Being someone that got into running in my late 40’s, I started to realise that many people my age were doing exactly the same thing. As I started to run in races I noticed there was a high percentage of older runners, especially the longer the races strangely enough. So it gave me the idea to write this post on the best running workouts for over 50’s so I could maybe give a little guidance on how I trained for my long races.
I realise that as we get older speed might not be the number 1 priority when we run, but I do think that running strength and endurance are very important if we actually want to go out and enjoy our runs.
At the age of 50, I competed in an 86 mile Ultramarathon after not really being a runner 2 years earlier. I had done a few marathons and 50k races leading up to this, but what I learned early on was that you really do need to train for speed, strength, and endurance in order to stay as injury-free as possible and also enjoy the long races.
So whether you are new to running or have been doing it a while and are keen to train for a longer event, I wanted to share some of the workouts I used that helped me achieve my goals.
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
When you are training for longer races you need to train at different levels to reap the benefits of what you are doing. A great way of gauging this is something called the rate of perceived exertion, or RPE.
It is basically a scale which runs from 1 to 10 and is used to measure the intensity of your workouts. These numbers relate to how you feel during the activity in relation to how easy or difficult it is. An awareness of this scale is important when you are both training and racing if that’s your goal.
As you can see in the image, the scales are fairly simple to understand and I will refer to them as I talk about each of the training methods.
With all the workouts below, adjust your distance and times based on your experience level. Don’t attempt 6-mile tempo runs if you don’t really run that distance. Build up to the distances over time.
You may have heard of this type of training run before, if not then it’s basically method where you would run at your 10k pace, or 7 – 8 on the RPE scale.
A Tempo run will help you to develop your Lactate Threshold which is absolutely necessary for running faster. Your threshold is the point at which Lactic Acid begins to accumulate in your muscles. This in turns causes the fatigue and soreness in the muscles that we feel when we are running hard.
So, it would make sense that we can improve our Lactate Threshold by doing regular Tempo runs, therefore having the ability to run faster without causing early muscle fatigue. They are also very useful if you are going to be racing as you will be used to running outside of your comfort zone.
It doesn’t really matter if you are training for a 5k or an Ultra Marathon, the Tempo Run is an important part of any training program.
Tempo Run Examples
- 10 minute warm-up at an easy pace (2-4) followed by 20 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8) and finish off with a cool down at easy pace (2-4).
- 20 minute warm-up at an easy pace (2-4) followed by 20-minute Tempo Pace (7-8), 5 minutes easy pace (2-4), 20 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8), 10 minutes cooldown (2-4).
- For a longer workout, 10 minutes warm-up at an easy pace (2-4), 60 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8) followed by a 10-minute cooldown (2-4).
The Easy Run
Often overlooked but very important for your training. The Easy Run is very much a recovery type of run but it also helps hugely with your overall endurance and allows you to run with the correct running form.
As well as this, it’s also an important factor in your base mileage and should be the most common run that you do. On average depending on you, it should cover about 60% – 80% of you’re overall mileage per week.
The easy run is your aerobic workout and you should be staying at an effort between 3-4 on the RPE scale. So you should be able to hold a conversation whilst running without too much effort.
Probably the hardest thing about this type of run is ensuring you do stick to the pace and not be tempted to run faster as is often the case for many people.
Easy Run Examples
Nothing too hard to work out here. It’s an easy run so don’t exert yourself too much.
- 6 miles at an easy pace (3-5) – don’t rush it, take your time and enjoy the run.
- 1 hour at an easy pace (3-5) – don’t stress about the mileage, just run for the hour and the mileage will take care of itself.
Love them or hate them, they are a staple of any good training program and they will make you a stronger runner without a doubt.
There was a time that I used to hate the hills, but when you run trail races and ultras, the chances are you are going to come across quite a few of them. The best thing is to embrace it.
When you are running up hills you are improving your explosive power that will, in turn, improve your overall speed and running economy. I noticed a huge difference in my general running after a few hill sessions.
It’s not just about running uphill though. Running downhill also has it’s advantaged by working your quads and building strength in your tendons and joints – and it’s also harder than you think.
Running both uphill and downhill is important so I really recommend adding uphill and downhill sessions into your training.
