‘The engine just started coughing!’ — Limits of physical performance, aging and career continuity in elite endurance sports

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  • Noora Ronkainen
  • Tatiana Ryba, Danmark
  • Mark Nesti, Liverpool John Moores University, Storbritannien
This research examines male endurance athletes' experience of aging and/or reaching the perceived limits of physical performance. More specifically, the current study aimed to explore how existential meanings attached to these experiences are connected with athletes' decision-making concerning career continuity and retirement. Life story interviews were conducted with 10 Finnish runners and/or orienteers aged between 25 and 62 and the data was analyzed with an existential-narrative framework. Four major storylines related to aging were identified: The end of an era, putting things in perspective, the attitude has to change and winning was never the only motive. Our results suggest that endurance athletes possess diverse ways of bringing meaning to the experience of aging, both confirming and resisting the dominant cultural narrative of decline. While three athletes' stories confirmed the normativity of retirement when unable to improve their results anymore, other athletes demonstrated career continuity and positive aspects in the late career years, such as lack of competitive anxiety, finding perspective and increased enjoyment in running. We suggest that through awareness of alternative narratives, sport psychology consultants may be able to help their clients to explore new meanings in the potentially challenging and beneficial experiences of aging and athletic retirement.
Artikelnummer27 (4)
TidsskriftJournal of Aging Studies
Sider (fra-til)387-397
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2013

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