Aches & Pains: pandemic, aging, or something else?

I have always been a very fit and healthy individual, but in the past two years I feel like I have been going downhill fast. I have always eaten meals I make from scratch, have rarely taken medication (ibuprofen once a year, if that), I have always run or swim or biked/cycled nearly every day, and I am usually in the top 5 (or ten, if it's a larger race) of all women at running races and frequently win my age group.

Over the past two years, my fitness appears to have declined. The summer before the pandemic hit my race times had started decreasing. I thought it was maybe just an off season, but things never ticked back up. I'll run what would have previously been just a run-of-the-mill workout (nothing hard or special), and I'm totally beat the next day, even with aching muscles. Generally now I find myself needing to take days off between workouts, and my previously high energy feels depleted on most days.

Is this just the normal experience of aging? I'm 46, almost 47. I am moving around much less during the day than I did pre-pandemic, but the downward trend seems to have begun prior to that. I know I describe this happening over two years, but the initial decrease in times and energy felt very sudden. I see my older running friends with whom I used to do races continuing as usual. Did you experience this phenomenon as you aged? Did it come on rather suddenly?

Replies

  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
    Are you potentially over-training?
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 33,842 Member
    Have you brought these concerns to a doctor? If it's that noticeable there could be some nutrient deficiency or underlying pathology.

    With that said, I slowed down in my mid forties - and was fatigued when going through menopause.

  • Fuzzipeg
    Fuzzipeg Posts: 2,297 Member
    I've never been as active as yourself. Its true the changes to our lives we've made or put up with in recent months will have changed us. It is possible though, other things could be going on, moving from one stage in our lives to another. Possibly having yourself checked out to see if your internal systems are working as well as they used or need to and if there is something you could change in your diet, or possibly use some specific to you supplements, the last thing I'd suggest to start is medication, keep that for a last resort. I'm often criticised for looking at life from a functional perspective, I like discovering "why" this or that is happening, supporting the specific system with diet or/and supplements if necessary, rather than simply swallow pharmaceutical pills which address only one part of the functioning. I'm about supporting the body to live better, living well.

    I hope you find what you are looking for. Wishing you the answers you are seeking.
  • kenyonhaff
    kenyonhaff Posts: 1,377 Member
    There's a great possibility this is an effect of perimenopause. There was a recent article in the NY Times talking about how it is not often talked about, but can have real impact on women...and fatigue is one of the most common negative effects.

    This also could well be a symptom of aging. Unfortunately recovery is slower when we get older, and things like nutrition and stretching become even more important.

    And sure...the pandemic can also be a factor. Mental health is highly tied into physical performance. If you're stressed, anxious, depressed, etc., etc. you are likely not going to be able to perform at peak.

    But no matter what, go talk to your doctor. Avoid getting too many opinions from random well meaning people on the Internet.

  • TheLaser
    TheLaser Posts: 338 Member
    edited May 2021
    I saw that perimenopause NYTimes article and also thought that could be a contributing factor. I will also be talking to a doctor, but I do find that it's helpful to hear about others' experiences for perspective.
  • Tblackdogs
    Tblackdogs Posts: 324 Member
    Have you noticed any other changes that could be related to hormonal fluctuation?
  • yayamom3
    yayamom3 Posts: 939 Member
    I have always been an avid walker (40+ miles per week). Last summer, I started having so much joint pain that I feared I'd have to give up walking. It seemed counter-intuitive to me. I began taking glucosamine chondroitin (brand name Osteo Biflex), and within two weeks, all of my joint pain went away. Don't know if this will help you or not, bout thought I'd put it out there as something to consider.
  • spiriteagle99
    spiriteagle99 Posts: 3,657 Member
    Have you had your ferritin and vitamin D tested? Both can affect your ability to run well. One year I noticed a definite slow down in my running paces and it felt much more difficult. Turned out my ferritin was very low, though when doing a finger prick for anemia nothing showed.

    Have you been tested for Lyme? As an outdoor person, you may have been exposed to one of the tick or mosquito borne diseases. I seem to get at least one tick bite every year. So far I've been lucky, I think. Joint pain is one of the symptoms of Lyme.

    Then there are the various diseases that show up in middle age. Bottom line, talk to your doctor.

  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,879 Member
    I am also 46 going on 47...I started noticing issues when I was about 44. Not a runner, but I'm pretty active and I used to do quite a bit of long distance endurance cycling. I stopped racing and whatnot around 2018 as I had noticed a pretty sharp decline in my recovery ability which was impacting performance not only on the bike, but just going about my day to day and doing other things I enjoyed doing. Up to that point I didn't really have any issues...but then started feeling like I needed more days off or I was achier and little nagging injuries kept popping up that would take me out for a week or so, etc....but the biggest thing I noticed was always feeling fatigued which really prevented me from going out and participating in other active things I enjoyed. It also made something I love start to feel more like a chore.

