The hard part of the entire process is to know how to challenge your self and perform training that will address your weaknesses and make you more competitive. And when meet day arrives, running at the best of your ability and not exceeding your capability is very tricky. When we arrive at capability and ability the waters get very muddy and experience is the best teacher if you listen to your body properly. The real difficult part of this process is that there is almost no material that has been published to address training as a senior athlete. I have looked, it does not exist. The material currently available is for younger athletes that are still growing, not on the decline as senior competitors. Now what? Get a coach? That is just as tough, because the training as a senior is way different that I did as a high school track athlete. I was looking at some old documents and we raced 2 or 3 times per week and trained between the meets in high school. When did I ever heal??
What options are available to the senior athletes for training programs?
- To design a good training program, you must first establish your goals. How do you establish your goals? Getting beat is the best way to find out where you need to get better. Go racing and watch how you get beat or if you are winning, what is it going to take to compete on the next level?? Who do I need to beat?
- I have a two ways that I track my progress. I train with a heart rate monitor and record the calories and time per training event. I typically like to train from 55 to 75 minutes and I will cut off the session quickly if I feel any dehydration issues. All this data is on an Excel document. I also add weight, training times, sets, location and other info regarding weather and altitude. I also have a note pad that I track the training session with notes about the sets and anything else relevant.
- All my races times are on the Excel sheet along with a lot of other race information. One click gets me a lot of info.
- Have a time frame in mind. If you have a race in 6 weeks or 6 months the options are very different for the prerace training program. If you race soon, you are basically going to be doing track work with minimal work in the gym and fitness training. If the race in 6 months, you can work on your weaknesses--where I am losing races? What are the others doing better....
- Have a time you are looking to achieve. What is your competition running? How much do I want to improve? Be realistic. Time are improved by 0.1 of seconds for my sprinting distances.
- Make absolutely sure you address injuries and other aging related health concerns. Go to the doctor or specialist, talk about your meds, your weight, your blood pressure, your diet, your injuries and what you are trying to achieve. You would be surprised at the help they can provide.
- Injury prevention is the biggest challenge of all. I had my worst injuries early in my senior racing career. I have found that the fast people will get injured and this is typically from a training incident or improper race prep.
- Dehydration race week is a very easy way to get injured. Cramps and pulls are just lurking for those not properly hydrated. I have trained after a long day at work and was not properly hydrated all day and this has resulted in several big time cramps that ended that entire week. Hurts a lot too. Find a good source of electrolytes and take them race week and during training in hot weather. A great insurance policy against injuries.
- Stretching and warm up are very often not properly performed by at least 2/3 of the athletes. Get a program that works--yoga is a great start. My warm up takes 20 minutes and at the end, I can go 100% with confidence that my legs can do what I ask.
- Overtraining race week will get you eventually. Make sure you have several days of rest to get the juice back in the body. Many times I will work race week and I make sure I get plenty of rest and eat properly. Just have the discipline to "Don't Do It"
- Another way to get hurt and this is how I managed to really kill my racing for over a year and miss a Nationals--run at race speed in training to see how fast you are.. Race speed is only for races. Period... You should never go harder than 95% in practice. You should run under control during your training, the speed will follow. Again, have the discipline to keep the accelerator off the floor.
- Find gear that works. I have a rather large budget for racing and I am constantly experimenting with new compression wear, shoes, training aids, etc. I am currently addicted to compression sleeves on my calves and compression racing tights. The sleeves prevent foot cramps that have been a problem for me for decades. I also keep a supply of soft shoes to train. I rarely use spikes for training. Saucony Guide 9 is the shoe of choice currently and it works very well at 10.5 ounces.
- Limit your racing. Every weekend? That is crazy and those that do that do get hurt and it is serious stuff. Take break to rest and do something else for entertainment--play with the family.
- Under training is also a way to get hurt. You cannot show up race weekend without the proper prep. Getting out of your car and going racing will put you on the shelf in a hurry.
- Why is not getting hurt such a big deal? Because the seniors heal very slowly and we may not heal at all. Also surgery is many times the only fix for some injuries and that also will take the fun out of racing. Coming back takes months/years and in the meantime you get to watch and typically gain a bunch of weight that needs to be removed later.
See you at the track!