Not Feeling Older

Safety: Let's start with the most obvious similarity. This should be a priority to anyone training or being trained. However, I believe it is the more important to athletes and baby boomer (as well as youth) to take the least amount of risk while training. Athletes' number one priority is working on their skill. If an athlete is doing improper movements in the gym from a) lack of technique or knowledge, or b) attempting to satisfy their ego (and not their muscles) by doing more weight or repetitions than necessary, that athlete is risking not being 100% for competition. At the other end of the spectrum, the baby boomers goal is also performance. However, their goal is to perform in life. To get off of the couch, toilet, or bed without it being a struggle. To put a box up in their room without hurting their lower back for days or weeks. Maybe even going for a long walk without having to deal with sore knees the next day. They perform all day, every day. They will not receive a financial reward for it. Their health is truly their wealth. If a boomer is hurt in the gym and has to perform with pain the rest of the day, the rest of their day suffers. Performance suffers. Confidence suffers.

Vanity isn’t the #1 priority: If an athlete’s number one priority is working on their skill, this may not be conducive to having the body of a Greek god. If that is the case, the more you look like a bodybuilder, the worse you would get at the sport. This is where the term “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” comes into play. Because an athlete is the best looking person on the field does not mean he or she will perform the best. This can also be said about baby boomers. Assuming a baby boomer is healthy because he or she is skinny is presumptuous to say the least. I believe the primary factor in the boomers’ quality of life is strength. A strong, slightly overweight senior will typically perform his activities of daily living (ADL) better than his/her weak, slimmer counterpart. I have had few 60+ year old clients who initially came to me without the ability to put one of their hands overhead without pain. Although they like the changes they see in the mirror, I’m sure they love their once again, fully functional shoulders.

Repetitive Injury: Repetitive Injuries are common in both baby boomers and athletes. Chronic injuries are based on the athlete/baby boomers history of movement patterns. Repeating the same movement patterns numerous times makes that pattern a lot easier. However, the body is better protected from injury when it is structurally balanced. A soccer player, for example, typically has well developed quads and underdeveloped hamstrings. Most of the older clients I see have unbalanced hamstrings causing one of the muscles to outwardly rotate the lower leg. Both muscle imbalances cause chronic knee issues. But if a trainer designs the boomer and soccer player’s workout the same way, one client will benefit and the other will regress. Each athlete and boomer should have their movement patterns taken into account when deciding a program design for both clients.

Pain: Pain elicits (for most) negative emotions. Pain makes athletes hesitate when they are supposed to instinctually react. Pain makes a 68 year old man sleep on his couch because going upstairs to his room hurts his knee. Pain makes an athlete give up the sport that he loves. Pain depresses an older woman because she thinks she will have to deal with this pain for the rest of her life. Pain makes both populations give up their fitness goals. In one last ditch effort, they seek out a qualified personal trainer. The trainer teaches them how to move properly. Soon, muscles begin to protect the joints. They feel stronger than ever. The pain is finally diminished or better yet, GONE!!! Diminishing and eliminating pain will profoundly impact a client’s performance and mood.

Strength: This may come as a shocker to some, but a similarity that I notice with boomers and athletes (especially young athletes) is that they are just not strong enough! Athleticism and strength are not the same. There are numerous factors that contribute to someone being an athlete. There are also numerous factors to baby boomers have a good quality of life. However, strength decides how much of the other attributes you can acquire. The best analogy of how important is the “glass analogy.” Imagine strength as a glass. The bigger the glass, the more attributes (flexibility, balance, endurance, agility) you can hold in it. Flexibility and balance is a main goal for baby boomers. However, the chief symptom of stiffness and lack of balance is caused by weak muscles surrounding the joint. Getting stronger also helps you stay slim, and it leads to higher antioxidant levels, which counter those free radicals that cause aging.
Safety should be something that everyone prioritizes in their fitness regimen. However athletes and older trainees (should) prioritize performance over vanity. A structured strength training program addressing weaknesses and promoting structural balance will improve quality of life, increase performance, and slows aging.