“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old…” – George Burns
As endurance athletes we all share a few things in common like loving human powered sports, finding time in our lives to prepare for our events and the list can go on. One thing however that everybody shares is what we do with our body; we are training, eating healthy, properly hydrating and looking after our overall health in efforts to perform at a peak level when the time arises. Endurance athletes (runners in general) are not limited by age as our community is made up of people from a very wide age range. As you grow up and progress through these age ranges you learn more and more about yourself, and sometimes you may feel like you are slowing down, or that recovery seems to take longer. Make no mistake getting older is not optional and we all do it, but it does not mean your performance has to suffer and that will require some adjustment in daily habits. Today I want to talk about fitness challenges and how you overcome those hurdles to keep you healthy, injury free and performing at a level you are satisfied with.
We should begin this by laying down some age ranges and what you can expect out of them-
20-30 age range:
Let’s start with the 20’s, during this time you are very resilient. Recovery time is faster and chance of injury is less. Your ability to work hard days back to back is easier, hence the recovery side of this age range. At the same time there is a downside to having such a speedy recovery and many times in your 20’s you may feel invincible (I know I did) and this can often result in habits that are formed in training or nutrition or some aspect of the body that may not be the best for you later on down the road.
30-40 age range:
Remember those habits formed in the 20’s? Well this is where you may feel some of the negative (or positive) effects depending on what you did during that time. You will notice that you may need to add a little more systematization to your training routines. This can be things like harder periods of training and lighter periods of training to help your body adapt and recover. Often times during the 30’s people will become a little more sophisticated in their training and because of that they are able to progress very well during this time.
40-50 age range:
In your 40’s you begin to learn that it’s not just training that plays a factor but it is very much your nutrition as well. Nutrition has such a large role in recovery and it is in your 40’s you may really begin to notice that. You may notice that your recovery time is slowing down and because of that it is very important to utilize active recovery. Stretching and foam rolling and things like that to ensure that you are preventing injury but also recovering quickly with a diet that supplements that goal. You may realize that hard/easy routines of training aren’t enough to keep you in the shape you want to be and for that reason many people pick up yoga in their 40’s and that is a great way to keep your body where you want it to be in combination with your training.
50-60 age range:
In your 50’s you see many of the things you did in your 40’s but what you may find is that you get imbalances in your body. By this, I mean one leg or one arm stronger than the other. Bone density may be decreasing just a little bit which brings up the idea of weight training (if you currently haven’t before) to ensure you keep the body balanced and stable. Think about doing this on your legs and your back, weight training helps with bone density and helps your back to stay straight, your legs to stay straight and the rest of your body to maintain symmetry.
How to prepare for age transitions?
The best thing to do is to be proactive and create good habits young. Now of course that is not to say that you can’t make adjustments throughout the course of your life because you likely will have to and that is what most of us have done. But knowing where you are at currently with your training, and your nutrition and everything else that you focus on to keep your body performing at a peak level can help you determine what it is you need to add to your training in order to maintain a level of running or cycling that you are satisfied with.
Perspective on nutrition:
Nutrition is something I want to touch on for this topic because it plays a far greater role than just helping with recovery as I mentioned above. As you get older you will have a slower metabolism, when this happens it is important to adjust your eating habits to accommodate that adjustment. The average person will gain 1-2 lbs a year from early 20’s through middle aged and plateau around 50 years old. As you age, adjusting your nutrition intake to line up with your metabolism is very important to ensure you remain healthy and you aren’t overeating.
Remember that it’s all about the mind state. Many people reach a certain age where they allow the worlds view of that age to tell them how they are supposed to feel. This is the quickest way to getting “old”. Our sport is one in which the older we get the more we mature and the better we can adjust to our aging process and accommodate our bodies needs, the better we will see that maturity. How have you adjusted over time to continue performing when needed? What advice would you have to those younger than you? Comment below and let’s help to see everyone increase their longevity in their own sport.