Links and Conclusions
Stretching is an ideal example - people who pass age 40 WILL STRETCH, or they will stop running. I've never seen or heard of an exception. My example was an extreme case of fighting the inevitable - refusing to stretch until I had to walk the last half mile of a race, with little kids running past me. Ideally, you should stretch for about 20% of the time you spent running. If this won't fit, do at least 10% - no less! Also, never stretch cold muscles! - it's like taking a rubber band out of the freezer and giving it a good stretch....and you know what can happen..... I've found the best way is to run about a half mile, or until you're well warmed up, then stop and do your stretching at the side of the road. By the way, when you have trouble maintaining your motivation to stretch regularly, train (and stretch) with a partner. There's nothing like it to keep your motivation high, and s/he'll do the same for you!
Give your body a chance to recuperate after a stressful workout. You're not building muscle mass when you're doing a killer set of 10x220 hill repeats - that just places an incredible stress on them! You build the muscle fibers when you're resting, especially when you're asleep. Remember this, and the one to two days per week you take off from running will be much easier to do. Remember this, too, when deciding between wolfing down a bag of chips or a few pieces of cheese. Muscles are comprised of protein, so when you're increasing muscle mass, you need to eat extra protein! (Duh!)
Speaking of groups, the value of associating and running with groups cannot be overemphasized (but I'll try!). When I was a professor, I'd run at noon, knowing that in the row of faculty lockers at the gym would be a sizeable crowd of other running faculty (12-15)! We were of every imaginable ability, from those content to do 3 miles at a 10 min. pace to racers like me, who often did 6-10 miles at a sub-7 min. pace. Regardless of ability, we all ran the first mile together, getting warmed up and talking, and each runner would then peel off when his time came. It was a wonderful way to start a run, and if you decided to skip a run because it was cold, rainy, or whatever, you could count on merciless hassling upon your sheepish return...
Don't time all of your training runs!! Don't even wear a watch!! People who always run with a watch are harrowed, tortured souls, for whom a run today that was 5 seconds slower than yesterday's is considered a failure. On an easy run day, run at a pace slow enough for you to carry on a conversation with a running partner, but where a small speed increase would push you over into the anaerobic zone, making the run no fun at all!
Do keep a training log - regardless of what type of sport you're competing in. If you're a runner, indicate the distance, the perceived effort, variables like wind or rain, and finish with how you felt. This kind of history can be invaluable when trying to figure out when a running injury first made itself known. Also, it can be a real ego builder to look back and see that, last month, you broke 250 miles!! Remember to add days off or cross-training, races, and other events, and you'll have a natural history of your running career for as long as you maintain the logs.
So what's the real bottom line? Plan your workouts carefully, with the aid of a coach if you can find a good one. Run with groups and keep a log. Be serious about injuries - all major injuries began as small, nagging aches. Don't take yourself too seriously, but take your sport very seriously. Don't get overly involved - running addiction is a horrible illness, making the addicted runner and everyone in their life completely miserable. When you start canceling social engagements or family outings so you can run, it's time to reassess your priorities. In any case, have fun, feel good, and enjoy the other fantastic people you'll meet who are on a similar quest! Carpe viam!!*
* Latin for "Seize the road!" (with apologies to "The Dead Poets Society")