Master (age over 40). Whether you are a veteran, a returner or new middle aged runner. Masters runners need to train differently

Running as a Master (40+), it's different.

If you are a master’s athlete (runners aged 40 and older), training requires a thoughtful approach that considers the unique needs and considerations of our aging bodies. Whether you are a grizzled veteran, who has run since high school and never stopped, or the comeback kid, returning to running after a long break, or have newly discovered running in middle age, this general guide will apply to all of you.

Here's RhodesRunner general run training guide for master's athletes:


Consult with a Healthcare Professional

Before starting any new training program, especially if you're new to running or have pre-existing health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure running is safe for you.


Build a Strong Base

Not so applicable for the veteran, who will already have base of years dedicated to running, but for the returner and new runner, this is important: Start with a foundation-building phase. Gradually increase your mileage and intensity to allow your body to adapt and reduce the risk of injury. Include a mix of easy runs, long runs, and some speedwork, but keep the intensity moderate initially.

For the returner, your body simply won’t cope as well with the mileage you did in your younger years, leave that legacy behind.


Focus on Strength Training

Incorporate strength training at least twice a week. This helps maintain muscle mass, improve bone density, and prevent injuries. Include exercises that target major muscle groups, especially those that support running, like the core and lower body. From my experience not enough master’s runners incorporate strength training into their routine.


Prioritise Flexibility and Mobility

Decades of sedentary work and aging are a double whammy. As we get older our flexibility and joint mobility will be impacted. Age does not discriminate and even the veteran runner will suffer unless they have incorporated flexibility and mobility drills in their early running career. Our advice is to  incorporate dynamic (rather than static) warm-ups, cool-down stretches, and regular flexibility exercises to maintain range of motion and prevent stiffness. If you have problem areas of mobility and flexibility investigate other options like yoga.


Listen to Your Body

As we get older it is really important to pay close attention to how your body responds to training. If you feel persistent tightness, pain or fatigue, adjust your training plan and consider rest or reduced intensity.


Include Cross-Training

The benefits of cross training are well documented. All masters athletes should plan to mix in low-impact activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga to provide both musculoskeletal and cardiovascular benefits without the impact stress of running. Cross-training also helps recovery and helps to balance the all important stress/rest cycle that is individual to all of us.


Interval Training for Speed

As masters athletes, even if we are focussing on long endurance events, like the half and full marathon and beyond, we cannot neglect training in and around our lactate threshold. We need to include interval training to work on maintaining or at least slowing the decline of our aerobic capacity, speed and anaerobic capacity. Short, intense bursts of effort followed by recovery periods can improve overall race pace. Ask a coach for some good workouts that are tailored for masters athletes.


Plan for Recovery

Adequate recovery is crucial. As older athletes we need MORE time to recover. Don’t shy away from taking an additional rest day if you need it. This is doubly important if you are a veteran or athlete that is managing the battle scars from a life well lived. Ensure you get enough sleep, hydrate well, and consider activities like massage or foam rolling to aid recovery.


Nutrition and Hydration

As we age some of us pick up some bad habits, biscuits, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, rich food to name a few. All master’s athletes need to be disciplined and pay attention to nutritional needs, you still need to fuel the engine. This includes taking in sufficient protein for muscle repair and maintenance. Don’t make life unpleasant just be mindful that what we eat and how we eat has a direct impact on our running performance. Stay hydrated, especially as aging can impact the body's ability to regulate fluid balance.

I would also like to note here that whilst running can help you lose weight, it should always be considered as part of weight management program. Our coaches are not registered dieticians, so can only experiential guidance on the right level of fuelling, for training and races.


Set Realistic Goals

Set achievable and realistic goals based on your current fitness level. This might include race distances, personal bests, or consistency in training. One of the biggest frustrations for Veterans and returning runners is their legacy of earlier running performances and training capabilities. These have to be left on the shelf, saved as stories for the grandkids!

Every season is a new season and a chance for a seasons best, so grab it. For those new to running enjoy getting personal bests while you can, still be mindful of your ageing body and be ready to accept the decline when it comes.



Implement a periodised training plan that includes cycles of intensity and recovery. This helps prevent overtraining and keeps your training fresh and engaging. Ask a coach for ideas about how to do this.


Stay Social

Join a running group or find a training partner. The social aspect of running can be motivating and enjoyable, and having a support system can enhance your running experience.


Regular Health Check-ups

Schedule regular health check-ups to monitor any changes in your overall health. Catching potential issues early can help you make informed decisions about your training.


Be Patient and Enjoy the Process

Understand that progress may take a bit longer than when you were younger. Embrace the journey, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the process of staying active and healthy.


Remember, individual responses to training can vary, and it's essential to customise your plan based on your specific needs and goals. If possible, consider working with a running coach who understands the unique requirements of master's athletes.

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