I know I’ve told you many times that I’m turning 50 on February 22. I keep reminding you this mostly so you will send me gifts and money, but also to demonstrate that life doesn’t end at 50! I have plans for myself, I have goals! I am just getting started.
That said, let’s get realistic. As we age, shit happens. Our bodies change. Our metabolism slows. Bodily functions get more interesting. Our stamina can wane. Oh, boo hoo. But, it’s not all bad. Here are some issues we might contend with as we get older and continue to run. Don’t let them scare you, but just be aware.
1. You pee yourself. This can also be called “urinary incontinence” if you are a smarty pants. The good news is, peeing yourself unexpectedly is not only reserved for those of us getting older, but can happen at any age. However, as the body undergoes pregnancy and menopause, UI become more of a reality. Why? Because with these conditions comes the weakening of bladder muscles. And, when you combine the impact and jostling that running requires with weak bladder muscles – well, you piss yourself. Make no mistake – this happens to men too, but is more common in women.
2. You slow down. Like anything with aging, it’s not a given that certain things will occur, but it is likely. There is a reason that the Boston Qualifying times increase as we age. As the years pile on, the body, unfortunately, tends to break down. Our ability to take in oxygen decreases. We lose flexibility. Muscle strength lessens. While this sounds horrendous and like we should just be put down like a bunch of older and lame horses, there are things we can do. Strength train. Take our calcium. Keep moving. And, most importantly, just because we slow down does not mean we can’t still have big goals and strive for them!
3. Recovery takes longer and becomes more and more important. Remember when you were a twenty something stud and you could drink all night and get up and function relatively fine the next day? Fast forward to when you’re a forty or fifty something person. You try to drink all night and you find that if you try to move the next day, you are near death and begging anyone to bring you some Nuun while you lay as still as possible underneath your sheets. Running is kind of the same. As we get older, we simply have to rest up more to stay healthy and uninjured. C’est la vie.
4. You just might have a chance at that podium! As age goes up, so do age group race times. This means that if your chances just might increase to place in your age group as you get older.
5. You risk cardiac death. Damn, this just got depressing. The stats on this one show that marathoners over 50 are twice as likely to have a heart attack while running a marathon than those under 40 years old (source). However, the odds are still in our favor, as only 1 in 100,000 marathoners die during a race. To assume that would be you is pretty self-centered. Plus, by running, we are decreasing our risk of so many other conditions such as diabetes and various cancers. It also strengthens our joints. To me, taking that 1/100,000 risk is pretty damn worth it.
6. You gain weight. No matter how much you run. This phenomenon is a drag and is largely due to hormonal deficiencies that occur as we age. And Oreos. We begin to lose muscle, get belly fat, have trouble sleeping and can be more prone to depression and anxiety (another reason to keep running). Weight gain can be a runner’s nightmare because who wants to carry around an extra 10 pound sack of flour while running? To combat this, be diligent about eating a smart diet high in grains, veggies, lean proteins. Keep moving.
7. Aunt Flow shows up when she damn well pleases. As we age and those hormones fluctuate, our periods can become incredibly irregular. This comes in super handy on race day or during a long run when the floodgates open and you aren’t prepared.
8. Sleeping becomes a pain in ass. As we age, sleep times decrease. We may find we wake a lot in the night and spend the next two hours worrying about how we’re going to pay for our kid’s college, if we left the iron on, how much pesticides are on grapes and how we’re going to finish that marathon we signed up for. You also might wake up for your run and find you are fatigued from cumulative nights of not getting enough rest. There are lots of anecdotes for getting better rest: hot tea with apple cider vinegar and honey (Tim Ferriss swears by this), Melatonin, lavender oil on your pillow or just a good solid Ambien or bottle of wine.
9. You manage life better than your non running friends. Let’s face it. As we age, life can get pretty stressful. We worry about having enough money for retirement. Our kids leave. Our parents get sick. We come to recognize our own mortality. The bright spot is that people who run have less depression and anxiety, on average. This is because just 10 to 20 minutes of running can produce feel good chemicals in the brain.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? While it’s true that we may deteriorate a bit as we age, I’m a believer in embracing the older years and continuing to set high expectations for myself. Sure, I may have to work a bit harder, I might have to pay closer attention to recovery and I might have to deal with the unexpected, but I’m not dead and until that day, I’m going to keep at it.