Some people may never have considered themselves “athletes,” however, it is to my belief that every human was born with the capacity to be an athlete. A big thanks to our culture, many of us have never developed that athletic capacity, or have lost it throughout the years from not doing much of anything. The good news is, it isn’t too late. If you are a parent who doesn’t think your kid has any athletic potential, an ex-athlete who has lost all resemblance of athlete material, or an older adult who thinks they missed out on not playing sports as a youngster and believes it is too late to get started, this article is for YOU.
I am going to provide a general guide with ways YOU can still develop athletic capacity as you age.
(If you want to dive deeper on the subject of how everyone isn’t just born with great abilities, but they’re actually developed, I suggest reading the book “The Talent Code,” by Daniel Coyle.)
1. Movement Quality
The most important concept to take away from this article, and the one sure way you can remain athletic as you age is to learn how to move really, really, really well! You might think, “well I’m just a couch potato how am I supposed to learn how to move really well?” The best answer I can give is to find somebody that knows what they’re talking about and has experience working and developing people into stud movers. The next best way is to just get started. Even the best athletes in their field have movement inefficiencies that they need to clean up if they want to unlock their true potential.
Everyone needs to be able to 5 things, and the quality at which you do these 5 things will determine how stud of an athlete you really are. Every human on this Earth needs the capacity to squat, hinge, push, pull, and resist movement at the “core” in all three planes of motion. Many people have lost the capacity to do all of these 5 things. If you want to stay in shape and move well as you age you need to be able to do these 5 things well.
Why are these 5 so important? Because, if you can do these 5 things really well, you become very well-rounded, and there is essentially no movement that poses any risk. Being able to squat, hinge (at the hip), push and pull something effectively, and having a dominant core, you are drastically reducing any movement inefficiencies of the entire system. If you train or workout and have some sort of pain after every session, then chances are you are deficient in one of these categories.
Having a high quality of movement requires you to be strong and be able to move through full ranges of motion in the 4 categories we just talked about, plus being able to resist movement at the core. If you want to be an effective human being as you age, it is essential that you are a dominant mover in these 5 areas.
2. Get Stronger
This one is very simple and that is to just get strong. I want to be a bit more specific and say, as a means to perform that is specific to your life situation. As you are aging and you just want to get stronger to improve self-esteem and confidence towards normal daily activities, then it isn’t ideal to have you training like a powerlifter who wants to shatter world records. We might use some powerlifting principles, but it is important to get stronger as a means to being a healthier and more effective human being. If you are aging, and want to compete in the sport of powerlifting, then it might be time to ramp the strength training up a notch, but still be proactive about soft tissue, and down-regulatory work to keep your performing at your highest potential as you age. You can’t lift heavy shit on the sidelines.
If you are the person who really doesn’t care how much you lift, but just wants to be able to move freely everyday with minimal pain, then it is important to really mesh movement quality with strength training. There is plenty of research out there supporting the use of strength training as a means to combat the aging process, develop healthy connective tissue, and become more overall bad ass (that might not actually be supported by research). Often times, the best way for efficient movement patterns to “stick” is to make moving difficult to handle so you develop the skill (movement is a skill) faster, and the best way to do that is to strength train.
I also encourage people who don’t think they want to get strong to start lifting some heavy stuff more often and I think you would be surprised with how much you actually enjoy it. Like Mark Bell said, “no one every regretted getting strong.”
3. Do Stuff Fast
Another principle to live by in order to stay athletic as you age is to be doing thing fast. What I mean by this is simply adding some sort of plyometrics to your training. This doesn’t mean stacking plates on boxes and going for a world record box jump, but to simply add some lower intensity plyometrics to keep your nervous system strong as you age. There is a lot of research that shows that heavy lifting (near 1-RM) has benefits in people with Parkinson’s and older adult population. As the human body ages the nervous system starts to operate a lot slower, which is why there aren’t any 60-year olds playing professional sports. To combat this process it is necessary to do things that make your nervous system have to work hard, and a couple ways of doing that is strength training like mentioned above, and doing some low-level plyometrics. Both of these activities have a pretty high level of motor recruitment, which will train the nervous system to respond and operate more quickly. This is a big deal if you are reading this article, because you are someone that wants to be an athletic human being, and this is an important principle to take into your training.
Here are a few plyometric exercises to work on developing the nervous system that won’t make you fall apart as well. These are lower impact jumps and medicine ball throws.
It is important that on these broad jumps you don’t focus on jumping as far as you can, but focus on landing on the whole foot and not letting the knees dive too far forward. Landing focus before distance of jump.
It is important to note that with the hurdle hops we are focused on being reactive (fast) off of the ground. We are working on developing a higher rate of force production by the nervous system, but we also want to keep the joints healthy. Start with a shorter distance between the hurdles or no hurdles at all and focus on being fast off of the ground without “pounding” the ground. Once the body adapts to a shorter distance progress to spreading the hurdles out farther.
Get Out and Do Things
Play. If there is one thing I want you to get out of this article more than anything it is to go out and play. Be a kid again. Children have fun doing whatever and exploring new things. Go out and walk. Go out and hike. Go out and explore and enjoy the world that you are lucky enough to be alive in. The human body wasn’t meant to live in a home and sit on the couch all day. That is where the body atrophy’s. It is important to get adequate recovery and rest, but it is also important to be able to move like the human body is capable. Take off your shoes and walk on things, feel what it is like to crawl again, climb things, carry things, etc. These are all things that are contribute to overall better movement health, and can also ease the anxieties of the mind. Use your weekends to the fullest and go out and do things!
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