Fit Past Forty

It seems the average age of elite athletes is increasing. That’s part attitude (no reason to quit) and part training advances. Elite athletes that take care of their bodies and adapt their training as they age can stay competitive much longer.  Recreational athletes and Xtreme Geezers are just as capable of achieving and maintaining fitness as elite athletes. Here’s what you should add to your routines and lifestyle:

Rest and recovery–You can continue to train for the things you love to do, but you need to allow more time for rest and recovery. Generally, that means active recovery, not collapsing on the couch, though devoting some time to outright rest is sensible and effective.Alternating high-intensity training with planned active recovery days will give you time to assess how well your body is recovering and tune your workouts accordingly.

Stretch, and make it count–We all get less flexible as we age. The combination of a lifetime of injuries, muscular imbalances, and natural aging effects on muscles and tendons all contribute to the general loss of flexibility. Much of the loss can be counteracted daily stretching or adding disciplines like Yoga to your routine. But the inflexibility that stems from muscle imbalance will get more extreme if you don’t pay attention to it. A general stretching program won’t help imbalance, in fact it can make it worse since the muscles that are already somewhat loose will be helped more than the ones that are tight and contracted. If you can’t identify those yourself, get a pro to help you, and then target your stretching at the muscles that need help.

Nutrition for recovery and protection–One of the major element of aging is oxidation stress, and the free radicals that cause that are more prevalent in athletes than sedentary people. That means Xtreme Geezers need to consume more antioxidants, which are compounds that neutralize free-radicals and repair oxidative stress damage. Vitamins C and E are especially helpful and consuming foods that are known to contain antioxidants is important. You should be able to accomplish this with good food choices (brightly colored vegetables, berries, etc.) but you might want to assist with supplements.

You should also consume proper nutrients immediately after exercise both to enhance recovery and to stem aging. A balanced amount of water, electrolytes, carbohydrate, and protein are needed to rehydrate, restore glycogen, and repair tissue damage. Exercise suppresses hunger, so you need to apply this as a discipline. You may find a sports recovery drink to be the simplest and most convenient way to accomplish this.

Strength through resistance–People lose muscle mass as they age. That gradual loss of strength can be kept at bay and muscle mass retained at close to youthful levels if you do resistance training. Finesse or speed sports may not demand great strength, but if you don’t do strength training you will lose muscle and tone, and eventually, that loss will impact your ability to perform.

Get your eight hours–Sleep deprivation cripples your immune system, slows recovery and decreases mental acuity. Give yourself the rest you need. Besides, skipping late night TV is sure to improve your mental health all by itself.