Recent media reports have linked “extreme” exercise to shortened lifespan (versus moderate exercisers). There is not an agreed definition of what constitutes extreme but, even at my current noncompetitive level of activity, I qualify.
My endurance pals have responded like Charlton Heston at an NRA rally.
If you want me to change then you can pry my fitbit from my cold, dead hands…
Ultradistance athletes are the true believers of endurance sport (links to classic book).
Many of us have replaced a previous passion, sometimes a negative addiction, with endurance sport.
Some of us are managing our “bad habits” via exercise.
All of us are terrified about the implications of change. Listen to our thoughts about anyone with a normal BMI.
Having watched friends revert to previous lifestyles, and having no desire to make a return myself (!), I thought I’d offer some practical ideas for managing our passion.
As always, I start by asking myself questions:
- Where can things go wrong?
- Is a multi-decade strategy to continually rip the legs of my aging competition wise?
- What’s the minimum change required for maximum harm reduction?
Hands down, the worst thing that can happen to any aging athlete is losing the ability to train. Physically, strength losses are slow to return. Mentally, we are prone to depression via inactivity.
I’d be willing to compromise quite a bit to protect my ability to keep on trucking!
You are not going to get a lot of lifestyle modification by telling me that “strenuous” exercise isn’t good for me.
Not going to happen!
You see, I know how I was living without exercise in my life.
You might get me to change a little by pointing out the risk of:
- Dying via bike crash
- Orthopedic damage
- Concussion risk
- General malaise from soreness and fatigue
In fact, you didn’t have to bring it up. I see it all around me and have modified my lifestyle to take the above into account.
- Highway riding avoidance
- Adding front/rear lights for improved visibility
- Rarely train in a group
- No more bike racing
- Main bike is full-suspension mountain bike
These small changes have improved my risk profile but I have ignored them when training for an event that required them, and when spending time with friends that could care less.
So, like any behavioral modification, my changes are only as sticky as my ability to choose wisely with peers and events.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Aim to train every AM and PM
- Workout defined as leaving my house
- Focus on frequency (AM/PM), not duration, not load
- Wide variation in effort, from walking to max
- Lots of hills
- Don’t measure (other than a weekly weight check)
I end up with 11-14 doses per week and remain inside the “extreme” segment of recent physiological studies.
I’d estimate my current plan at 30% less hours, 60% less load and 90% less fatigue/soreness.
I exercise a lot, but less than I used to. I suspect the taper will continue as I age.
The small changes have improved my risk profile and increased the non-competitive benefits I receive from exercise (mood, motivation, creativity, sex drive).
I don’t expect you to change…
…but this is an alternative that reduces the chance you might have to shut down your endurance passion
…or end up replacing it with a prior negative addiction!
In times of injury, stress, divorce, despair… I hope you will remember this article.
Exercise has been a very good friend to my family.