How to Remain a Weekend Warriorfor Life
Cross-train. To stay in the game, modifying your routine may be the answer. "You can't do weight-bearing activities the whole time," says Albohm. Mix things up. If you've always been a runner but your knees can no longer stand your old five-day-a-week routine, ride a bike or hop in the pool every other day instead.
If you're not lifting weights, start. "Around 40 or 45, we can see a decrease of as much as a pound of muscle per year," says Joseph Scott, an athletic trainer with the Sports Performance & Orthopedic Rehab Team at the Southcoast Hospitals Group in North Dartmouth, Mass. Not only that, bone density drops. Weights can help.
In fact, a new study suggests that resistance training actually makes muscle tissue function like younger tissue. "The only thing that we have seen that actually preserves muscle and muscle strength is resistance training," says Miriam Nelson, director of Tufts University's John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition. It can also help fight weight gain, since boosting muscle mass also boosts your metabolism.
Rest. Recovery is key, whether within a tough session or in between workouts, says Kathy Zawadzki, who coaches cyclists and triathletes for Carmichael Training Systems, a company that offers online training programs to athletes. When she writes up training plans for her older athletes, she may give them 15 or 20 minutes in between hard sets, compared with 10 minutes for younger folks. And she likes to build in an extra rest day during the week to allow athletes more time to bounce back in between big workouts. Rest is even more important if you've got a nagging injury. "When you're 20, you can rest and ice your injury, take anti-inflammatories, and it will go away. When you're 50 or 60 or 70, those same problems can be debilitating," says Scott.
Watch your diet. Your metabolism slows down when you get older. If you've been working out all your life, that may mean that the same amount of exercise doesn't keep the weight off like it used to. Zawadzki, who's a sports nutritionist as well as a coach, advises her athletes to be vigilant about what they eat when they're not training but fuel up properly immediately before, during, and after a tough workout.
Get good advice. It may be worth your time and money to search out an athletic trainer or another fitness professional with experience dealing with older athletes. That's especially true if you've had a chronic injury. "If you have had shoulder or knee injuries, you've got to be cautious about what you do to a body part that's already been compromised," says Albohm. A pro can help you develop a program that will keep you fit without aggravating your weak links.
Expand your definition of athletic success. Some of the middle-aged cyclists and triathletes coached by Zawadzki are no longer achieving PBspersonal best timesbut they get other benefits from their sport, she says. "They probably had to work really hard to be competitive when they were 25. At 50, there aren't as many competitors." Besides having a better chance at picking up a medal, she says, her athletes also focus on other benefits of the sport: the community of other athletes or the novelty of competing at different distances.