Working with a bunch of under 30 guys means that I’m perhaps a tad more sensitive to my age than I probably should be. I promise you that once I came on board, casual conversations around the office became a bit more challenging during coach’s meetings where we talked about training “middle aged” clients.
Josh: Generally we won’t have a 40 something year old…
Me: What? What won’t you have a 40 year old do? Hmmm??? What??
Josh: Drag an SUV across the parking lot with her teeth.
The most challenging part of aging for me, and I know I’m young, is balancing my athletic skills and wants with the realities of a 41 year old body that I’ve already put through the ringer playing various sports throughout the years.
My competitive days might now revolve around golf and slow pitch softball, but I still want to train like an athlete - not just because it’s fun, but because it’s who I am.
1. I still like to train
We all have particular gym identities, and mine is that of an aging athlete. For me, that means that I want to throw medicine balls, deadlift until my face falls off, and throw some running in there because it feels good.
2. Recovery is waaaaay more important than it used to be
I didn’t think anything about running or working out every day when I was in college and my early twenties. This week, as I’m finally picking up a training routine after being hampered by injury, I’m on my third day in a row of training, and my legs know it. So tomorrow’s workout will be foam rolling and light stretching, because I’m not a spring chicken any more. (More like early summer).
3. If I don’t warm up, I pay the price
Pretty much what I just said. If I don’t warm up properly, which is following a complete foam rolling routine and a full body warm up, I’ll tweak something sooner or later. Our muscles aren’t filet mignon, they’re beef jerky. (Not my analogy, but it works. Gross, but effective). We need to warm up to help prevent injury.
4. I still think of myself as an athlete
I’m not going to the Olympics (maybe the senior ones someday) or to play a professional sport, but I still think of myself as an athlete. So this refers back to the first random thought, which is that I like to train. Playing sports isn’t just something that I used to do; it’s how I first learned to relate to the world. I was on my first team when I was five, and was on teams almost every year of my life right up until 2015.
5. Be smart when it comes to injury
So, pretty much, I’m the best example of what NOT to do when it comes to working out around an injury, for all of the above reasons. I find it hard to balance my competitive mentality with the restrictions of an injury, but the reality is, the sooner you take care of an injury, the sooner you get back to doing what you love.
6. You might have to train differently than you used to
We have a client who has had a double knee replacement and double hip replacement, and she has a crazy hard core athlete mentality. But she’s also accepted the limitations of her body and embraced what she can do. It’s not that she can’t train - it’s just that she has to train differently. And she’s made peace with that.
I often joke with clients that there should be a support group for aging athletes, and I mean that. I’m not sure that there’s anything more defeating than when you ask your body to do something (run a marathon, weed the garden, play a pick up game with your kids) and you find that you can’t do it. And that’s where I find it’s helpful to both have a coach, who can program for you, and a solid community of people who can keep you sane when you’re on the sidelines.
Thanks to all of you who helped keep me sane while I was on the sidelines these past few months.