There are mainly two types of hill workout:
1. Running hard short sprints up or down the hill.
2. Running a gradual hill at a sustained pace.
Hill Workout Examples
- Hill Sprints – start with an easy 3-mile run (3-4 RPE) followed by 10 to 12 hard uphill sprints at 10 seconds each with a 2-minute recovery between each of them. End this with a 10-minute easy cool-down run (3-4).
- Find a hill that is around half a mile in length. Run 5 x 1/2 mile uphill, with an easy run (3-4) back down to recover. Finish with a 10-minute easy jog (3-4).
- Find yourself a hilly trail run and just get out there for 60 to 80 minutes and have fun. Add in some hill sprints and some nice downhill running. It doesn’t always have to be regimented, just run those hills.
- If getting outside is an issue, get yourself on a treadmill and set it to a hill workout and run for 60 minutes. It’s not something I’m happy doing but sometimes you just need to do what you can right.
It’s a funny name I know but Fartlek is the Swedish word for Speed-Play and that’s what this workout is all about.
This workout gives you the chance to vary the workout as you see fit. Run fast, run slow, add intervals, change the interval distance and time up. It’s completely up to you to get out there and mix things up a little bit.
There are no particular rules to a Fartlek run other than mixing up your distances and pace throughout the run.
Fartlek Run Examples
- Warm-up for 2 miles (3-4 RPE). Run 4 minutes Hard (8 RPE), 2 minutes easy (3-4), 3 minutes Hard, 2 minutes Easy, 2 minutes Hard, 1 minute Easy, 1 minute Hard. Run Easy (3-4) for 5 minutes and then repeat the 4,3,2,1 session again. Finish with a 1 or 2 mile cool down run(3-4).
- Warm-Up (3-4) for 2 miles, then 8 x 3 minutes at Tempo (7-8), 2 minutes Easy (3-4). Finish with 2 miles cool down run.
The Long Run
Probably the most important run of the week for any long-distance runner. This is the run where you will build your endurance over the long miles and also start to get your mind mentally prepared for longer times on your feet.
The key to this type of run is you run slowly for the most part. It’s effectively one of your easy runs so treat it like this if you can. It is, however, an opportunity to prepare yourself for your races too. So you may want to consider adding in a couple of pace changes that you might do in a race.
You should also build up your long runs overtime. Don’t just go out there and push a 20-mile run when you haven’t trained much. Progress the run over the weeks and months.
Think about starting your long run at say 6 miles and add 1 to 2 miles per week so you build up over time. But also have recovery weeks in between – 6, 8, 10, 7, 12, 14, 16, 10 miles over an 8 week period.
Another helpful tip to get you used to long runs and race situations is back to back runs. I might do 10 miles on Saturday and then 8 miles on Sunday or 20 miles then 10 miles. The idea of the back to back runs is that you don’t do everything in one go. On Sunday you are running on tired legs from the day before – this helps you get used to race conditions too.
Not only that, but we also can’t always spare the time to go out running for 3 or 4 hours straight, so the back to back runs help to reduce the time you are out so you can get on with everyday life as well.
Long Run Examples
- 2 mile warm-up run (3-4 RPE) followed by 1 mile at 5-6 RPE, 1 mile (3-4). 2 miles (5-6), 2 miles (3-4), 3 miles (5-6) followed by 3 miles cool down.
Change the mileage up depending on how far you intend to run and play around with the pace as required.
I like to do these runs on the trails if I can for a couple of reasons. the first is that I find running on the roads extremely boring, and the other is that I find trail running makes me stronger due to the variation in terrain when I am running. It’s also much better for your joints.
Putting It All Together
Clearly, there are many types of running workouts and there should be some structure to this where possible. Below is an example of how you might put all of these workouts together over a week to help with your training.
I only say this is an example based on the fact that every single runner is different and no one program fits all in my opinion. You should attempt to structure your own based on the examples outlined.
Don’t let your running get stagnant and boring – it will only lead to failure. Mix things up a bit and try out different workouts to bring some life to your training. Don’t forget to add some cross-training where you can as well.
Hopefully, these running workouts for over 50’s will help you with your training and make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner. If you are training for a long race then the very best of luck to you.
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