Do women get slower with age?

As we hit our forties and beyond, how much does it affect our speed and how should we change the way that we train?

Physiologically, there is no doubt that if you an elite female athlete you will get slower as you age. But for the majority of female recreational runners and triathletes, getting slower as you hit your forties and fifties is NOT a foregone conclusion.

Why?

Because most recreational female athletes don’t start running seriously until their thirties. As for triathlon, many of us don’t have the time or money to start training for a multi-disciplined event until our forties.

Which means, that most women have lots of untapped athletic potential and typically, (not always) have more time to develop in their fourth and fifth decades (more on training into your seventies in a future post.

One of the female runners near where GRTW HQ is located, Chris Naylor, ran a 2.55 hour marathon, aged 55. Girls Run the World coach, Tara Shanahan used to run Parkrun in 21.59 minutes in 2009. Aged 50, her Parkrun PB is now 17.59 minutes.

Likewise, 85% of those surveyed who did our 30 Day Race Shape Challenge, with a specific plan focused on getting faster over 5km got faster.

Of course, you may not care if you get slower or faster, you just want to keep moving. But if you want to get faster, this is how you do it.

Five ways you can get faster in your forties and fifties

  • Follow a personalised training plan – get a training plan that has been written specifically for YOU, for the specific event that you are training for. If you look back at the events that you’ve trained for, how many of you have followed something specifically for you and not just pulled off the internet? It makes a big difference. (find out more about our personalised coaching).
  • Eat well – getting your nutrition and hydrating well, specifically for your age becomes even more important. It is not just about what you eat on the training run – or on that day, nor the race. It’s a fully rounded nutritional approach.
  • Recovery sessions – how many times have you read how important it is to do your recovery sessions at a specific pace? And how often have you actually managed to nail it? Probably not many. Adaptations are NOT made by exercising more. It is in the slow runs and the recovery sessions, that your body gets stronger, fitter and faster.
  • Sleep – get your eight hours of shut eye. No exceptions. As you age, your body really needs that time to recover. You can skimp a little and get away with it when you’re in your twenties and early thirties. You absolutely can NOT as you get older.
  • Strength train – you don’t necessarily strength train to get faster but you DO incorporate it to prevent injury, which means you are able to train consistently and consistency keeps you improving and progressing (check out our Essential Strength for Endurance online programme).

Nothing about this will be new to you. But what you read in your twenties and thirties and ignored, you CAN’T outrun in your forties and fifties. This is not only if you would still like to improve and pursue a personal best, it’s to help ensure you can keep doing what you love doing for as long as possible.

The Girls Run the World online programmes for female athletes during perimenopause and menopause launches in October. Sign up to find out more about our Perimenopause and Menopause Programmes here.