Fighting the slow decline into middle age


I've recently rediscovered this forum, after recently rediscovering a motivation for running after six years in a parenting wilderness.

Where have I been:

Back in 2014, aged 36 I ran PBs for 5k (21:53), 10k (45:22) and Marathon (3:53), off the back of marathon training. I began running around 2008 shortly after turning 30, having been v sedentary for most of my life. I dipped in and out of running, with little consistency, until around 2012-2014 when I followed P&D 55mpw programme for a couple of marathons. Although slim, I have never considered myself a naturally fit person, and I have to work hard for every tiny improvement.

I became a dad in 2015 (with a second in 2017) and since then I've had long periods when I've not even laced up my shoes at all, and ran fewer miles since 2015 than I ran in 2014 alone. So fair to say running hasn't been a priority.

A few months after turning 40, I started doing some calisthenics, as it was something I could fit in around work & parenting. In the 18 months or so I've been doing that I've put on about a stone (thankfully in lean bodyweight, but weight is weight) so I look a bit different now. Just to be clear, i'm not Geoff Capes, i'm still only 11.5st, just not as skinny as I once was. I don't expect it's that helpful for running, but I do feel stronger, have better posture, and no longer suffer neck and shoulder ache as a result of my desk job.

Where am I now:

In Jan this year I started running again, with the goal of just making a habit of running again. I very slowly eased up to running 5 times a week, albeit much much lower mileage than I was running in 2014 when I did 40-60mpw depending on the week and where I was in my marathon prep. I'm now running about 20-25 miles a week, since May/June.

I don't have the time at the moment to train for longer races, so I'm content to slowly build up to ~ 30 miles a week across 5 runs, broadly following the Monaghan rules, which suit my approach. I do a "long" run of about 6-8 miles, a "tempo" of ~10-15 mins effort and some 200 or 400m reps, with the rest of the mileage being slow easy, conversational miles.

I'm generally quite cautious with running, which means I don't often get injured but also that I probably don't get the most out of myself.

I'm still doing bodyweight exercise, but don't plan to put on any more muscle, in fact I suspect i'll lose a bit of bodyfat by regular running, which is what I've seen over the last couple of months. I enjoy doing strength to feel strong and to avoid neck/back/shoulder pain. 2-3 times a week, nothing too strenuous,

Where am I going:

I'd like to get close to my 2014 5k PB this year. I'm awake early with the kids, then work all day, then bath the kids and put them to bed, so it's usually 9pm before I've got my trainers on and i'm out of the door. I don't have time to commit to longer race training at the moment (maybe when the kids are a bit older and it's not quite so intense) but for now if i'm going to run i'd like a goal at least.

I've not run a parkrun or a race this year, so i'm not sure where i'd come out if I thrashed myself (it's not quite the same running a "hard" 5k in training by myself) but based on how I feel after my runs, esp the harder runs, i'm probably somewhere around 24-25min 5k form at the moment. I want to get myself into a decent shape so that when (or if??) races and events open up again I can give it a good crack.

I'm telling you all this, because by recording what i'm doing, I can solicit your advice when I run into trouble, and it will act as a motivator to me.

I'm planning to use this thread as a sounding board and i'd be very very grateful for any tips, advice you more seasoned and gifted runners can give.


  • AgentGingerAgentGinger ✭✭✭

    I'm currently roughly following a Hal Higdon 5k training programme, simply because I came across it on t'interweb, and it roughly aligns to my available time, as well as the general principles that I agree with from Monaghan's training thread.

    My plan for this week is:

    Mon: easy 4 miles

    Tues: 7x400 m @ ~ 7:00 pace ish

    Wed: easy 3.5 - 4 miles

    Thurs: tempo run (~ 14 mins @ 7:45 pace ish)

    Fri :rest

    Sat: I'm going to try a 5k "test" (i'm in week 4 of that plan, so keen to knock out a benchmark and see what I can muster, which will also inform training paces).

    Sunday: rest or easy 4miles (skip long run in week 4 of this plan).

    I'll do "strength" training on the easy days.

    Also trying to get at least 7 hours uninterrupted sleep every night.

  • alehousealehouse ✭✭✭

    On my 40th birthday (over 26 years ago!) I was advised by a clubmate (who is now in his 80s!) to make sure that I did two things: maintain flexibility and keep the speedwork going. I didn't listen: I hope you do! 

    I have had a series of injuries since 40, most of which I put down to lack of stretching. I also took the easier option of going for lots of steady runs: running rather than training. Speedwork was erratic. Little and often, particularly strides over 60 to 80 metres working on form would have been better. 

    On a positive side I am now 66 and in a similar shape to last year when I ran 21:xx for 5k. I have actually had a bad injury since then (fractured back in an accident, not related to running) and since then have committed to Pilates type exercises. 

