Too old to sprint?

A view before sunrise during my morning walk.

Did you know?

“Exercise Before Surgery Slashes Post-op Complications”

That’s a headline I found for an article written by Lynn Allison. I’m having eye surgery tomorrow. Then in September some minor outpatient surgery. So the article caught my eye.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand say that intense exercise before surgery reduces the risk of postoperative complications as well as hospital stays by as much as 56%, says Study Finds.

“We have found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is safe and effective for surgical patients,” says lead investigator Kari Clifford, of the Department of Surgical Sciences at the University of Otago. “A HIIT program can meaningfully improve a patient’s fitness within four to six weeks, and this reduces postoperative complications and length of stay.”

The work analyzed 12 studies including 832 patients who engaged in HIIT before their surgeries. The training involved repeated aerobic interval exercises at about 80% of their maximum heart rate before going into active recovery.

The most significant result was the change in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) — a measure of how well the body takes in oxygen and delivers it to the muscles and organs during prolonged periods of exercise. The significant improvement in CRF lowers the risk of adverse postoperative events, says Clifford, in a university press release.

If high-intensity interval training is good for post op recovery, that must transfer to everyday life. I reflected on my own workout routines. I realized that my slow and steady walks and swims are not getting the job done.

When I swam with my Master’s coach, he’d change up the pace. He’d have me swim 75s or 100s alternating “fast and slow.” Like swim 25 easy, 25 sprint, 25 slow for a 75 four times through. I was changing my heart rate. Without a coach, I leisurely swim laps not changing pace, because I’m proud to show up. Period. There’s nobody to push me. Not even my husband. I watch him sprint during his last two hundred yards and worry that he’ll have a heart attack.

We have an assault fitness bike gathering dust. Yesterday I got on it and sprinted for 20 seconds followed by 30 seconds easy a few times. Yes, it got my heart rate going. It’s something I’ll repeat each day and build on. When I swim laps, I’m going to throw in some interval training and sprint a few 25s. It can’t hurt.

What are your thoughts about high-intensity interval training? Is it something you incorporate in your workouts? Do you think you can be too old for HIIT?

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53 thoughts on “Too old to sprint?

  1. Wow — interesting! Thanks for the info and the links. It makes sense…enhancing the machine that is our body in a performance-testing way before a procedure. I can’t wait to take a closer look at the resources you provided. I know I need to get my heart rate up, up, up and using the spin bike’s been good for me. I modify as needed – from sprinting to slow ‘jogs’ on the bike and if I ice my ankles after, I recover pretty well. Such a conundrum as we age — wanting/needing to move but needing to tailor what we do and how b/c our bodies talk back to us! Most of all…best wishes for your eye surgery tomorrow…and your upcoming procedure, too. 🥰

  2. Here’s my thing EA- every expert is going to have their concept of what works/what is needed above all else/ and truly believe one way works over everything else. Maybe their way is the best, maybe not. I ask myself do I really have to do it all- follow every recommendation there is- change what I enjoy doing? But more importantly why? What is the reason? Is it really something I believe in, do I really need to jump on another trend and why?

    The example sounds amazing but I see it from the perspective of someone who is having a surgery whereby after they may be limited on what they can do for a long time or who run the risk of clots or other cardiovascular issues post op.

    Anyway, I’m curious as to why you say you feel your normal routines aren’t “getting the job done”? What was your original goal- endurance, training for a major hike, weight-loss, cardio health or some other medical need, or simply moving and enjoying activities to stimulate health?

    • It occurred to me that I no longer get my heart rate up after reading the article. I don’t have specific goals, but pre COVID shut down, I had activities that increased my heart rate. For example, swimming with a coach I’d change speed. I spent most of my adult life hiking where I’d get my heart rate up going up switchbacks. I also took ballet well into my fifties that included jumps. You are correct about the benefits post surgery.

      • Thanks EA, I think that makes sense if you have the desire to push a bit more. I don’t think age matters at all btw in what level you choose. The “right level or type” of exercise is just one of those topics that often seems (to me anyway) to change focus so often given that every expert has an opinion. I think that often discourages people to simply get out and move in a way that’s right for them.

