To loosely paraphrase, aging, like death and taxes, is hard to avoid. After a pretty good run (pushing my way towards 50 this fall), some classic signs of fossilizing have been popping up. In the past two years, I’ve: 1) gotten reading glasses, 2) had a few angry, tired-out organs surgically removed, 3) spotted my first gray hairs, 4) wrestled with no longer sleeping well, and, 5) been freaked out about how much more noticeably tired I am on average.
I didn’t used to panic about aging, probably because I didn’t notice any issues until recently. But now I have some major fears. Topping the list? 1) Not having a plan/care/money for when I’m ancient, 2) losing my mobility/independence/mind, and, 3) developing anything that my father had (take your pick: heart attacks, multiple strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes. And so NOT helping? My mom just reminded me when I was home this past May that I’m now the age when my father was diagnosed with diabetes. Gggrreeeaattt. Now I’m terrified of sugar…)
Of course, aging also affects my swimming, namely the amount of recovery now required. As an age grouper, I used to swim three-day meets over long weekends — multiple events, prelims and finals – then head right back to doubles on Monday, no ill effect. This July, I swam five events in two days (heats only, and not even a full distance slate), and felt like I’d been run over by a truck the following two days. I wanted to sleep through days one and two, then sit on the couch and eat an entire “family-sized” bag of cheesy-fish crackers on day three. (Alas, I did not do either.)
Sure, some of my post-meet sore, draggy-ness might be attributed to training at altitude, competing at sea level, then going right back to altitude. Bad air quality (from smog in the Bay Area to a raging wild fire at home) is also probably partly to blame. And, it has been a super stressful year so far.
But I can’t deny the aging factor, especially when I’ve improved in so many other areas per managing myself while competing — better nutrition, massage, hydration with fancy electrolytes, and no longer running around the entire meet like a crazed age grouper hopped up on dry Jell-O (shout out to anyone who remembers eating this during meets!)
Unfortunately, I’m only realizing now that I’ve been on the “rusting into old age” pathway for a while. Other tell-tale signs from the pool? Some types of back-to-back practices are really tough on my body (e.g. two distance or sprint days in a row, anything that requires going off the block a lot.) I frequently start off practice pretty sore and tired. I need more warm up on good days. It’s “distressing” to think about what’s next — beginning every practice feeling creaky? Down to just one event per meet? In-pool starts? Major health or joint issues? Will the 50 fly become my current 200 “distance” fly?
I’ll never quit swimming, it offers me too much – I love to train, (especially outside), try new pools, meet new people, tweak in hope of improvement, and staying fit. It is, however, time to think about making training, racing, and recovery adjustments. Which means it’s time for one of my favorite phases — guinea pig! I’ll research, read, and test, and then report back this fall and winter; stay tuned!