The Aging Athlete David Brown's excellent article ["Pulling Against Time," Feb. 13] neglects to discuss the psychological incentives that are retained even when one passes the peak age of efficiency. That's why not only masters swimming but masters track and many other sports have ongoing five-year age brackets. Most major marathons now have competitors older than 40, where runners, jumpers and throwers look forward to another birthday, which places them in a new competitive age group and further encourages them to compete, exercise and stay fit for a longer lifetime. For example, masters track has competitors in brackets from 30 to 100-plus years old! In other words, age never does have to "catch up" with you! Robert S. Weiner

Media Chair

USA Track and Field National Masters

Accokeek

As an active rower now 72 years old, I read with interest David Brown's feature. I got hooked on this sport in high school and college and continued to row throughout my U.S. Foreign Service career. During my annual State Department physical exams, doctors often told me I had the heart and lungs of a much younger man. All because of rowing!

Our sport is generally recognized as second only to cross-country skiing as a form of aerobic exercise. The sport encourages everyone to maintain and improve fitness. And you can take up rowing and sculling at any age. Learn-to-Row courses are available at several locations in the Washington area, including at the Anacostia Community Boathouse, and the Capital Rowing Club has the Senior and Weekend (SAW) program with rowers in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

Robert E. Day Jr.

Co-founder

Organization for Anacostia Rowing

and Sculling (OARS)

Washington

As something of a data/statistics nut, I was perturbed by the graphic detailing the "Slowing Down" of older athletes. By graphing only the amount that older athletes are slower than the record, rather than the actual average time it takes to run the 100-meter sprint, the graph exaggerates the slowness of older runners. It would be less misleading to indicate actual times on a zero baseline graph (i.e., 10.27 seconds for ages 40-44, 18.03 seconds for ages 90-94).

David Gossett

Washington

Over the years, the aging amateur athlete faces the same physiological decline as the elite, especially as the time set aside for exercise competes with family and work demands. In addition to the decline in fitness, all athletes are faced with the inevitable increase in injuries, particularly muscle pulls, ligament strains, meniscus tears and eroding joint cartilage. And with each layoff due to these injuries, cardiovascular fitness declines further, resulting in a recurring cycle: more exercise, more injuries. Although training can curb the pull of time, it competes with the decreased resiliency, elasticity and flexibility of the musculoskeletal system. Increasing muscle strength by training does not necessarily reverse the decline in these other important characteristics. The real challenge is achieving a balance between doing too much and not doing anything.

Eddy A. Bresnitz, MD, MS

Lawrenceville, N.J.

I read with interest the article concerning the health benefits of rowing. Many D.C. area residents are deeply devoted to the sport. All of us regret the loss of power as we age, and we sympathize with the Olympians' mourning their lost speed. But it should also be noted that many of us men and women (yes, there are a lot of women rowing) in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond know that regular Joes and Janes can improve and maintain their fitness and health, mental, physical and spiritual, by regular rowing. We know from personal experience that "aerobic capacity and muscle strength can be improved" even in our 80s.

Gretchen Ellsworth

Vice President

Potomac Boat Club

Washington

David Brown's "Pulling Against Time" was great. Now it needs a follow-up, "Roll Back the Clock," giving a general recipe about how to maintain fitness. I am 63 and was never a team- or individual-sport athlete. I took up running at age 38 and completed four marathons during the following five years. I kept jogging as exercise throughout the year and peaked for a 10-mile race every August.

Last July, I moved to an active adult community with excellent fitness facilities and classes. With no excuse to not use the convenient facilities, I have gradually evolved into practicing Pilates twice a week, lifting weights twice a week, taking aerobics twice a week and doing five minutes of balance exercise every day. My theory is to work on flexibility, strength, endurance and balance in a structured way. And it's working, if ever so slowly.

Charles L. Wilde

Dumfries

Too Little, Too Early

I am an uncle of a premature baby ["Early Arrivals: A Growing Problem," Feb. 6] and a volunteer with the March of Dimes. My experiences have helped me develop the deepest sympathy for anyone who has ever had a premature baby. Volunteering with the March of Dimes is one of the best ways you can contribute to its mission of ending premature births. Find out how at http://marchofdimes.com/metrodc.

Ryan Sandberg

Washington

Doctor-Patient Complaints If doctors think they should know more about symptoms that bother patients ["Tell Me Where It Hurts," Feb. 6], they should be willing to listen to those symptoms or be willing to use their own heads and ask. I have seen many MDs' faces grimace in disapproval when I began to enunciate a symptom I thought worthy of telling them. That simply shuts me up, both that time and the next times. If a doctor thinks that some elucidation is irrelevant, then he or she needs to say so -- nicely -- not with the body language that we females, especially, so readily take note of.

Alice Wahl

Silver Spring