Tag Archives: age 50

Lifestyle Makeover, Part 1: Pillow Talk

Note to readers: My wife is at home for several weeks following major abdominal surgery. The good news is she’s expected to make a full recovery. And we’re using this time to make some overdue upgrades to our house and our lifestyles. In this and upcoming posts I’ll share these changes with you.

One thing my wife and I have had in common the last couple of years: several times a week we get into bed together and moan.

OMG, I thought parents didn’t do that stuff.

No, it has nothing to do with that. This mutual moaning is generally followed by the question, “What did Skip do to you today?”

For we well know what resulted in our conditions, namely our visits to this place:

Photo from Body Specs Facebook page, Halloween workout 2017

This is Body Specs (a.k.a. Tower of London, Ann Arbor wing) where we surrender ourselves to head trainer Skip Bunton and his able crew of assistant tormentors. While the workouts differ in focus and intensity, they get those muscles working, dammit. And so, when in the evening one or both of us takes a little longer to stand up, or just crashes on the bed with a groan, we get it.

At this point you’d be forgiven for asking why we do this sort of thing not only voluntarily, but pay for it as well.

Professional amateur runner. Closed session. Do not attempt.

You see, around age 50 the body begins deciding that if you’re not actively using a muscle, you don’t really need it. As for some bizarre reason I enjoy running and cycling long distances, I need my muscles, thank you very much. But running alone doesn’t do the job; my lower body needs some amount of training under load, and my upper body and core need to stay strong and toned. In other posts I’ve shared photos of some particularly moan-inducing maneuvers. Here’s one of my favorites.

Extension pushups, anyone?

My wife doesn’t share my obsession with running (yet), but she works at a desk all day and has a long commute. She’d been wanting to get into better shape, but wasn’t sure that she could handle the kinds of workouts I’m subjected to.

Finally I persuaded her to talk with Skip, who assured her she’d receive training appropriate to her fitness level and personal goals. While she now shares the post-workout experience with me, she’s glad she signed up. Regularly scheduled workouts with a trainer are her guarantee that she will exercise.

And her training has had an additional unanticipated benefit; when we found out she needed surgery, she worked hard to be in the best possible shape for it. She’s convinced that it’s contributed to her steady, uncomplicated recovery.

Her surgery has put her training on hold for several weeks, but she’s walking every day as recommended to improve blood flow and speed recovery. And she’s looking forward to resuming regular sessions. For we’re making plans to do more activities together, and those will require both of us to be in good shape.

Up next: Changing what fuels us.

Age is Just a Group


Seems like 2016 started yesterday, and already it’s near the end of January. They say time speeds up as you get older. If that’s the case, by the time I reach 70 I’ll be afraid to blink. But for now, it’s time to enjoy every day of being 54, just as I did at 53, 52, and before.


On the other hand, time slows down as you speed up. So I just need to run faster!

Not that I focus overmuch on my age, or should. After all, it’s “just a number,” right?


Well, not so much for runners. For us, age is more of a group.

Rather than using calculated handicaps like golfers have, most events divide runners into five-year age groups (such as 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, etc.) or ten-year groups (e.g. 30-39, 40-49, etc.). Awards are presented to the top finishers in each group.

Overall winners and top placers still get the lion’s share of the glory (and all the money), but for the rest of us, age divisions provide a little recognition beyond a finisher’s medal and a pricey photo. It’s a way of leveling the playing field, giving older runners a competitive focus if they wish. And I think that’s good for the sport.

Wrong Age Group - highlighted

I’m not quite sure how I ended up in this age group. And I finished *second* in it?

I began competitive running just as I turned 47, so for my first few years I was in the 45-49 group. Mainly it was a positive experience, as I watched myself improve in speed and distance, culminating in my first marathon just before turning 50.


But there was one source of frustration; despite coming close many times, I never made the top five in my age group and got an award. If a tie is like kissing your sister, coming in 6th is her serving you a restraining order. The chase for an award wasn’t my only motivation to keep training, but it did contribute, and I’m sure it helped make me a better runner.

