Take it slowly, is the advice traditionally given to female runners over 50. But the opposite is true if you want to improve your strength, progress your running and keep in shape
Just for fun, I type into Google ‘at what age should you stop sprinting?’ Frustratingly, articles pop up from fitness ‘experts’ claiming that 50 would be a good age to reconsider your speedy days. Terms like ‘moderation’, ‘slow’, ‘steady’ and ‘light weights’ abound.
Yet, research proves that sprinting is essential for female runners over the age of 50 with multiple benefits.
- Improves Bone Density
From the age of the time of menopause, usually around the age of 51, bone loss accelerates, and the risk of osteoporosis increases as levels of the hormone oestrogen fall. Studies show that regular sprint training has a positive effect on bone strength and structure in middle and older aged athletes. The weight-bearing impact of running causes new bone tissue to form and the very motion of running also increases blood flow, promoting the building of healthy and strong bones. And with the higher impact nature of sprinting comes more of a stimulus for bone building than lower impact activity.
- Burns Fat
HIIT (High intensity interval training) is widely recognised as a proven method to burn fat. Research has shown that sprinting, a form of HIIT, reduces body fat while preserving lean muscle mass. Moreover, older sprinters have a higher lean body mass compared to endurance athletes.
- Helps Reduce Stress
Any form of exercise releases the stress hormone, cortisol. However, shorter workouts create less stress which is good news for midlife women. High levels of cortisol during perimenopause and menopause can lead to adrenal fatigue, causing tiredness.
- Saves Time
Sprinting can only be done for short periods of time, so it challenges the body and takes far less time, creating more bang for your buck in training.
- It Releases Feel Good Hormones
Remember how great it used to feel when you ran as a child, lungs bursting, cheeks burning, tearing along without even thinking about, going hard and flat out? Compared with long slow plods, which also have their place, sprinting will heighten those feel good happy hormones more quickly than the low intensity stuff.
3 ways you can include sprinting within your running
Fartlek (Swedish for speed play)
This fun, unstructured way of getting in some speedwork simply involves picking a landmark – a bench, a tree, a lamppost – sprint as fast as you can to it, recover and repeat. You can incorporate this ‘game’ into any run, it will definitely make your run more interesting.
Here you’ll run fast for a set interval of time, slow down to recover and then repeat for a set number of times (find out how you can set intervals on your training watch here…believe us when we say it’s much easier to do intervals when your watch is telling you to do them than relying on counting or your phone.)Interval running really trains your heart to work hard, making it stronger, boosting your ability to run fast.
A great way to test your speed against other people, and yourself. There will always be something about the sight of the finish line approaching that can kick you into another gear, or perhaps you’ll race to the line to beat that person just ahead of you…Read on here to discover how to go about getting yourself a parkrun PB.
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