Jo Pavey won an English Schools championships title way back in 1988 and competed at her third Olympics at the age of 43 in 2016. What advice does the 48-year-old keen trail runner have for those whose who may think they are past their peak as a runner?
Don’t limit yourself
Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t get faster.
Jo said: “You should never set boundaries for yourself because age is just a number and once you start thinking ‘I’m old, I can’t do certain things’, that’s when you stop trying to do certain things.”
Although Jo says she hasn’t noticed much difference in terms of her own recovery time, she’s had to make subtle changes such as slowing down between key workouts and using foam rollers regularly.
Jo told us in an earlier issue of TR: “I have regular massages and go through my stretches every morning and before I go to bed. Eating can be more chaotic around the kids (Jo’s a mother of two), but I’m very strict with preparing for an important session and getting the recovery food straight afterwards. That’s really important for the muscles.”
Strengthen your core
Scientific studies have highlighted the need for those in middle age and older to do regular resistance work – and this is particularly important for runners. Jo said: “It’s a known thing that muscle mass decreases with age, and there’s probably more of a need to keep on top of core stability because if you’ve got a weak core you’re going to put more stress on your moving muscles. If you run really holding your core, you feel lighter on your feet.”
Listen to your body
One small way in which Jo’s training has changed is that she runs sets of fast 200m sprints after her main session, rather than before as when she was younger. She may opt to cut those reps from six, or even out completely, depending on how she is feeling. She says: “I’m very much listening to my body – more so than when I was younger – so I’m ready for the next workout.”
Reset your goals
Despite Jo’s shining example, there’s a fair chance you might simply not be as quick as you were when you were younger. Consider running on the masters scene, says Jo, who stresses how confidence-boosting it can be if you put your times in the context of your age group.