Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Ageing Athlete

Today is a very big day for me.  This time 35 years ago, I was born.  Happy birthday me!

Turning 35 as an athlete is a big deal.  It means that I can compete as a masters V35 athlete - a category especially for athletes aged between 35 and 40!  While I plan to continue competing as a senior athlete, becoming a V35 has given me an additional boost, and some additional stretching, but exciting goals to aim for.

New Goals
When I was delivering a goal setting workshop earlier in the year, I used my target for this summer as an example of a SMARTER goal.  The goal is to win a medal in the 2,000m steeplechase at the European Masters Championships later this summer.  That's a pretty Specific goal!  It's also Measurable - at the end of the day, I'll either have a medal around my neck, or not.  Now for the Ambitious bit - well I've looked at some previous results and I will have to be at my best too achieve a medal, but my best times would put me in the mix - making the goal Realistic.  The goal is Time-bound - the day is Tuesday 26th August - and it is definitely Exciting - a trip to Turkey, a European medal, and a  shot at a V35 Irish record, all genuinely excite me.  And the goal is Relevant.  It's what I do!

All these exciting new goals are giving me new motivation.  In an earlier blog we spoke about the relevance of goal setting in other aspects of lifestyle management, but the main thing that goal setting does is provide motivation.  After having similar goals for the past 10 years or so, I'm glad that I now have something concrete to aim for, and that's really helping with motivation.  As we get older, it's important to set goals that keep us motivated.  By the time we reach 35, we have a clear idea of what we can and can't achieve, and what motivates us - be that intrinsic or extrinsic factors.  There are of course unachieved goals and dreams, and now is a good time to reevaluate what's important and what will keep me motivated moving forward.

Adapting Training
Over the years, I've learned what works for me and what doesn't.  Keeping injury free is important, and experience has thought me that taking a day or two off now, can prevent missing a few weeks later now the line.  I am getting good at distinguishing between a bit of muscle damage soreness that will go away after a day or two, and a niggle that needs attention and rest.  There are more niggles than before, but a lot fewer actual injuries.

I also train a bit differently.  Running is mostly a hobby, and I have stopped being obsessed with times. Some days I leave the watch at home altogether.  That's not to say that I don't run hard.  Sometimes I run very, very hard, but I have realised that there is no point in getting hung up on what times I used to run, and thinking too much about what is and isn't possible.

Role Models
For some athletes, age doesn't seem to be a factor.  I was lucky enough to witness 3-time Olympian Jo Pavey run a European and Commonwealth Games qualifier for 10,000 m.  Pavey is 40, and was just returning from having her second child.  The following week she ran a world V40 record for 5,000 m, in the sort of time that athletes 10 years her junior can only dream of.  While I'm never going to achieve the sort of times that Pavey is running, I can hope to get close to my personal best times.

And if I fancy changing sport, there are many examples of shooters and equestrian athletes who participated at the Olympics well into their 70s.  Indeed, Oscar Swahn (shooting) won an Olympic gold medal when he was 64!

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