Some people might be embarrassed to be passed by someone twice their age while biking or running, but not me. Every time I participate in a triathlon and I see an older man with a gray beard and a 65 or a 72 written on the back of his calf, I smile. When I’m running and I realize the woman I’m keeping pace with is in the 55 to 60 age group, I grin. And I think that has a lot to do with the people I’m surrounded by.
Like Jenn, I work out with people of all ages. I regularly swim, cycle and run with people ranging in age from seniors in high school to seniors in, you know, life. Sometimes the strongest one in the group is 20 or 30, but sometimes, it’ll be someone who’s 40 or 50 or 60. A couple of local triathletes I positively adore (and often find myself keeping pace with in local running races — Bill and Karen, thanks for pushing me!) are in their 60s and 70s.
These folks are amazing — not amazing for their age (although they do often win their age group when competing in a tri), but just straight up amazing.
And that’s particularly important for me to remember right now — I’m dealing with my first knee injury, which led to an x-ray, which led to confirmation that the Velcro sound my knees have been making since I was 14 years old is due to arthritis. [Make your own sad trombone sound here.]
Dealing with an injury that’s keeping me from running for the next few weeks (so, potentially until my next race, really) paired with proof that my body really isn’t what it used to be is, at times, making me feel considerably older than 33, but it’s also forcing me to have a little perspective. I’m down for a few weeks, sure, but that means I’ll be giving my knee a chance to heal fully — maybe more fully than it’s been in a long time — and that’s going to allow me to continue doing the things I love to do for years to come.
And as far as the arthritis goes — how likely is it that the 70-year-old flying by me on the bike doesn’t have at least a little degeneration? In fact, chances are good that every athlete out there, especially the ones a few age groups above me, have dealt with a few injuries and unpleasant diagnoses. But they’re still out there. They’re competing. They’re who I want to be.
They’re who I will be, at least for as long as I’m able. And part of me can’t wait.
Even if I have seen my last PR and I start seeing my times get slower (although, believe you me, that is not my intention), I’ll continue to work hard, and continue to do my best. If one day I have to give up running or cycling altogether? Whatever — swimming is my favorite anyway. There will always be something I can do to challenge myself!
Age itself doesn’t scare me. I’ll admit, the idea of not being able to do the things I love is a little frightening, but I’ve seen too many gray-haired bad-asses to think that age and injury or inactivity have to go hand in hand. And that’s what Fit Bottomed at Any Age Week is all about.
Have you ever had an injury or diagnosis that made you feel older than you were? What helped you keep things in perspective? —Kristen