DISCLAIMER: A LOT OF THIS POST PROBABLY DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU, BUT THE CONCEPTS ARE USEFUL FOR ALL. MAYBE ONLY 15 – 20% OF THE ATHLETE-PATIENTS I SEE TRULY OVERTRAIN. IF YOU DO, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
Patients come in all types. Our clinic is fortunate to see many dedicated elite level athletes in many disciplines from a wide variety of age groups. The mind of the dedicated, elite level athlete is an interesting thing. If I didn’t enjoy surfing so much, I could write a book solely focused on the challenges and methods of treating them clinically – especially those in the “aging” category.
When it comes to the elite athlete, the idea of “aging” is relative. It often begins in the late twenties (sometimes earlier) and is almost always applicable beginning in our thirties. The athlete deals with this phenomenon in a variety of ways: denial, rationalization and acceptance are just a few.
What I have seen lately clinically has reminded me that all too often doctors and trainers have failed to properly educate the aging athlete on the most effective approaches to continue performing at the highest level. Many concepts that are important for the athlete in their prime become exponentially more important the older the athlete becomes. My big two are this: Diet and Recovery.
Diet is generally not ignored as we see more and more each year the continued and growing focus on diet and nutrition for the athlete. What I see, however, is persistent over training in athletes over 30 and especially those over 40. When someone over trains, they do so at the expense of very much needed RECOVERY. When someone is not adequately recovered, they are much more prone to injury and they will eventually see a decrease in their performance.
The rules are simple: The older you get, the more recovery you need. This includes general recovery from regular training and, especially, recovery from injuries. If you are an athlete, particularly an endurance one, and you are putting in the same amount of training at age 40 as you were at age 30 then, believe it or not, you are actually not doing yourself a favor. There are varying opinions and, of course, exceptions, but my experience treating thousands of athlete-patients is that you should decrease your training levels 10% – 20% every 7 to 10 years after the age of 30 if you truly want to be getting the most out of your body – now and in the future.
I know this can be hard. When I have recommended less training to some of my more dedicated athletes, I have occasionally received responses as if I had asked them to stop what they are doing and join a seniors shuffleboard league. If you want to keep going at a certain level, that is fine. Just know that you are doing so not to improve performance or health or even conditioning at a certain point.
Your body needs time to recover. It needs rest. It needs you to listen to it a little if you have pushed it too far for too long. In the end, it will be happier and work better if you do.