First off, I fully acknowledge that I am by no means old. However, over the last five years I have noticed a marked difference in my ability to jump into activities, build up stamina, and recover from the more epic of my adventures. My parents warned me about this, and I stubbornly tuned them out. After all, I’m only in my late thirties, which means I’m still young, which means that I should be able to roll out of bed after a few measly hours of sleep and a bottle of wine and launch into an effortless morning training run. Right?
Those luxuries seemed to have set sail back in my 20s. In their place I have only delightful things like tiredness, stiff morning muscles that take time to wake up, and the need to see physiotherapists weekly just to keep the body in order.
Don’t worry. This is not a woe-is-me sob story about aging or how you can’t stay fit when you’re older. I do not believe that aging means letting go of fitness. I do, however, believe that your body needs a little bit more…TLC as it gets older. I’ve learned the hard way and consequently dread the state my body may be in by the time I’m in my 40s. So learn from the error of my ways, and heed my advice with these five simple rules:
1. Take recovery seriously: I spent most of my life scoffing at things like stretching, rest days, and recovering from injuries. I used to blatantly ignore injuries. Why not run on a sprained ankle? I used to try to work out seven days a week because I thought it would make me healthier. I sort of assumed you could just get up, hike or run 20-30km and then sit down for the rest of the day and be ok. Who needs warm ups, cool downs or stretching??? Over the years, my body has victoriously retaliated in a variety of ways (recurring ankle injuries, SI injuries, IT band issues, shoulder issues, etc. etc.) I’m still working on the whole stretching thing, but I’ve learned to cherish rest days and respect recovery.
2. Shake it up: You know that expression ‘everything in moderation’? It applies to running too. I used to believe that to run well I should do nothing but run. That resulted in a plethora of issues (see above), not to mention some severe running burnout. Over the years, I’ve learned to shake up my routine, not only to save my sanity but also to build strength and keep my body from literally falling apart at the seams.
3. For the love of God, hydrate!!!: The translation here is don’t think you can drink like the world is ending one night and still wake up feeling pumped for a hike or training run. If you’re under the age of 30 you are probably rolling your eyes right now. Let me tell you, I used to be able to hike or run with a hangover like it was nothing at all. Mark my words, one day you too will start the downward slide into progressively lower tolerance for alcohol-related shenanigans. And it will come suddenly and quickly. Just trust me and stick to two glasses of wine before a big day of running. And seriously, whether alcohol is involved or not, just drink a ton of water!!!!
4. Go to sleep!: I remember when the thought of going to sleep wasn’t exciting and I’m fairly certain the last time I felt that way was university. Ever since, I’ve found sleep to be a magical elixir for life. In the last few years, I’ve found its powers to be even stronger when it comes to workout success. With a bad night’s sleep, I am a ball of muscle exhaustion, laziness, and excuses for ending workouts early. With a good night’s sleep, I am like a freaking gazelle (okay, only in my mind) with a seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for my training.
5. Eat your damn veggies: I have always liked vegetables, but I did go through periods of my life where I existed solely on veggie dogs and tater tots. When I was younger it made no difference. I could have a brilliant run fuelled by ice cream and a 1/2 pound of chocolate (no lie). Now I notice a distinct correlation between junk food consumption and bad workouts. Take my word for it, doubling down on Easter candy to “get rid of it” will not provide quality running fuel. Simply put: garbage in, garbage out. Also, believe the hype, kale is your friend.
I welcome any and all additional tips that will spare me by poor body further damage and injury. I offer kale salads as payment for tips, and I assure you I make a mean kale salad.