Saturday, February 22, 2014

Who's old?!

Not me. Nope. Even though I color my hair to cover my gray every 4 weeks. Pull out my reading glasses to read small text. Go to bed at 9 pm. Lament those wrinkles on my forehead. 

Heck, I ran a 1:58 half marathon just 3 months ago! I can deadlift 150#! I can still get up on one waterski! Under pressure from my teenage sons, I wakeboarded for the first time last summer! I sure don't feel old!

Smiling or grimacing? You be the judge!

Yesterday at work, one of the younger nurses started talking with me about working out. 

"You look great, so fit," she said. Then the bomb dropped: "For someone your age."

I thanked her (and died a little, inside).

Then she went on. "I mean, you're older than my mom, I mean she's in her 40s and she doesn't work out at all, and you're in such good shape.."

Please, I silently prayed. Stop talking. I don't know how to respond to what you're saying. Stop. Luckily at that point, we were interrupted.

I know she meant to compliment me. Truly, I do. And truth be told, I could outrun her and most of the younger women I work with.

But what the heck? Just because I'm over 50 makes me that person, the one who is in good shape "for her age"? How about just being in good shape?

And what is the bigger picture? Are older women (and men) perceived as out-of-shape? Fragile?

Part of my reason for starting this blog and my Facebook page was to change that perception of the "older athlete" (and I cringe again). I don't feel old! But that young nurse sure made me feel that way, however well-meaning her intentions were.

Joe Friel writes a blog for endurance athletes. As a 70 year old triathlete himself, he also addresses issues facing older endurance athletes. Joe was recently featured in the Washington Post. His basic tenet: Athletes shouldn’t slow down as they age; keeping up the pace gives them the best chance of staving off decline. He also talks about the importance of weight lifting and high intensity training (HIT) as a way to slow decline and maintain or even improve aerobic capacity. An article in Runners World addresses the science of aging and endurance running. Basically: quality over quantity; flexibility and strength are key; recovery is more important than ever. And contrary to popular belief, running does NOT increase arthritis, in fact, runners have been shown to have less arthritis than non-runners. So there's that!

I get it. I don't deny that I feel different than I did when I was younger. My knees sound like Rice Krispies when I descend a staircase. If I skip a yoga class or don't stretch after I run, I pay the price with prolonged soreness and sluggish legs on my next run. I've incorporated HIT into my weekly regimen--crossfit--and it has enhanced my running dramatically. I run a lot of half marathons and I ran one marathon, but it took such a toll on my body that I've decided just to stick with half marathons. I haven't written off the marathon distance, but if I decide to do another, I sure would train a lot differently for it than I did for Chicago. Respect the distance. Lesson learned.

None of my friends run anymore. Most of them walk, in groups, carrying coffee drinks. Last summer, I invited one of my friends to go standup paddleboarding (SUP) with me on Lake Michigan. Always one to jump at working out with me (although she drew the line at running), after a short time on the board, she sat down and began paddling in a seated position. "It's too hard," she told me. My heart broke. 


Does aging mean you have to slow down? Why am I the weird one, who's pushing her limits? The one who looks good "for her age"? Am I destined to bingo nights, early bird specials at the local restaurants, short curly perms? 

Not if I can help it.


  1. Yeah this >50 thing is crazy isn't it? I still feel like I'm in my 30's for the most part. I do get more and more people telling me to 'be careful' when I head out to run. Probably the breaking a hip concern. Truth be told, I know plenty of people barely in their 40's who are ailing far more than I ever have. There's much to be said for keeping on I think. Age is what you make it. I just saw a SUP at Costco yesterday. Those things are enormous!

  2. HA. I'm 32 now and seriously just feel like every single year is better. I think it was her way of paying you a serious compliment. You are already FIT and everyone knows you are fit based on how you act, it caught her by surprise that could possibly be your age.

    1. I'm sure she was trying to be just sounded funny to me!