Working with a bunch of under 30 guys means that I’m perhaps a tad more sensitive to my age than is reasonable. I promise you that once I came on board, coach's meetings became more challenging, especially when we talked about training “middle aged” clients.
Josh: Generally we won’t have a 40 something year old…
Me: What? What won’t you have a 40 year old do? Hmmm??? What??
Josh: Drag an SUV across the parking lot with her teeth.
Me: I'll be tying a rope to the SUV in the parking lot if you need me...
The most challenging part of aging for me, and I know I’m young, is balancing my athletic skills and wants with the realities of a 41-year old body that I’ve already put through the ringer playing various sports throughout the years.
My competitive days might now revolve around golf and slow pitch softball, but I still want to train like an athlete - not just because it’s fun, but because it’s who I am. So with that in mind, here are my random thoughts on training, and if you are a coach who works with aging athletes, perhaps these are some things to consider.
1. Don't tell me I can't do something
Listen, I know there are things I shouldn't do anymore, in the interest of my long-term health. I might have to let go of that goal of running a marathon, given that broken foot that side-lined me for all of last spring.
But, if you know what's good for you, and me, you'll never tell me I can't do something. Maybe that's hard-wired from my years of being one of three girls in Little League, but I'll break myself doing something if you tell me that I can't.
We all have particular gym identities, and mine is that of an aging athlete. For me, that means that I want to throw medicine balls, deadlift until my face falls off, and move like an athlete. Let me do that, ok?
2. Recovery isn't a suggestion, it's a necessity
I didn’t think anything about running or working out every day when I was in college and my early twenties. This week, as I’m finally picking up a training routine after being hampered by injury, I’m on my fourth day in a row of training, and my legs know it. So tomorrow’s workout will be foam rolling and light stretching, because I’m not a spring chicken any more. (More like early summer).
Recovery doesn't necessarily mean sitting around on the couch. Foam rolling, yoga, a massage, light stretching and walking can be part of a recovery day.
3. If I don’t warm up, I pay the price
Pretty much what I just said. If I don’t warm up properly, which is following a complete foam rolling routine and a full body warm up, I’ll tweak something sooner or later. Our muscles aren’t filet mignon, they’re beef jerky. (It's a gross but effective analogy. Just think about ripping apart that jerky. You're welcome for the visual.)
You don't want to tear muscles because you skipped your warm up, right? Me neither. Let's get out there and show those Millennials how it's done.
Right after we warm up for 20 minutes and slather ourselves in Biofreeze...
4. I still think of myself as an athlete
I’m not going to the Olympics (maybe the senior ones someday) or making money as an athlete, but I still think of myself as an athlete. That means I want to train like an athlete. I want to move in other planes of motion. Think about the cone drills, back pedaling, drop step moves and shuffles we do when we play a sport. I might not jump onto a 32 inch box or explode on a sprint (I use the term sprinting very loosely) like I did when I was younger, but it's still important to train power and explosiveness. And I still want to move like an athlete.
Playing sports isn’t just something that I used to do; it’s how I first learned to relate to the world. I was on my first team when I was five, and was on teams almost every year of my life right up until 2015.
5. Be smart when it comes to injury
Remember that commercial about being like Mike? Yeah, be like Mike, but don't be like Kim. I’m the best example of what NOT to do when it comes to working out around an injury, for all of the above reasons. I find it hard to balance my competitive mentality with the restrictions of an injury, but the reality is, the sooner you take care of an injury, the sooner you get back to doing what you love.
This is an "area of opportunity" for me. But I think my last injury did more to teach me patience than anything I've previously dealt with.
6. You might have to train differently than you used to
We have a client who has had a double knee replacement and double hip replacement, and she has a crazy hard core athlete mentality. But she’s also accepted the limitations of her body and embraced what she can do. It’s not that she can’t train - it’s just that she has to train differently. And she’s made peace with that.
All of us would do well to follow her lead.
I often joke with clients that there should be a support group for aging athletes, and I mean that. I’m not sure that there’s anything more defeating than when you ask your body to do something (run a marathon, weed the garden, play a pick up game with your kids) and you find that you can’t do it.
Feeling betrayed by your body is an awful feeling.
But it does no good to sit around and overthink about it. And it does no good to pretend that your body can do exactly what it did when you were 20. If we can learn to adjust expectations (not lower them necessarily), then perhaps we can embrace the privilege that is growing older.
Often, I find it’s helpful to both have a coach, who can program for you, and a solid community of people who can keep you sane when you’re on the sidelines.
And if anyone out there is looking for a coach, I'll be opening up a few spots in my private coaching group in September.
Be strong. Be kind.