Some Thoughts on Aging as an Athlete – Why it’s Worth it.
I’m slower. I’m currently training for a half marathon and have been religiously sticking to a strict schedule and carefully tracking my progress; there is no getting around it, I have slowed down. Having started running only four years ago, I’ll admit that I’m struggling to come to terms with this reality.
I’m in my mid-fifties, so I’m not quite sure why I didn’t anticipate this. We all know we get slower as we age. In fact, I’ll be at the bottom of a new age bracket in the race and will probably fare well against my peers.
But, this got me thinking about aging in general. There’s plenty we all expect like going grey and needing reading glasses, but several other things have taken me surprise.
Here are a few things that I’ve encountered as I’ve aged that runners and other athletes may want to consider:
- Hopping out of bed is no longer done without first stretching the calves and flexing and rolling the feet.
- Training schedules may sometimes become dependent on bowel movements.
- Some stuff dries out and other things leak; eye drops and tissues are a must on a long run.
- Running with thirty-year-olds is still enjoyable, but recovery takes longer. A long morning run might be it for the day.
- The ability to sleep through the night diminishes just as the need for adequate rest increases; plan accordingly.
- Comfort and practicality supersede both style and vanity when dressing. There is a sense of relief and freedom that comes with this fact.
- There are exactly 6 degrees between being too hot and too cold; knowledge of weather conditions is a must, so are layers.
- Icing, foam rolling and massage become an absolutely essential part of any training regimen.
- Simple pleasures quickly become cherished moments – the cool breeze, the smell of pine, the feel of silky sand or an icy stream on aching feet, soft grass under a tired body, the shape and movement of the clouds; …sensations of gratitude.
The fun is there.
So, while it is true that I’m getting older and there is some weird stuff going on associated with that, I find that, more than any other time in my life, I am excited to learn new things and embark on new adventures. Playing outside, discovering unique places and trying new sports is as much fun as it was when I was younger – if not more so. In fact, sadly, I didn’t actually do much of that when I was younger. Since I began to think of myself as an athlete four years ago, the quality of my life has improved dramatically.
I am, indeed, a bit slower now.
I am also stronger, leaner and arguably, in better shape. I am not “fit for a fifty-year-old,” I am fit, and I will continue to develop and to define myself as an athlete as I get older.
My race is in four weeks, so I still have a little time to work on my pace and endurance. I’m told I’ll have to run through a stream. That just sounds fun!
Karen Adler is…
An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete.