While athletic as a kid, I was never an athlete. I was so-so at swimming lessons, at best, mediocre at team sports in elementary school and found every excuse to avoid high school gym classes. Even as an adult I was an abysmal baseball and soccer player but my enthusiasm must have counted for something because I was never kicked off a team.
I found cycling, running and swimming in my mid-20s — finally sports I was good at. I always admired how fluid lifelong swimmers looked in the pool and on the track, the triathetes who had been cross country runners in high school lapped me every workout. The way they moved was effortless and made me wished I chose sports over drama. I just assumed because they were competitive athletes in their youth that they would always be faster than me.
Or not. This article on the NY Times Well blog earlier this week suggests that adult onset runners like myself have the advantage of not having ‘too many miles on the tires’ — accumulated injuries and mental fatigue from years of non-stop competition which can often slow adult athletes down. Pulling research from several sources, including studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pittsburgh, author Gina Kolata also includes anecdotes from her time with other runners in her post to suggest that longtime runners, unlike runners that take up the sport later in life, will slow down with age. According to Kolata’s theory, I should only be getting faster.
I was. For a little while, at least.
Right after the birth of our first child, I was. Blogging mother runners I was friends with coined the term ‘pregnancy blood doping’ to account for our super speeds. Because blood volumes increase by more than 40% during pregnancy (in turn, more oxygen can get to your muscles), it made sense that I was posting race times five to 10 minutes faster than anything I did pre-pregnancy. But I also ate better while breastfeeding and had mommy guilt hanging over my head during every workout, so I’d push through sets faster than usual. However, five years later I’m slower — but that’s because my goals have changed. I’m no longer interested in running fast — I want to run longer — and I haven’t figured out out to run fast and long.
What has been your experience? Were you a track superstar and now a back-of-the-packer? Or are you speeding up as you jump up through age groups?
Photo by MrUllmi via Flickr.