by Dan Staton, MS, PES
Most professional athletes peak in their mid 30s and remain competitive even into their 40s ... just look at Brett Favre. These aging athletes take care of their bodies when they’re young and adapt their training and lifestyle as they age. To stay in the game of competitive archery and bowhunting, we must implement proven strategies that will aid in the battle against Father Time - whether we’re weekend warriors or in year-round competition.
Don’t be uptight!
Loss of flexibility is a natural effect of aging that can be counteracted through stretching continuity. The repetitive movements involved in practicing any sport like archery for a long period of time results in muscular imbalances that get progressively more extreme. These require targeted efforts to loosen and lengthen only those muscles that have become short and tight, because stretching all muscles equally will only take the imbalance to a higher level. I encourage every athlete, but experienced ones especially, to identify their short and tight muscles and devote special efforts lengthening them through stretching. Most archers will be tight in their shoulders, lats, chest and lower back.
Free-radical damage, also known as oxidative stress, is now known to be one of the primary components of aging. Unfortunately, athletes are even more prone to free-radical damage than non-athletes. For this reason, they need to be especially vigilant in consuming antioxidants, those vitamins and vitamin-like compounds that protect against and repair such damage. Vitamins C and E are especially helpful to athletes, as controlled studies have shown they can dramatically reduce post-workout muscle soreness in the short term, in addition to minimizing long-term oxidative stress.
The chances of performing intense workouts like you once did in high school are probably not realistic. This isn’t to say that your workouts should be soft, but definitely listen to your body. Older athletes need to allow themselves more time to recover between their most demanding training sessions. The extra time may be given to outright rest, active recovery, massage or a combination of both.
Post Workout Replenishment
Current research shows that consuming the right nutrients in the right amounts immediately after exercise can enhance recovery significantly. Avoid appetite suppression after exercise and take in protein, carbohydrates, and fluids as soon as you finish your workout. One easy method is consuming one of the sports drinks on the market that is designed especially for recovery. Look for one with around a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, as more protein will retard the flow of nutrients into the bloodstream and less protein result in a less pronounced insulin spike, hence slower restocking of glycogen stores.
Bang for Your Buck
As athletes mature, they accumulate more and more knowledge of their own bodies - particularly as to how they react to various types of training enhances. Simply put, more experience enables you to determine which workouts work well for you and which ones are less effective. Take advantage and arrange your training program so it maximizes the goods that foster the greatest performance and bang for the training buck.
Strength Training Priority
The older you get, the more important strength training becomes. One of the more crippling effects of aging for athletes is the gradual loss of lean muscle and the strength that it enshrines. Athletes in sports that don’t require tremendous strength are particularly susceptible, as they tend to try and get by without resistance training. Archery and strength training are definitely married. As you age, strength training becomes more and more invaluable.
Another thing that many athletes try to get by without is sleep. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation is an epidemic in the U.S. Researchers have shown that sleeping too little leads to a host of problems from depressed immune function to decreased mental functioning. Skimming on sleep is also harmful to athletic performance, due to the less opportunity for human growth hormone (HGH) to be released and do its job. HGH is a powerful agent of recovery and adaptation to training released while you sleep. Bottom line: Less sleep means less HGH and therefore less freshness for the next day’s workout.
In closing, growing older doesn’t mean you cannot reach your peak physical preparedness, but you’ll need to ease into your new program more gradually than someone younger could. Aging tendons and joints don’t adapt as quickly as they did when you were younger. That doesn’t mean you can never lift heavy weight, but if you’ve been out of the exercise scene for awhile, spend your first few weeks of training with lighter loads and sets of higher reps.
Current research shows an increased perception of fatigue and muscle soreness and decreased speed of recovery in older exercisers. You’ll need to plan easy days with fewer sets and reps and make time for active rest such as hiking and cross training. You should make sure to take two to three full days off during the week. Beyond this, there are no exercises you shouldn’t try because of your age, and no reason you shouldn’t be able to get into amazing shape or even better shape than that of much younger folks. Though it might take longer, you just have to listen to your body along the way. Fighting the clock means not going over the hill so easily; in fact, if you stay on top of your fitness, you might just slow down the sands of time.