I read a blog post around then from someone who downplayed her awards, saying she had “a drawer full of them.” That’s a problem I’d like to have, I thought. So what if I had mugs spilling out of my kitchen cabinets? I wanted one from a race.

Xmas Tree 2011 - Running Ornaments 2

2011 – my first age group award! (Actually, this is the replacement. I dropped the first one.)

As they say, be careful what you wish for. After turning 50 I broke through and got that mug, and did the same in many more races after that. Now I have a full drawer too, and I better understand what she meant. In the end, they are mainly trinkets that take up space. (I still like to get them, though.)

Various Age Group Awards

Some of my more – um – interesting – age group awards. Yes, that is a spray-painted running shoe, a boot-shaped glass, and printed toilet paper.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s selfish and materialistic to worry about awards. Why not just go out and race for self-satisfaction and the joy of participation?


Good points, and to an extent I agree. I race mainly to test my own limits, and to push past them. I’ve run in big races where I didn’t have a prayer of getting an award. And when I pace events, my focus is on encouraging others instead of pushing myself. An age group award is usually just a nice bonus.

And yet there are a few times it’s more than that.

Such as the Leap Day 4-mile race this February 29. Four years ago, at the 2012 race, I won my age group for the first time. And this year I’m still in the 50-54 age group. So I have a title to defend!

I’m freeing up some more room in the drawer.


Feb. 29, 2012 – #1 in the 50-54 age group. (The other guy can’t believe it, either.)

The Cost of Healthcare, Part 2: Strong Stuff, This Insurance

In my previous post I described my stay in the hospital after run-induced chest pain, and the associated costs. As they found nothing wrong, I figured that would be the end of it. But there was more to come…

You are about to enter...The Bureaucracy Zone.

You are about to enter…The Bureaucracy Zone.

In January 2010 (before my night in the hospital), I got a renewal notice from my life insurance company. In 2000, I’d purchased a 10-year, $1 million term policy at $600 per year. Now I was expecting my premiums to go up a bit, but I was in excellent health and physical condition. Why, I’d even joined a running class and committed to training for a half marathon! So imagine my surprise when I saw their new offer of $5,500 per year – nearly 10 times the old rate.

I called the company. A typo, right? A mistake? “No, those are our rates,” the rep said. I asked why they thought a 900 percent increase was appropriate, but she declined to elaborate. So I gave up on them. A bit of shopping online turned up some offers in the $800 range per year for $750,000 of coverage. I called my insurance agent, arranged and got the required physical exam and lab tests, and completed the application. Then I had my unfortunate running experience, but my agent didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

Weeks passed, and I heard nothing. I called my agent. The insurance company needed authorization from me to access my medical records. I filled out the form. More time passed. Finally I told her that this company didn’t seem to want my business. We tried another. More unexplained delays and requests for access to my medical records.. It was now late fall, and I still had no idea if and when I would get coverage again.

Finally I told my agent, who was as perplexed as I was, to do her best to get some answers from someone. A few days later, she called me back. “I have a rather personal question to ask you,” she said. “Are you being treated for an inner ear condition and take home medications?”

This is my medicine.

Although I do admit to extensive self-medication with this.

I told her I was just fine and on no medications whatever. Well, she said, the insurance company thought I was suffering from a life-threatening condition and was on three “home medications”, whatever those were (maybe an abbreviation for “homeopathic”). Insurance companies aren’t supposed to discuss an applicant’s medical condition with others, but one of their reps had let that slip. At last, a clue!

My doctor’s office referred me to the records department at U-M Hospital. They asked me the same questions. “I hope that if I had such a condition,” I replied, “one of your doctors would have told me.” After a little more investigation, I had my answer. Someone else’s record had accidentally been placed in my file, likely in April 2010 at the hospital, and it was wreaking havoc with my life insurance applications.

Well, Mr. Jones, your medical records say you're in fine health.

