Running with Howard Butowsky

Howard Butowski

After just my first few interviews with 50+ athletes, I am already noticing a defining trend:  extremely nice people…who are vicious competitors.  People you want as your friend and neighbor.  People you can count on at 2am.   People who will help shovel snow from your driveway.   But…do not get between them and the finish line.  

This defines Howard Butowsky to me.  A no pretense, genuinely nice person.  Very smart, very accomplished.  COO of the beautiful Cornerstone Clubs, about an hour north of Philly.   A “shirt off his back” kind of person.  If I was a teen entering track & field – I would want this man as my coach.  He’s going to coach patiently, but he’s going to push me beyond self-imposed limits.  

Howard was not the first person I thought of to interview for this collection of 50+ athletes – because I honestly did not think he qualified for the age requirement.  Not only is exercise great medicine for the mind and body – but very fit people seem to age much more slowly.  (not a scientific argument)  I met Howard while trying to sell him software to run his clubs.   I did not gain a customer at that time, but I did gain a friend.  And once I learned his age, he was the first interview for this collection.

50+ in 50 Seconds

Athlete:  Howard Butowsky
Home residence:  Perkasie, PA – north of Philly
Age:  53
Basic Biometrics:  5’9”, 160lbs.   Resting HR:  High 40’s
Occupation when not participating in your sport:  COO of Cornerstone Clubs, flagship location in Doylestown
Sports/activities in order of time and preference: Running, weight training
Current injuries: Lingering sports hernia. Injury originated in Dec 2019.   
Past injuries, fully recovered: Prior sports hernia which he “earned” during a marathon.  (I say “earned” because mentally, he’s too competitive and just…could…not back off the pace)
Past injuries that effect today:   a second sports hernia.  
Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries:  50.  Had a “recovery super-power” until the half century mark.
Medications currently used: None.   
Medications he was able to stop using:  does not apply
Supplements I currently use:  Real food! Protein drinks immediately following a hard effort, but otherwise, all of his nutrients come straight from food.   
Dietary choices:  No specific diet, I just eat healthy most of the time.  If had to define how we eat, I would say we lean towards the Mediterranean diet.  And I love my oatmeal breakfast with frozen blueberries.  
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete: Remaining very healthy, no pain or mobility issues.  No real physical limitations of any kind.
Favorite race distances:  Two distances with very different requirements – the half marathon, and the 200.  
Favorite training / tracking app:  Strava for tracking, Garmin for training.

Specific to the sport of running

How do you fuel your runs?
Any runs over 12 miles, incorporates a GU after first 8 and then every 4 miles. Does not hydrate if running less than 12.    Will also incorporate Gatorade.  

Prevent chaffing?
Yes, uses body glide.

How much time do you dedicate to training on an average week?
Running:  1 hour per run x 5 days per week
Strength and stretching: Another two hours each week

Recovery protocol?
Immediately after a hard effort – 30 grams of protein, and a carb heavy drink such as Gatorade, or water and banana.

Thoughts on the Nike project to break the 2-hour barrier for the marathon? 
Loves it!  Loves the thought / science behind the challenge. Fully supportive of the event. Favorite competition shoe:  Training version of the nike vaporfly.  

Deeper Dive

Have you always been fit, healthy and athletic?  Or did you go through a midlife, physician suggested mid life change?
Always lean, always fit.  

Why?  What motivates you to put yourself through this suffering?  Especially on those cold, dark, maybe rainy days.
The sprint answer: I never feel like I’m suffering. Once you find that runner’s high – you will never view it as suffering. You want that feeling. 
The steady pace answer: My DNA seems hardwired to always compete in something.  Very competitive by nature, goal oriented. As a master’s competitor, I’m always training with the next competition in mind. So all runs, even the easy endurance runs serve a purpose as race prep. Plus, I take in nature, I meditate, I try to stay in the moment. This is my medication, my stress relief.  

