I’m Too Old to Improve

from I’m Gonna Be…

I’m too old to improve… Or at least that’s what “people” say.  It’s almost impossible to get development money at the ripe old age of 38.  We’re told to just be happy being a master’s athlete.  We’re told not to try to make international teams.  We’re told just to retire gracefully.

But you know what, I refuse.

I’m 38 and better than ever, and I can prove it.  How?  In the past 2.5 months I have done my best times ever in the following distances:  1500, mile, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, 10K, 30K, 40K, marathon, and 50K.

And you know who would probably agree with me?  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Dana Torres, Oksana Chusovitina, Meb Keflezighi, and Jo Pavey, just to name a few.  Do you know why they’d probably agree with me?  Because even though they’re all “old” they’re still at the top of their game.

I’m not saying that as you get older that your body doesn’t change, of course it does.  Many people need more rest than they did before, more recovery.  Stretching, mobility, core work and strength become even more vital.  But it’s doable.

Some people would say I’m improving now because I didn’t live up to my potential earlier.  They could very well be correct.  I’m positive that many of the things I’ve been doing to improve on could’ve (and should’ve) been done years ago.  But you can’t do what you don’t know you should’ve done.  And just because I should’ve done it years ago is no reason to not do it now!  Because now I have the knowledge, the help, and the motivation to do it.

So how have I been doing it?  There are a number of things, some probably bigger pieces of the puzzle than others, but I think it’s all connected.  The body is an amazing machine and it’s all intertwined.  But here are some of the biggies:

1.  I got an iron infusion.  In June of last year I finally dipped below the line into anemic.  I’ve been borderline for years, and even saying to the doctors my iron levels are too low for an endurance athlete, it didn’t matter.  I took iron supplements, ate iron-rich foods, didn’t drink tea with meals, everything I could think of, and it didn’t work.  This is obviously not something that will work for everyone, but I think there’s a very important lesson.  Make sure you get your blood work done.  Have it checked as regularly as you can.  This will allow you to see if certain values drop, raise or stay the same.  Keep in mind that levels in blood tests are for an average person.  As endurance athletes we are not average and should not be treated as such.  If you truly think you are low in something and your doctor says you’re fine, get a second opinion.  Do some research, talk to people and see what you can do.

2.  I worked on my technique.  I had issues getting DQed (for bent knee).  I worked on technique with a former coach, but we never quite got things sorted.  So I took matters fully into my own hands.  I went to people and talked, I watched videos.  I went to people who knew nothing about race walking and asked questions to get a completely different viewpoint.  And it worked!  In the past year or so I think I’ve gotten three or four paddles and maybe one card?  I don’t remember for sure, but everything has been super clean.  And I’ve had a number of officials approach me after races saying I’m looking the best I ever have.  If you think technique is holding you back then work on it!  Video yourself and watch it.  Compare it to the best in the world.  When I coached track I had the runners do it too.  In my opinion running coaches don’t work on technique enough.  You can learn so much!  Have other people look at the videos.  Visit a coach whom you respect to help you with technique.  Whatever it is do something!

3.  I’ve seriously upped my core/glute work.  I’ve known for a while that my right glute medius is a bit lazy (yes, I’m half a lazy a&&).  I had worked on things, but in hindsight no where near enough.  Some of it was that I’d work and maybe do the exercises not exactly right so that I wouldn’t get the full benefit.  And then there’s be the exercises that were so hard that I just couldn’t do it and it’d be so frustrating that I’d stop trying.  I finally got well and truly over that and said if I can’t do it I need to be able to do it and I will work on it.  Even if it makes me sore, even if it means I can’t race walk for a day or so.  I’m not saying to work a muscle into such fatigue that it’s exhausted, that’s not a good idea.  But I would start off with a few and work my way up.  Now I’m happy to say that the exercise I couldn’t do on my right side before at all I can do two sets of eight!  Progress!  My core is stronger than it’s ever been and I’m sure it’s been helping with my new technique.

4.  I’m the lightest I’ve been.  Definitely since 2012 but I think actually since high school.  I’ve accomplished this from a few different angles.  First I’m putting in more mileage.  Second, along with that bigger mileage I’m not necessarily eating a lot more.  It’s a very delicate balance, and sometimes I do get quite hungry, but for the most part I’m getting better about not snacking when I don’t need to and eating slightly smaller portions.  I always want to make sure I refuel, but don’t want to feel like I just did a big workout so I can eat whatever I want.  Also, and for me this was a biggie, I’m allowing myself treats.  For a while I tried to cut out sweets and sugar.  All it really made me was miserable and feeling like I was denying myself all the time.  But I read something that really clicked with me.  I just want a taste…  Which is true.  I don’t need a whole desert, I just want a taste.  I just want a piece of something.  And when I do that that every few days I’m happy.  I don’t feel like I’m denying myself all the time, I get something yummy, and I’m not eating a huge amount.

5. The mental aspect.  I’ve improved on it but there’s still more work for me to do in my mental game.  Now I have to know and believe that I’m as fast as I am.  With taking so much time off my 10K last weekend it’s causing me to re-imagine everything.  The pace I did that race at, if I double it, would be under the IAAF time for world champs.  That’s quite a thing to think and get used to, but a good one.  To improve my mental game I read a lot of books.  My favorite, and I’ve mentioned it before, is “With Winning In Mind” by Lanny Basham.  I have read it probably five times and each time I read it I learn something more or am reminded of something or see something in a new light.  I highly recommend this book.

Please, don’t make the mistakes I did.  Don’t wait.  If you want it, go out and work for it.  It’ll be hard work.  You’ll be tired.  It’ll be super frustrating at times.  But then you can live your life with no regrets.  Find someone to help you.  If you have questions then ask them.  People in general, and especially race walkers, are generally so giving with their time and knowledge.  And there are lots of coaches out there wanting to help and waiting to share their knowledge.

Happy training!

and as always, to help me on my journey please consider visiting my store through Running Warehouse and Flipgive.  Even just going to Running Warehouse through my portal helps, so please do so!  Thanks 🙂

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