A Tale of Two Whistlers

Tomorrow, the Silver Grey Sports Club is on its way back from a ski-trip to Whistler, Canada. Great skiing and plenty of Silver Greys out and about on the slopes.

But here's the thing, even in the country, Canada, where triathlete Mary Goodacre lives, and which made her very happy when finding that she, in her sixties, was among a far larger number of age-group triathletes than when she races in UK, there is still ageism, alongside attitudes that we can't condone where you expect them least.

And here's how it happened.


One half of SGSC has a slight ache in the lower back, so as a precaution and in order to reduce the potential for discomfort during the 10 hour flight home, we book an appointment with a physio - who will remain unnamed for our own legal protection! While the treatment is going on, the other half of SGSC is reading a fascinating magazine called Outdoors, in particular an article whose subject is the 60-year-old mountain bike racer Ned Overend, still getting podium places in races against all ages. Ned is a 'fat-bike' cyclist of some renown and will no doubt be the subject of an article himself at some point.


And that's where we come across a particularly telling comparison.


Outside the treatment room, in the waiting area one of us is reading the aforementioned article about how Ned makes sure that he can continue racing at the highest level he can achieve in his beloved off-road cycling, how he is consulting university sports scientists to ensure he stays at his peak, even improves his performances; reading about how your VO2 max can be maintained at a high level as long as you don't take too much of a break from training, how the way to get the best out of training for longevity of career is "higher intensity, lower volume" training - and by that they mean not more than 10-15 hours intense training a week, they're not referring to taking the stairs rather than the escalator.


Meanwhile, inside the treatment room the conversation is as follows. "Oh, how marvellous that you can keep yourself so flexible at your age. And you still have good muscle mass. You work out in the gym, do you? Well, I suppose at your age you've got the time. You've done nine days skiing? Gosh, I don't think I myself could even do that. Good for you. There are a lot of older skiers here, and they've formed a group to go skiing together on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And the good thing is that that way they get to go out together for pizza afterwards…etc, etc." All this to a backing track of growing internal outrage at the patronising attitude and tone of voice, especially when compared to the treatment and attention given to another physio client, a 20-something skier in the next bed - yes, this facility actually treats several patients concurrently, shuttling back and forth like Henry Kissinger in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, making sure, with the aid of machines that each patient gets just enough. As opposed to what half of SGSC was getting, the youngster was being asked what physical preparation he did, what his exercise routine for preparing to go out on the hill was etc etc. And back to the oldie, "Are you retired now? Are you sure you should be doing this strenuous exercise?" And so on. Two athletes being treated literally side by side, but could it have been more different?


When the two halves of Silver Grey Sports Club were reunited and compared their experiences of the previous 45 minutes, again the difference couldn't have been more marked.


So here is what we learned:-

1. Always be ready for ageism and be ready to face it down.
2. All athletes need good support in the area of physical treatment. As a Silver Grey athlete you're no different, so make sure you find people who will help you be the best you can be, not people who will undermine your efforts - even if they think they're being 'encouraging'.
3. If you want to carry on being the best Silver Grey athlete you can be, you have to know that it is entirely possible to perform at our age at a level that most people cannot imagine, but you have to accept that the maxim "Use it or lose it" applies in a most extreme way, and fairly quickly - so keep at it.

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