I have little patience for excuses. Especially excuses regarding fitness and health. Most especially unfounded, age-based fitness and health-related excuses. I’m 31, and already hear my peers say things like, “My body can’t do what it used to,” or “I just don’t have the energy to get out and run anymore.”
I call bullshit. Unless there’s a doctor’s note involved, I don’t want to hear why someone is choosing not to be active (and if there is a doctor’s note involved, I’d rather hear about the prescribed mobility and strengthening exercises that are going to make that person 100% again). Because it is a choice, a conscious decision, to stay in bed or sit on the couch instead of walking, running or biking a mile or two. Getting older can mean getting slower, weaker and heavier - but only if we decide to let it.
This is a topic I don’t dive into very often in real life conversation because I feel so passionately, and know it can be a touchy subject for some. So, I’m cautious about the feelings I convey - there’s a fine line between strong concern vs. condemning judgement. I lie firmly on the side of concern, but I also realize passion can make me sound a lot like I’m judging.
I recently read an article in Outside magazine (leftover from creating my latest vision board) that not only validated my feelings about the “age excuse” being hogwash, but inspired great confidence that fitness (not to mention performance) can be maximized over time, with a little patience and flexibility.
The article, titled “Ned Overend Is the Champion Cyclist Who Never Grows Old” (its title in print: “60 is the New 25”), is about dominating cyclist Ned Overend. The article’s description: “Ned Overend is the defending national fat-bike champion, stomping racers who were in training pants when he was eligible for the AARP…the curious case of the man who gets faster with age.”
Ned started his athletic career as an award-winning trail runner, then shifted to mountain biking after sustaining a hip injury, where he’s won several awards including the first UCI World Championship in 1990, the 2014 Fat Bike Birkie, and the 2015 USA Cycling Fat Bike Nationals.
Now age 60, Overend lives his decision to remain active at a competitive level every day, and is still getting faster. He acknowledges that aging does change the body, and has evolved his training strategies as a result, rather than throw in the towel. Today, Ned’s training philosophy is something like this:
The last part - “don’t stop training” - is key to combating loss of cardiac fitness and maximum oxygen capacity, which accelerates with age. As a man who’s never worked with a coach, Ned’s accomplishments speak volumes about discipline and the power an individual has to thrive while maintaining an active lifestyle.
“It’s pretty cool when you’re 60 and improving your time from a couple years ago,” he says today. And, about aging: “Shit wears out.” So yeah, even Ned Overend feels the effects of aging, but he has no plans to retire or dramatically change his healthy, active lifestyle because of it. “I only know how age affects you based on my own experiences. Otherwise you base it off what everyone else tells you…People shouldn’t just assume it should be so hard to hold onto your fitness.”
Amen to that. Permission to turn excuses into action, granted.
Read the full article here, and be inspired:
I wrote an article in November for a contest submission in December. By March, the article was listed among winning submissions, and in May it was published. A reminder to me that effort and patience go hand in hand - one of the standout lessons I’ve learned from ultrarunning, and ongoing motivation to stay focused on whatever’s next.
Since I began ultrarunning, I must hear the word “crazy” at least a dozen times each week. It’s the reflexive word many emit upon finding out just how far and often I run – though I am fully aware the 40-60 miles I log each week are fraction of what many ultrarunners do…Perspective on that is relative, right?
I bet you’ve been on the receiving end of statements like these as well:
I realize that usually the word is expressed in a positive, “holy wow” kind of tone, but I’ve gotta say, I’m getting tired of being called crazy.
I was raised in a family of English majors, lovers of language that fill downtime with Scrabble, crosswords, reading, and writing. From them I learned to communicate clearly, taking care to choose the best, most appropriate words. A few words were even banned from conversation simply because there was almost always a stronger, more compelling option available.
Today, I’m banning the word “crazy” from my ultrarunning conversation. Its multiple meanings and intonations – combined with all too ubiquitous use – make it a weak word choice indeed. There’s almost always a better option available:
Next time the word “crazy” creeps into a conversation about your running, try replacing it (or suggesting a replacement) with one of these, and see how a simple edit can become an uplifting improvement:
What words will you use?
This article first appeared on trailandultratunning.com