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Getting Old

There are very few certainties in life but unless you are Peter Pan or have a secret that nobody knows, at some stage you are going to die.
I appreciate that many religions and beliefs will disagree and that’s lovely but for me once I stop breathing, it’s game over.

An unavoidable part of the dying process is aging, which we are all doing by the second. As our bodies and minds get older, our abilities slowly reduce and our bellies generally get bigger. It’s an understandable (if not annoying) social acceptance, that there comes a time when we become ‘too old for that’.

Being classed as old isn’t really a problem for me, since I returned to training 15 years ago, I’ve always been considered old. Admittedly not ideal for the ego but it hasn’t stopped me from training hard or achieving some important life goals.

Infact in many ways being old has worked to my advantage. At my first kickboxing gym us elders had the much fabled OMT (Old Man Tricks…no sweets or lost dogs involved), to buy ourselves some time when we most needed it. A glance between us and a puff of the cheeks, had us wasting vital seconds with our own individual routines, designed to get us through the session. It’s not in my interests to pass these routines on but we were very creative and I can spot people attempting the same in my sessions very easily now ;)

That doesn’t mean that I used my age to blag my way through sessions or not put the effort in, I am way too competitive for that. However the older I get, the more realistic and accepting I have become of what I can achieve.

I’m not and never have been built for speed, so I’m not going to stress if someone half my age is quicker than me.

Cardio wise, is a different story and I’ve always competed. I will always put cardio ability way above anything else for the quite simple reason…when you stop breathing, you’re basically dead! Admittedly as we get older maintaining a decent level of cardio is more challenging but not impossible or as hard as many may think.

In the UK the general advice for keeping active in our advanced years, is going for walks and doing some gardening. As nice as that sounds, I want more than that. I want to be doing things that people my age shouldn’t be able to do, not shuffling around the streets looking at the floor like I’ve lost my keys. Why? Why not?

I will never forget competing in a 21 mile race and chatting to someone almost double my age at around 18 miles. Not only did he have a knee support that looked older than me but he wasn’t even sweating. He told me that he had competed over 100 marathons and gave me words of encouragement before ‘needing to get on’, as it was clear I couldn’t keep up. That’s the sort of stuff I want to be doing!

Unfortunately to be able to maintain a good level of cardio in our advanced years, you have to have the body to be able to maintain it.
That doesn’t mean 0% body fat and muscles everywhere, it means that you have to be lucky with injuries.

I’ve always been pretty lucky with injuries, considering how much I have put my body through over the years. Apart from a stress fracture in my foot and an illness courtesy of Thailand, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t train when I wanted. Obviously there have been days when I’ve walked like Douglas Bader but that’s a result of effort in training, so I’ve never had a problem with that.

I actually believe that spending the vast majority of the 90’s ‘enjoying myself’ and doing very little training, has helped. Most sports people tend to stop training through injury at quite a young age, especially professional athletes. The years of dedication and commitment finally take their toll on their bodies and they can no longer achieve what they want.

As I had a decade off, I’ve considered it a bit of a get out of jail free card, so I have tried to make the most of it.

However in more recent years, I have had to begrudgingly accept a few niggling injuries and a lengthened recovery time after training. My right ankle has been my biggest concern, since 2012 it has caused me problems but not enough to really stop me doing anything. I’m not going to lie, it’s annoying but with my main focus being kickboxing and running, it is understandable.

After spending Christmas training in Tunisia, I returned to Malta determined to push on with my fitness levels for 2020. It wasn’t a New Year resolution or anything like that, just the timing was good and I’ve still got a few things on the tick list before I hit 50.

I started training four times a week again alongside my work, challenging but not overdoing it at all and all was good. Then after sitting in a presumably awkward position, my ankle hurt a lot. No heroic marathons or tough sparring sessions, just a little sit down and a coffee had left me unable to walk.

Although I am an adult in age and a PT by trade, my default response to anything involving Doctors or Dentists is to ignore it and hope it goes away. I know it’s wrong and I should know better but that’s me.

I stopped my own training as a precaution but carried on with work at a much more restricted pace. It’s really not ideal to be hobbling around a gym trying to instil confidence in clients but two days later after five hours of back to back sessions, I couldn’t even do that.

The next day I was forced to spend at home resting, getting bored and trying to balance a bag of frozen peas on my ankle whilst keeping it above my body, in a way I could still see the TV…much harder than it sounds.

Google wasn’t really helping, as the prognosis wasn’t great and certainly not what I wanted to hear. The options if I wanted to keep training appeared to be limited to surgery (not really an option) or 3 months rest and the potential for surgery if that doesn’t work.

Although I try to live my life with at least a half full glass, my level of strop meant I struggled to find my glass at all that day.

In fact, it got so bad I had actually convinced myself it would have to be amputated or at best, I would need a walking stick or those shoes with the big heels. Thankfully all good strops come to an end and after speaking to a couple of physios, they have assured me that rest should resolve it.

Four weeks of no training later and although it is much better, it’s still not great and I’ve probably got another four weeks before I can train again. The irony is that it actually hurts more if I rest it now, almost like my body is encouraging me to keep active or risk turning elephant again!

Thankfully work isn’t an issue, the job helps keep my fitness levels reasonable and my social skills intact. As it stands I have to be patient, whether I like it or not but it hasn’t stopped any future ambitions…there’s nothing like being told you cant train to make you want to train even more!

Unfortunately getting old will affect our everyday lives and certainly limit what we can do physically but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it and give in. Just because we are at an age when others have usually stopped training, it doesn’t mean that we all have to.

Everyone’s opinions are based on their own experiences and limitations and not our own, so just ignore them.

Most of us do not like being told what to do and the potential for our own body to telling us that we can no longer do something, is hard to accept. The problem is, even if we refuse to accept it the older we get, the more realistic an option it becomes.

As I mentioned at the beginning we only get one go at this, so don’t let excuses stop you from achieving your dreams because one day they will only ever be dreams…
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