Running in the 'Meda: A runner's report card

Running in the 'Meda: A runner's report card

Marty Beene

I like to track my fitness. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I focused mostly on how fast I was running, typically comparing my times for road and track races. When I got into my 40s, though, as with approximately 100 percent of humans, I couldn't run as fast as I used to, so I started to look at my year-to-year fitness in different ways. Sometimes it involved miles of running (e.g., how many compared to the previous five years), or combined workouts of running, walking, cycling, and swimming.

In order to try to compare one year to another, I convert all of my aerobic workouts to "running miles" using sometimes elaborate formulas and graphs. This helps me create apples-to-apples comparisons so that I can conclude whether any given year surpasses another in various ways. In 2010, the year I turned 49, I only ran about 600 miles, but I swam and cycled so much that my estimated conversion to running miles was over 100 miles more than in 1988, when I had my best year of running performance. Indeed, I found ways to be able to say, "I did 'X' last year, which I'd never done before!" So every year I take a look at what I've done, fitness-wise, to compare to the past. What have I accomplished in this area of my life?

In 2014, I ran 1,044 miles, which is the most I had run since 2004. I only biked a little over 500 miles - a far cry from 2011, when I biked nearly 2,500! Don't ask how my swimming went in 2014.

What was different about 2014? For the first time since 2004, I actually developed and followed a training plan to train for a specific race. Doing that proved to be the right idea, as I ran my fastest 10k in almost 10 years, and my first one ever on a track. I finished the year ranked ninth in the U.S. in the 10,000-meter track event in my age group. I also ran a two-mile on the track for the first time ever. My time wasn't that great because I ran it at the end of a meet in which I ran six other events before that one, but now when my high school runners ask me what my best two-mile time is, I can tell them.

While I didn't do as much strength work as I would have liked, I feel like I have a better balance of strength throughout my body than ever before. In the past, I have often worked only on my upper body when lifting weights. In 2014, I made an effort to apply various strength exercises to my legs, core, and arms. I think that definitely helped me stay healthy enough to run as many miles as I did. Running those miles and working on a more comprehensive strength program also seemed to result in keeping a more consistent weight than in many previous years (only about three pounds difference between lightest and heaviest).

Another result of the kind of exercises I did in 2014 is that my overall balance and agility seems better. I acknowledged that I've been in my 50s for a few years now, so it's natural to expect to be less agile and have more of a challenge with balance. I found that it's not that hard to incorporate elements of balance and agility into any exercise routine, and the results are easily noticed.

What am I going to try to achieve in 2015? I don't know all of my goals yet, but one is that I want to average one aerobic workout per day. I do take days off, but I will also often do two workouts in one day, like doing a run in the morning, then going for a two- or three-mile walk in the afternoon or evening. I just missed this mark in 2014, with 354 workouts. My all-time record was 409 in 2010.

How did your 2014 compare with your past fitness?

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. If you want some ideas on how to track your fitness and/or to incorporate exercises to improve your balance and agility, Marty can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.