Older Masters Training Program to Improve My 5k Time

by Ed
(New Hyde Park)

I am 69 years old and have been running for 57 years. I cannot seem to find a 5K training program for experienced 69-year-old runners that will help me improve my 5K time.

I can run the distance in 34 minutes. Can you help me or lead me in the right direction?


Answer by Dominique:
Hi Ed,
Thanks for your question about improving your 5k running time as an older runner.

The key ingredients to somebody of your age are, in my opinion:

1. Three runs per week, maybe four maximum
2. Strength training and mobility training
3. Cardio cross training without impact

I'll walk through these in a bit more detail below.

Three runs per week, maybe four maximum

As you get older, you need to take more time for recovery. That's why I'd recommend less frequent running workouts than for somebody who is younger. However, you can still keep the quality up; I assume that with 57 years of running experience you know a bit about the different types of running training.

When you are doing only three runs per week, making sure that you do quality through a good long run, a tempo run, an interval workout and/or goal pace workout every week is important. Of course, I need to provide a caveat here: I don't know you, I don't know what your current level of training is and how your body reacts to faster workouts.

A very experienced running friend of mine is 62 now and he is amazing at running long distance, but he has sworn off pretty much all faster workouts. He was getting injured too quickly and was feeling the impact of intervals and tempo running workouts for days. So, make sure you don't take this advice as license to experiment madly. Yes, push yourself, but be sensible about it and build up the workload gradually. Fartleks are a good way to 'play' with speed training.

Check out the Running Workouts page for further information about different types of quality workouts you can do.

Strength training and mobility training

When we get older we lose about 1% of our muscle mass every year. We can reduce and postpone the inevitable decline through strength training. Again, I don't know you, so don't know your experience with strength training. If it is minimal, then I'd highly recommend working with a personal trainer. They can guide you through your workouts, teach you how to use the machines and the weights safely, while at the same time help push you through limits.

Additionally, we get less mobile as we get older. Working on that through yoga, core training, pilates etc will serve you incredibly well. I am a spring chicken compared to you, but I am starting to get to an age where I feel I am getting some mobility issues. And when I go for a run without a dynamic warmup, some runs have a horrendously slow start. Muscles and joints need warming up and need to be made more elastic for the older runner.

I recommend reviewing the Strength Training for Runners page for more information about strength training.

Cardio cross training without impact

Then, lastly, to compensate for the less running you do compared to a younger person who is banking 5-6 running workouts per week, I would recommend you do some cross training without the impact of pounding the pavement. The elliptical machine is a great way to do cardio without feeling the impact on the running muscles. The bike is ok as well, although it can be tougher on the knees, depending on the type of workout and how hard you push yourself on the bike.

I have got a Cross Training for Runners page that may help further. Check it out.

Hopefully, with this guidance in mind, you can create yourself a training program that works. Three running workouts, some strength and mobility training with a bit of other cardio mixed in should keep you fit and help you running for many years to come!

Best of luck with the training and hope you get to improving that 5k time of yours.
Kind regards,

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