Five Questions (Part 1 of 5): Caleb Masland

This is a special Five Questions interview with someone I admire greatly.  Caleb Masland is, by all accounts, an incredible running coach and one hell of a runner. His story is one that speaks to runners at all levels.  His ability to recover from knee injury to full strength and speed (1:10 half marathon and 2:30 marathon!) is inspiring. And I hope to one day follow in his coaching footsteps.  (Click his name above for his full bio.)  You should follow him on facebook and twitter.  You can find him on Instagram at Caleb Masland, as well as follow posts on Twitter and Instagram by members of  his team with the hashtag #TeamWickedBonkproof.  He publishes a daily coaching tip that I often include in my five links for the day.  He is a connection well worth making.

I’ll be 47 in April.  So I am well into what we would call “Masters” running.  So as I age, even though I am fitter than I’ve ever been, and eat healthier than ever, I must remain cognizant of the changes in my body as I train for marathons and beyond.  What I did with Caleb is ask him a series of questions about the masters runner.  How does one coach a masters runner?  What changes should masters runners expect?  And so on.  Since these are lengthy, I decided to post one Q&A each day this week.  I hope you enjoy. Many thanks to Caleb for doing this.

1) What are the adjustments that you as a coach have to make when coaching runners over 40, compared to coaching those under 40? And what do older runners need to realize or be aware of about their running?

  • Turning 40 isn’t a guarantee that your fastest days are behind you. Runners over 40 can put up some of the best times of their lives, if the training approach is geared appropriately for the ways in which our bodies are different than a 20- or 30-year old.
  • When it comes to aerobic endurance, older runners who have been training for many years have an advantage over younger runners. Aerobic efficiency will continue to improve over time with regular training, even when other aspects of running (top-end speed capacity, in particular) start to decline. So, training programs that focus on a signifiant amount of aerobic work tend to provide more “bang for the buck” for masters runners. This doesn’t meant that all the miles have to be easy, but even the quality sessions should include a heavier reliance on the aerobic system as a proportion of the total work.
  • There are 2 big “adjustments” that should be made for masters runners:
    • Older bodies take longer to recover and adapt from hard workouts. As a result, the most typical weekly training cycle (with some speed added on Tuesday and Thursday, and a long run on Saturday/Sunday) can lead to a lot of injuries or bouts of burnout for masters runners. This is often a hard change to make due to habit, but masters runners should consider focusing on one quality day per week, on Wednesday, with a long run that includes some speed on a more frequent basis. This provides more time for adaptation between hard bouts, which means more of the hard work can actually become better fitness.
    • Older runners can’t get away with skipping strength and mobility work to the extent that younger runners can. Runners, as a general rule, will down-prioritize strength and mobility exercises compared to mileage. For older runners, this needs to be flipped. In particular, work needs to focus on the core and hips, so that proper running form is maintained. As we age, our bodies want to hunch and collapse on the run, and a strong midsection will prevent this from happening.
  • There are many examples of runners who finally blossom when they reach 40. Like any other time in our lives, this is about being committed, and following a training approach that is a fit for the runner.
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