I am a marathoner and triathlete who was rarely injured in my 20s and 30s. I recently turned 40 and feel like it's much harder for me to stay healthy and injury-free now. Is it possible that all the wear and tear I put on my body in my “youth” is now catching up to me? - Mandy
We will never be 20 again, so adjusting and retooling is a must. The training you did in the last two to three decades likely has helped your overall health and has not contributed to too much “wear and tear.” Most of the literature on aging and injury addresses people who are in much older age groups - think 70s and above. Injury risk factors are probably about the same at 20 as age 40.
The trap at age 40 is likely time. Job and family commitments take away from the time available for training. The result is often trying to pack too much into limited workouts resulting in shortcuts and training errors that end in injury. Many running injuries are a result of the “toos,” as in, too much, too often, too intense.
Forty-year-old athletes are able to remain competitive at least within their age group. There is, however, probably an age at which performance peaks - generally in the late 20s and early 30s. By age 40, many runners are “over the hill” from the perspective of winning an open division. And an attempt to maintain the performance levels of a more youthful age could lead to injury.
From an injury prevention perspective, it is important to consider recovery time in the training schedule. A 40-year-old body is probably not more easily damaged and can be pushed hard as long as other factors like nutrition, sleep and recovery remain constant. Ironically, for many in their 40s, the pressure of family and career reduce the recovery time and sometimes force training errors in the urge or need to “get it done” in too tight of a time frame.
I hope this helps.