Progressive training causes muscles to break down (on a microscopic level), repair and grow stronger. As we age, muscle fibres decrease in number and shrink in size. New muscle fibres are generated at a slower rate than in a younger person, resulting in a slower buildup and strengthening of muscle in response to the demands of training or the incidence of an injury.
I know this fact of life from personal experience. When I was 44 years old and my daughter was 12, we both suffered mild ankle sprains…………on the very same day. As our sprains were of similar severity, we both underwent identical treatment programs, consisting of physiotherapy and strengthening and balance exercises. Ten days after spraining our ankles, she was hopping and I was hobbling! Nothing beats experiential learning for driving home a fact of life.
Does Gender Affect Recovery from Training?
The answer is………….yes. Women take longer to recover from training and racing then men, primarily due to hormonal differences.
During progressive training, a runner overloads her system with runs of increased duration, intensity and/or frequency. The increased physical workload causes muscles to break down (on a microscopic level), repair and grow stronger – provided the increased training is combined with adequate rest and recovery, during which the desired adaptation occurs.
Testosterone promotes protein synthesis which is critical for muscle repair and growth. Therefore, men (in general) can recover more quickly from tough workouts and tolerate harder training programs than women…………..one reason why many women (especially those over 40), get injured following generic training programs that take neither gender nor age into account.
The good news is that by training smarter, middle aged and older women runners can continue to run well. Many even post personal bests. Three strategies to implement:
- Reduce running frequency to 3 days per week, scheduling rest days to allow for complete recovery from hard workouts.
- Perform cross-training activities 1 or 2 days per week. This will increase your aerobic base and cardiovascular fitness while giving your legs a respite from the pounding endured while running.
- Incorporate running-specific strength training into your routine. Strengthening your muscles, tendons and ligaments in a running-specific way will make you more injury-proof, reduce muscle fatigue and improve your running performance. “Banish IT Band Pain” (Sept 4th, 2010) and “How To Prevent Hamstring Injury” (March 8th 2011) contain examples of running-specific exercises that you can perform at home to prevent (and heal from) common injuries that plague many runners, derailing their training and racing plans.
A training program that incorporates these principles (such as an IAWR Personalized Training Program) will serve you well, ensuring that you can run your personal best, avoid injury and enjoy the physical, emotional and social benefits of running and racing for many years to come.
© 2012 Savvy Runner Inc.
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