The Wisdom of Frank–Part IV
“Change It Up”
I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym. Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition. He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher. Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance. He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties. Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.
Frank was big on developing one set of skills for a defined period of time and then switching to performance parameters. We would work hard on improving strength with squats, cleans, and pull ups for six weeks and then take a break. The next six weeks would focus on speed and endurance–lots of jump rope, sprinting, and medicine ball throws. I never got bored and I never got hurt.
The best injury preventative for athletes and fitness enthusiasts is a consistent change in activity. Look at your training / competition schedule and alter your activity every six to eight weeks. Better yet, take a week or two away from running, dance, yoga, lifting, baseball, or Zumba. If you are older or more injury prone, that rest period might need to be stretched out to three weeks.
The popularity of the club system has young athletes playing the same sport year round. In the clinic, we are treating young athletes with “old person” overuse injuries. Playing multiple sports is infinitely more beneficial. Taking layoffs from overused movement patterns and participating in a variety of athletic endeavors gives the body a chance to rebuild and recover. It is no coincidence that successful professional athletes are the product of multi-sport participation.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Fitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity are dramatically different. If you need proof, look for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.
Many older fitness clients are able to train at intensity levels that are equal to their younger counterparts. What they are unable to do is fully recover between bouts of training. Insufficient recovery makes progress toward higher levels of fitness nearly impossible and creates an environment that invites injury. Activities that promote recovery between training sessions have great value for older training clients.
Quality sleep is essential for recovery. Unfortunately, many age-related changes can interfere with sleep. Menopause for women, prostate issues for men, arthritic joints, and acid reflux are just of few of the more common problems. If you have problems getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep, talk to your doctor about possible medical assistance to improve your sleep. Invest in better pillows and a quality mattress. If your schedule permits, take a nap during the day to boost your total sleep time.
Active Recovery is the term used by strength coaches and trainers for short and easy exercise sessions that speed up recovery. On your days out of the gym, take ten to fifteen minutes and work on these areas:
Resolve movement pattern restrictions
Develop a more efficient and pain-free squat, lunge, hip hinge, or toe touch pattern and it will reduce tissue overload during training sessions.
Eliminate postural flaws
Occupational responsibilities and daily activities place us in the positions that feed into poor postural habits. Nothing stalls progress more than posture restrictions. These deficits will only resolve with daily training.
Soft tissue work
Soft tissue work with a foam roller, massage stick, or any of the other myofacial tools can work wonders. Find a physical therapist or trainer who can teach you how to use these tools to assist in recovery.
Have a recovery day. Many older fitness clients are unaware of how much they are taxing their bodies until they end up with an overuse pain problem. If you are going to perform high level fitness activities such as distance running, resistance training, or an hour of yoga, you are going to need some days in between that involve solid sleep, minimal activity, and maybe an easy walk.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS