Use it or lose it, the adage goes. That’s true, but fitness after 50 requires a reality check. As we age, we lose speed, strength, even balance. Overdo it, and our muscles might complain for days.

However, all that doesn’t mean we have to stop playing. In fact, at age 64, Diana Nyad became the first confirmed person to swim from Key West, Fla., to Havana, Cuba, without the protection of a shark cage. And Satchel Paige didn’t retire from professional baseball until age 59.

We just have to play smarter.

Sean Wade, who leads the Kenyan Way training program in Houston, has run competitively for more than 30 years. A former Olympic marathon runner, his personal record for the 26.2-mile distance is 2:10:59.

Wade turned 50 earlier this year. Yet rather than retire, he raced into history, setting five world records for his age group in two months. His times included a 4:23 indoor mile and a 10K (6.2 miles) in 30:48.

Wade’s mantra? Less is more. He doesn’t run longer than an hour and limits his speed sessions to less than 3 miles. He also gets regular massages and visits a chiropractor twice weekly.

“I spend more time getting treatments than I do running,” he recently told Runner’s World magazine.

You don’t have to be genetically gifted or a professional athlete to stay in the game. Wade coaches runners of all abilities. Here are his top five tips for staying sharp—or becoming even sharper—after age 50, no matter what sport you play.

  • Train with high-intensity intervals. Instead of easy cardio or running, incorporate high-intensity intervals into your workout.
  • Increase protein in your diet while reducing carbohydrates.
  • Include strength training and balance exercises into your workout routine.
  • Join a training group to meet people with similar goals.
  • Do less, but increase consistency. As you age, reduce what you’re doing, but do it every day. The key is consistency.

Roberta MacInnis is an avid runner, a frequent sailor and a former editor at the Houston Chronicle.
Photo of Sean Wade by Lance Phegley/RaceShots.Net