As I mentioned in my previous blog “Why not discover the athlete in you? Sports participation is great at any age,” participating in recreational sports is a wonderful way to keep fit. Sports participation is fun, adds variety to a fitness program, and can promote exercise compliance. However, to enhance the sports participation experience I highly recommend getting fit before playing sports, rather than playing sports to get fit.
A good conditioning program will make sports participation more enjoyable, prevent unnecessary soreness and stiffness, and help prevent exercise-related injuries. Properly conditioned individuals can safely participate in most sports and enjoy the activities to their fullest with few or no limitations. Sport injuries often are the result of poor fitness and a lack of sport-specific conditioning, which most often affects the 40+ age group. Although some injuries are the direct result of lack of fitness, many injuries start when fatigue sets in after overexertion.
For a sport specific base fitness conditioning program, I recommend starting with a pre-activity screening that includes a health history, medical evaluation, and postural assessment. Once cleared for exercise start by building a base of general fitness that includes these health-related fitness components: corrective exercise, aerobic endurance, muscular (strength and endurance), flexibility, balance, and core stability exercises.
Remember to take baby steps and prepare your body to succeed. Athletic performance is different at age 55 than at age 25, so realize that staying fit and healthy through sports participation may take some work. A base fitness conditioning program should last a minimum of six weeks and ideally 12 weeks total.
One of my clients, Eileen came to me at age 65 after she was diagnosed with a stress fracture on her left femur. She wanted to get back to the activities she loved doing, which included running in the Honolulu Marathon. After a complete fitness evaluation that included the all - important postural assessment, we worked together to improve her mobility by correcting imbalances that her body created. Over time, her body had begun using a movement strategy that led to the excessive and improper wear and tear on certain bones and muscles. Initially, I worked with her on releasing tight muscles and increasing her mobility with a combination of static, active and dynamic stretching. Then I started her on a fitness program custom designed for her immediate problem areas to help strengthen the muscles around that injured thigh - the core, hip, back, calf, ankle, and foot.
It took Eileen some time but eventually she transformed from an injured athlete to someone who’s connected with her body and able to identify many important components of a successful approach to her fitness. Today, she is more active than ever and, yes, back to participating in the Honolulu Marathon.
In my next blog I’ll go into detail about each component of my recommended base fitness conditioning program to help you get ready for team or individual sports participation.