When you think of someone who is 50, what image comes to mind? An aging, post-menopausal woman with chin hairs, a hunched posture, about 30 extra pounds, and bifocals? Ok, well I do have the bifocals, sadly...the vision changes make it harder to find the chin hairs too...
While my friends were all having 50th birthday parties, I didn't want to celebrate. I wanted to turn the clock back. So my sister Lisa, who is a year younger than me, and I decided to start our now annual tradition of sister birthday trips. That year, we took our inaugural voyage to Naples Florida. We had an amazing time. No kids, no work, no worries. We ate decadent meals. Spent our days at the pool in the sunshine. Walked on the beach. And I realized that maybe, just maybe getting older could be ok. Since then we've been to Las Vegas and Charleston, South Carolina. Who better to commiserate with than your sister? Except that she tells everyone that I'm older than her...
|From our first sister trip to Naples, Florida|
And then there is that Chicago marathon. I'm still so proud of that race, still basking in my run. With a smart training plan, which involved a lot of cross training, intervals, and low mileage, I was able to run the marathon with fresh legs and gas in the tank for my recovery. One month later, I'd say recovery is over, and I'm still running well. Today I ran an 8 miler at a 8:34min/mile pace. I have never run 8 miles this fast. Ever.
|8 miles at the retention pond. Maybe my legs just like to run fast there?|
Stunned. And asking myself the question, who's old?
If you are interested in training into old age, read anything by Joel Friel. Friel, a triathlete and former coach, has done a lot of research on the subject, and says that while athletes may experience a decline in performance starting in their 50s, they don't have to. Basically, we have to train smarter, not harder. Mistakes that we made as younger athletes, for example, lack of sleep or a bad diet, are not as easy to adapt to for the older athlete. He recommends a lot of HIIT (high intensity interval training) to help maintain aerobic capacity. Lifting weights is something that the older athlete needs to add in to the routine. Muscle mass is lost at a faster rate than when we were younger. Strength training should also help with bone density, and will protect the joints. Adequate sleep and rest is very important. As is good nutrition. Friel follows a Paleo diet, but he advocates carbs and protein for recovery after an intense workout. He writes a blog, which if you chase the link above, with evidence based advice for endurance athletes of all ages.
She set a world record! Way to go!
As most of you know, this year, I started working with a CrossFit coach. I was experiencing a lot of nagging injuries, many accumulated from 20+ years of running. Coincidently, I was also experiencing some slowing in my running. Heat intolerance, which had always been an issue for me, seemed to be getting worse. I can honestly say since working with Becky, my coach, a lot of these issues have resolved for me. I still have that nagging toe injury, a result of arthritis in the joint. Not much I can do about that. But I've learned to live with it and run with it. For me, the biggest and best thing about my cross-training is that I've gotten my speed back. I am running stronger than I ever have in my life.
And so this morning, on my speedy 8 miler, I had a epiphany. Yep, I'm 52. But you know what? I'm ok with it now. I'm so thrilled with where I'm at, physically. And one huge advantage of being older is that I have all this life experience to draw on. I'm more confident and that comes from all that life experience. But that confidence is solidified by what I can do as an older athlete.
For now, I can agree with that statement that age is just a number. I don't feel old. I feel strong.
|That could be the limiting factor!|