But, if you did not start athletics at an early age, should you even bother trying later in life? And, if you’re already past 40, are you already on the downslide of your ability to physically perform? With the biological clock ticking away, it's hard not to feel like you may have already missed your window of opportunity to make gains in fitness and performance.
Or have you?
Master athletes – good news
In animal species, it has long been known that there is a trade-off between development and maintenance. Animals that grow large and develop earlier tend to have shorter lifespans than those which get off to slower, more modest starts. Now a new study suggests a similar pattern of a life history trade-off between early and above average physical performance, and longevity in Olympic athletes.
I remember a story from about 15 years ago of the top Masters 5k/10k runner in the world. I believe he was British (I’ve searched for his name and story but cannot find it). His story is pretty incredible nonetheless. At age 30, he was a fairly elite chef. He was also a sedentary, overweight couch potato and on the verge of dying due to extreme strain on his heart, he was told by his doctor. He had never been athletic, but his doctor suggested he try running. Walking on the treadmill evolved into casual runs and eventually into competing in local races. When he turned 40 and into his 40s, he was the fastest Masters 5k/10k runner on the planet. That’s pretty amazing!
There are plenty of other stories of young athletes who upon adulthood fall out of sport for various reasons. Tina Husted is one such athlete. Playing basketball while growing up, she also flirted with track in high school, running on her school’s 4x800m relay. As for so many, “life happened” and it wasn’t until 2010 at the age of 37 that Husted got back into running when a friend dared her to do a Warrior Dash. Three years later at the age of 40, she ran a 2:46 marathon and shows no signs of slowing down.
What I’m getting at is this. It’s never too late to start getting yourself into better physical shape. As anyone who listens will hear me say, “The body drives the mind, not the other way around.” By keeping yourself active and physically fit, by challenging yourself physically (and I do not mean by power walking, but by really challenging yourself), you will keep the mind engaged and live a higher quality of life when other folks who stopped moving are starting to break down. More and more studies are showing that remaining physically active until your dying day will keep your mental acuity higher.
If you used to be an athlete but feel there’s no use in picking a sport back up because your best days are behind you, or if you have never been athletic and are afraid to give something a try, don’t be! Take the leap and get out there! Start with reasonable goals and expectations – you won’t set the world on fire your first day. But, with an intelligent approach, progress will come and come faster than you probably anticipate or imagine. That is when things get exciting!
So, what are you waiting for?