As we get older many of us continue to enjoy active sports, dance, and yoga. However, the bodies of aging athletes are not as forgiving as they once were and it takes more mindfulness and maintenance to keep them in peak condition. Here are some tips to consider from my extensive experience practicing physical therapy, massage therapy, and my 40 years of dance and martial arts.
A Solid Stretching and Core Strengthening Program
This applies to not only older athletes, but everyone. Your core strengthening program should be performed 2-3 times per week (preferably three times) for about 30 minutes each session. Specific Pilates and Yoga-based exercises are excellent.
Community classes aren’t always the best solution, especially here in San Francisco. High demand here means less time spent with each individual. These classes have often become “workout” classes where there isn’t sufficient time spent on instruction or individualized corrections. Consultation with a chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist is the best way to set up a program. Aging athletes bodies have very specific needs depending on the kinds of activities we have performed and currently perform in our daily lives. It may take a little more time and expense, but the long-term goals of taking care of your body in a personalized manner and saving yourself the pain in the future is well worth it.
Many “old school” exercises such as sit ups, push ups, and ballistic stretching or “boot camp” classes are usually not the best thing for aging athletes. Ideally spinal, hip, and chest stretching should be done daily.
Massage Therapy and Acupuncture to Relax and Rejuvinate
A monthly massage session will help to keep muscles balanced and supple. The type of massage is in individuals preference. A good flowing Swedish massage can be just as helpful as an intense deep-tissue massage. Neither is better. The truth is you simply have to experiment to see which techniques feel right for your body and level of exercise. I have found in my experience that specific structural release work to be particularly useful for people with an active lifestyle.
I have also found that many of my patients have found that acupuncture on a regular basis helps to maintain overall good health and stamina.
Restorative Yoga for Balance and Relaxation
Yoga involves placing your body in a specific posture in a warm, dark, quiet environment for about 30 minutes or more. It is wonderful for engaging those stabilization muscles and improving balance and coordination. Many people balk at the idea of 30 minutes of doing nothing. However, it is one of the best time investments you can make to keep on enjoying your more physical activity at the highest-possible level.
Hydration, Nutrients, and Dump the Junk
Double check that you are getting enough water. Night cramps are more and more common the older one gets.
To keep your body working efficiently, aging athletes need to pay close attention to the fuel they put in their bodies. Be sure that you are getting enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium through as many organic sources as possible. Milk products such as cheeses and yogurt are wonderful sources of calcium. In addition, oranges and tangerines, dried apricots, kiwi, dates, dried figs, rhubarb, prickly pears, and prunes are great vegan options. Potassium can be found in artichokes, avocados, bananas, beets and beet greens (cooked), brussel sprouts, and cantaloupe. Finally, spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt or kefir, almonds, black beans are amazing sources of magnesium.
Also, it also might be time to do a self-check of your dietary habits including use of caffeine or alcohol. Optimum nutrition and detoxification certainly contributes to healthy musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular system.
Aging Athletes Don’t Have To Live In Pain
One of our amazing chiropractic doctors Dr. Marshall Luck wrote about taking action to resolve your pain and not being a statistic. Don’t be one of the aging athletes who says, “I should have come in sooner.” Don’t let injuries linger with thought of getting older. See one of our wonderful chiropractors, a massage therapist, or a physical therapist for help. Having someone look at your ergonomics and lifestyle from an outside perspective can reveal some surprising results. Subsequently this can lead to improved performance. Going to the local spa for one massage is simply not sufficient enough to take care of your condition adequately, you need a professional opinion.
It’s true, each year we work harder to maintain the state that allows up to stay physically fit and healthy. However, that doesn’t mean aging athletes simply have to live with pain and abstain from physical activity. There’s so much more to do, so many more dance moves that need to be performed, so much exercise that needs to be done, and so much more life that needs to be lived.
Virginia Ohanlon – Licensed Massage Therapist
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