Are injuries a normal part of your exercise or favorite athletic activity? Does the culture surrounding that activity believe injuries and pain are suppose to be a normal part and something to be accepted?
I think about longevity through the standpoint of living longer but living better. And a big part of living better is not getting hurt. And what I love about talking to orthopedic surgeons, especially people like Eric, who are just so cognizant of what the demise looks like at the end of life. By understanding where people fail later in life, you can mitigate that earlier in life. So we get into a lot of detail around the common joint injuries…”
It’s a long and meandering podcast, but filled with insightful discussion. Toward the end, they bring up the topic that is central to my conviction behind The Longevity Athlete – one can go hard and be the top of their game or sport for 20 years or so, but because they have traumatized their bodies so much in those years to get to the top, there is a rapid decline in health after that.
Then we have the media hype, and all these older adults going around listening to the stories of these great athletes, trying to extract ideas and inspiration for technique and training. But they don’t realize the cost those athletes have paid in their bodies for using those techniques and training methods. Our athletic heroes don’t talk about how bad their bodies are hurting and restricted now, do they?
If you want to live longer, live better, you have to be physically active, and likely way more active that the average people around you. But it matters how you move. You need to be active in a way that does not jeopardize the well-being of your joints, but rather strengthens them.
If you hurt your joints, they have a hard time being restored, and usually one injury precipitates a downward spiral toward more failures in the body. The older we get, the more that structural failures in the body can make a person much more vulnerable to systemic disease and mental decline as well.
You need to master superior movement patterns for the activities you enjoy, so that you can keep doing those activities for as long as possible, and so that you are not ruined for activities later on more suitable to that time of life.
You need to subscribe to instruction and programs that are attuned to the needs of longevity, not highest competitive performance, because where those highest performance programs get their inspiration is from a system that is incentivized to take great risks with the health of athletes in order to get them to the top and keep them there. On one hand, once they have a valuable athlete in hand, these programs want to protect them, but the reason the athletes are there is to win. If they fail to do that, or it gets too costly to keep them in shape, they are expelled because there are thousands of athletes in line ready to take their place.
This goes for the coaches as well. They need to produce winners or they lose their job. So, despite the best intentions of the individuals involved, the system is set up to treat individual athletes as expendable. Therefore their techniques and methods are suspect because of this conflict of interest between winning and health.
But your body is all you’ve got to support you to the end of your life. It is not expendable to you. You do better to draw your inspiration and guidance from people and programs that fit your values for longevity, where ‘don’t get hurt’ is truly more important than ‘higher performance’, where this is put into practice, not just given lip service.
Subscribe to safe technique and follow a training method made for normal (older) adults who are not looking to risk their health for a podium. And don’t let yourself get hurt. The program should explicitly include that goal. If you are starting to feel some irritation and pain from your training methods, that is a sign something is wrong. Don’t cover it up with ibuprofen and endorphins. Get some help.
If you don’t get some help the pre-mature wear-and-tear or persistent injury your permit will very likely come back to haunt you in a few years. What may start restricting you from running now, may restrict you from walking later on. Then when you can’t move very well later on, you grow weaker in muscle strength and neural response and become even more susceptible to falling and failing – and that is the so-called “life-ending injury” these two doctors are talking about later in the podcast.
Rather than view your athletic activity as a threat to your longevity, use your athletic goals as positive pressure to deal with problems that your athletic training exposes. Rather than give up and back way off from difficult activity, press in to the problem. Seek out help. Become educated and trained in addressing the specific problems that your aches and pains are trying to alert you to.
This is one of the primary reasons I am pursuing ultra-distance running. I have an explicit goal of running farther and doing it without injury and pain. I am studying, experimenting and refining a process of training to reduce the risk of injury rather than ignore it and hope it doesn’t catch me. And I am also ready to back away from my particular ultra goal, if I can’t find an injury-free way forward to running longer distance, because the the whole point is to use this objective to develop a stronger, longer lasting body, not wear it out sooner.
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