Older Athletes Refuse to Retire

The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what directiom we are moving. Oliver Wendall Holmes

How old is too old, when athletes are over the hill and ought to begin considering retirement? Each individual is unique. Some athletes keep going, like the energizer bunny, whereas others retire early in their career.

Testing limits has proven what was once believed to be impossible is actually possible. Reality is an illusion to be tested. Athletes continuously raise the bar with time, speed and other mile markers, age is now also being challenged.

Congratulations to the athletes who are breaking barriers, refusing to view age as an obstacle. Sure, genetics plays a role but it is not the only indicator of continued physical fitness as athletes grow older. Experience and desire are excellent motivators for rising up to a challenge, many times helping to overcome physical limitations.

Diana Nyad’s marathon endurance swim attempt from Cuba to Key West recently is an excellent example of age being a motivator to test the limits. Her 60th birthday spurred the desire to give it one more shot for a world record, propelling her to train for the event.

Look around and you will see athletes, near and far, challenging the acceptable norm of physical abilities. Master athletes, age 35 and older, continue competing. Many competitions have added age categories to accommodate older athletes. In the 2008 Olympics, Dara Torres at 40y/o went to Beijing on the U.S. Swimming Team. She was competing against swimmers half her age.

My own backyard has an abundance of athletes I view as role models of what is possible as I become older. When I began rowing at age 40 I was one of the younger women in the club. The majority of men and women rowers on the racing team were in their 50’s and 60’s. In fact one of the competitive rowers is in her 80’s.

These women have become great role models for me of what is possible as I continue to age. In fact, rowing has changed my perception of aging. As I get older I move up into new categories. Going from a C to a D age category is something to anticipate.

No longer do I have the stereotypical view of being a granny sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch, napping in the sun. Now I look toward becoming stronger and remaining fit as I age. Age is a concept. If I determine how I ought to act by my chronological age, I would be a different person than who I am today. Why act old when it doesn’t have to be that way?

Do changes need to be made as you get older? Sure, but they are incremental. So, what keeps a master athlete on her toes?

Consistency – Maintaining an exercise training program slows down the aging process. It doesn’t reverse aging, but it slows it down significantly. Stay active for continued good health. Endurance vs. sprints – Fast twitch muscles deteriorate more quickly than slow twitch. Basically, slow twitch muscles are used more on a daily basis. The slow twitch, or fatigue resistant muscles, mean older athletes are better at endurance vs. sprint performance. Motivation – Train because it is a choice, not a necessity. Discover the reasons you enjoy being fit and how training benefits your life. Become aware of the correlation between motivation and the pleasure you receive from participation. Experience – Some things are learned through time, effort and mistakes. The more time devoted to your sport the more experience gained. Active learning combined with education gives older athletes an edge. You learn where your strengths lie.

Older athletes still take risks. More prevention, however, is also taken to avoid injury. The mindset is to train smarter, not harder.

As you age, recognize your choices. Commitment is easier when it is fully aligned with your values. There is a direct correlation between motivation and perceived pleasure. Simply, if you enjoy what you are doing you are more likely to continue with that activity.

Extraordinary performance is possible regardless of age. Create an alliance between your goals, your motivation and your sport for a winning recipe. Learn the options available to help you improve. Be open to change. Are you willing to make adjustments as necessary for successful goal achievement?

Activity: Goal attainment requires hitting the mark, making adjustments along the way to reach your goal. The process becomes continual and fluid. Determine your goal plus where your willingness for continued learning lies as you strive for mastery. There is always more to learn. A better way always exists. Masters strive for subtle improvements. Openness to possibilities is the key to goal fulfillment.

Do you continue to compete? Maybe you are like me and began competing later in life. Regardless of the category you are racing in, focus and confidence remain important. Maintaining focus boosts performance.

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