The real life secrets of aging athletes

I was in the change room at Aikido the other day and a few of us who live on the other side of 50 were chatting about how our training has changed with age and what the challenges are when you’re an older athlete.

Here’s some of that we’ve noticed:

  • We need to warm up! There’s no leaping right into break falls for us. The longer the warm up, the happier our bodies are. Without an adequate warm up, things clunk and thunk and hit the mats hard.
  • We are more injury averse. Healing takes longer and takes us out of the game so we are very much committed to not getting hurt. That means if our bodies aren’t cooperating on a given day and we’re finding a particular technique challenging, we are likely to bow off the mat and observe.
  • We work harder and harder to stay the same! Whether it’s running or Aikido or riding our bikes, we can still do some of the things we used to be able to do but it’s more effort and more hours training for the same result.
  • That’s tricky because we also note that we need longer to recover. So scheduling becomes an issue. We need to fit in all the training and fit in adequate recovery time. We’re less able to go to five classes in one week and one the next. Consistency and timing really makes a difference.
  • We also need our sleep. We all need lots of it and feel rotten pretty fast if we miss out. It’s not just no more all nighters. That happened years ago. Now we even find staying up late on the weekend hard. We’re better if we keep the same schedule all the time. Boring but true.
  • And then there’s food! There is much less flexibility than we had when we were younger about food. There’s no working out without eating. But also no eating right before either. See above about scheduling. It makes a difference.
  • We are also all working hard to keep our mobility through our joints. See this good article on Mobility. I need to get back to CrossFit or start a mobility routine on my own.
  • Oh, and one last one, the cold is extra hard on our bodies. We like the heat. Hot yoga over cold yoga. The hot tub after Aikido. On cold days we need extra stretching and longer warm ups.

How about you? What’s different about staying fit after fifty? If you’re not there yet, what’s different now than when you were twenty?


At 100 years old, Ruth proves that age is really just a state of mind. She practices pilates and lifts weights everyday. Her best advice is, “Celebrate everyday and don’t look at the calendar.”


7 thoughts on “The real life secrets of aging athletes

  1. I agree with all points here (except the cold; I run much hotter bc of menopause, so I joke about wanting a cold yoga class…) The mobility link was really interesting, but here’s my problem: I see these sorts of articles all the time, but I almost never have managed to sustain a home exercise/stretching/strengthening regimen. Maybe I’ll blog about this– how alluring all those articles are, but how elusive the implementation is. I’m thinking about doing group coaching this winter for strength training; it would be good to include these other exercises, too. Yoga can probably address some of these, but we probably still need site-specific training. Any views on this?

  2. I’m primarily a runner, but my real goal is total body fitness. So i’ve made the ‘investment’ of a personal trainer who understands the needs of runners. He makes sure i get in the squats, lunges, and jumping I need, as well as upper body and core work, without overtraining or undertraining muscle groups. My running coach is sure it’s a big reason why I’ve been injury-free for several years despite ultramarathons and Aikido classes.

  3. I agree all about healing more slowly, needing lots of regular sleep (and truly appreciating it when one gets it :)), etc.

    *My body temperature seems to be much warmer. It’s probably a blend of post-menopause and acclimatizing to very cold prairie winter temperatures for the past 5 years. I still wakeup with a hot flush briefly at night. I find humid, hot summers a whole less pleasant now. I now love cycling 10-22 degrees C. Yea, no doubt this is cold to Floridians and others further south. No I don’t need to wear a light ski jacket to do this. 🙂 Just 2-3 light layers of tops to peel off if needed..

    *I seem to need abit more water and more food to re-energize for same trip length compared to 20 years ago.

    *I need to stop to go to washroom abit more frequently during a bike ride. I used to ride 50 km. until the “time”. Now it’s better to go after 25 km… (My partner is noticing this in himself too….as a cyclist. So I guess we’re compatible in this way. He is 16 yrs. older than I. 😀 )

    *I now lack tolerance to eat more meat beyond 3-4 times per month. It seems my system find it harder to digest lots of meat on consecutive days. I get constipated.. Sorry, part of aging is paying attention regular motility (bowel movement) daily or every 2-3 days. (Any doctor will tell you this …:)) Thank goodness, for cycling and walking which I enjoy doing either/both of these daily. And thanks goodness for veggies and fruit daily for me.

    *I still enjoy eating a broad range of food, spices. I don’t wish to become an old fusspot over food choices, reasonably (not always) healthy with some occasional indulgences. Just a lot less meat. I still drink milk…warm milk at night to put myself to sleep. 🙂

    *I’ve lost interest in latest fashion trends in past decade. Good health has supplanted fashion: after all, it trumps all fashion trends.

    I will turn 58 next yr.

  4. I agree with a number of these –

    I am one of those that “run hot” as well. While the younger ladies are huddling in sweatshirts, I’m peeling mine off and standing by the fan!

    Total agreement on sleep, food and recovery – if I could have just one thing from my youth it would be the ability to recover quicker, whether from an all-nighter or a crazy weekend. In my 40s I have to be very thoughtful about my food, sleep and schedule.

    Yes also to what Jean says above about the washroom. So many more trips. And another big YES to what she says about fashion. The more I care about my health and fitness, the less I care about trends. Again, it’s down to scheduling. What’s easy, fast and comfortable? I got a class to go to! 🙂

    I tend to be a lot more comfortable being the bottom end of the skill level in classes. Not that I am still not competitive in my own way, but not being “good” at something doesn’t bother me the way it did when I was younger. Now, I just keep working on getting better – instead of wallowing in angst worried that someone might laugh at me. (Which they weren’t, but what can I say? Ah, youth.)

  5. Well said Sam! I agree with your points. I used to eat at 3 in the afternoon on aikido nights. Saturday was hard to eat enough before class! Insomnia is also a big problem in the over 50 age group which adds to the sleep dilemma. Working harder to stay at the same fitness level is something that resonates too. I thought it would all work out with retirement but with the strength building, stretching and physio for priory injuries while maintaining cardio etc it can take up most of the day! Still, it’s lots of fun and better than giving up!

    1. You look like you’re having a great time with it though. Love your new location. So beautiful. If you ever want to guest post for the blog, we’d love to have you!

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