Try the following thought experiment: ten peopler across the U.S.A., young and old, male and female, wake up one morning with the sudden resolution to get into shape. All start exercising with high enthusiasm; working out several times a week and giving their all each time. During the first week, one pulls a muscle in his shoulder is forced to quit exercising; the second week another develops Achilles tendonitis and again is force to quit; the third week, a third person strains his back; and so on. After ten weeks, we find nine of the ten have developed injuries which forced them to quit exercising, while the tenth, lucky one is in truly awesome physical shape.
Inspired by her transformation, the tenth person thinks, "if I can do it than anyone can" and writes a how-to book based on her experience. Perhaps this explains why, of the score of exercise books I've read over the years, none gives the issue of avoiding and coping with injury the attention it deserves. Perhaps motivation is the first obstacle for many, but once that is surmounted, injury looms as the next, particularly for the middle-aged athlete.
Your capacity for physical development declines with age. Just how much is an open question--certainly not as much as is generally assumed (see for just one example the case of Dr. Jeffry Life).
One the other hand, the middle-aged have one advantage over the young--if nothing else, we have learned that time passes. You remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare from grade school, don't you? That story never made sense to me until at the age of about thirty-five I thought back on various projects I had started with fervor and energy, only to drop out after a week, a month, or in any case before completion.
The big difference between the Fitness for the Middle-Aged Codger exercise program and the others is a modest amount of patience. Give yourself a year. Pick any given measure of fitness--body fat content, distance run, weight lifted. If you can improve it by two percent a week, that adds up to one hundred per cent improvement in a year (actually more, because of compounding effects). Perhaps that one-hundered-per-cent improvement just isn't feasible. In that case, your goal is to reach the peak value for you personally.
Don't want to wait a year? Then go for one of the many twelve week, six week, or other short-term programs out there. Just remember: the fast track to the top is littered with the wreckage of those who ran off the road. The stairs are much safer.
My next post on this subject will detail a technique I call summit running. The goal of this technique is to help you reach your personal peak performance in running speed and aerobic fitness, while minimizing the chance of injury.