An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What happens when you stop getting better?

This was a forum post by BuckHamilton on BeginnerTriathlete today:

This has been my third year doing triathlons and pretty much I have done better in every race (Always had PR's for the courses I have raced before). However at the age of 45 I can see the potential for things to slow down a bit in the next 10 years. Short term I still have a lot of room for getting better but I am worried about that day when I can no longer get my PR's. How does this affect your motivation and want to race and train? The great thing I have learned so far is that it’s almost impossible to run the perfect race so I strive for that knowing I most likely will not have it.

An interesting question. Or set of questions, really.

I've read several regerences to the 7-year window -- from when you start, you can expect 7 years of improvement in a sport. Of course there's the inevitable decline that the increasing number of go-rounds of the sun brings. At what point do those curves cross?

I know that my life-time bests are behind me. Yes, I still did them -- 1:06 half marathon, 34 minute 10K, sub 16 minute 5K, a 2 hour Olympic tri, 54 minute 40K bike TT... But I know I'm not going to hit those times again, no matter what kind of energy I put into training. I made most of those PRs in my late 20's to early 30's. And then I took several years out of any endurance sport, had foot surgery after coming back once, had a twoyear road to being able to run at all...

But I'm okay with that.

And that begs the next question: What is "better"?

If the only reason you do it is for the number on the clock at the finish line, if that's the only motivation for doing it, if that is the only "better" you've got, then you're destined for the rocking chair on the front porch, watching the world go by. I know I won't be faster, but that doesn't mean I'm not better.

I made a comment on a thread that asked "what do you wish you knew then that you know now?" My answer was to find the joy in the activities themselves, running, biking, swimming because there's joy in that movement, and you'll never lack for motivation to train. Though it might not be "training" as much as just that time you need for your own sanity... But the answer to the "what happens when you stop getting better?" question is the same to me: Keep doing it because you find joy in the process, even when the clock at the end of the event says you spent more time out there than last year.

In fact, what you may find is that you do less pointed training towards events.

And it doesn't hurt to reset the PR chart every so often and start over.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

At 44, I feel I've still got a few PRs left, especially since I'm in Year 2 of that magic 7, but I relish the fact that as we get older so do our AG competitors, and everyone's times will eventually be slower. I may not PR as I get older, but my chances of placing for a good effort just might increase. :)