I am going through a rough patch with my fitness. My legs just feel tired most of the time. If I hit the trails long and harder during weekends, my usual road runs on preceding days would suffer. Before, I usually needed just a day of rest before I could run properly again. These days the recovery seems slower and further into the week.
I get it. I am 45 this year. Ageing is inevitable. There is no denial, no matter how much I dread it. And with ageing comes physical deterioration. As we age we lose physical strength, flexibility and even stability. And I am feeling it!
Our bodies change and decline as we grow older. If we are not careful, we will grow weak, stiff and eventually lose the strength to do things that we love prematurely. I can tell you that at 45 my body feels so much different than when I was in my twenties.
Even when I wasn’t athletic in my teens or twenties, my body was young and I could subject it to many abuses without worrying much of its consequences. I ate what I want whenever I want, stayed up late and burned candles at both ends. I always recover easily without much fuss.
Getting older is a fact of life. Our ability and physical performance is going to deteriorate. There is no escaping this one. But I want to get good at getting old. The experience of getting old need not have to be torturing or painful.
The process of getting older physically can be graceful if we manage it well. Growing old well can be a choice, and to an extent it is something within our control. For example we can choose to eat the right food, do the right exercises and take appropriate supplements. These are some of the actions we can take to decrease the challenges of physiological decline as we get older.
Personally I am facing some challenges as I age and they are hindering my training progress. I thought I used to be able to handle higher training loads. But now, the struggle to stay fit and strong for planned workouts is real. Energy is a premium and recovery seems agonisingly slow.
Not as strong as before
The first thing that comes to mind when we speak of getting old is physical weakness and frailty. We cannot stop the decline of strength. But we can certainly address the rate of decline and severity of the decline.
We know through research that there will be a significant difference between a lifelong exerciser and sedentary people. Those who incorporate some form of exercise throughout they journey of ageing will hold on to their strength better and longer. So the good news is we may lose strength as we get older, but as long as we continue to exercise consistently, we could be doing things in our sixties that most people can’t do in their twenties.
Flexibility going down the drain
Why are my joints getting stiffer, especially in the mornings? We are all fighting a losing battle. Our flexibility seemingly diminishes with age. This is due to the loss of water in our tissues and loss of elasticity throughout the muscle tendons.
I wasn’t athletic growing up. Flexibility is something I lack and never nurture since young. As I age, I find that my flexibility, or rather the lack of, deteriorates at an alarming rate. Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, there was a period of time I join my wife for yoga classes. It was during these sessions that I discovered just how stiff and inflexible I am.
I am like a runner that runs a reasonable mileage but is very stiff. I can be considered reasonably fit, yet stiff! No wonder I struggle to improve and I am prone with micro-traumas on my legs.
Recovery taking its own sweet time
Unfortunately there is going to be impairment in the recovery process with aging. I have always read and heard of this one but now I am literally experiencing it first-hand. I find that I need more time or days to recover from hard workout sessions.
Strenuous exercise could cause muscle damage, and it takes more time for our muscles to adapt and repair as we age. The problem with inadequate recovery is that it impedes the training adaptations on muscles and the increase the risk of injury during subsequent workouts.
Overcoming the challenges of ageing
On the bright side, it is interesting to note that being fit and healthy for the things we want to do has little to do with our age but a lot to do with how we live our lives. Yes we grow old, but no, we don’t have to go down with our hands tied behind our backs.
The most important thing is that we take action to address the decline and slow down the ageing process. While our bodies may change, it does not mean we have to be less capable. There are so many things we can do and enjoy with a strong and healthy body.
At this age I am curious at what challenging things I can still achieve. In running, I want to get fitter and stronger so that I have the ability to go faster, further and to push new limits. I also want to have the confidence and strength to do things that most people cannot do such as muscle ups, handstand, handstand walk, pistol squats and even the back flip.
Very quickly, these are my 5 strategies to improve my level of dexterity and strength even as I continue to age. This will be my recipe towards being a badass for life.
- Exercise daily
Staying active and constantly moving will do the ageing body good.
- Train strength
It will reduce body fat and increase muscle mass and bone density.
- Stretch more
Mobility exercises and flexibility training are important in preventing injuries.
- Eat well
Focus on whole foods. Cut the junks. Monitor the diet to optimise nutrients.
- Sleep more
Not just increasing the hours. Improve sleep quality as well.
I plan to adopt these simple approaches to continue to build and improve my body abilities as I get older. My goal is to maintain my body capabilities for a lot longer, especially longer that most people think is possible.
Anyway, writing out what one could and should do to overcome the challenges of ageing is easy. The discipline to follow through is another thing altogether!