Well, Mr. Jones, your medical records say you’re in fine health. So I’ll pass that along to your life insurance company.

I asked for and got a letter from the records department explaining the mixup, which my agent forwarded to the insurance company. Shortly thereafter, my application was approved, and my wife and kids were once again set to frolic on a beach in Tahiti if I happen to make an early shuffle off this mortal coil.

My takeaway from this is to check my medical records periodically to make sure there are no hidden surprises. I was without life insurance for nearly a year because of a simple mixup that no one was allowed to talk about. It’s about time for another physical anyway, and the start of those wonderful screenings that you’re supposed to get once you hit 50. But if you haven’t been to your doctor in the last few years, and especially if you spent any time in the hospital, it might be a good time to check your own records. Don’t get caught unawares!

How to Gear up for Winter Running

IT’S BEEN A BIT NIPPY OUTSIDE, as those of you in the Midwest may have noticed, and at under 30 degrees, my running gloves just cannot keep my hands warm. I have Brooks mittens that do the job, but I could not find them. My daughter, who also runs, dug around in her car and came up with – one of them. As a logician might say, that is necessary but not sufficient. But the Saturday morning temperature at group run was 10 degrees, so I took it along.

No time to waste - no way I want to miss out on any pie!

No time to waste – no way I want to miss out on any pie!

I wore the mitten on my left hand, with a double glove on my right. After one mile my left hand was comfortable enough, while the fingers on my right were nearly numb. Clearly better protection was needed, so it was off to Running Fit (running, naturally) to buy a new pair of mittens. At the store, someone was asking the clerk what one wears for a winter run. Unlike for summer running, answering that question is not so easy.

There’s a surprisingly large number of cold-weather clothing options these days, and like with running shoes, much depends on the particular runner. How quickly do you warm up? Are you acclimated to the cold? How far are you running? How fast will you be going? Even at the same temperature and wind conditions, people choose very different outfits. However, the basic principle is the same: dress in layers.

Winter Outfit - LighterFor example, here is what I wore today, an easy pace with the temperature around 30 degrees and not much wind. The blue shirt was next to my skin, what runners call the “base layer”, with the long sleeve on top of it. No special needs here, just two regular running shirts. Then the blue windbreaker (see below) as the jacket. Wind briefs and tights for the lower body, medium socks, hat, and gloves made up the rest. In this outfit I was actually a bit too warm and unzipped the jacket for the second half of the run.

Winter Outfit - HeavierBy contrast, this outfit was what I wore yesterday morning. Still two layers, but the base layer was long sleeve and the top shirt is a “thermal” – thicker, with a tighter weave. On top was the yellow jacket, which has an extra lining to keep out more wind and rain. (It’s also a good all-season cycling jacket.) This combination works down into the single digits for me. In fact, the red shirt is so warm that many runners in our group don’t use a jacket with it. The headgear is a balaclava, which can be worn in many configurations from hat-like to covering the entire face. Also note the thicker socks.

Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.

Jacket choices. (Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.)

If it’s really cold, I can double up on the tights and use the hooded red jacket, which is specifically designed for winter running. It’s surprisingly light and comfortable for how warm it keeps me – so warm, in fact, that I have to use it carefully to avoid sweating too heavily.

Everything, including the wind briefs, is a synthetic material designed to wick moisture away from the skin. As we say in the running world, “Cotton is rotten” because it retains moisture. Thus you can get soaked on the inside from sweating, which in cold weather is potentially dangerous. So if you want to try winter running, that’s great, but please don’t do it in sweatshirt and jeans. Spend a few bucks and get the right gear. It makes a huge difference.

Ah, you say, but isn’t there one piece of critical gear missing? Quite so – I haven’t mentioned the shoes. In general, I like to wear lightweight shoes most of the year. For the cold and snow, however, I use something a bit sturdier. I recently bought two new pairs, one of which has an unusual feature I’m still trying to figure out if I like. More to come.