at when going through menopause?

This is the single biggest mistake we see runners that are going through menopause making and that is that they run their easy and long runs way too fast. 

I know that in today’s day and age, we’re all pressed for time. With demanding careers, busy families, and lives generally run to a tight schedule, it’s often very difficult to get time for ourselves. 

When we do get time for ourselves and head out for a run, we feel like we need to get the biggest bang for our buck for the time we’re putting in. 

If you’re not working hard or busting a lung, you’re not benefitting fully from the training you’re doing.  But now you also understand from RECOVERY that you don’t get the benefit in the session, it happens in recovery so why break yourself doing it.

To improve endurance we need to run in the correct “zone”. This refers to the intensity we run at. That’s where the body becomes more efficient (You become a better runner). 

This range is very wide though. You can run in the faster end of the range = lots more eccentric stress and load on the body or you can run on the slower end = with much less stress on the body. 

Recreational runners, males, and females are constantly trying to prove to themselves in their running sessions that they’re getting better.

So that begs the question, how easy is easy?

How Easy Is Easy On Your Easy & Long Runs?

Training at the correct pace is so important because when we are running in the correct zone, that essentially is when we are getting all the physiological adaptation that we need. 

Zones can differ in different theoretical models that you might look at, it might be a three-zone model, we work off of a five-zone model at Coach Parry.

Essentially, the zone is where you’re getting all the physiological adaptation that you need for endurance running. Physiological adaptation, meaning, your heart as a muscle, because the heart is a muscle that gets stronger, it gets bigger as well. So it becomes more efficient in circulating blood around your system. 

When you’re running within this zone, you can run towards the top end of that zone, which is a little bit faster, or the bottom end. When you’re running at the top end of that zone, you’re putting a lot of eccentric stress on your muscles. 

You can run at the bottom end of the zone and then there will be less of that load of eccentric contraction and less wear and tear on the body. You’re going to be getting exactly the same benefits as if you were running towards the top end of that zone. 

It’s also important to say that not every run should be easy. Do your easy run easy enough so that when it comes to doing the harder, higher intensity sessions, you’re good to go. 

If you’re running your easy runs easy enough, you’ll start seeing an immediate improvement in your running. 

The next area I’m going to cover may take a little bit longer to bear fruit, but it will have a huge, positive impact on your running longevity in menopause.

  1. Strength Training For Menopausal Runners

As we reach around the age of 50, we notice that there’s this exponential loss of strength and that’s really why we start getting slower as a runner.

Bone mineral density does not decrease due to loss of strength, it decreases due to estrogen no longer helping the bones absorb calcium…

BMD improves with resistance training.

During menopause, your estrogen is fluctuating and no longer plays the role of helping your bones to absorb calcium. Bones require a load on them to absorb that calcium and get stronger.  

Yes, running is placing a load on your bones but your bones require a multi-directional load on them to really help that mineral bone density. This is where resistance training comes into play. 

Resistance training can reverse some of the aging processes and increase your lean muscle mass. Pushing your body against a form of resistance can be Bodyweight, bands, weights, etc… The load on the bones from the resistance is what improves Bone mineral density.

If you want to stay injury-free and keep running to and through menopause, then strength training is non-negotiable.

(The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan specifically for women who are wanting to run to and through menopause. You can download that plan by clicking here.)

The key however is in the type of strength training that you are doing…

The type we are talking about that is vital for peri- and postmenopausal women is resistance training and high-intensity interval training. 

These are important because you require the impact of resistance training for your bone mineral density. The reason high-intensity interval strength training is important is that when our estrogen starts to flatline, we start becoming a lot more insulin resistant. This contributes to women with menopause not being able to lose weight easily. 

  1. Menopause & Running Nutrition 

As a menopausal runner, nutrition is key because we don’t ever want to find ourselves with low energy availability. This is common because most females are trying to restrict diet due to weight gain. But this is actually counterproductive…   

Women have gotten the message they should always eat less, even when they’re moving more.  

