I recently came across an excellent article by physiotherapist David Mott.1 David has an exciting and varied experience and educational background as a trainer and physiotherapist, having worked in professional football and Formula 1.
Like me, David has a keen interest in healthy and successful ageing, getting the most out of your body for as long as possible. To find out more about David Mott, please click here.
In this article, I will share David's seven principles for the ageless athlete, with a few added comments of my own, which I hope many of you will find helpful and inspiring!
1. Train harder:
The research here is clear, you have to do more than just aerobic exercise like running. To maintain and improve strength, speed and flexibility, you have to stretch, mobilise, perform safe and effective strengthing exercises.
2. Recover harder: As we get older, we have to allow more time for recovery. Don't train hard every day or risk injury. Coldwater immersion, either in the sea or a cold bath, can help with recovery. Quality sleep is essential.
3. Listen to your body: Don't always train with others. Peer pressure can help you train hard and be detrimental, especially if your training partner is much younger or at a different fitness level. Do things at your own pace from time to time and cut back on training during times of stress.
4. Apply the training principles: To run faster or grow stronger, we have to progressively but carefully overload our body to trigger the right stimuli for improved performance and growth. Training should be planned according to the type of exercises you will be doing, how hard and for how long. Adequate rest and recovery is critical to avoid burnout and injury.
5. Don't believe you are still 20 years old: As David nicely puts it, unless you are 20, don't pretend you are! Recovery is the key, as is an excellent warm-up and doing the correct type of exercises for your body and joints. Have a progressive plan and use common sense.
6. Don't believe you are old!: Strength, speed and aerobic capacity can be improved at any age. Don't believe that just because you are getting older, a decline in your physical health is inevitable. You are never too old to learn safe and effective strengthening exercises.
7. Get excellent advice on diet and hydration: There is a lot of confusing and conflicting advice about diet; what works is often dependant on the individual's own body. Generally agreed on is the need for adequate protein, fats and some carbohydrate but not too much.
We would recommend an assessment and the prescription of a specific exercise programme designed for your needs. There are plenty of websites, training programmes, and apps that may be useful but may not be right for you and your body. Rather than having to pack in the training due to injury, it is better to get the proper guidance at the outset.
In good health.
Simon Coghlan MSc, BSc Physio, DipMedAc
Mott, D. From ageing athlete to ageless athlete. Journal for Physiotherapists in Private Practice. Spring 2021.