Running in old age: portrait about Fredi Häner (64)

Running is a Sport for everybody. This is something we hear a lot. But what about running in old age? Is there a point at which one gets too old for it? What changes does aging bring with it? We have interviewed running enthusiast Fredi Häner (64) from Wahlen (Canton of Baselland) about his own motivation and his tips for other older runners. We would like to share the results of this interview with you here.

Training structure and personal relationship with running

Fredi Häner took up running because of his wife, in order to be able to do something sporty on Sundays together with her. Otherwise, he prefers to run on his own, even though he regularly runs in a group. He is a coach for the running group “Laufbewegung” ( near Basel, where he passes on his passion for running to others. Fredi coaches runners who meet up in order to go for a run together. Intervals are not on the programme in this group. “People want to go for easy runs”, he says. They may add some sprints in the end of the training sometimes, but this is not too usual. However, in his private training Fredi sometimes conducts an interval session. Those sessions are not high priority sessions though. They take part rather randomly according to his gut feeling. Normally, Fredi’s intervals consist of 5-10 units. He does not check his heart rate. In general, Fredi trains about 3x a week and approximately 4-5 hours altogether. If his training includes longer sessions, the total amount may exceed the 6 hours for a change, too. He refers to distances of 6-8km as shorter and 10-16km as longer distances. However, not long ago, these distances would have not been usual at all! In younger years, Fredi says, he literally hated running for more than 1km. “I have only been running distances longer than 1km for 13-14 years!”, he states.


Today, Fredi Häner runs regularly and with pleasure, both in private and in competitions. His motivation behind taking part in competitions, he explains as follows: “Firstly, because I want to stay fit, secondly, because, as a coach, I am not so keen on suddenly having to run after everyone, and thirdly, running just gives me so much joy. For me, a competition is pure motivation!”. As a preparation for such a competition, Fredi normally uses a training schedule from the internet which suits him. He likes the Lucerne Marathon especially. “This competition always marks the end of competition season for me and a great satisfaction, since it means that the training schedule has worked and that I have managed to do it once again”, he says. Furthermore, he likes this competition for its unique atmosphere: “The organisers put all their heart into this event. It’s always an awesome atmosphere. I have also run the half marathon in Basel several times. The atmosphere was dead boring.”

Strength training and regeneration measures

“Do you mind your diet? If yes, what do you consider?”, we wanted to know. In this respect, Fredi has a rather liberal mindset and he says that he only tries to avoid Birchermüesli with cream, peperoni and the like before competitions, so that nothing belches. Other than that, he does not follow any rules. How about regeneration measures such as stretching then? “My strength training consists of gardening and excercises for my core such as, for example, push-ups”, Fredi says. He admits that he should be doing more of this, however. When it comes to stretching, Fredi is very consistent. “Stretching is essential for me after each session, since I’ve already had to go see the doctor because of an inflamed glutaeus”, the 64-year-old explains. Since he took up regular stretching, he has been free from these troubles.

About the effects of aging

As from a certain age, some changes may be felt. Physically, for Fredi these manifest themselves mainly in slowly decreasing endurance and longer time needed for recovery after influenzas and infections. Up to now, he has never spent a thought on giving up running, since he has been running painlessly until today. He is conscious of the fact that this is not self-evident though. Fredi Häner knows several reasons which might force him to quit running someday: “Degeneration of joints might occur, I might have an accident which turns running into something impossible, or my heart or something else might put an end to it.”

Motives and motivation

However, as long as none of the above-mentioned factors holds true, Fredi is determined to continue running. Mentally, nothing has really changed for him since the beginnings. His motivation is still high, also for competitions: “I know that it went well last time, so I believe in being able to do it another time. And I still want it to work out as much as I did last time.” The motives for Fredi go far beyond competitions though! “I think running really serves the fitness”, he states. But, as he claims, running not only trains your balance and your posture, which is especially important in old age, but there are also psychological aspects to be mentioned as advantages you get from running. “Running is good for your psyche”, Fredi says. For example, when you feel low or in case you have private or work problems, running helps to fight those negative feelings, he goes on. For Fredi personally, running is “like medicine, I just need it.” Especially during the dark winter months, which easily cause a bad mood, running can work miracles: “After a run your state is great again!”. The thing with competitions for Fredi is that they are his motivation to achieve goals. He claims that those who have goals are less prone to lethargy even in every-day life.

Beyond the physical and the pyschological aspects, Fredi Häner above all appreciates the social value of running. “At competitions you can get to know new people very spontaneously”, he states. Even though he likes some privacy from time to time and prefers to go for his runs alone sometimes, he recommends running groups for older people, since they encourage social exchange: “In a running group you get in contact with like-minded people, you can get tips, you can laugh together, and you can motivate and challenge each other.”

As we have seen in the example of Fredi Häner, running has a lot of advantages, all of which mean a huge enrichment for your health and your general well-being. All of these factors seem to be even more important after retiring. After retirement, there is often a lack of automatic involvement in society. Also, movement is not necessarily included in every-day life too much anymore. As long as one doesn’t suffer from troubles causing you pain when running, or which even make running impossible, running surely is a great opportunity to stay fit and healthy even in old age.

We find these insights into the experiences and routines of Fredi Häner very inspiring and we hope you feel the same. Keep on running! ?



This blog entry was written by: Marion Aebi

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