We LOVE this article and couldn’t agree more!
Check it out!

We’ve spoken about better managing body composition and protecting bone health. Strength training and nutrition are there to help you manage these two and help you improve them as you’re going from perimenopause to menopause to post-menopause.

When we want to resynthesize muscle and have a good recovery, we need to have a good protein and carbohydrate intake to replenish muscle glycogen after running. Increasing your protein intake in this phase of your life is absolutely vital because when you increase your protein intake over 24 hours, it improves your muscle protein synthesis (rebuilding the muscle).

When you increase that protein intake, and you add resistance training, what this all does is increase your anabolic window, when you are exercising it’s catabolic for up to four hours. 

You should increase your protein intake over 24 hours, an easy way to do this is to increase your intake around your sessions by making sure that you’re taking good carbohydrates and protein sources after your training session. 

So 20 to 30 minutes after your training session, you should consume a good protein source, generally, not at the expense of other carbohydrates, you should ensure that you are still getting good carbs so that you don’t fall into low energy availability.

  1. Running Consistency & The Menopause

It’s easy to confuse consistency with discipline when we talk about running. In this case, we’re not talking about the discipline we need to get out on the roads or trails and run…

When we talk about consistency we mean to do the right things over and over for a prolonged period. 

The best way to understand consistency is to think of this consistency as a financial investment. When you save a little bit of money month after month, it started compounding the longer you invest.

Now apply the same thought process to your running. Basically what you would do is build layers upon layers.

Imagine there is a block in front of you, this block represents three weeks of training that you have managed to complete consistently. You do that again and you get another block in front of you. You’ve stuck to all four of the other pillars and you keep going on and on and on – Fantastic right? You end up getting stronger and stronger and you get to race day and everything works out incredibly. 


The converse is obviously also true… 

You’re not running your easy runs easy enough, which means you’re not recovering from all of your sessions. You’re also feeling tired so you give your strength training a skip because running is the most important part of your training, right?

You then wake up one morning with a sore knee but you head out anyway because you have a track session and before you know it you’re forced to miss a few weeks of running due to an injury.

When you come back to running you try and pick up where you left off and suddenly jump right back to where you were.  But you’re getting older, so you don’t bounce back the same way you used to. You’re still getting fitter, but now your entire structure is rickety and wobbly.

Now imagine an entirely new structure, where there are evenly placed gaps between the blocks.
There are gaps because there doesn’t have to be that consistency like in the first structure. 

You don’t want your structure to crumble, the goal is to build layer upon layer, time after time to get the training effects that we need.

That is what consistency can do for your running. 

Let me touch on the issue of hormone replacement therapy and running…

Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Make a Difference To Your Running Training?

Every single female is going to react differently to Hormone Replacement Therapy. It’s important to note that we are not providing medical advice, so this is a topic you should please consult your physician about.

Hormone Replacement Therapy can have a very good effect on your postmenopausal and your menopausal symptoms, but not necessarily on your running training. It’s still crucial that you follow the correct training principles, even if you are on HRT.

The hormone that you’re replacing it with is not exactly the same, unbelievable scientific research has gone into making estrogen microbiologically, but it’s not the same as your estrogen. Therefore it doesn’t have the same effect on your bone mineral density & lean muscle mass. 

HRT could do wonders for your symptoms, but it’s not going to affect your running training in the positive ways that we need. The way to positively make a difference to your training is to follow the five pillars in the framework above.

Discover how you can run better as you get older, without training more or harder than you currently are… in our upcoming Running Through Menopause Masterclass with Sports Scientist Shona Hendricks. Save your seat below:

Strong female runner

Join us for a free live online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

11am Los Angeles | 2pm New York | 7pm London

Getting older is unfortunately a fact of life. But does our running ability need to deteriorate as we age?

