…well not so much a crisis as it is a midlife fitness “thing”
There are many middle-aged ex-high school or college athletes out there like myself who have made a conscious choice not to give in to the ravages of aging. Everybody has a turning point or an event or a decision point where they choose to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Here is my simple story:
Back when I had started a LASIK Ophthalmology practice I had an employee named Alba who, along with her husband Peter, was an avid cyclist. I had been pretty sedentary for the many years through medical school and the first several years of the various medical practices where I had been working. Alba convinced to come out with them and ride. My only bike was a 20 year old, heavy, steel Miyata hybrid mountain bike-looking frame. I got out and rode it and really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t really go too crazy with the equipment over the next several weeks: I cleaned it up a bit and did get some inexpensive bike shoes and clip-less pedals. Later that same year, I just so happen to have a local bike shop owner come along who was interested in laser vision correction. We got to talking and one thing led to another and before you knew it, he had better vision and I had a brand new carbon fiber Colnago CLX leaning up against the wall in my office.
LASIK patients often talk about how their surgery is life-transforming. Acquiring this bike was life-transforming for me as well. Over the subsequent 5 years or so, I have been riding solo, group club rides, but admittedly more so in the warmer months with longer days and just not committed to it with any competitive goal in mind.
Back in November, 2011 I was perusing though the cable TV channels and I came across the Kona Hawaii Ironman Championship telecast. I was mesmerized. Of course the stories and performance of the elite professionals is impressive, but what really got me choked up were the stories of the age groupers from all walks of life completing this awesomely overwhelming challenge. My impression? “That looks like it hurts. I’m interested”.
So I can say my return to an athletic and fit life began in December 2011. I began swimming in the local club pool. There were no excuses for not swimming. The pool is heated all year round (outdoor pool) and literally about 100 yds from our house. I can swim there at any hour (well probably not after 10pm).
I acquired some winter cycling apparel and began riding more. I also began running. Now understand that my last long run was a 10 mile run/jog done in Army BDU’s with boots and back in 1988. I really hadn’t run with any distance or with any seriousness with the exception of some light jogs of a few miles when we lived in Germany. It was as if I had to learn to run again and in particular, build up a train the weakened ligaments and tendons in my knees and ankles. During these last few months I have alternated between feeling pretty good on a run and overdoing it, with the process of nursing a soft tissue injury like an ankle sprain. I’m getting smarter and better adapted now and holding back and taking the training process slower.
As I began to train, I started to notice real psychological and physiological changes and adaptations:
- I had more energy and felt better
- I had more “spring in my step”, my muscles felt tighter
- I gained 5-6 pounds of muscle. For me, that was desirable.
- I started to pay more attention to the quality of food that I was putting into my body.
- I started to feel like an athlete again.
- On the group bike rides, I started leading the group and leading the charge up the hills whereas before I was always drafting and huffing and puffing the hills.
- I started to take an interest in the sports physiology and nutrition science aspects of training.
- I started getting up earlier and exercising in the am which I had never done before except on the high school and college swim teams when it mandatory.
- I developed more self-confidence knowing I was able to accomplish something many others could not.
- Instead of being an information and news junkie, I now prefer to read about other people’s experiences with training and their race reports.
- This all gives me something to focus my obsessive compulsive tendencies on.
OK, so I am not a super experienced triathlete. I’ve entered and completed just one event. That went pretty well in spite of the lack of experience. I have high hopes for a few other events coming up.
I thought as I approached the age of 50, I would not do it very gracefully. That all has changed. Now I look forward to it as I’ll be more competitive in an older age group. I’ll now be the younger guy! Hey, whatever works.