How do you notice you are getting older?
It could be the increasing creakiness of the body and the way that aches and pains mysteriously appear. You go for a fairly standard run, everything is OK and then sometime afterwards there is a pain in your foot or leg. How did that happen? You have no idea as there was no warning on the run and nothing unusual to link it to. It is difficult to know if it is a minor inconvenience or something more serious. It is all very well trying to listen to your body but as I get older I increasingly find I haven’t a clue as to what it is saying. It’s as if it has started talking in a different dialect
Yes definitely those aches and pains come more frequently, randomly and stick around longer. In general recovery takes longer so you have to be more flexible in your scheduling. It is not that you necessarily cut back on the number of your session but that you must pay attention to how you feel and adapt your session accordingly. A piece of advice I read said you should run one mile to warm up and then decide how hard the session should be. If you feel like you are running through treacle then cut it short and don’t feel bad. This advice works for everything except the long run which requires more time, equipment and drinks. You have to plan your long run and then do it regardless.
But having to adapt your schedule is the same at every stage of your life: studying, working, socialising, and children affect the training of everybody apart from professional athletes. So adapting for age is nothing special. Neither is adapting to your level of performance as speed becomes harder. Whatever your age or level of fitness you are always pushing against your own limitations. Those limitations might expand with increasing fitness or contract but you run according to your capabilities at the time. Ageing makes no difference to your perception of effort and the basic classes are still slow, steady, and threshold.
When running I do not think of age. Running makes me feel more alive. It helps me connect with my surroundings and the seasons. That is all and that is enough. However I run at a relative exertion level and mostly do not know my speed.
That last sentence should now read ‘did not know my speed’ as I have bought a speed and distance monitor and can now see how fast I am running. Oh dear! I can now see that my internal judgement of how fast I run at different levels of effort is, to put it mildly, optimistic. Bugger! There goes another comforting illusion and I now have to readjust.
So in answer to my initial question the answer is – objective measurement. It does for you every time.