If You Rest You Rust

Even the strongest of athletes feel the effects of time.  After the age of fifty, performance-altering changes in the body bring new training obstacles: osteopenia, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower levels of testosterone, lost flexibility, reduced enzyme activity, and inability to regulate and tolerate temperature—all of these make training an uphill battle. While getting older is unavoidable, becoming deconditioned is avoidable.  The older athlete must be vigilant and consistent in their training regiments.  My experience as an athlete of almost sixty years tells me focusing on the following areas holds back the ravages of time:

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
There are three elements of training: duration, intensity and frequency.  As we get older, we start to leave the high-intensity intervals in favor of longer, slower duration workouts.  The older athlete must do just the opposite. Working above 80% intensity levels with a nod to muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and speed work should be an integral part of training. These workouts stimulate higher testosterone and aid in maintaining muscle mass.

Strength training
Lift weights to increase bone density and increase testosterone and muscle.  Women, especially, will find weight lifting to be the pathway to the fountain of youth.  It is important to alternate between lifting weights and doing body-weight exercises.  These things keep the skeletal system buttressed against injury.  Remember, it is possible to build backbone and muscle at any age.

Get your sleep!
Do you NEED an alarm clock to wake up?  If you do, chances are you are not getting enough shut eye.  Older athletes need sleep to get the recovery between training.  Those women who are sleep deprived produce more cortisol; more cortisol leads to higher body fat ratios.

Eat to refuel
The older athlete’s intake should be nutrient-rich whole foods.  Daily calories sustain the body for the rigors of daily life.  Workout recovery and restocking glycogen is done with post-exercise snacks.  Eating after a hard workout stokes the metabolism!

Stay hydrated
Working out while dehydrated can cause greater damage to the muscles and reduce the body’s ability to repair itself.  A hydrated body’s heart rate recovers quicker.

After an intense workout, muscles need to repair themselves.  Fibers that are entangled slow down the recovery process.  Stretching a muscle increases the tension in the fiber, which realigns the disorganized tissue, similar to smoothing out a crumbled piece of paper.  Stretching also reduces soreness by decreasing the lactic acid buildup.

Try Something New!
I recently added a new program, MYZONE® Training, to my routine. I never thought I could improve my cardiac output and decrease my resting heart rate at the age of almost sixty. Within weeks my workouts have been rejuvenated.  I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.


Maryellen is a Fitness Instructor at CORE Center of Real Energy in Providence. She has been a fitness professional since 1987 and is nationally certified in personal training, yoga, and fitness instruction.

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