Exercise and Aging | 80/20 Endurance

Exercise and Aging

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    This really isn’t specific to just running, though it does apply. Has anyone else found that exercise helps to reverse a lot of the negative affects of aging? Especially if you waited until later in life to start or (like me) took a long break and started again.

    I was really good about working out (lifting, running, swimming, cycling, etc.) through high school and college. Even after college, I was pretty consistent. When my wife and I married, I was 27. For a couple of years, I did enough to keep from gaining weight and to stay in reasonably good shape. But once we started having kids, I completely fell off of the wagon, stopped exercising, ate like crap, and put on weight.

    By the time I hit age 35, I felt awful. No energy or stamina. Constantly tired. Everything (back, knees, feet, joints, etc.) hurt. Anytime I did anything active with the kids, I paid for it and felt like I had been in a car wreck for days. In my mind, this was just an inevitable part of aging. It sucked and I figured it was only going to get worse.

    The week of Christmas (2008), we stayed with my in-laws. All I felt like doing was sleeping. No matter how much sleep I got, it was never enough. My wife was really concerned. My dad was (type 2) diabetic and she was wondering if this might be the case with me. I decided to cut out sugar for a couple of days and see what happened. What a difference this made. This gave me a terrible headache, but I actually had energy and otherwise felt really good. The headache subsided after a week or so, but my energy level remained.

    This was when I started working out again. Nothing crazy. Just a basic routine of strength training, core, and cardio. Within a few weeks, I had dropped the extra weight and felt better than I had felt in years. I started running again in 2018 and this has become my favorite form of exercise.

    I’ve dealt with a few minor issues and had to learn to be proactive with injury prevention. But at age 48, I feel amazing. My only regret is the years I didn’t take care of myself. However, it’s better to learn late than never. Anyone else have a story they would like to share?


    A subject near and dear to my heart…

    I’m on the verge of 50, so pretty close to your age and my experience has been pretty similar, however I have a few different takeaways based on my experience.

    While I never really let myself get “out of shape” since high school, I did tend to just weight lift a little, run or bike a little, play tennis a little, etc until about 12 years ago when my wife announced she wanted to run a marathon by year-end after having our 2nd child in February. That prompted a major uptick in the “volume” of my training, and I enjoyed many years of continued improvement heretofore unknown to me…setting PRs at all distances, qualifying for the Boston marathon, then getting into ultra marathons and duathlons etc to the extent you could say I was full-on addicted to endurance sports.

    I’m not particularly talented for this stuff either, I am definitely fast-twitch by nature and thus it took many years of steady training, planning, etc to get myself where it could be objectively said I was “good” at running.

    However not only are there diminishing returns to this training lifestyle, I think it can easily be taken too far and cause problems. I’ve had stress fractures and other overuse injuries, none of which I’d have had otherwise – and in 2018 I had to have hip surgery. Currently I have an issue with my knee (patellofemoral syndrome or PFS or “runners knee”) that is resistant to all treatment and for which I flatly refuse to get surgery due to the profoundly bad record of surgery correcting this issue. I’ve “run myself into the ground” you could say. I have other aches and pains regularly that I wouldn’t have without my weekly schedule of training, I guess that’s just a byproduct of being 50+ and in this lifestyle. It’s been fun hitting all those benchmarks but now at the other end of it I’m not sure I’d say it was worth it if I am going to be hobbled from here onward.

    So there is some ambiguous “balance” that should be achieved but where that actually is I don’t know. At a High School reunion recently there wasn’t a guy there that was as fit/healthy as I looked, so there’s that at least. 🙂


    Hey guys, … I have a somewhat similar experience. I was not active in any team sports in high school or afterwards, but I always remained reasonably active just for enjoyment (running, cycling, swimming, ultimate frisbee, basketball, etc). But perhaps different from you guys, I smoked cigarettes for 23 years.

    At 36 I managed to quit smoking. I joined karate, did some weight training, and began running regularly. I was feeling really good and was hoping to keep at it for a long time. Then the kids came (that was great, too, of course) but my health went down hill. I struggled to find energy and feel good.

    In Feb 2019, I bought a treadmill to lose weight. I worked myself up until I was running 6 days a week on it and once I got up to a certain duration and intensity, the pounds came flying off. I’ve lost 60 pounds and have remained at the same weight for a while now.

    I started training for a half-marathon in early 2020, and after 3 delays it is now on for 9/19/21. Older brothers who are endurance runners have convinced me to take on a full marathon. They tell me I am doing well, so I’ll ride on that.

    I feel much better about myself, I’ve kept the weight off, received many compliments, I sleep less, and I have more energy for life period. It’s great. I do sometimes wonder how good I could have been when I was younger if I didn’t smoke and did less partying, but I don’t dwell on it. I’m just focused on improving and having a blast routinely besting PR’s. As Brian warns, I think there are limits that have to be respected if you don’t want to walk with a cane. But all in all, I am very satisfied becoming active later in life. I am 52 and can do more pushups, pullups, and run much faster than I ever could. Thanks.


    Sorry to hear about the training related issues. I know it doesn’t help now, but do you think there are any training adjustments that could prevent these types of issues? It sounds like you went pretty hardcore. Just wondering.

    My knees bothered me when I used to play basketball. But once I quit basketball and took up running, they haven’t bothered me at all. However, I’ve only done 2 official marathons (3 unofficial – on my own). No ultras or longer events. Any at this season of my life (2 kids still in high school), it’s hard to fit in more than maybe one marathon per year, and maybe a handful of shorter events.


    Great to hear that you were able to quit smoking after all of those years. That alone makes a huge difference. But also the fact you dropped 60 pounds. Very impressive.

    I hope your upcoming half marathon goes well! And possibly your marathon, when the time comes.


    Frankly, I think that the perception that aging alone is the main indicator for decreasing ability is simply wrong. Admittedly, aging brings on other distractions from work, family, and evolving new interests along with accumulated physical complications, but these are natural changes related to time and not aging.

    At age 74 I am enjoying the benefits of a running lifestyle. Every day I am excited by the availability of new revelations in the technology and practice for runners. You can see the impacts even in the professional runners who are enjoying extended careers.

    I really like the updates to the 80/20 Running Plans; the new emphasis on pacing and “talk test” have trained me to an unanticipated benefit. I only run one or two A races each year, when I run other organized runs I am now able to adjust my paces and listen to other runners effort and adapt to their paces and turn the events into social runs. These social runs are great – with the emphasis off self and competition you can meet so many people of all ages, abilities, and interests.

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 3 weeks ago by Charles.
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