USA Triathlon News Blogs My Story I Am a Masters Athle...

I Am a Masters Athlete

By Patti Waller | June 19, 2017, 11:26 p.m. (ET)

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The new “aging” population also known as seniors, active older adults, and of course if you are into endurance sports, masters or veterans. What does that really mean? Is there a rite of passage? What about a parade? Free coffee for life? A reality TV show?

Current statistics state that 100 million baby boomers, about 30 percent of our population, are expected to live longer as a result of medical management of chronic disease. According to the CDC, 80 percent will have one chronic disease and 50 percent will have two or more. That’s a scary statistic. We are on the forefront of excellent health care, but what about quality of life in sports? As far as my research goes, this age demographic of 50-plus is setting new records in running events, triathlons, cycling and swimming. The power of the mind with the body is conquering the battle. However, embracing this change is not easy.

When I was 35, I was in my prime as an endurance athlete and played super woman on most days. Speed work, hill repeats, strength sessions, martial arts, teaching fitness classes, running car pool, volunteering, yard work and more. This was all with 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night.

Just when I thought nothing could beat me, the bell tolled at the age of 51. Nothing tragic, just mysterious. Periods diminished, I had acne (shameful), mood swings, little aches here and there, recovery from training took longer and then I found out that I need to taper longer for a race, not to mention my run paces were harder to maintain. Did I mention a little weight distribution? This change was unacceptable! I started researching for a miracle cure. Please tell me there is a magic pill that will restore and reverse this demon called AGING?

Not everyone has the same experiences, but if you are over 50, chances are you have gone to pick up something from the floor and all of sudden “ZING,” your back decides it doesn’t like you and throws you to your knees. You think, I don’t have back issues.

Or you are doing yardwork for 3 to 4 hours — raking, digging and cutting grass. Then after your shower, you can hardly raise your arms over your head, let alone think about going to the gym for a strength session. Did you get run over by truck?

Lastly, is the dead leg syndrome. You are in a great mood, energy is high, you have a 5-mile run on the books. Out the door to run — BAM — two cinderblocks are strapped to your thighs, you can’t move them. The concept of the above scenarios is mind blowing because it happens without warning.

Now I know there are pharmaceuticals that can assist with biological shifts, but I am not a slave to medications that I don’t need for true health reasons. So, as I continue this journey I have acknowledged that I need to do the following:

  1.  Accept that my body has been through 28 years of endurance sports including injuries, thus it has a few scars.
  2.  Practice daily stretching and foam rolling.
  3. Listen to my body during training — it may not want to be pushed beyond its limits for that day.
  4. Respect stress and strain — allow for extra rest days.
  5. Cross-train, strength train and interval train — keep mixing it up.
  6. Eat healthy, hydrate well and sleep a minimum of 8 hours.

I must say the fire in my belly for competing has fizzled a little due to these changes. I am hoping to get that reignited one day. The title of MASTER ATHLETE is one of reward for the battle of aging is a war for all of us. Some of us will do it gracefully, some of us will struggle, but we should all be GRATEFUL for the gifts we have been given to participate in life and sport.

Be well and train with a purpose.

Patti Waller is USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist and Trainer and has eight years coaching experience and 12 years competing in triathlon. Learn more about Waller at

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