Train Like the Pros
I get asked on a regular basis by guys my age (40plus); "How should I be training at my age".
My first response is generally F&^K the "my age" bit. That being said there are some considerations gentlemen of our level of "experience" should consider (more on that later).
My second response is you should be training like an athlete! This response general results in me being given strange looks. But the facts of the matter are you should, and to be even more accurate you should be training something like a football athlete. By football I mean something along the lines of AFL, soccer, or either rugby code. Why do I suggest modelling your Weekend Warrior program on a footballer? Great question.
When you strip away the skill factor, all "football" athletes are essentially repeat speed & combat athletes. Obviously there are variations between the codes, but in essence all football games come down the three things;
Combat - requires strength and power to compete for possession.
Critical Running - requires speed and agility to compete for or with possession.
Transition Running - requires high running efficiency to allow the athlete to move between Combat and Critical Running elements.
Check out my article on article Consistency and the Coach's Eye for more on these descriptions.
So how do these elements apply to the "man on the street".
Combat - simple…requires strength and power. Completing regular strength training at a minimum has been conclusively shown to alter the biochemical balance of the the body towards greater muscle mass and lower fat levels. As we age testosterone production (the driver of the aforementioned benefits of strength training) tends to decrease. So, for "older" guys strength training is a critical tool to help maintain testosterone levels, which is ultimately the hormone that drives muscle mass and fat metabolism.
Critical Running - A.K.A. sprinting. Not too far removed from the points noted about Combat, football athletes use sprinting in and around the "contested" elements of the game to impose themselves on proceedings. Sprinting stimulates testosterone production via fast twitch muscle fibre recruitment, while the increased acidic environment generally associated with repeat sprints (stimulates fat metabolism). Have you ever seen a fat sprinter? Nope…that's because they train at high speeds generating the adaptations mentioned above. Football athletes are simply a derivative of sprinters. Clearly they don't do one off efforts, but I can tell you they most certainly do repeat sprint extremely hard putting their bodies into a highly acid environment (this probably sounds more familiar if I use the term "lactic acid").
Transition Running - all football athletes have to get from Point A to Point B, and running at jog to stride pace is how they do it. In this day and age there are those in the fitness community that have a philosophy of not employing any aerobic or sustained activity because it is contrary to their mantra of addressing just muscle mass and strength. My personal philosophy is somewhat different. I believe we need to be capable of sustained. locomotor movement simply because that is where life is lived. Not being able to walk and run for sustained periods makes it hard to keep up with kids, chase the family pet…all things that are of critical importance to guys in their 40's (remember I'm a guy in my 40's so thats what I write about but any girls in the same age bracket can easily utilise these concepts). I'm not suggesting you need to run marathons, although there is nothing wrong with that if that's you thing, I'm suggesting you just need to be able to move in order to engage the world, not just exist in a gym.
So lets get down to it. Here are 7 things an average guy can learn from professional football codes.
1. Mobility - low level activity that increases range of motion around joints. We spend a lot of time sitting on our butts, so the muscles around the hip get particularly tight. These activities are designed maintain the range of motion we can move through. When we lose this we lose the ability too move freely.
2. Stability - inactivity and previous low level injuries can reduce the effectiveness of the musculature that surrounds the hip, lower back and other joints of the body. Using a combination of simple drills, these muscles can be stimulated to increase their activity and provide the natural support mechanisms that they were designed for.
3. Warm up - personally this is my Kryptonite! Don't be in a rush! Ensure your workouts are preceded by a warmup. A good warm up will help reduce the risk of injury. Elements of Mobility and Stability can be woven together to provide an effective warm up and increase efficiency of your session.
4. Train heavy - Put simply this just means resistance training. Depending on where you are at this may be pushups or this may be deadlifts. Please don't go rushing off to start lifting weights if you've never done it before. That being said maintaining muscle mass is critical to performance at all ages and is no more so than in the 40plus age bracket. The trick is simply to ensure you do it safely.
5. Train fast - In a nutshell sprint. One of my favorite "executive" sessions is 10x80m soft sand sprints. I generally run the first two at around 75% effort, then shift up to approx. 90% for six efforts, then gear down for the last two back to 75%. Same goes as for Train Heavy…if you haven't done anything like this since high school don't rush out and start now. Stand by for more details on how to get going.
6. Train to go the whole game - no sense being muscle bound but not be able to run out of sight on a dark night. By the same token running a marathon is not for everybody. You need to find the right volume of continuous activity that works for you. For some guys depending on the state of knee, ankle and hip joints this may include cross training equipment and ergometers (versa climbers, bikes, rowing ergs etc).
7. Recovery - Number 1…Sleep! Number 2…Nutrition! Address your sleep and nutrition like you are preparing for a Grand Final everyday and you'll do fine.
Keep these concepts in mind and I will work on providing greater detail on each area in future blogs.
Any questions drop me an email.
Check out my book TRAIN TOUGH for graded programs and exercise selections ideas.