At what point does it become too difficult to stay in shape in order to participate in competitive athletics? Many people try, and do a magnificent job of keeping their weight down, stamina up and their bodies toned to the max. But at what age do the cumulative effects of athletic competition begin to overpower the mind’s determination to go one more round, play one more game or run one more mile?
One man who has valiantly fought the effects of Father Time is Hunter Kemper. At age 36, he qualified for the London 2012 US Olympic team. 2012 is his fourth Olympics as a triathlon competitor. His qualifying time surpassed his qualifying time in 2008, but now he admits it may be time to think about hanging up his Olympic shoes.
The triathlon is a challenging sport with younger participants. Although he looks every bit the well-conditioned athlete, he does look like a well-conditioned veteran athlete. About his race this year he said it just wasn’t in the legs because the speed at which he could pick them up and put them down had fallen off. He just wasn’t able to get in the race. He was more than two minutes behind Great Britain’s gold medal winner, Alistair Brownlee. Kemper’s swim and cycling times were far from disappointing. It was the run that got him!
So what is it about aging that makes the miles that much more difficult to log? For one thing, it’s the cumulative effects of running. The more miles that you put behind you, the greater the chance of overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. These types of injuries should be treated by medical professionals. Failure to do so increases the risk of complicating the injury and needing longer recovery time.
Aside from injury, any biomechanical flaw is going to eventually manifest itself in the form of an ache or pain when your feet are under stress. While cycling and swimming place less stress on the body, the fact is that as you age, the running gets more difficult. Year round training schedules to keep in shape plus the meets, competition and trials necessary to qualify for the team all take their toll. Any injury is going to be a setback.
Other foot problems that can interrupt a runner’s training include:
- Black toenail
- Stress fractures
- Heel spurs
How old is too old? That may well depend on the individual sport. But it seems that prior to age 40, both of the four time Olympic triathlon contenders will probably be hanging up their running shoes and not training for spots in 2016.
K.G. Gauntt, DPM