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Transitions Through Our Athletic Life

Sports performances are inspiring. Here are three athletes that have inspired many athletes; Steph Curry, Conor McDavid and Usain Bolt. Now let me share Hiroo Tanaka’s 2023 Indoor Track Championships performance. This is a short 14s video from the 2023 World Indoor Championships.

Really! At 92 years old! (He also ran the 200m in 38s.) This is crazy. What has his athletic life included? That is fun to imagine. Did he run on a university track team? Maybe he is new to track. What is his current training routine? How and why has Hiroo continued to be an athlete? In the past year, I have been thinking more about transitions through our sporting lives and what supports and sustains our participation in sports. In this blog, I will share some of my personal sports experiences, review a self-experiment by a Norwegian runner and add a promotion for a community event for Masters athletes in Ottawa.

I grew up in rural Ontario. My first sports were hockey and softball - lots of hockey. Not some. LOTS of hockey. However, through school, I got to try many different sports, and running was one of those. In high school, I left hockey and focused on running. After high school, I ran varsity at the University of Waterloo. In the years following University, I married, went to a teacher’s college, became a father, and started two different businesses. Somehow I continued to run enough to stay in decent shape. I loved training and running but only trained a fraction of what I did as a varsity athlete. Then three years after graduating from University, I ran a personal best (PB) in the 800m in a Twilight race in Ottawa - 1:57.8. This race has fascinated me as a coach and an athlete. How did this performance emerge? Through nearly ten years of focused training and competing, my PB for 800m was 1:58.5. After three years of non-competitive training, I easily beat my best time. And further, my split times were 60s and 57.8s. This negative split is atypical for running a fast 800m. More typical splits are a first lap that is 2s faster than your 2nd lap. So, theoretically, I was capable of an even faster time.

Interesting fact: Melissa Bishop-Nriagu and I attended the same high school - Opeongo High School. Her PB for 800m is slightly faster than mine. 1:57.01

Here is another example of navigating a transition point in sport. A Norwegian runner recently tested himself against his PB in the mile and posted his time trial to his youtube channel. In the video, he explains that his training for the past two years had significantly reduced from when he ran his PB. After getting married and having twins, his training, although consistent, was less than half of what he was previously doing. His goal for running had changed from wanting to be faster to running for enjoyment, health and fitness. So, he was curious to see how fast he could run a mile off his reduced training load. He wasn’t that far off. Only 15 seconds (5.5%)! With less than 50% of the training. That is a slight drop in performance.

He trained 10-14 hours per week (~90km) when he ran his PB. Time: 4:34.

Current training (past two years) 4 to 5 hours per week (~40km) Time: 4:49 (+15s or 5.5%)

From my example above of my 800m performance, I estimate that I would have been training around 70 to 75% of what I was as a varsity athlete. After three years, I remained close to the fitness and performance level I had while at University. Göran was doing much less; however, he did enough to enjoy his training and compete well in his time trial. I think, most importantly, he is keeping involved and enjoying running, and if a transition point arrives in which he has more time to train, he can easily make that change.

My work with Canadian Wintersports and The First Lap coaching is about supporting people in remaining physically active and making space within the sport community for continued participation through the many life transitions, whether family, health, work, retirement or other. With that purpose, along with our partner Mile2Marathon, we have invited Dr. Brad Young to present his research findings on masters athlete sport participation. This will be an Ottawa event. You can find the details and registration link HERE.

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