Running is an amazing form of exercise! As long as you have some space to roam, exercise clothes, and able legs then you can take up running!
But when you’ve started hanging around your runner’s group, you may have noticed some deep lines or sagging faces making your friends seem older than they are.
After witnessing this with your own eyes, you might stop running altogether!
Exercise is meant to make you feel stronger and younger, not make you look older, but before you run for the hills and ditch the sport entirely, let's decipher fact from fiction.
Why do marathon runners look so old?
First off, what is this phenomenon called? The term “Runner’s Face'' has grown in the running community, and it's a term that people in the community use to say their face has aged due to running.
Marathon runners in particular seem to be the worst affected with their skeletal muscles and lean faces. Looking around your group, you might notice that some people are suffering from Runner’s Face, and others aren’t.
Are they the lucky ones, or has it simply not hit them yet?
The fact is Runner's Face is real, but it isn’t caused by running. That might sound confusing, but tighten up your laces as we explain what this means.
It seems that people have confused correlation and causation, meaning they have seen that a group of runners has aged more than a group of non-runners, and so believe the cause of the aging must be the running itself.
But there is a more subtle reason for this phenomenon than simply gravity pulling your face as you bounce around the street.
The real culprits are sun damage and lean body types. There are multiple groups of people that go through the same Runner’s Face phenomenon that aren’t even runners.
That list could include construction workers, surfers, cyclists, golfers even gardeners!
If you are outside in the sun without protection, and you have a lean body type, then your skin will produce less collagen and elastin, which is what makes us look young.
We do lose these qualities over time, but excess exposure to the sun’s UV rays speeds up this process.
Marathon runners often seem more affected by this, but that is because out of all the different types of runners, they are exposed to the sun more due to their long-running times.
How to stop Runners Face?
The number one way to stop your skin from getting too much exposure to the sun is to create a skincare routine to do before, during, and after your run.
Before you set off, make sure you apply sunscreen. This will block the harmful ultraviolet rays, stopping the sun from breaking down the elasticity of your skin as well as protecting you from sunburn.
During your run, make sure you drink plenty of water. If you wait until you feel thirsty, then you are waiting for your body to scream “water me”, desperate to get your attention.
Be kind to your body and drink as you go, so you can keep your skin hydrated. Staying hydrated makes your skin feel soft and smooth.
After your run, you need to moisturize using a rehydrating skin cream. This way if you didn’t hydrate as much as you thought you had, the moisturizer will top up the rest.
And if your sunscreen didn’t cover your skin for the whole run, you can add the moisturizer to repair any damage made.
Another way people believe runners age faster than non-runners is due to the joint pain they endure, which is otherwise mostly seen in the elderly.
This type of injury is called “Overuse Injury”, and it happens when someone takes on too much too fast. Essentially not allowing the body to adjust and repair before runs.
The easiest way to avoid an overuse injury is by warming up before you run, and stretching after you run. This lets the body get slowly repaired for the workout and then relaxes the muscles when you’re finished.
Another simple solution is to mix up your exercise styles. Running one day, cycling another, and swimming on a different day.
This will let your body train differently, allowing other body parts to stretch and work out.
This last suggestion is expensive, but it is a great way to make sure your body is using the correct form.
So lastly, make sure you are wearing appropriate running shoes, and then change them often so that the shoes you are wearing aren’t worn out.
Otherwise, the shoe won't be able to hold and distribute your weight the way it was intended to.
At what age do runners slow down?
On average, runners tend to start slowing down at around 40, and you might see a significant change again as you reach 70. This is because your muscle mass starts to decline after the age of 40.
Strength training can help counteract this loss as well as build muscular scaffolding around your aging joints to help ease the pain of running.