One of the biggest fears athletic people have is the reduced capacity to keep playing sports as they get older. Does it have to be that way? Does age have to become a crutch that keeps up from hitting the track, field, or court with the same vigor that we did in our youth? It doesn’t.
Of course, as the years progress, we have to put in some additional effort to make sure we extend our ability to stay competitive, even if it’s just for a weekend game of pickup basketball. However, very few people know how to accomplish this, which is why we’re weighing in with practical tips to maintaining your strength, stamina, and effectiveness while remaining injury free for years if not decades to come.
5 Practical Tips to Remaining Highly Competitive in Sports as We Get Older
1. Attend to Existing Injuries Right Away
If you’re above 30 years old and have been playing sports since adolescence there’s a very good chance that you have an underlying injury which is responsible for some chronic or sporadically occurring pain. By ignoring your body’s signals (pain) and fighting through it and/or masking it with painkillers, you delay the inevitable – damage to your physical function to the point that athletic participation indeed comes to a screeching halt. The longer you wait to attend to these underlying injuries, the worse they become, and the harder it will be to get back into the game.
Whether pain or discomfort is felt in the tips of your toes or top of your dome, a corrective regime of treatment and therapy awaits. In fact, relief can be attained much more easily than you ever anticipated. For instance, a set of custom orthotics or a few short visits with a chiropractor may be all you need to keep competing.
In some cases, pain and discomfort is already obvious and you will know if a visit to a physiotherapist is necessary. For some, you may need to get back out there and put your body to the test. If you want to get back into jogging, go for a good run and take note of aches along the way, and those felt that night and the day after. If you want to give your local LeBron James a run for his money on the outdoor court, grab a friend and play some one-on-one while remaining conscious of poor form and function while pivoting, jumping, and shooting the ball. The same rules apply for all of the sports you would love to remain competitive in. Again, if any pain, discomfort, and/or loss of function is evident during and/or after the fact, visit a physiotherapist right away and nip the potential for a worsening condition in the bud.
2. Make Nutrition a Priority
You’re going to need plenty of fuel to keep playing sports later in life. The older we get, the greater those requirements come. An entire article can easily be written on the necessity of each essential nutrient, but for the sake of keeping things succinct, we’ve simply listed them below so that you can add them to your whole food and natural health supplement shopping list:
- Omega-3 (essential fatty acids)
- B-Complex Vitamins
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Complex carbohydrates
View more on key nutrients needed to prevent injuries and extend your athletic life.
3. Actually Keep Playing
Dormancy is the biggest threat to your ability to keep playing the sports you love. As we get older, life gets in the way and we don’t participate in our favorite athletics as much as we’d like to. But when we take “time off” our muscles and supporting tissues adapt accordingly, and essentially retreat from their high-performance duties. This is why when you get back out there on the track, court, or field after months or years, it feels as if we’re starting from scratch. In a way, you are, and the longer the layover the more your muscle memory forgets. From here on in, activate the muscles, tissues, joints and corresponding functions needed to performing in your sport by actually playing that sport to varying degrees of intensity. Getting out there once a week, even if it’s just casual play, will make a big difference.
4. Dedicate a LOT More Time to Warm Up and Cool Down
Do you wake up sore more often than not these days, especially the morning after a game? If so, you’re probably not warming up and cooling down as you should be. The older we get the more we have to make this a part of game day. By warming up for a solid 15-20 minutes before playing, and cooling down for about the same, you not only improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury, you ultimately end up extending your athletic “career”. View more on how to prevent sports injuries and improve performance by placing a priority on warming up and cooling down.
5. Make Physiotherapy a Fact of Life
While we referenced the importance of physiotherapy in nipping underlying physical ailments in the bud above, you don’t need to be injured or exhibit potential for a near future injury to directly benefit from regular physio. Physiotherapy can applied to increase speed, improve core fitness and balance as you get older, all of which will significantly extend your ability to strike fear in the competition.
Physiotherapy will also combat age related concerns that can impact your health and subsequent ability to keep competitive. For example, physiotherapy can be applied to improve sleep and is even instrumental in abating the potential for a stroke in advancing years.
As you can see, making physio a part of your health and wellness plan is key to keeping keen in the athletic arena, but be sure to communicate your unique needs to your therapist. It’s important to let them know what sport/s you want to keep playing, as they will customize your performance-enhancing and injury-prevention accordingly. Below are links to our own articles on how physiotherapy can enhance and extend your participation in popular sports:
- Benefits of Physiotherapy for Golfers
- Physiotherapy for Football Players
- Benefit of Physiotherapy for Skiing and Snowboarding
- Physiotherapy for Cyclists
- Benefits of Physiotherapy for Swimmers
- Benefits of Physiotherapy for Tennis Players
- Benefits of Physiotherapy for Running
- Physiotherapy for Basketball Players
Remember, the world’s most seasoned athletes currently employ physiotherapy to win championships, so imagine what it can do for you.
If you live in the Greater Vancouver BC area, schedule a consultation with our clinic today to learn more about how we can keep you playing at a competitive level, no matter what your birth certificate says.