A bit of a rant

October 27, 2010

David and I have been so busy building our barefoot running workshop that my blog has gone from a sporadic series of thoughts to....nothing!

I have numerous discussions on a daily basis that inspire me to "discuss" them here which then makes things clearer in my head (or throws up more questions.....).  Lately though, I've not had the time to sit down and ponder, but there's one subject that keeps cropping up and I feel I must find the time to make my point!

The subject is age.  It's something that's always been an issue, right from the beginning when I began my career in health and fitness.  In most certification courses, there is a section on "special populations" and one "special" bunch is "old people".  You learn on your course that you have to be more careful with old people - don't let them lift their arms over their heads in case they have high blood pressure, slow things down, don't raise their heart rate too high, don't give them complicated moves as they're not so coordinated these days, bless them.

When I was 21 and taking these courses, I let all this wash over me, imagining my Gran and thinking, "yep, it's true, after all at 75 she would struggle with an advanced step class".  Which, of course, she would.

One of the most important elements in my profession is the ability to give appropriate exercises to my clients.  And certainly, my eldest client age 82 has a distinctly different programme to my youngest, age 23.  However, I would also point out that I have more than one client aged 50+ who can knock out a half hour run followed by some pretty hard core circuit training as well as clients half their age who, when they first came to me, couldn't even run up the stairs.

What's really brought this into focus is Motor Racing - specifically, Formula One.  David has been a fan for years and once he explained to me what the hell was going on (apart from the obvious noisy cars going round and round), I became hooked too.  However, I almost have to watch the races with the sound turned down now so that I don't have to listen to the commentators repeatedly telling us that Michael Schumacher, at the shockingly old age of 41, should not have returned to racing and ought to go home, put his slippers on and make himself a cup of cocoa.  We could, as a country, admire the fact that he's brave enough to return to such a dangerous sport.  We could marvel at his fitness levels, which are on a par with his 25 year old rivals, and be inspired by his total disregard for his age.

But no.  Instead, let's be digusted by his behaviour.  A 41 year old crone should know better than to pretend he's still good for anything other than a wander round the garden before his afternoon nap.

And yes, I may be exaggerating....slightly.....but is this really the message we want to give people?  ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S NOT TRUE!  David is working on a section of our workshop at the moment which dispels the myth that we lose fitness with age.  If we do nothing at all, then yes, our fitness will deteriorate, but if we do the most important thing which is to recognise that our bodies change as we grow older and accommodate that change, there's no reason why we can't get fitter and stronger as the years roll on.  Look at Haile Gebrselassie who, at 37, has just won the Great North Run.  What about Merlene Ottey who's still sprinting competitively at 50?  Pam Reed is still happily running ultamarathons and completing ironmans at aged 49.  And there are numerous references in Chris McDougall's "Born to Run" about 90+ year old Tarahumara tribe members running daily in the mountains.

Age is, in fact, just a number.  I know "old" 30 year olds and very "young" 80 year olds.  It's all down to attitude and belief, but it would certainly help if the UK Sports Media would open their eyes and recognize the potential in those whose number is above 25.

This blog is called "Barefoot Antics" so how can I make this post relevant?!  Well, both David and I are fitter now than we've ever been as a result of taking off our shoes and learning to run better.  For me too (who was never a lover of science anyway), barefoot running has inspired me to listen more to anecdotal evidence coming from real, successful athletes, and listen less to scientific studies that "prove" that fitness depressingly decreases with age.

Whatever age you are, you can feel better, move better and get more out of life.

End of rant.

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