Fighting to get my Groove Back
My biggest challenge as a new athlete is truly understanding what that encompasses. I get what it is to train hard and know what it is to compete. I understand commitment and dedication; I’ve had the satisfaction of winning – even if all I beat was my own record. I’ve fought through physical challenges such as plantar fasciitis and a strained Achilles.. I’ve worked through pain and have experienced success.
But, what I had not experienced, at least not until recently, is what it is to really struggle. The idea that all athletes have physical and emotional battles, hit peaks and valleys, have set-backs and experience failures from which they must fight back is new to me.
For me, this struggle quickly led to despair –
I mistakenly attributed the fact that I was recording slower times, experiencing more pain and having less energy to my age and to my recent diagnosis of degenerative arthritis in my hip. I was ready to give up and had decided that my last half marathon would be my last.
But, in fact, it marked a new beginning. …
It is true that I’m getting older and my hips hurt whether I run or not; I might even be slower. However, it is also true that when I was training for my last half marathon, I was running exhausted in the hottest part of the day, dehydrated and on poor nutrition.
Being an athlete is so much more than training hard.
What it really means is getting the mental, physical and emotional aspects of our being all lined up and working together. For me, that means focusing on 5 key areas as I move forward:
- Sleep – I need to vary both my schedule and my routine to ensure that I’m sleeping well and getting 7 – 8 hours a night. If I don’t get this right nothing else will be.
- Nutrition – I’m only just beginning to understand how incredibly powerful proper nutrition is, not just to our performance as athletes, but to our overall sense of well-being. I’m addicted to diet soda, sugar and processed foods. It’s time to get “real” when it comes to food!
- Recovery – It does take me a bit longer to recover than it does a younger athlete. For me recovery means mixing up my routine, stretching, foam rolling and rest.
- Strength and mobility exercises – Other than maintaining a healthy weight, this is one of the most important things I can do for my hips – and for aging well in general.
- Reflection – Even if it is only five minutes before I go to bed, I know that I must take time to unwind, reflect and to express gratitude every day.
All athletes struggle; all athletes age. Most of us will eventually have arthritis if we live long enough. Ultimately, I fight to continue my journey as an athlete not for the events or the races, but for the quality of life that I have now and that I want to continue to have for many years to come. I fight for the sheer joy of running on a mountain trail, riding my bike around the reservoir or paddle boarding in the ocean. I fight to continue to experience new adventures and for the simple happiness that comes with wellness.
I plan to journal and share my experiences as I work through each of the key areas mentioned above; I’ll start with sleep.
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 On Fire!