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Posted: March 16, 2016  :

(IAWR) Athletics: Why Women over 40 Need More Rest Than Younger Women Runners or Male Runners

Take time to recharge your battery. You won't get the Golden Egg without first taking care of the Goose.
Frank McKinney

Daphne was a 64 year old nurse who had started running at age 56. Bitten by the running bug, she began to enter local races, working her way up to the marathon. She was now running 5 days per week. In addition, she hit the gym for two strengthening sessions and a spin class every week. She did yoga too. Her dream was to qualify for Boston. Daphne needed to reduce her marathon time by 23 minutes to qualify.

She asked me: "What is the best way to improve so that I can qualify for Boston without killing myself?"

We redesigned her training program to include more rest and recovery. We reduced her running from 5 days per week to 3 weekly runs; two faster paced runs and either a long run, race pace run or shorter recovery run. She kept the spin, yoga and modified the strengthening classes. She was running 40% less frequently!

She implemented her new program. The increased rest and recovery paid off big time! She slashed a whopping 33 minutes off her marathon, qualifying for Boston with 10 minutes to spare – just 6 weeks shy of her 65th birthday! (from 5:08 to 4:35:39 at the 2010 Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon).

Why Are Rest and Recovery Critically Important for Women Runners Over 40?

Training is a continuous cycle of stress and recovery, stress and recovery. During training, you sustain micro-tears in your leg muscles. When training is managed properly, the body repairs itself and gets stronger during recovery. Thus, it can withstand higher levels of physical stress.

Sorry to say, but men have an advantage over women when it comes to recovery from training. Testosterone promotes protein synthesis, which is critical for muscle repair and growth.

Therefore, women (in general) require:

  • more recovery time from tough workouts than men
  • more rest and recovery time built in to their training programs.

Regrettably, women over 40 face a double whammy when it comes to recovery.

Women require more recovery time from training than men.

AND women over 40 require more recovery time than their younger counterparts!

As we age, muscle fibers decrease in number and shrink in size. New muscle fibers are generated at a slower rate than in a younger person. This results in:

  • slower buildup and strengthening of muscle in response to the demands of training, and
  • slower repair of muscle damage sustained during hard training.

A study published in the September/October 2011 "Current Sports Medicine Reports" by the American College of Sports Medicine, showed that runners age 40+ are more prone to Achilles, hamstrings and calf injuries than younger runners. " normal wear and tear that occurs with training seems to take greater time to repair with aging, and older runners continue running at a frequency similar to that of younger runners."*

Not enough recovery from training prevents your body from repairing itself.

Following a training program that does not include the rest required by women runners over 40 leads to staleness, fatigue, overtraining, poor performance and injury.

What to do?

Try running just 3 days per week. Junk miles are nothing but junk. Delete them from your training. There is a large body of research proving that many runners, especially woman runners over 40 can run their best and reduce injury risk on just 3 days per week, supplemented by cross-training.

It sure worked for Daphne! It will work for you!

Keep reading . . . now that you know why women runners over 40 need more rest and recovery than younger women or men .... and how inadequate rest can sabotage your training ………. I've created a DETAILED, free cheat sheet to help you train injury-free so you can run your absolute best.

I've been a runner for 38 years and a women's running coach for 15 years. I've compiled a list of 4 leading causes of injury for women runners over 40 and how to avoid them.

Click here to get my cheat sheet " 4 Leading Causes of Injury for Women Runners over 40" (and How to Avoid Them)

* From an article written by Gretchen Reynolds that appeared in Tara Parker Pope's December 21st New York Times Well Blog

© 2014 Savvy Runner Inc.

Bennett Cohen and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners. For access to resources to help you reach your goals for running and racing, visit

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