Runners tend to get used to people thinking they’re weird. The lifestyle and the “Why?” can be baffling for non-runners. They find the embracing of suffering, the punishing of the body and self-discipline all too strange and difficult to grasp. So like other runners I take the funny remarks and the jibes in my stride. But I do draw the line at hearing “crisis”. I have a number of worried friends and family that send me articles and links trying to find an explanation for what they see as a bizarre lifestyle. These are attempts to rescue me because I must be “running” or “chasing” something. The latest accusation was entitled “Extreme Athleticism Is the New Midlife Crisis” ……. Insinuating that running must be a response to a catastrophic life event. Canadian Psychologist Elliott Jaques described the “Midlife crisis” as a reassessment of life and its meaning (Jaques, 1965). The realisation that expected goals in life may not have been achieved, and in fact, they may never be. The reality of bills, mortgages and pension fund contributions hit – how depressing! Its supposedly caused by the emotional and physical changes facing a person during these years – the decline in athleticism, you tend to get fatter (Williams e Wood, 2006) – or the stagnation of a career, you get sick of trying to impress the boss.
Some feel that middle aged men and women are flocking to intense gyms and challenging races in an attempt to reclaim their youth. That they have realised their mortality and are in a state of panic trying to outrun the greying hair, baldness and muffin tops. But far from just committing crimes against lycra, middle aged weekend warriors are dominating the results boards of extreme endurance events – marathons, triathlons and adventure races (Knechtle e Nikolaidis, 2018). But attributing an increase in exercise to a “crisis” has a negative association, and I think it’s better to see it as a “midlife correction” as the article forwarded to me eluded. But we don’t need to go to extremes to change our health or lifestyles, it’s fun but it’s not for everyone. We could just walk to better health.
Walking is a rhythmic, dynamic, aerobic activity which uses the large skeletal muscles resulting in huge benefits minimal adverse effects. Walking at a brisk pace (3-4mph) regularly in sufficient quantity into the ‘training zone’ of 70% of maximal heart rate develops and sustains physical fitness. The muscles of the legs and lower trunk are strengthened, the flexibility of joints preserved and posture and carriage may even improve. Walking is also the most common weight-bearing activity, and contributes at all ages to an increase in related bone strength at all ages (Morris & Hardman, 1997; Murtagh et al., 2002). We spend much of our time incarcerated, enclosed in vehicles, shuttling from one place to the next – sometimes without even glancing up from a handheld screen. We panic at the thought loosing mobile phone coverage (Lougheed, 2008). We spend less time outside than our parents and grandparents did. There has been a fundamental shift away from nature to sedentary activities involving electronic media (Pergams & Zaradic, 2006). The move away from traditional outdoor activity like climbing trees, ropes and walls has been justified by the time we spend in gyms where our exercise has become so manicured, scheduled, planned and intense. It’s clean and bleached, timed and measured. But it’s not working. We are fat, and we are getting fatter. Ireland will be the fattest country in Europe by 2025. So we don’t need to run a marathon or cycle around Ireland if we don’t want to. Maybe sometimes we just need to do the simple thing, we don’t need a “midlife crisis” to change our habits …… we just need to walk
JAQUES, E. Death and the mid-life crisis. Int J Psychoanal, v. 46, n. 4, p. 502-14, Oct 1965. ISSN 0020-7578 (Print)
KNECHTLE, B.; NIKOLAIDIS, P. T. Physiology and Pathophysiology in Ultra-Marathon Running. Frontiers in Physiology, v. 9, p. 634, 2018. ISSN 1664-042X. Disponível em: .
WILLIAMS, P. T.; WOOD, P. D. The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain. Int J Obes (Lond), v. 30, n. 3, p. 543-51, Mar 2006. ISSN 0307-0565 (Print)
Lougheed T. (2008). Wild child: guiding the young back to nature. Environ Health Perspect 116, A436-439.
Murtagh EM, Boreham CA & Murphy MH. (2002). Speed and exercise intensity of recreational walkers. Prev Med 35, 397-400.
Pergams OR & Zaradic PA. (2006). Is love of nature in the US becoming love of electronic media? 16-year downtrend in national park visits explained by watching movies, playing video games, internet use, and oil prices. J Environ Manage 80, 387-393.