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Don’t Just Face Aging — Embrace It!

Literally five minutes after this picture was taken, I ran by a guy who looked at my age on my calf and said, “I have TIES older than you.” And yet, he was out there kicking some butt. AWESOME. Credit: Jared Seymour

Literally five minutes after this picture was taken, I ran by a guy who looked at my age on my calf and said, “I have TIES older than you.” And yet, he was out there kicking some butt. AWESOME. Credit: Jared Seymour

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

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  1. Katy says:

    I also have osteoarthritis in both knees (and I am 28 years old!) I was diagnosed with it in January this year after I took up Jazzercise and noticed that “Velcro” sound you described, along with aching pain in my left knee specifically. It is pretty frustrating- I had dreams of doing a triathlon at some point and had been an avid runner for several years. However, the extent of the arthritis combined with my age led to my doctor telling me I was barred from any high-impact activity (for life). So, instead of letting it get me down, I modify in Jazzercise and do low-impact, and I bike and swim 🙂 I miss running, but on the few occasions I have run since my diagnosis, the pain in my knees has left me unable to work out for 2-3 days and it’s just not worth it. So do I feel older than my years? yes! But I do my best to accommodate my workouts to my body’s limitations so I can continue exercising for the rest of my life without pain (the bad kind) and injury.

  2. Jason says:

    As I start getting older, it’s funny how much this post resonates with me. I’ve been telling myself that it’s OK that I’m not going as heavy as I used to during my strength training routines and that it’s just because I’m tired. The reality is that I’m getting a little older and I just need to embrace that I’m not as strong as I was 16 years ago. The bottom line is that it’s OK that I’m not quite as strong, and I just need to embrace my own personal best that I’m achieving now. Great post!

  3. Cat says:

    Great article. My mother will be turning 80 soon and has had both knees replaced plus one hip. Her doctors were impressed with her recovery time after every one of those surgeries and I credit that to her continued exercise routine. At this point in her life she does not work out for increased strength any more but to maintain her stamina, mobility and flexibility. She is a great role model and I hope to be as fit as her when I hit 80!

  4. My mom is pushing 80, and she still spends so much time in the swimming pool! I wish I could still be that active when I reach that age.

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