Don’t Let Age get in the way of Exercise

Don’t Let Age get in the way of Exercise

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Change your sports to compensate for age and injuries

Senior als Wintersportler im Raureifwald

The one thing I fear most as I age is not being able to physically perform the same way as I could in my youth. It is inevitable that as we get older aerobic power declines, muscles atrophy and our nervous system slows down. How I deal with this impossible to win battle will be especially difficult for me. A great majority of my life’s happy moments came for me when I was doing something physical.

Playing sports, working out and the feeling of being fit is exhilarating for me. You can almost say it is an addiction. If I take more than two days off from doing something physical something just does not feel right. I feel sluggish, weak, soft and less happy.

Now at 47-years-old, the abuse I have subjected my body through has taken its toll. Every day I experience some kind of lower back pain, right knee pain plus shoulder/neck discomfort. On bad days I am limping around after playing sports hard. On good days I feel a mild ache at various joints throughout my body. There is not a day that goes by without some form of body discomfort. I know a change in activity and intensity level may be good for me. I am thinking more yoga might be a start, taking up swimming or even pilates might help keep me in shape and still get my exercise fix. Then I give my head a shake and say, “dude you are you nuts, you are bent but not broken.”

Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I think these activities are a waste of time, they are just not for me. I would not get the same adrenalin rush doing downward dog as I would busting through two defencemen and shelving a puck over a goalie’s shoulder in ball hockey. Learning to engage my “power house” is not the same as catching another cyclist on a hill climb blowing past him while my lungs are searing, legs burning and heart about to burst through my chest. I know if I am suffering they must be a bit too. The person that can stand the most pain wins in cycling.

“No matter what your injury or pain issues are, there is always something you can still do.”

I have separated my shoulder from crashing my bike, wrecked my lower back from ball hockey and squatting heavy and I also deteriorated my knees from years of volleyball. After all the injuries over a lifetime there is always a short time that must be allowed for the healing to occur.

The key is to stay in the game. I have managed to work around injuries. You need to evaluate what movements and loads cause you pain. You also need to develop the body awareness of what is bad pain (delays the healing process) and what pain you can tolerate that aids in the healing process. This comes with experience and by working with a professional to assess your movement patterns and what compensations you are making to avoid pain.

To accommodate all this, I switched from playing ball hockey to ice hockey. There is less impact on the knees. I stopped doing heavy rear barbell loaded squats which I found my back had a difficult time supporting. I concentrated on other squatting variations that place load on my lower body without the extra stress to my spine. Some variations I do are one leg balance squats with a forward reach, one leg step ups, and goblet squats. For some cardiovascular work in the winter time I took up cross country skiing, another great activity for your exercise time while minimizing the impact forces on your knees and back. For my shoulder I had to stop doing bench presses, bodyweight shoulder presses and chin ups for a time because they caused me too much pain. I experimented with other movements to train my upper body that I was able to do in a pain free environment such as rowing movements, cobra flys, and light range of motion exercises with dumbbells. The lesson is no matter what your injury or pain issues are, there is always something you can still do. If you can only aqua size then so be it. You are still in the game – well sort of.

One risk factor to obesity is recovery from an injury. Trying to keep your body fat levels normal is difficult. You may be annoyed that you cannot exercise the way you desire, plus you are eating high sugar/fat foods to get some immediate self gratification for the emotional low you are in. We all know that Haagen Daz Cookie Dough Ice Cream will not solve your problems – well maybe for a few minutes but certainly not in the long term.

To avoid aging too quickly people need to become aware of their loss of function. Accepting that you can no longer do an activity like you once did is too easy. There needs to be a bit of a fight or a backup plan to put in place. I hear too many people say, “well I can’t do that I’m too old” or “I used to be able to do that when I was younger.” You still can stay fit, healthy and trimmed, if you stay in “the game.”

 
Paul Plakas
Paul Plakas is a well-known fitness expert and personal trainer for more than 20 years. Paul has also been featured on Slice TV network shows "Taking it Off" and "X-Weighted."

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