    I ultimately backed off the training and the racing and the events (save for a fun charity event here and there). The most difficult part of the last couple of years has been mental and becoming comfortable with the fact that I am getting older and ultimately something had to give. Sometimes I get a little sad when I think back to just a few years ago and where I was at fitness wise...I could easily have a riding buddy call me up on a Friday to see if I wanted to go do a 50 mile group ride Saturday morning and I could do it without batting and eye...and then come home and mow the lawn and clean the pool and have people over for an evening BBQ and be no worse for the wear. But I remind myself that it is ultimately the nature of the beast...father time will always win but it doesn't mean I just have to fold up camp. I'm still very active, it's just different...and while I can't just go out and ride a half century on a whim these days, I'm still at a very high fitness level for my age and I'm healthy and most of all, very happy.

    I'm a pretty big watcher of sports and there is a reason athletes typically retire at or before 40 (with some exceptions)...and I've also noticed that in most cases, the drop off in performance is rather abrupt. One season they look like they're still in their prime and the next they look average at best and then suddenly, they're gone. Just the nature of the beast.

  • TheLaser
    TheLaser Posts: 338 Member
    cwolfman13 -this is exactly it. That day you describe of doing some long hard workout on a whim and then bunch of other physical stuff is exactly how my life used to be! I would go on a hard 20+ mile run, and then bike a couple of miles to go out dancing in the evening, and the next morning I would wake up energized and go about my usual day. Now that would be a massive effort and I would be wiped out the next day for sure. And the drop off feels very sudden. I'm still working out but, as you say, it's different. People here have given me some good ideas about testing for Lyme and deficiencies, but maybe it really is just aging. Sigh.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,406 Member
    When you see your doctor, I'd suggest asking for a full thyroid panel, too. Some of what you're experiencing sounds like what I feel when my meds need a dose increase. Not a sure thing, but hypothyroidism is more common in women as we age, and for most people it can be successfully and easily treated.

    I do think what you're feeling is disproportionate for the age you're at now, when you talk about needing to take days off between workouts, or feel beat up the day after routine workouts. (As context, I'm nearly 20 years older.)

    Now, a granny-esque editorial comment:

    I didn't start being routinely active until I was your age, and I was already in menopause by then from chemotherapy, so in that sense I don't have similar experiences. Now 65, I do find that as I age, I'm less resilient to overdoing, slightly more subject to injury (along lines of cumulative stress or genetic risk points especially), detrain faster if I take an extended break (so injury avoidance is more important), recover capability more slowly when I restart.

    Not aging is a non-starter. (As a cancer survivor and cancer widow, I have vivid idea what the *actual* alternative to aging is, and it severely impairs athletic performance!)

    IMO, the answer is to be a little less carefree (avoid doing however much of whatever, whenever). Instead, become a little more strategic and even wily. Better management of cumulative stress is more important (all source stress, both physical and psychological, at any given time). Good recovery strategies are more important. Consider smart training plans, routinely on-point nutrition, good cross-training, routine attention to sleep, use of professionals if viable (massage therapist, Osteopath, physical therapist, physician(s) including specialists, RD, and more) . . . etc., etc. Not everything is controllable, but smart management of the parts that *are* controllable will help.

    I'm with Robert above, too: Oversimplifying, your 60 year old self (I know you're not there yet!) won't perform like your 20 year old self, inevitably. But she can still be a heckuva performer, especially if you're thoughtful and strategic about the path between now and that future.

    Aging is a thing, but IME younger people often over-fear the effects, make excessively pessimistic assumptions about what's possible on the good side or inevitable on the bad. Those ideas can become self-fulfilling prophecies, if you let them. Keep an optimistic and experimental outlook, and think/act strategically to optimize where you are and where you're headed.

    It's not that bad over here, really. 😉
  • ythannah
    ythannah Posts: 4,365 Member
    TheLaser wrote: »
    I saw that perimenopause NYTimes article and also thought that could be a contributing factor. I will also be talking to a doctor, but I do find that it's helpful to hear about others' experiences for perspective.

    My guess was going to be perimenopause, which hit me at your age. But then, I blame menopause for everything :D

    I was not particularly fit or active, just not overweight and always very healthy, so I thought I was doing fine. In the span of about 1.5 to 2 years what little muscle I had evaporated. When that realization hit me, I started working out for the first time in my life. So I can't speak to diminished energy since I'd really been doing nothing before then.

    How is your sleep? I was already a chronic insomniac and things really nosedived in peri.
  • Theoldguy1
    Theoldguy1 Posts: 2,413 Member
    In addition to all the good suggestions on bloodwork/hormone issues how is your activity outside of "formal" exercise? Have you been sitting a computer for 20+ years?

    I started having various pains in my mid 40's, mainly back, hips, shoulders and neck. Talking to various doctors, physical therapists it turns out many of my issues were repetitive use injuries caused from an 8-10 hour a day desk job coupled with a 2 hour daily driving commute, not my lifting, running and biking.

    After checking with the appropriate doctors for the bloodwork/hormones I'd suggest a consult with a physical therapist that works with athletes and have them run you through some movement tests. After their analysis they can help you work on spots that may be causing issues.

    Best of luck.
  • TheLaser
    TheLaser Posts: 338 Member
    I'm grateful for all of your thoughtful and generous answers sharing your own experiences and thoughts. This is really a great community. I now have a lot of potential areas to look into that I wouldn't have considered, and probably also some simple acceptance to start accustoming myself to.