Never Too Old to Exercise
How many times do we hear people saying they’re too old to exercise? Or moan about it being harder to lose weight once you hit 40! And why does the term ‘Vets’ in event terms send people into doom and gloom, believing that their days of competing are gone, they’re officially over the hill, and almost feel a laughing stock when it comes to entering challenges?
Well exercise doesn’t have to end just because life marches on. Of course our bodies change as we all get older, but sometimes as we age we find new ways of exercising, new focus for new challenges and whilst we may not all be at our peak, providing we try to avoid injury, we can certainly keep going and can even do some things better!
I know numerous people who still exercise hard – cycle over the Alps, complete Mountain Marathons, enter Olympic distance Triathlons, play team sports and all of them are 50+. Some are actually 60+ and the oldest person I’ve instructed in a ‘full-on’ British Military Fitness Class was in her late seventies! And the things all these people have in common? A sense of humour, bags of determination, and a positive mental attitude to go with it.
I’m not suggesting we all take up endurance sports for the first time when we hit the big 40 or beyond, but there’s no reason a healthy person can’t exercise at any age. For sure running can affect the joints as we age, and we can be prone to injury, plus keeping pace with a 20 year old is challenging when you’re in your 40’s, but it’s not impossible!
Last year I ran the PARAS 10 www.paras10.com – a 10 mile race across The Parachute Regiment Training Ground. It forms one part of the grueling selection process that prospective Paratroopers have to complete wearing combats and carrying a pack of 35lbs against the clock!! (I guess they’re not known for being the elite of the British Army for nothing.)
Several thousand people entered, mostly men, but some ladies also ran it, and one or two carried the full pack! I certainly hadn’t trained enough for that, but my friend and I managed good run times in the ‘Ladies Vets’. Our group who entered are all over 40, and we all finished in the top 10 of our respective categories. However one of our group won the entire race wearing full combats and carrying the full weight. He’s a regular civilian office worker who just happens to train hard and have huge amounts of self-belief and determination. He was a former Paratrooper which clearly helped him find the resources to dig deep and succeed, but the fact he beat several thousand other people, most of whom were at least half his age and some currently serving in the British Forces was an incredible feat.
Whilst we proudly received our medals (and the winner his well-deserved Trophy) from TV Presenter Mat Baker, we were watched by many spectators who seemed to look at us competitors as though we were some alien species. I must say I kind of thought our victorious friend had some form of super-human powers as he passed me near the finish line, but he just knows how to apply himself and his training to the task in hand and go for it. And he’s proof that, if you keep grafting, keep yourself relatively injury free, eat the right kind of food and train appropriately, then age doesn’t need to stop you from doing whatever you want.
I think that sometimes, my circle of friends, perhaps rather than necessarily being physically less able than we were several years ago, just now have more pressures on our energy levels! In our twenties, we tended to work and or train for a living and recover quickly after a hard week. Now most of us work, run households, do voluntary work, have children, still like to socialise, and lead busy lives on top of exercise plus recovery time takes a bit longer! The fact we enter events at all is good. The fact that we can sometimes still get in the top % of finishers is remarkable, considering for most of my friends exercise is a hobby as opposed to a profession.
Having witnessed yet more GB Olympic Athletes over the age of 35 at the 2012 Games, it demonstrates further that age isn’t the end of competition by any means, even at professional levels. And at a more local level, you just have to see the thousands of bike enthusiasts out at weekends, see the growth in Triathlon, and the sheer numbers and age profiles of entrants in Marathons, cycle races, triathlons and 10k’s to see that exercise can be enjoyed by all ages at all levels.
And one thing’s for sure, unless my friends and I are absolutely forced to stop exercising due to serious illness or injury, I can see us all still exercising well into our 90’s because we all love it, and did I mention? Exercise in theory can also increase your life expectancy as well!