The Aging Athlete

close up of weight lifter trophy tops

As this year is wrapping up and I sit back and reflect on this past 345 days, I land, squarely, on how my health has been and, predictably, where I want it to go in the upcoming year and beyond.

Over the course of the past month or so, I’ve shifted my schedule around. I’m now starting work at 6 am, which gives me 2 hours of focused, uninterrupted work time when I’m fresh. This allows me to finish my workday at 3 pm and get to the gym in the afternoon, when my body needs it the most, after sitting all day and dealing with those everyday work stressors.

My new schedule comes with a new gym crowd. It’s an interesting one. It’s smaller, for sure, given the fact that it’s before the typical 5pm crush and after the lunch break that a lot of professionals might use for quick workout. The demographic also tilts towards older folks…many of which are retirees.

I don’t mind this one bit. This crowd tends to not hog equipment, they don’t sit on a machine for half an hour texting someone, and they don’t preen in front of the mirrors.

In short, they get in and get their business done.

I like that.

Maybe this makes me a geezer now? I mean I’m nearing my 52nd trip around the sun…

…anyhow…

A particular old guy has caught my attention recently. At first glance, he doesn’t really stand out as any kind of a paradigm of fitness. In fact, he’s kind of stoop shouldered and has a bit of a paunch. His hair and moustache are snow white. I’m guessing he’s at least 65, possibly a little older.

This dude on a stair climber, tho, is kind of amazing. He just goes and goes and goes. He maintains an admirable pace, even for someone half his age, and does it for at least half an hour.

To be honest, I’m a little bit envious.

Back around May of this year, I began to experience issues with my legs. It started with a seriously painful condition that affected the right side of my lower body. It was, I think, a combination of my IT band and my psoas that left me absolutely doubled over in agony for the better part of two weeks.

The iliotibial (IT) band is this long connective tissue that runs from a person’s hip down to the outer part of their knee. When this band is overused, which happens typically with runners, it results in a nagging pain in the outer knee and hip.

It wasn’t just the outside of my knee and hip that were hurting, however.

My right glute, hamstring, hip, and vastus medialis (the inner part of my quadricep down around my knee) were on fire, all the time. This glute, hamstring, and hip issue tends to be a result of an injured psoas muscle, which is one that attaches from your lower back to the front of your hip. It’s part of a group of muscles that allow us to raise and lower our upper leg.

I’m assuming that the inner part of my knee was hurting simply because everything else around it was just a mess.

As a result, there was no comfort, at any time. Not sitting, not standing, not laying down. It took a couple of weeks of gentle yoga, massage, gabapentin, and ibuprofen to finally calm down.

But it didn’t really go away. Instead, it all just…shifted. And my left leg decided to get a piece of the action as well. The upper leg pain was gone, but now both Achilles tendons, calves, and the outer part of my shins decided to act up.

It’s been this way for six months now. Only now, over the course of the past couple of weeks, has it been lessening.

Bilateral Achilles Tendonitis is super rare. It happens in less than 1% of cases. While I treated it like BAT…weeks of rest, gentle stretching, regular anti-inflammatories, it didn’t go away. Mind you, for most of the past six months, I worked at home. I completely stopped my leg workouts at the gym. I stopped using the stationary bike. I also stopped walking as much as possible. I did this for months. I continued my upper body workouts, but adjusted them to take out as much use of my legs as possible (for example, I stopped doing lifts that involved standing).

All of this happened so quickly and there was never really any physical event that brought it on. I didn’t pull something in the gym or suffer some kind of fall or other trauma. In all honestly, it really seemed to just come out of nowhere.

I started to suspect that this may have been a result of my Covid vaccination. But, then I remembered that I had a Shingrix vaccination before my Pfizer doses. After doing a little research, I discovered that there have been quite a few cases of long term leg pain post Shingrix vax. So there’s that.

That, and the very real fact, that I’m aging.

Up until now, the concept of aging never really bothered me much. I don’t mind watching my hair turn white. In fact I kind of enjoy it. I have a young looking face and good skin. In fact, part of me kind of wants to age up a little bit in the face.

I don’t mind being in my 50’s at all. I don’t view it as “old”.

What I do not enjoy, at all, however, is deteriorating. I’m not a fan of my eyesight suddenly taking a turn for the worse. The slight hearing loss that I have, is cause for a little bit of concern. But mostly, I don’t like suddenly finding my mobility, my gait, and my balance affected. I’m also not a fan of the extra weight that arrived as a result of the plague combined with the long term injuries that I’ve had over the past couple of years (around this time last year I had a rotator cuff tear in my left shoulder that put me in therapy and completely out the gym for a month before Covid shut everything down again).

I’ve been an athlete for the biggest part of my life. From the age of eleven up until now. Forty years. We can subtract maybe a combined decade out of that…times over the course of past four decades where I’ve had to focus on family, a return to university late in life, and career…so we’ll say that 3/4 of my life has included some type of sport and/or the gym.

Mostly the gym, which has been my longest, and most steady, love affair.

It’s a big part of my identity.

So, this coming year, there are some new goals.

Yep, I still want my abs back. I also want to be able to do three sets of ten chin-ups again. Along with all of that, I need to learn how to navigate this season of my life. I want to learn about athletic performance for seniors and how to get the most of it that I can. I want to be able to walk again without pain. It would be really awesome if I could, at least, match that old guy on the stair climber. lol

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and pass on any discoveries that I may find.

Published by Jonah Sheridan Fenn

Nerd herder, word wrangler, working on the next chapter...

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