    I do coach/advise and would say for your first time trial, though, I would just do 3k. 5k can come later: without a recent racing background 5k is a long way on your own. You can still work out paces from 3k; I use for this.

    Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.
  • AgentGingerAgentGinger ✭✭✭
    Thanks alehouse. That’s good advice. I’ve been stretching daily for the last 18 months since starting callisthenics as it helps to be able to move with proper form when doing things like handstand push-ups. It’s made a massive improvement to my posture. I used to get regular neck and shoulder pain from my desk job, and I couldn’t touch my toes. I still have tight hams, but not as bad as they used to be. 
    I’ve only really started doing speed work in the last 6-8 weeks. Started with strides, then 3 weeks ago started the Hal higdon plan with reps and tempo runs. 
    Going ok so far, but I’m definitely no speed machine 
  • AgentGingerAgentGinger ✭✭✭
    Well this week isn’t going as planned. Stuck on the annual performance appraisal call last night til 10pm, so didn’t get my chance to run. And I’ve looked at the weather for the end of the week so I’ll be unlikely to doing much speed work, since I wither in the heat. Might just make it round my weekly mileage :-/
  • alehousealehouse ✭✭✭
    Actually I find speedwork ok in the heat: it is the longer runs where the heat gets to me. At least with speedwork you get some recovery! 
    Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.
  • AgentGingerAgentGinger ✭✭✭
    I tried a “tempo” run last Friday around noon (got a rare break in the day to run and knew I wasn’t going to have time in the evening). planned a 35 min jog with the middle 15 mins @ 7:30-7:45 pace (my pacing isn’t the most precise hence the range) but about 4 mins into the tempo bit I had to stop, then plodded round stopping every 2-3 mins. Thought I was going to have to lie down at one stage. Really hate the heat.
    anyway, got out tonight for 9x200m. Wasn’t aiming for a specific pace, but went hard whilst trying to keep the reps fairly constant. Range was 41-44secs. 
    Easy 4mi or so tomorrow and see if I can manage another go at the tempo on Thursday in the evening when it’s a bit cooler 
  • AgentGingerAgentGinger ✭✭✭
    I didn’t get out for my planned 30 min plod yesterday. My mum came over to visit and I’ve not seen her in a long time, she stayed later than planned but I wasn’t going to rush her off so I could run. 
    Tonight got out at half past nine for a 2 mile tempo after a slow mile jog warm up, and with a 10 min jog cool down. 
    I generally don’t watch my pace as I’m running but I look at it afterwards on Strava, as I want to learn how to run on feel. Anyway, felt like I was running through treacle and with a bag of bricks on my back, but surprisingly enough averaged 7:23min/mi over 2 miles, which is certainly quicker than I thought I was going. 

    Advice welcome: how do I know if thats too fast or too slow for a “tempo” run? I was running “Comfortably hard” as people suggest for a tempo, but is there a range which I should aim to stay within? 

    Tomorrow will be 35degrees in London, which can frankly f*ck right off. If I’m lucky I’ll get out for a 30 min bumble around the common tomorrow night when it’s a “bit” cooler. 
  • Last week I managed just three runs. Mix of personal/work circumstances scuppered the others. 
    I opted to keep in the 400m reps, the tempo run and the “long” run. And the two easy runs were skipped. 
    Advice welcome: if I find myself pinched for time and can’t do a 5 run week, which runs should be the first to be sacrificed, and which should be last? 
  • My “plan” has gone out of the window this week, as I can barely make it round the common let alone do any kind of “quality” running. Aim this week is just to get some miles in the legs. Call them junk miles if you like, I’ll chalk them down to building an “endurance base”. 
    Monday - 4miles
    tuesday - 3.3 miles
    wednesday - 6 miles
    thursday - 3.8 miles 
    all done at between 9:30 and 10 min miles, which is all I could muster. 
    Hope to chalk down another couple of runs before the end of the week. 
    Feeling ok, despite the heat. 
  • TTTT ✭✭✭
    Hi agentginger, don't worry about this week, I think all of us have suffered with the heat, lack of sleep and slow tough runs! Just being out is amazing, as my sports therapist said yesterday respect the weather and don't injure yourself trying to beat it.

    As to dropping runs I try to prioritise the long run, then the prog run then a recovery run (I run four times a week). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I aim for a consistent mileage over a month. 

  • alehousealehouse ✭✭✭
    Hi AG! I have no real problem with what you have been doing, or with TT's comments! Normally I would put the long run high on the list of "must do" runs; however whilst it is this hot I can see a place for the shorter, faster reps: at least you get a recovery!
    Remember consistency is key over time, and we are talking years (or at least seasons) rather than months or weeks! 
    Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.
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