Growing up, if you wanted to get better at your sport/activity you played your sport more. As we age and are masters athletes and senior fitness enthusiasts, just engaging in your activity more (mountain biking, hiking, tennis, skiing, etc) isn’t going to help you. You are missing a key in your sport performance.
Prevent Overuse Injuries For Sport Performance
The more you do something the more it wears down. It’s true for machinery and your body. The problem is that we listen to our machines better than our bodies. Don’t believe me? Why do we have an adage for taking care of your over-used machinery parts but not your body?
“The squeaky wheel gets the oil”.
The wheel gets tons of revolutions but eventually because of it’s hard work will start to have some issues. It’s communicates that there are problems arising by ‘squeaking’, alerting us to the issue so we can take precautionary and preventative steps.
The same holds true for your body. When you do repetitive motions over and over those parts will start to complain. However, the solution isn’t to just hammer those parts harder in your activity or at the gym. You’ve got to balance out the joints-that’s your magic sport performance oil.
To illustrate my point, let me use a few examples.
It’s common when mountain biking (especially as an older adult/masters athlete), to develop and experience low back pain among other issues. The solution isn’t to bike more. That will only make the problem worse!
Low back pain is likely caused to your position on the bike. So you should do 2 things:
- Strengthen your entire core (not just your abs), primarily focusing on your lower back in a way that won’t exacerbate the pain or problems. (Spinal stability is best). An exercise like the suitcase carry is beneficial.
- Strengthen and put the back in the opposite position to balance things out. If you sit at a desk/computer all day, chances are you slouch, rounding your lower back. Then you get onto a bike and assume the same position. Doing an exercise like the skydiver shown here strengthens the back, but also puts you into a position that helps reverse the posture that causes your pain.
Let me tell you about Geoff. He is an avid masters skier and mountain biker. Geoff is in great shape when he started with us about 5-6 months ago. He went for a mountain bike ride this last week (one of the first, if not the first, ride of the season). We all know how these rides go-rough! He set several PR’s according to his Strava data. The last time he PR’d that trail (and sections of the trail), with that bike, was over 3 years ago. The only thing that has changed is his recent conditioning. Keep in mind, he’s already fit, and has been biking during the last 3 years so this isn’t a return to sport.
This is the power of proper conditioning with a professional. Most older adults experience a decline in their sport performance as they age. While this is true, there are things that you can do to improve your performance.
Skiing is a great sport/activity and you definitely feel it in your thighs/quads. Most skiers erroneously assume all that’s needed for better ski conditioning and to get their ‘ski legs’ back are more skiing and things like lunges and squats for the quads. Again-close, but missed the mark of improving sport performance. You do need that, but over-developing the quads can lead to a cascade of injuries and problems. Namely, you need to strengthen the hamstrings (back of the thighs) and glutes (butt). Since you do SO much quad work skiing, these other muscles are usually VERY under-developed.
Strengthening the glutes helps take load off the knees and helps stabilize the knee so you can ski harder, sharper turns with less effort and risk of injury.
Targeting your hamstrings can help reduce your risk of an ACL injury because your hamstrings can help keep the knee for traveling too far forward.
Exercises that can be helpful would be the slingshot shuffle, and hamstring walk-outs.