Fit both in the sense of not being injured, and of being highly tuned and ready to take part.

There is lots of advice about, perhaps too much, but this post is based on the real experience of a masters athlete, which is what this series of blogs concentrates on.

Competing in Torun at the World Indoor Championships

To tie this in with James’ excellent series of reports on the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships, I can report a conversation in the warm up area with a fellow Brit of similar age. He has been advised to have a knee replacement, as have I, but we are taking different approaches to the advice.

His is to get through the summer and then schedule the surgery. I want to get through without the surgery until I’m 75 (three more years) and then tackle the icosathlon in the next age group up.

The rheumatology consultant nicely understated the case when we discussed it, saying: “A knee replacement might impede your athletics.”

My plan for survival has a number of facets:

  • to keep fit not by running, but on a rowing machine
  • to strengthen the muscles around the knee
  • to learn to take-off for the jumps from my other leg
  • not too enter too many competitions, nor too many events at each

I’ve been pleased and surprised how well the knee has performed this year now I’m doing a bit more running and jumping, so fingers crossed for what is clearly a high risk strategy.

Following up on James’ links, the Torun games can be found on YouTube here. This has enabled me to create a short video of my 400 metres heat:

And for those who enjoy some gory detail, this is the MRI report on my knee

Chronic Problems

I suspect that most of us carry some chronic problem with us; they tend to build up as the years go by. My hayfever has almost entirely abated by now, but in return I’ve got high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.

I take two pills for the blood pressure, and they seem to work pretty well. I was given a target range to aim for, and when I remember to check I seem to be pretty well there. I can’t remember how I found out about the problem, but it may be worth checking yours as there are few symptoms.

The rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another problem that’s with me for the rest of my life. I am asked occasionally to raise awareness, so please be aware. In America they have an RA awareness day on Groundhog Day, and in the UK a whole week.

It is an auto-immune disease, which means that my body’s defences are fighting off an attack by my body. All a bit counterproductive. Luckily, I was so scared by its first manifestation (my knuckles swelled up and turned black) that I sought and got help very quickly. That was back in the day, when we used to have GP appointments. And since then the drugs are still working.

Acute problems

I think we all get these, too. I’ve had what might very well have been plantar fasciitis, I’ve certainly got a bone spur on one heel. I can very quickly generate Achilles tendonitis simply by training on a hill. A momentary lapse of concentration brought about a moderate hamstring tear, and Christmas has given me a nasty attack of belt-buckle-itis.

The cure for these ills is not to sit still, or frowst with a book by the fire, but to do what the physio says in the way of rehab.

The finely tuned athletic machine

Well, yes, how to achieve this?

The advancing years do make a difference, as does one’s understanding of what is good for you and what is not.

The conventional wisdom is that sugary drinks should not be part of a training regime, but Lucozade and Snickers are all that I have during the days of a decathlon or an icosathlon.

John Shepherd is a believer in plyometrics and so perhaps would I be if I were 20 years younger. As a decathlete I have to sprint over several distances, and take off with considerable vigour for long and high jumps and pole vault.

I no longer believe that I should go out of my way to repeat these impacts as part of training. The hope that I might strengthen the joints is almost certainly outweighed by the possibility that I might damage them irreparably.

Simple repetitions over sprint distances have also taken a lower priority for me since I turned 70. Every year brings some element of aging, but the years beyond 70 seem particularly cruel.

When I was still a young man of 60 or so, it used to be that as I neared the end of a set of repetitions, I’d think about adding one or two more. Now, discretion is definitely the better part, and I think about doing one or two fewer.

Training as part of a group

I think there is a benefit to this. Completing a parkrun in the company of all those other people is easier than pounding out 5K on your own around the park.

So, I quite envy the members of the Masters’ Sprints Group at my local club London Heathside. The club is based in Finsbury Park and any veteran athlete living anywhere nearby might consider giving it a try. The reason I say ‘envy’ is that my shot put, hammer, and javelin skills don’t fit nicely into the timetable that this group, most of whom are exclusively runners, set for themselves.

What I, and James (, would be very interested in, would be to know of any other elderly-athlete-oriented training groups already in existence, or where there is a need for such a group, so that we can share details and plans.