How do you feel – physically and emotionally – when you miss several days of training?  (not including planned recovery days)
Awful. More irritable. Sluggish. My body aches.     

Follow up question:  Longest amount of time when unable to run?
2 months! I did find I was able to sub in the Octane zero runner – a non-impact elliptical.  

Do you prefer training solo or with a group?  Why?
Solo runs for meditation, but I prefer training with groups when possible. The group tends to motivate, raise your energy, and take your mind off the effort. And of course – if you want to be faster, you have to join faster runners.

When running solo, if I really need that extra energy, I’ll put on the headphones and an energetic soundtrack.  If I can’t hear myself breathing, I don’t realize how hard I’m working, and push myself harder.  The music can definitely lower my perceived exertion.  Mind over matter!  Head and body don’t always agree with each other.  

If I can’t hear myself breathing, I don’t realize how hard I’m working, and push myself harder.”

What achievements are you most proud of?   
The sprint answer: Really very proud that as a master runner – I’m still able to train and improve.   I’ll be 54 this summer, and I’m still getting faster each year.  I have not slowed down with age – I’ve improved.
The steady pace answer:  Qualifying for the Boston Marathon – 3 times. Even though it was not my best time, I’m most proud of being a finisher in 2018. That year, the weather was horrible – cold, pouring rain, high winds. It was miserable. The weather took a lot out of me, but I was determined to complete the race.

Let’s discuss injuries or medical conditions that effect your training and/or goals:
Sprint Answer:  Just that lingering sports hernia. Nothing else!
The steady pace answer:  I work hard on the biomechanics of running and believe my time in the gym has helped prevent any further injuries.

Any family history you’ve been able to avoid? 
Although several family members are either diabetic or pre-diabetic, I have never required any medications (other than exercise) to maintain healthy glucose levels.  I’ve stayed active and athletic most of my life, and have never been overweight.  Within a few pounds, I’ve maintained the same bodyweight for the last 20 years.

How healthy were your parents at your age?  
Neither were extremely active – not involved with sports or what we would consider fitness activities, but mostly healthy.

The health benefits of running:  is that a focus?  Or just a happy and beneficial outcome?   
Beneficial outcome. I focus on keeping a healthy lifestyle, but I would still run even if it didn’t help me fight off diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, etc. I don’t run because it makes me healthy. I run because I love to run.

Is your family supportive?
My wife is extremely supportive and cheers me on during almost all of my races.  Our schedules don’t conflict, so I’m not taking much time away from “us”. 

Any “non-exercise” forms of preventative care?
I follow all of my healthcare providers preventative advice based on my age, gender and family medical history. I make sure to get an annual physical and then follow any advice from my provider. Occasionally a visit to a sports chiropractor to keep everything in place and aligned.

Regarding health, fitness, sport – what advice would you give your younger self? “Why didn’t you start earlier?   You’re really good at this!”   Through high school, baseball was my prior sport and love.  Thought I would play in college, but stopped the pursuit to help support the family.    

Advice to those starting to ramp up their training mileage: 
To stave off injury in any sport – you want to be as technically proficient / efficient as possible.  Ask questions and get a coach if needed.   Also consider coaching from modern tech- such as garmin – showing foot strikes, balance, and more.

What advice would you give any 50+ individual that believes their athletic days are better left in the past?
NEVER too late to start! There is absolutely no reason to sit on the sidelines.   Get checked by your physician, and start slowly.   If you lace up your shoes and run ANY distance, you are now a runner.  You’ll find a very welcoming community of runners to train with if you choose.

Questions for Howard?
Include any questions in the comment section below and I’ll forward his reply.

One thought on “Running with Howard Butowsky

  1. Andy, I resonate with the insight, “nice people…who are vicious competitors!”.
    Howard, same with me on my bike riding…eat real food…and “Why didn’t I get into this earlier?!

    Liked by 1 person

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