2014-03-31

Post-Training Training

I began running competitively at around the age of eight. I spent literal decades honing my approach to training, and it worked very well for me. At this point in my life, however, the combination of age, diabetes, and competing responsibilities is such that I'm unlikely to win another competitive race ever. This isn't a "bad thing," it's just a fact of life, and I'm okay with it.

The question is this: Now, how should I train?

The reason this is a question at all is because if I just go out for a run every day, then I'll never push myself hard enough to reap the benefits of exercise. I'll be moving my legs and getting fresh air and sunlight - both of which are very good things. But unless I'm training for a race, I'm not actively involved in ramping up my endurance base, or doing speed work, or increasing my VO2-max, or etc. etc. In other words, I'm exercising, but not very hard. For that reason, the training habits I've acquired over the years are a liability. Resting on my strengths means slacking off, even if I'm exercising, and slacking off doesn't help the body much more than taking a nap. The body adapts to repetitive demands; that which benefits in the beginning eventually loses its punch. If I want to keep my lungs in great shape, my heart in great shape, and my muscles, bones and ligaments strong, I need to keep challenging myself.

There are many ways to keep challenging oneself, of course, but my point here is that setting my sights on the next big race or the next major marathon is only one option of many. I might be better served to build a little muscle mass or do more calisthenics until my body starts slacking off on those things again. At that point, I could go back to running or choose something else.

The key point is that, without having a specific sport to train for, the possibilities broaden a little. Growing older and exercising involves embracing new possibilities and making the most of them.