In this article, we’re going to look at the reasons we run slower as we get older…

…and most importantly, what we can do counteract that process so that you can run faster well into your fifties (and beyond).

It is well documented that our physiology starts letting us down way before we’d like it to.

Many studies show peak performance ages to be between 20-35 years of age for most sports and the physiological decline eminent thereafter.

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Vol: 27:12 (2017)

Nonetheless, we have seen a shift in the age demographics in endurance events in the last few years. In South Africa for example, more than 40% of the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon field is over the age of 40 (Schwabe et al, 2018 1).

And a recent article in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found the median age of ultrarunners doing their first ultra-marathon to be 37 years old, however the median age at which ultramarathon runners finished their first ultramarathon is 42 years old. Other stats have shown 50% of marathoners to be over the age of 40 years old.2

Have I reached my peak when I reach a certain age?

So, if the general entry and age of the runner is increasing, it begs the question – at what age are we most likely to reach our (own relative) peak performance?

Why do we slow down as we get older? Is it possible to delay that onset of ageing by exercising more? Is training harder and/or more the answer? Let’s dive into some of the physiology around this.

“It has been shown that the ageing process starts as early as the third decade of life”

That is according to Dr Paola Wood, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sport Science & Biokinetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, who is an expert in the topic of the Ageing athlete. (For me at the tender age of 35 this was quite something to hear)

Dr Wood states that for the most part, the rate of decline for everyone is linear from 30 years old onwards, however, once you reach 60-70 this decline is much steeper/greater.

The differentiator comes in for those who were active from a young age, you will perhaps start this decline at a higher or better point but essentially the rate of decline is the same for everyone.

So, it is not that exercise will change/slow down the decline, but consistency in exercise will still allow for other more peripheral adaptations to occur. 

The physiological changes associated with ageing are nicely summarized in the diagram below (Durstine J.L. et al, 20163).

For the sake of this article,  we will only focus on the 4 really important components needed for endurance running:

1. Your Max Heart Rate gradually decreases (Cardiovascular)

As we get older, we start to see a decline in maximum heart rate. Most age-related HRmax formula are sufficient for a general idea for the general population however there is a lot of variance with these formulas and they are not very dependable at an individual level.

It is important for you to figure out your HRmax with the use of a laboratory test or maximum exhaustive field-based test.

But either way, we do know this to be true that an individual’s maximum heart rate does decline as we get older.

2. A Reduction in VO2peak (Cardiovascular)

As a result of the decline in max heart rate, we start to see a decline in peak VO2 in athletes as they get older.

The correlation between a high VO2max and performance has been well covered in the literature and so a high VO2max is generally related to excellent performances.

It could, therefore, be assumed that with the decline in VO2peak as you age, that your running performance could also decline. (More on this a little later as to why this is not completely true)

3. A decrease in muscle mass and strength & power (Musculoskeletal)

Over time our muscle mass decreases and along with this, there is a more rapid loss of Type II (“fast fibres”).

So, what this means is that there is a slight change in the muscle mass we have from a more slow-twitch fibre, which essentially means less speed.

This is as a result of training and very much of a “use it or lose it” mentality within the physiology. It has also been shown that the rate of muscle atrophy (loss) accelerates after 55 years but the peak force production relative to the muscle size stays the same (Häkkinen K. et al, 1991 4).

Strength training on the Coach Parry app

Therefore, this suggests that as get older your amount of force produced will be relative to how much muscle mass you have and because we tend to lose muscle mass as we get older (especially after 55 years old) this force production will decrease.

Therefore, it is vital to perform some focused strength training so as to not allow for such large muscle mass loss to occur. (You can download our free master’s strength training plan by clicking here or on the image)

4. A decrease in tendon elasticity & increased stiffness (Musculoskeletal)

This decrease in tendon elasticity could place the older endurance runner at a higher risk for musculoskeletal injuries.

And so, the loading and prescription of a runner over the age of 50 is key to ensure longevity and health of the runner.