      • I think it’s good to push ourselves a bit. I love getting out in the early morning to walk because of the beauty. It’s more than fitness — it helps my frame of mind. That said getting my heart rate going wouldn’t hurt. 😊

  3. What are your thoughts about high-intensity interval training? Is it something you incorporate in your workouts? Do you think you can be too old for HIIT?

    I’ve seen HIIT mentioned but never knew what it stood for, so thanks for explaining what it is. I don’t workout so I don’t incorporate it into them. Instead I go for walks and I do yoga and I lift some weights when I feel motivated. My approach to remaining healthy is much less about intensity and more about consistency. I am not one to overdo when it comes to exercise.

  4. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past couple years — I’ve been consistent with my walks. But I realize I haven’t done anything to up my heart rate. I did before we moved to Arizona in activities like swimming and hiking.

  5. High-intensity interval training? I do believe that is what the military incorporates into everything they do. Do I add it to my routine now ? F**k no. It may help post op recovery, but it beats joints to death and causes issues later in life. Too much muscle now leads to too much fat when you get too old to maintain, and, well, over time, shit just wears out. My life warranty is for 100,000 and I am pretty sure that warranty has expired.

  6. Too old? No. Do you have to maybe lower expectations? Yes. I do a cardio cross fit type class twice a week, which is like HIIT lite….we do weights and bits are cardio and I do feel it is good for me. My daughter, who runs like 20 miles a week and is training for a half marathon, tried HIIT the other day and she did say it’s hardest workout she’s ever done.

  7. I wish you luck with your operation. Make sure to take time to rest, also. Yoga is a good alternative without the hard cardio and wear and tear on the joints. I have a feeling you are in better shape than you think.

  8. I used to absolutely LOVE HIIT training. For years, my body hasn’t been able to tolerate any exercise, so I’m hesitant to jump back into intense workouts just yet. However, I remember reading studies about HIIT promoting longer lifespan and health-span, so I’m sure there are benefits. I don’t think we’re ever too old to move our bodies, but instead we just need to listen to and trust our bodies to avoid overdoing it.

    • I agree with you about overdoing it. When I first joined the Y in Cave Creek, I started working out and taking classes four days a week. I pulled a muscle. My kids lectured on me doing too much, too soon.

  9. Interesting, Elizabeth. This reminds me of what I heard from a longevity specialist – that our VO2 Max output is a great indicator of health outcomes and reduction in morbidity. Stretching the lung capacity? Maybe that’s why HIIT works too?

    Good luck with you eye surgery! Sending great vibes to go along with your great fitness! <3

  10. I love walking but I do notice my heart rate goes way up when Larry and I ride the tandem and we’re tackling a steep hill. So the bike gets my heart rate going and the walks soothe my senses. Great post, I haven’t really thought about it before but it makes a lot of sense to me. Running away from dogs also gets your heart rate going! Hugs, C

  11. My husband and I hike and backpack, and I used to power walk every morning. But a few months ago, I had a foot injury, so walking has been limited. Not to mention, our backpacking trip next month has been changed to camping and light walking. It doesn’t feel good to be less mobile. We all hear, “Exercise every day.” But when a foot is ‘down’ walking is the lowest on the list. So, I bought an exercise bike offers is less impact on my foot. It’s been a good option. We all have to do what is best for us. What others suggest isn’t ‘one stop shopping’ for everyone.
    I’ve seen you on mutual friend’s post, so I thought I’d pay you a visit. And I wish you all the best for your surgery. Take care, Lauren

  12. Thoughts? Arrgh. No thanks. Don’t wanna. I like the slow lane. Howsoever, it just so happens that I live two floors up from a well-equipped exercise room that occasionally enjoys the pleasure of my company. I’ll keep your blog in mind the next time I darken its door, and who knows, maybe there’s still some sprint left in these old bones yet. We’ll see.There’s nobody to push me except me. Hmm. That might be a problem……

  13. I don’t do HIIT, but age isn’t important so much as fitness. Don’t push it too hard if you’re not used to it!
    Hope your eye procedure went well.

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