Although there are many non-runners out there who think all of us runners will have bad knees if we keep running, this has never been medically proven at all. In fact, the beauty of endurance sports, as those of you who do them can attest, is that you can still improve your times as you get older. This cannot be said for the major sports out there: Football, baseball, soccer and basketball are a young man’s (woman’s) game. Too much impact, explosiveness and agility need to occur for someone who is 40+ to be able to hang tough with the young bucks and does. But endurance sports are different. Runners like Patti Lyons, Priscilla Welch and our own guest blogger Susan Loken have proven that starting running later in life, and even in your 40s, by no means limits what you can accomplish.
The cool thing is that whether you are just starting an endurance sport for the first time today or you were a high school or collegiate stud or “studette”, you still have the potential to improve and be relevant in your sport.
Muscle memory is an amazing biological trait we all have. If you were a good runner, cyclist or swimmer in high school or college these skills didn’t go away. They are still there in your cells’ memory. You just need to coax them out of their hibernation state. While you may need more than a couple of weeks (or months) to get back into your rhythm with these endurance disciplines, if you are patient you will be amazed at what level you can get back to.
Improving Can Go On for Years
If you are new to endurance sports, than I am a bit jealous of you. Why? Because your body is going through such a wonderful metamorphosis right now – one, if nurtured correctly, can give you years of PRs and personal gratification. While you may have started running, cycling or triathlons in your 30s, 40s or even 50s this by no means equates for you staying at the status quo for the next decade – if you continue to train hard and smart, a lot of personal success can be found in these sports.
Don’t Focus on the Past
Why are you comparing yourself to your 21-year-old self who was an All-American runner or swimmer? That’s just crazy! You’re now in your late 30s, 40s or older, and although your mind remembers being 20-something, your body does not. And while you may not be able to run, swim or cycle as fast as you did in your 20s, this doesn’t mean you can’t be a bad-ass in your later years still.
Baby. Overweight. Bad Habits. – All Can be Overcome
You’ve had some kids and don’t think you can ever lose that baby-weight pouch. You’ve gone from 4:10 stud in the high school mile, to a 230-lb 35-year-old man who can’t run a 400 in under 1:30. Or did you pick up smoking after college and now are out of breath going up a flight of stairs? Whatever your situation is, believe it or not, you can overcome it. And if you were a former athlete, then you may be surprised how quickly you can get that athletic-mojo working for you again. It’s all about having patience and not trying to do too much too soon. You need to put your ego aside and not worry about running 8 min/mile splits when you once could run 5 min/mi splits. Accept where you are right now in this endurance journey and embrace it. In due time, paces will get faster, miles will get longer and your confidence will undoubtedly grow exponentially.
Age-Group Goals Keep Us Young
Yes, you’re 58 and will probably never cross the line first outright in any meaningful race you enter in, but that does not mean you shouldn’t have goals and aspirations. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve finally (and reluctantly, if I were being 100% truthful) conceited that I may not be able to win every race I enter; but, I’ll be damned if someone 40+ (I’m 45) tries beat me! This mentality keeps me young. This focus keeps my eyes on the prize, so to speak. I hone in on age-group goals and records now, more than worrying about winning overall; and that was a hard pill to swallow, at first, for someone who was winning events only 7-10 years ago; but father time is always the winner in this race of life and so I’ve decided to move to the outside lane and let those young runners have their space.
So, whether your new to endurance sports or a wily veteran who’s been out of the sport for many years, don’t think that you can’t find personal and absolute success in the races you register for. Get on that seat, lace up those shoes, and make sure those goggles are on tight because your endurance race, no matter how old you are, has just begun.