Injuries & the masters runner

There are very few studies on injury prevalence within masters endurance runners currently.

But what we do know is that this group of runners is at a high risk of musculoskeletal injury, more specifically the incidence of overuse injuries is higher in masters athletes compared to younger athletes (Langer PR. 2015 5).

Therefore, training loads along with scientifically periodized training programs is key to ensuring less of these overuse injuries occur.

The need for increased strength work, including balance and “foot core” is vital to compliment this training program to help prevent these injuries. Strength work is recommended at least twice a  week. (If you haven’t yet, download our free strength training plan for masters runners)

Health Screenings of the Masters Runner

If we can step away from the physiology and performance for a moment. Sadly, at most major endurance events of late, we tend to hear news stories about athletes who died during the event.This is happening worldwide and unfortunately, the numbers of these incidents are increasing. Most recent data shows that the average incidence of sudden death during an endurance running event is 1 / 100 000 participants worldwide (Schwellnus, SAFER, BJSM, 20176).

Masters runners are obviously at higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest in these events and therefore it is highly recommended that a full health screening, including a 12 lead ECG, be done with your sports physician prior to competing at any of these events.

Let’s paint a more positive picture for the masters runner…

This is all painting a pretty negative picture for your physiology if you’re a master’s runner…

…So here’s the good news:

There is scientific literature, measured across 29 years of the New York Marathon, that shows the running times for men over the age of 64 and women over the age of 44 have not yet plateaued, therefore showing that these athletes have not yet reached their performance limits (Lepers et al, 2012 7) and that masters athletes are constantly performing at a higher level.

But how can this be with all the physiological decline described above? I’ll explain this using 3 different scientific conclusions, stay with me here as we go through the sciency stuff, the conclusion for you as a master’s athlete is worth it, I promise.

While it seems that ageing causes everything in the physiology to decline, one thing very clear in the literature is that the mitochondria (which are essentially the endurance powerhouses of the cells) are still very responsive to training (Casuso et al, 2020 8).

And so, if runners continue to train and increase levels of aerobic activity this will have a positive adaptation on the mitochondria of the cell. This is great news because it shows how adaptation is still possible, even with other physiological declines. 

One study comparing athletes of different age groups ie. 35-44 / 45-54 / 56-76  (albeit in cycling and not running) showed a decline in VO2max and average power (watts) (Pfeiffer et al, 2008 9) as the age increased. However, the comparison of thresholds (as a % of VO2max), as well as the cycling economy, showed very little difference across the age groups.

Therefore suggesting that while there is a change at a central capacity, the ability to sustain efforts at a submaximal capacity remains the same as you get older. 

Lastly, a study that matched younger & masters athletes according to their best times (i.e. both are able to run a 40 minute 10km or both are able to run a 90 min 21km) again showed that the masters athletes had a decreased VO2max and HRmax when compared to their younger counterparts, which we’ve spoken about at length already.

However, and this is awesome,  the masters athletes had increased capillary density, measured in many different ways. And higher densities of mitochondrial enzymes (Coggan et al, 1990Stephen Seiler 2020 10).

So what does all this scientific jargon mean?

Essentially the masters athletes who are matched for time / performance with their younger counterparts are able to compensate for their lower VO2max and HRmax with improved peripheral / skeletal muscle adaptation.

The takeaway from these 3 studies is that continuous adaptation can occur even though most of the powerhouse physiology needed for endurance performance naturally decline due to ageing.

This means relative performances can continue to improve as we age and each individual masters athlete can continue to reach their own performance limit.

Let’s take Ria van Wyk, for example, one of our Team CoachParry athletes (see Ria’s story here). Even though Ria started running late into her 50’s she has been smashing PR after PR (most recently an impressive 45 min 10km at the age of 59! – no I’m not jealous at all).

