To Remain Fit Don't Fight Your Age

To Remain Fit Don't Fight Your Age

Posted by Matt Russ on 15th Aug 2019

Recently I listened to a trainer exclaim "I still life heavy at 60!"  I am always interested in stories of fitness and longevity, and he certainly did not look like your average 60 year old.  I was impressed, especially since my own strength training does not involve heavy lifts anymore.  However, in listening to his story he admitted he had sustained numerous shoulder injuries requiring multiple surgeries, and was in line for another.  I doubt his continuing to "lift heavy" was sustainable or perhaps lifting at all.  Fitness was obviously a huge part of his life but by continuing to pursue it with the same vigor and intensity he was risking losing it all.

We often hear that age is something we must fight, but the grim reality is that we are all going to die making it a losing battle.  I think a more proper mindset is to maintain as a high of a quality of life for as long as we can.  "Fighting" our age usually means trying to do what we used to do for as long as we can.  As a trainer and coach I have seen this mindset become self-destructive causing chronic injury and in many cases ending or diminishing the ability to do what the athlete loves best.  The secret to aging fit is not pushing an older body harder for as long as you can, it is understanding how the body ages, accepting limitations, and becoming in sync with what your individual body can handle.

The first step is to accept that our strength, speed, and power is diminishing with age.  The good news is that we do have a lot of control over how much or how slowly it diminishes.  What will diminish it very quickly is an injury, and over the age of 40 we definitely do not recover from injuries like we used to.  Injuries that used to be recoverable may now be career ending.  We heal slower, the types of tissues that form are not as strong and resilient, we do not produce as much of the hormones that facilitate recovery, and we likely have a bevvy of biomechanical and muscular imbalances collected from chronic training over the years.  For this reason a major portion of training volume or time should now be focused on injury prevention, restoring strength balance and flexibility, and aiding recovery/rest. 

This could mean major changes in your regime, but not just less volume and more rest.  The drop in sport specific volume can be filled with restorative and body maintenance work such as Yoga, Pilates, and strength training.  In regards to the later if you are seeking a trainer make sure they are adept at working with your age group.  Sometimes younger trainers do not have the education and/or perspective to work with older populations and may be too aggressive.  You may also fill this time with more economy and form work.  You will not be able to increase your VO2 max appreciably, but you can make more efficient use of each breath you take.

The good news is that if you have been a life long athlete, or even training for a long period of time, you have put a lot in your fitness bank.  It is much, much easier to maintain a level of fitness than improve upon it.  Remember father time IS catching up with you and holding him back for as long as possible is a solid plan of action.  The real competition with your peers is staying as fast/strong/powerful for as long as you can.  Don't feel compelled to reach for that extra 1% that could jeopardize the other 99%.

The older you get the more important it is to become in sync with your bodies needs, especially rest.  Type A personalities are the worst when it comes to this.  They believe that the extra mile they push themselves to in all areas of their lives applies to their fitness as well.  But your body is on it's own schedule which often is not in sync with over achievers ambitions.  Tiredness, soreness, nagging injuries, mental fatigue should all be factored into your daily training.  Modifying that routine is THE key to longevity and I cannot stress this enough.  When I question an athlete about their over use injury almost always it started out with a milder indication that became much worse when further stress was put upon it.  Again, having the foresight and sense to back off for a few days, or even a week, is often what keeps you doing what you love long term.