We all wish to remain as fit as we were during our halcyon years. Age has its constraints but it’s no reason to neglect your physical health and wellness. As we grow older, we become wiser and more self-aware of our physical capacity. Continuing to learn, adapt and develop new skills can help us to allay the effects of senescence while developing the mind and body in novel ways.
1. Don’t ignore the “needs”
For starters, older athletes will need to learn to identify and differentiate between their wants and needs. You can't go around chasing both strength and power while wanting to compete in a marathon. You have to set your priorities and goals right and plan accordingly. Then, stick with the plan instead of going off on a training bender. While it's fun to maintain that competitive edge, one must be practical when it comes to expectations regarding progress. Add 5 kilos to your max squat will take longer now as compared to when you were 18.
2. Be mindful of weak links
Approach fitness by recognising the four pillars that support it: strength, body composition, mobility and work capacity. It can be difficult to match a certain standard of fitness, especially when it’s attributed to more youthful individuals. Set realistic expectations for yourself with these pillars so you can remain accountable for your physical performance. Create a test for each fitness attribute — perhaps a 1RM deadlift for strength, a timed circuit workout for work capacity, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for mobility, and a certain body-fat percentage as a measure of body composition.
3. Don’t shy away from maintenance work
When all the focus ends up being geared towards the next win, it’s easy to see how “maintenance” can sometimes end up being treated as a dirty word. For older athletes however, taking the time and effort to remain healthy for their sport is crucial. You may find that you need to back-off your training sessions more than usual in order to stay functional, and that’s okay. In fact, you can even think of performance maintenance as a skill in its own right. Working on a new challenge offers expansive possibilities for continued growth and development. For instance, learning to move better might end up unlocking a hidden gift for something like yoga!
Just because you’re older now doesn’t mean that you have to go the way of the dinosaur. With the invaluable amount of training experience built up over the years comes a keen insight and understanding on how sound and purposeful training can shape a person from within and without. Youth may be wasted on the young, but it’s nothing that you can’t do without!