Speed tricks from Master women runners

About a week ago, I took the girls to the library on our usual trip and briefly grabbed a few books for me.  In the running section, I picked up Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb.

Have you read it? It’s a fun book, weaving together her own journey to get fitter at 50 while also interviewing experts, meeting 60-90 year old women running records for their age groups, and sharing research on older women runners.  I definitely recommend it!

The research is always fascinating-  a few of my favorite highlights from the research she shared around women runners and some of the advantages women have:

  • Women ultra-runners continue to get faster
  • Women have fat burning advantages over men in long distances- we spare more glycogen in the muscles and finish less depleted
  • Women produce more glutathione when exercising, an antioxidant that helps resist the oxidative stress that can damage muscle
  • Women may be able to endure greater stress and pain, preparing us well for childbirth (or distance running)
  • Masters women can increase running economy with strength training for the legs, when working with heavier weights
  • Sprinting will help build muscle mass, growth hormone increases and better fat metabolism (even with just 30 seconds!)
  • Sprinters have greater bone density and leg muscle than mid or long distance runners

And so many more great tidbits.  But the one part I found really fun were the “speed tricks” she implemented and learned from some of the strong older women she was meeting.  These are tips we can all incorporate more of, including:

Working in plyometrics and drills before a run: High knees, butt kicks, bounding, hopping on one foot or skipping all help develop power and strength, while also preparing the muscles to activate fully in the workout

Developing good running posture: The better the posture, the more efficient and relaxed and natural the running form, which translates to faster running, less risk of injury and better running economy.  She talks with Helly Visser, who set the world records in the indoor 1,500 and 800 at age 80 and wrote the book, The Guide to Nature Posture Running.

Vary speed repeat paces within a workout: Diane Palmason, who holds the 400 and 800 meter records for women over 65 recommends mixing 300m and 75m repeats in one workout, saying “You strengthen different muscle fibers, so when one type gets tired in a race, you’ve got another type beside it to recruit.” She also emphasizes the importance of form and a soft landing.

Combining track and strength workouts on the same day: As we age, it’s even more important to keep the easy days really easy. Karla del Grande, nailed the 60, 200 and 400m records over 60 and does three track workouts with strength on the same day, and keeps the easy days really easy with gentle yoga or cycling.

How many of these speed tricks are you currently incorporating?

Have you read a fun running book recently?

I’m linking up with  SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.

20 thoughts on “Speed tricks from Master women runners

  1. Thank you for the book recommendation. I will definitely check this one out. I am currently using Run Less, Run Faster to train for Boston. I find as I get older that 3x/week for runs + 3x/week for cross training works really well. I’ve always been a big proponent of weight training, but I usually avoid doing legs during race season. I find that upper body strength training really helps me maintain my posture when I start to get tired. I don’t see stopping in my future any time soon, for sure!

  2. As a runner who is about to turn 53, I love this. I keep hearing you stop PRing after about 7 years of running but I have decided to not focus on the negatvity. This is very inspiring. I heard the author interviewed on a Running For Real or Run to the Top podcast awhile back. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I read Margaret’s book a few years ago when it first came out. There is just not a lot written for us older women runners and I was really excited to see it. Actually, she helped me redefine my 50s and head to the weight room. I’m sad to see my speed starting to go. It’s been hard to accept, but there it is. I’ve been fortunate to find peers that are going through the same thing and that sure makes it easier!
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