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Running For A Lifetime

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Is running your eternal love—or your ball and chain? Olympic gold medalist turned- masters champion Joan Benoit Samuelson explains how she’s kept the spark alive over decades of training and racing. . .

In 1979, I won a marathon for the first time. Thirty-three years later, with countless races under my belt, I continue to compete. More importantly, I still love the sport of running as passionately as I did three decades ago.

Other runners often ask me how I have been able to motivate myself over a long career. It’s no secret that running is a difficult sport, and even the most avid runners often fall prey to burnout or nagging injuries. I think my longevity boils down to the fact that I have been blessed with the gift of knowing my own body and mind. Here’s my best advice for making your relationship with running last a lifetime . . .

Listen Up

When it comes to burnout, overtraining is the enemy. Training at an intensity that your body cannot handle will impair your enjoyment of the sport at best—and at worst will lead to physical injury. In order to prevent this downward spiral, pay attention to how your body responds to training. Compensation in your stride is a common warning sign. This means your body is crying out for more recovery time, and you should rein in your training. Increased fatigue, constant muscle soreness and plateaus in performance are also signs that you need to take a break.

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Make it Count

Now that I’m 55 years old, my training is very different than it was in my 20s and 30s. When I was younger, I ran twice a day, six days a week. I’d often rack up nearly 100 miles per week due to a schedule packed with track workouts, tempo runs, long runs and auxiliary workouts. After having children, two-a-days were no longer practical for me. I ran less, but made every run count, and I stopped adding mileage for the sake of upping the number. It’s important to adjust your training tactics to accommodate life changes. Trying to stick to the same regimen, regardless of your schedule, can lead to resentment of the sport. Keep things positive by being open to modification and understanding that you can maintain the same fitness by doing more with less time.

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