Running Strong Past 40: Doing the Little Stuff Matters

Jeff Browning Black Butte

The staple of my running release is long run days in the mountains each week. While the high country is still locked in snow, the views just don’t get much better while knocking out a double summit of Black Butte, near Sisters, Oregon. Photo by Max King.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on my training and how it has evolved over the past 14 years of ultrarunning. The natural progression of the body’s ability to handle more work as I’ve consistently trained, adapted, trained more, adapted — and so on. This is all on the forefront of my mind as I’m attempting to complete four 100-milers this season (plus a few other shorter ultras thrown in too). Since turning 40 a few years ago (I’m turning 43 this summer), I’m trying to make sure I do the little things on top of simply running a lot. The little things…

Strength, core and cross-train. Being a master’s runner (40+), I’ve found I need to consistently mix in strength training and time on my bike to stay fit, strong and not fall into the trap of over-training. Plus, it keeps the training fresh. An important factor the longer I try to train hard and compete. For many years, I did little but run. However, I’ve found that the bike and strength, if used strategically, work synergystically with my running regimen.

The other thing is making sure the easy runs are super easy. Now that my two older kids are able to join me for 2-4 milers, we take the dog out and cruise around. It’s usually my 2nd run of the day, which allows me to relax and just enjoy running 9-12 minute pace and enjoying my kids energy (since I’ve already “trained” earlier in the day).

With a busy career that many times puts me at 40+ hours per week, plus family time, it can all be a big-time juggling act. But, that means long runs are not only important for actual race preparation, it also makes it important for a stress relief each week. A time to go run in the mountains and clear my head of deadlines and responsibility for a few hours. Just the woods, the trail and finding that simple rhythm that mountain running brings.

I’ve had lots of runners ask me how do I balance racing and competing with a full time job, 3 kids and a wife. Short answer: Figure out how to incorporate training into your life instead of separating the two. For example, bike commuting to work or getting a second run of the day in with kids while exercising the dog. The proverbial Killing Two Birds with One Stone. And sometimes, well, I just have to run at 11pm with a headlamp to fit it all in.

Here’s a peek at last week’s training…

Monday

AM: Bike commute 6 minutes to work (1.25 mi)
Noon: Lunch 10-mile run w/ tempo for 7 miles of it with time trial climb in the tempo workout (1000′ of climbing)
PM: Evening bike commute 9 minutes home (1.25 mi w/ 250′ climb in last half mile)
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Tuesday

AM: Bike commute 6 minutes to work
Noon: Lunch 10-mile easy pace hill day (1400-2000′ of climbing)
PM: Evening bike commute 9 minutes home
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Wednesday

AM: Bike commute 6 minutes to work
Noon: Lunch 10-mile steady state lunch group run
PM: Evening bike commute 9 minutes home
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Thursday

AM: Bike commute 6 minutes to work
Noon: Lunch 10-mile interval run (combo of flats and hills; 90 sec intervals)
PM: Evening bike commute 9 minutes home
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Friday

AM: Long Run – 18 to 25 mile trail run in mountains with lots of climbing
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner (sometimes a family hike)
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Saturday

AM: Dawn patrol 1-2 hour mountain bike ride (sometimes this ends up being a Saturday night ride after kids are in bed if family commitments interfere)
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog in afternoon (sometimes a family hike)
PM: 5 minutes of yoga/strength/stretching routine before bed (downward dog – plank – pushups; super slow controlled reps; end with pigeon pose and lunge stretch movements)

Sunday

AM: 7-12 mile trail run, easy pace (or rest depending on training cycle)
PM: Easy 2-3 mile shake-out run with kids and dog before dinner (sometimes a family hike)
PM: 16-minute BB Power Pack Strength workout (constant muscle load full body workout with dumbbells, includes core work, pushups and pullups)

 TOTAL = 79.6 miles running w/ 13,928 feet of climbing; 27.5 miles of cycling; 46 minutes of strength/stretching

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