Confessions of an Aging Athlete
By PT Guy Bushell
Many years ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to train with members of the Canadian short track speed skating team at the Olympic Oval.
Training consisted of up to six ice training sessions per week, with additional strength training, circuit training, running, biking and off ice technical training. We had access to some of the best speed skating coaches in the world, in addition to strength coaches, sports psychologists, massage therapists and sports scientists.
After a semi successful skating career, I retired from competitive speed skating in 1997. Wanting to give back to the sport I’d grown up participating in (I started skating when I was four, and began speed skating when I was 14), I channeled my passion for speed skating into coaching and volunteering at skating events.
I’ve always enjoyed joining in with the skaters I’ve coached, from up and coming youngsters to seniors in their 80s. Most recently I’ve been coaching an adult short track group of various ages and abilities for the Calgary Speed Skating Association twice a week.
Since I’ve retired, Masters skating (an endearing term for us over 30s) in long track speed skating has steadily grown, followed more recently by short track speed skating, particularly in Europe.
Last year, one of my old skating buddies from the UK told me about a speed skating event for Masters he was helping organize. At the time I thought I could help generate some interest for the event in the Canadian speed skating community, not really thinking it would be something I might want to enter myself. As the season progressed and I saw the number of entrants increase (final tally is 92 skaters from 14 countries, and four continents) and I saw all the social media chatter from old friends just wanting to support and reunite, so I thought ‘why not’?
On April 1, I fly to England (with my very understanding and supportive girlfriend) to take part in the Masters International Short Track Games in Sheffield April 6th and 7th. I’ll be racing in the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and the 3000m relay events against other skaters in the 45-49 age category. Potentially, through a series of heats, semi-finals and finals, I could be racing 13 times over the two days. Incidentally, the oldest age category is 80-84.
Training for this event has been no easy undertaking. I’ve found that I need to warm up longer and more gradually for each workout. I need to stretch more and I tend to require more time to recover between the more intense workouts. A lot of my training has been done independently – I’ve spent many hours training solo in my basement gym lifting weights and riding my spin bike. I’ve needed help from physiotherapists and massage therapists for my aching back and sore legs. During this process, I’ve become much more tuned in to my limitations. Basically, I’ve learned to listen to my body. If I feel a twinge in my glutes (or anywhere else), I back off, and I modify my training. I’ve needed to modify and adapt my training plan consistently.
As I head into the final week before the competition, my focus is now on eating well, getting enough sleep and being mentally prepared for what lies ahead. The nuts and bolts on my skates have all been tightened, my blades are sharp and I’m ready to race.
Whatever the result is, I can be proud that I’ve prepared to the best of my ability, and I’ve risen to my own personal challenge. While I’m not expecting to break any records, I am expecting to have a great deal of fun competing in a sport that’s been such a big part of my life, with both old and new friends from near and far.