Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40
Monday 9 January 2012: Issue #15
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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.
Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40. Today I am going to discuss getting older and what that means for you as a martial artist.
Some feedback I got soon after starting this website, and this newsletter, was along the lines of “Please stop reminding me that I am getting older. I don’t want to hear it”.
That sort of threw me a bit, because here I was specifically creating a website for the older martial artist, and here he was saying that he didn’t want to be reminded that he was getting older!
But as I’ve thought about it more and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important that you acknowledge your age and the things that come along with it.
You will have noticed that I’ve been banging on a bit about proper preparation, proper conditioning and injury prevention. The reason for this is I keep seeing people (and myself) forgetting that they are no longer 24, going hard out, and then injuring themselves.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the things that happen as you age… (I learned these from Sang H. Kim’s book Martial Arts After 40, which was the inspiration for this newsletter!)
Strength after 40
Generally an adult achieves their maximum strength in their mid to late 20s, and then their strength naturally declines after that. You’ll already know that very old people are nowhere near as strong as younger people, but you may not realize that that decline began in your 20s and has been ongoing since then. (On a side note, I have met some very strong older people – most of them built that way after a lifetime of martial arts!)
Stamina after 40
Over time, after age 20 in fact, your cardiovascular endurance and maximal oxygen consumption starts declining. That’s not a typo – this decline starts early! Your maximum heart rate is also reducing at the rate of about 8% per decade. Basically this means that as you get older there is less oxygen available to the muscles, and as such your stamina is not what it used to be. You will tire earlier, and as you tire your technique will suffer and you run the risk of injury.
Flexibility after 40
As the body ages your tissues actually undergo a transformation. It’s not so much the muscles that are the problem, but the connective tissues (being tendons, ligaments and cartilage) which are changing. They become rigid, less able to expand and contract, and limit your range of motion. It is thought that this change can be minimized through regular exercise and stretching, but left unchecked you will lose your flexibility over time.
So there it is. Scientifically it is proven that you are in decline in several key areas. And you need to be aware and accepting of these changes. It’s through ignoring the fact that your flexibility is reducing or your stamina is not what it was that you run the risk of injury and completely derailing your training.
On the other hand, but being aware and accepting, and taking these factors into account, you can still actively participate in your chosen martial art. But you do need to consider what is different now that you are no longer in your 20s! Take longer to warm up for example and give your tissues the chance to loosen up. Or recognize when your stamina is letting you down and you need to take it easy.
So I’m not going to stop reminding you that you are getting older. You are! And if you want to stay active in the martial arts for a long time you need to be very conscious that you are.
Am I advocating slowing down a bit in training. No – not really. Of course when you are in the dojo/dojang you will want to be giving it your absolute all. But use the time outside of class wisely. Give your body a chance to recover, stretch regularly, work on your strength and conditioning.
What I should also say is that many studies prove that people involved in regular strenuous activity, or who specifically target these problem areas, can slow down the aging effect. Most certainly, your martial arts practice ensures you are much fitter than your sedentary peers.
Speaking of sedentary, I’ve had a bit of a sedentary last couple of weeks! And my diet’s not been the best either. We close down our schools for a period over Christmas/New Year, and it’s amazing how quickly the lack of training catches up on you.
I went to train tonight at the Taekwon-Do school of one of my students. As an instructor, more often than not I’m standing up in front of the class barking out the orders. But tonight was one night where I was just the student, and my student was the instructor. I love just joining in and training, especially once I get over the unease caused by not being in control!
It really is amazing how much I am affected by even a few weeks without training. Tonight was tough, and I am feeling it all over.
It’s no wonder that people so often quit their exercise programs and goals when a small break can make such a big difference.
That’s all for this week!
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All the best!
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Quote of the Day
It should be easy to spot a black belt in a crowd, he should walk like a Marine on roller skates
– Fredrick Lovret