The Aging Athlete

April 3, 2015 Leave your thoughts

It hit me the other day. I’m not getting any younger. It takes me a good five minutes
to roll out of bed in the morning. My back yells at me when I stand up too quickly.
My knee has a twinge that hasn’t gone away for two weeks. The kicker was when my
3-year-old daughter observed my 43-year-old nighttime stretching routine and said,
“Mommy, is your body getting old?”
Why yes, honey, it is. My body is getting old and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Getting old is a major mind-screw. You spend your twenties and thirties riding the
wave of your physical prime. When something hurts, you rest for one day and it goes
away. It’s called magic.

The day you turn 40, the magic stops. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly 40. In my case, it
was hard to know the exact day the magic stopped, because I had my first baby (via
c-section) when I was 39 and 10 months. I spent my 40th birthday zoned out on the
couch nursing a 6-week-old, wondering when I would start working out again.

When I did start working out consistently, things had changed. It took me almost a
year to feel normal again, but it was a new normal. Injuries that had plagued me a
decade earlier came back with a vengeance. I would feel some pain, take a day off,
and it would still be there, sometimes worse than before.

I have a theory on athletic aging. I call it the law of aggregate miles. I’m probably not
the only person to come up with this theory, but it makes me feel smart so I’m going
to share it. Basically it means that your athletic lifespan is the culmination of your
lifetime miles (or hours) spent training and racing. If you are like me, and you
started running competitively at age 11 and swimming year-round at age 6, then
you have quite a few miles in your body by age 43. Your likelihood of injury due to
having amassed many, many miles by 43 is much higher than the woman who
discovered running at age 36. She could still be running at 70 before her major
declines hit!

This topic intrigues me now more than ever which is why I decided I would put
myself out there and talk about all my old-person issues which seem to be cropping
up daily. What is sore versus injured versus the law of diminishing returns? When
do you push through the pain and when do you go to a physical therapist or a
psychotherapist for that matter?

Stay tuned for thoughts on the above in my next article tentatively called “Why does
my heel look like swollen butt cheek?” (That visual should keep you riveted!)

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