Advice For Ageing Athletes

Zandra asks: I am 81 and still love to run. I like to do half-marathons. But I am feeling increasingly ill at ease on the trail because I am getting slower and slower. It often feels that the trail is no place for old ladies. What do you think?

Good for you to still love running at age 81. I hope to be like you. If “ill at ease” means you are worried about how you look because you are slower, I would say push on and have fun. But if you are uncomfortable with your strength and balance, we are talking about a different issue.

Physical activity is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, especially in your ninth decade. A fall and fracture of the hip does not bode well for people over 65, especially women. You can improve your balance by working on your core and leg strength. There may be classes at your local fitness centre that help you with this. You may or may not be the oldest participant, but you will be an inspiration to the younger crowd.

I am also not sure what you mean by “on the trail.” Literally speaking, that would refer to trail running, which is a challenge at any age due to the inconsistencies in the surface. Exposed rocks and roots and loose debris can upset your balance and bring you to the ground. But “on the trail” can mean heading out on the roads or running path to put in some miles. At 81, I would usually recommend staying on relatively smooth surfaces with good traction.

Almost everyone gets slower with age. That is not a bad thing, just the way it is. People also tend to get weaker with age, and that is a bad thing. You will need to work on your strength to keep your balance even if you choose not to run. If you enjoy running, even though it is at a slower pace, keep it up. It is good for your heart, good for your body, and good for your soul.

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