Q&A: Aging and Injuries
Question: I'm 50 and starting to get new injuries, and old injuries are creeping back into the picture. I'm concerned about taking extended time off to recover and heal correctly and being able to come back at the same level I'm used to. My concern is not being able to race at the level I've worked hard to achieve and maintain. I appreciate your thoughts and input. Thanks!
Answer: Thanks for your note. There is no doubt that some fitness will be lost if you reduce or eliminate training for some extended period of time to allow the injuries to heal. But the alternative seems even worse—to train at a reduced level in order to mollify your injuries for a (probably) long period of time.
A short, personal anecdote: In 1994 at age 50 I was diagnosed with viral myocarditis, an inflammation of muscles in the heart due to a virus from a bad cold I had that winter. I was advised by my cardiologist to take time off from training until the symptoms were gone. It turned out to be 7 months of no activity whatsoever. I started training gently again in October of that year. By June the following year I podiumed at nationals and was in as good of a physical condition as I had ever been in recent years.
Injuries must be attended to immediately and aggressively. I always have my client-athletes stop or greatly reduce training when an injury pops up. We try to nip it in the bud immediately. Better to lose a few days than a few months.
The bigger issue, it seems to me, is to avoid injuries in the first place. If I was in your place I’d be trying to determine why this is happening. Age is not a good answer. That’s just a cop-out for allowing an imbalance of some sort to occur (strength or flexibility, most likely). There is no physiological reason why age, by itself, should cause an injury. I’d suggest seeing a physical therapist who works with endurance athletes and have him/her assess your body from head to toe and tell you what may be causing this. Then you would begin to devote training time to prevention.