We as coaches here at Coach Parry believe it’s for the following reasons:

  1. Ria follows our Faster Beyond 50 Training Framework religiously! That includes the number of training days, the pace suggested for each session and the recommended rest & recovery. 
  2. Ria does ALL the strength training sessions that are included in the training framework. No matter how busy her lifestyle is she always makes the time to do the strength training sessions.
  3. Ria is consistently consistent with her training. She hardly misses a session (rest days also being a “session”) and as a result, has had some fantastic results over the last year or two!

The moral of the story? Be more like Ria!

And so, every 4 weeks when it’s a Time Trial week, my goal is to beat Ria who is 25 years my senior! The point here is that with consistent training (and the correct training) the masters runner has every reason to believe that their best is yet to come!

What does this all mean for the runner over 50 who wants to run faster?

Let’s tie it all together…

While there is still a notable physiological decline as we get older, the body still shows great aptitude for adaptation if provided with the right stimulus.  If the correct training intensities and volume of training is followed and complemented with good strength training at least twice a week you can actually run better as you get older.

There is a saying that children are not small adults and so we shouldn’t train them as such, the same should ring true for runners over 50. Of course, the basic training principles still apply but it is key to manipulate the volume and intensity of the program in order to run fast as you age.

The physiological declines in strength need to be overcome and it is recommended that at least 2 sessions of strength work be implemented into an athletes program. Careful consideration of strength, balance, foot intrinsic and co-ordination is extremely beneficial to the ageing runner.

Lastly, the masters runner is far from reaching their peak performance. With the correct loading and prescription, the best is yet to come…

If you’re interested in learning more about slowing down the impact of ageing on your running then join us for our free upcoming Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass. You can get all the details by clicking on the image below: 

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

References

  1. Karen Schwabe, Martin Schwellnus, Sonja Swanevelder, Esme Jordaan, Wayne Derman & Andrew Bosch (2018) Leisure athletes at risk of medical complications: outcomes of pre-participation screening among 15,778 endurance runners – SAFER VII, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 46:4, 405-413 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00913847.2018.1505569
  2. Running USA: 2013 Annual Half-Marathon Report. http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=333&returnTo=annual-reports. Accessed May 5 2013
  3. American College of Sports Medicine, Durstine J.L., Moore G., Painter P., Roberts S. 4th ed. Human Kinetics; Champaign, IL: 2016. ACSM’s exercise management for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01924788.2012.677794
  4. Häkkinen K, Häkkinen A. Muscle cross-sectional area, force production and relaxation characteristics in women at different ages. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;62(6):410‐414. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00626612
  5. Langer PR. Considerations in treating physically active older adults and aging athletes. Clin Podiatr Med Surg. 2015;32(2):253‐260. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0891842214001104?via%3Dihub
  6. Schwellnus M, Kipps C, Roberts WO, et al Medical encounters (including injury and illness) at mass community-based endurance sports events: an international consensus statement on definitions and methods of data recording and reporting. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:1048-1055. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/17/1048
  7. Lepers R, Cattagni T. Do older athletes reach limits in their performance during marathon running?. Age (Dordr). 2012;34(3):773‐781. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337940/
  8. Casuso RA, Huertas JR. The emerging role of skeletal muscle mitochondrial dynamics in exercise and ageing. Ageing Res Rev. 2020;58. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S156816371930460X?via%3Dihub
  9. Peiffer JJ, Abbiss CR, Chapman D, Laursen PB, Parker DL. Physiological characteristics of masters-level cyclists. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(5):1434‐1440. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18714246/?from_single_result=physiological+characteristics+of+masters+level+cyclists&expanded_search_query=physiological+characteristics+of+masters+level+cyclists
  10. Coggan AR, Spina RJ, Rogers MA, et al. Histochemical and enzymatic characteristics of skeletal muscle in master athletes. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1990;68(5):1896‐1901. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jappl.1990.68.5.1896 Stephen Seiler, Does our endurance machinery slow down at different rates as we get older? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzphy5EN8lg Accessed 17 March 2020.