Saturday, May 26, 2012

Oops! I'm Getting Older!!

"If you want to be functional at 80, you better pay attention at 40" - Lew Hollander, Ironman

How do you notice you are getting older?

I must say that most folks seem surprised when I tell them how old I am. That's always a nice compliment. If it wasn't for the dang ankles acting like they were 100, it wouldn't be bad at all. Maybe it's because I'm treating patients all day long that are quite a bit younger than me and they're complete train wrecks. It's hard to do Physical Therapy on a lot of these people, not because of their Total Knees or Rotator Cuff Repairs, but because they have no connection with exercise at all. Their muscles were deconditioned before they ever had the problem that brought them to the Doc in the first place. And believe me, they have no concept that their deconditioned body MAY be the reason they broke down. UGH...another blog!

But what about me? I sometimes notice this increasing creakiness of my body and aches and pains mysteriously appear and just as mysteriously disappear. You go for a fairly standard run, everything is OK and then sometime afterwards there is a pain in your foot or leg or back or little finger. How did that happen? You have no idea as there was no warning on the run and nothing unusual to link it to. It is difficult to know if it is a minor inconvenience or something more serious. The rule is to listen to your body but as I get older I increasingly find I haven’t a clue as to what my body is saying. It’s as if it has started talking in a different dialect.

In general, recovery takes longer so you have to be more flexible in your scheduling. I used to run 6-7 times a week and put in some hefty miles. Then, I gradually cut back the days to five, but still looked forward to the long weekend runs. These days it is down to 4 days a week - usually Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun. I just can't seem to give up those back-to-back Sat/Sun runs. Occasionally, I'll throw in an extra Wednesday run just for kicks (mainly when I have a real crappy Tuesday run). So now, I find that it is not that you necessarily cut back more on the number of your sessions but that you must pay attention to how you feel and adapt your session accordingly. Some weekday mornings, I'll wake up at 4;30 and think "It ain't gonna happen today", but I lace my shoes and start rolling down the road. I often heard a piece of advice that said you should run one mile to warm up and then decide how hard or long the session should be. Well, my early morning runs are short to begin with, so as soon as I roll down the road behind my house in 30 seconds, I'm pretty much committed. Now, there are some days that you'd think it was the first time I put on running shoes, but unless I'm "ouch-hurting", I'll do the whole 45-50 minutes. The young me would say if you have a plan, do it regardless, but the present me is a little more flexible in the easiness of the run, or even having to take an occasional stroll (run/walk) if the legs ain't chuggin'.

But having to adapt your schedule is the same at every stage of your life: studying, working, socializing, having kids, etc. Adapting your schedule affects the training of everybody apart from professional athletes. So adapting for age is nothing special. Neither is adapting to your level of performance as speed becomes harder. Whatever your age or level of fitness you are always pushing against your own limitations. Those limitations might expand with increasing fitness or contract but you run according to your capabilities at the time. Aging makes no difference to your perception of effort regardless of the actual pace, distance or any other parameter you set. "Fast, hard, and pushing it" might be replaced with "slow, easy, and holding on", but if you can finish your run with SOME sense of accomplishment (Sometimes I think my new mantra is "At least I got out there") then slow and steady is still upwards.

Because of the damned new technology, I know my pace every run seeing how fast slow I run - I can now see that my internal judgment of how fast I run at different levels of effort is, to put it mildly, delusional optimistic. And I know my morning run is 4.1 miles EVERY time. But I'm not trying to go faster each time. And 4.1 miles is my morning limit so I can get to work. I don't think of age. I love to run. I connect with the the sun. the dark, the trails, my friends. I would love to run faster...I would love to run longer...but most of all, I would love to run smooth all of the time, and I like to do it for a long, long time. I don't want my runs to fight me. So, I adapt and love it when things go my way (don't we all?).

I ran in High School and believe me, it wasn't my favorite thing - I gave it up for 13 years. Then I laced up a pair of old Pumas and ran 2 miles around the UAB Track. Couldn't walk the next morning, swore I'd never run THAT far again, and a relationship was forged. My running has gone through many phases and modifications, but it all comes down to right foot...left foot...repeat. I may be older than I was yesterday, but I'm younger than I'll be tomorrow, so as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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