How to Remain a Weekend Warriorfor Life
Baby boomers may be getting older, but many are still avid, if not obsessive, exercisers. And they want to stay that way. Boomers were the first generation to grow up doing physical activity for its own sake, a phenomenon reflected in Title IXwhich opened up high school and collegiate sports to womenJane Fonda's workout tapes, and the jogging revolution.
"We're not about to be sedentary," says Marjorie Albohm, a 57-year-old athletic trainer and director of sports medicine at OrthoIndy in Indianapolis. "As we approach the aging years, we're saying, 'Hey, I want to be as fit today as I was in my 20s, and I want to be sure I'm still physically active in my 80s.' " That's an admirable goal, but it's important to do it smartly. Here's how:
Be realistic. Face it: You can't do exactly what you did when you were 25. "I have to be the voice of reason," says orthopedic surgeon Nicholas DiNubile, author of FrameWork, an all-ages guide to keeping your body together. He coined the term "boomeritis" to refer to the host of injuries experienced by overzealous boomers. "People tell me, 'I need my knee cleaned out again because the last time it only lasted three months.' I don't mind people exploring and extending their limits," he says, "but when there are indeed limits, you need to respect them. You can't do damage to yourself."
At some point, you'll probably have to cut back or modify your workout regimen. "People say that they did cardio seven times a week in their 20sthat can lead to overuse injuries and too much stress on the musculoskeletal system," agrees Albohm. "I was one of those people who went seven days a week, and I started getting knee pain and foot problems. Your body is talking to you." If you don't like what it's saying, it's probably time to scrutinize your routine and your goals, and make adjustments.
Still, push yourself. With the right precautions, your performance can stay steadyand even improvewell into middle age. Ironman triathlete Karen Smyers, 45, was 12th in the world last year, beating other pros who are decades younger than she is. "If you want to run a few miles at eight or nine minutes a mile, most of the population has the potential to do that into their 60s," says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of TexasAustin. And in sports that require technique, like swimming and rowing, it can take years for amateur athletes to develop moves that work best for them. So someone who starts in her 30s may not even hit her stride until she's 50.
Performance doesn't have to really decline until well past middle age. Vonda Wright, director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, did an analysis of the eight top finishing times in each of the 2001 Senior Olympics track and field events. Between the ages of 50 and 75, performance declined less than 2 percent per year. "At 75," she says, 'biology catches up, and performance declines by 8 percent per year."