Let’s face it. The clock is ticking. We aren’t getting any younger. For those of us who discovered functional training in our thirties, is all hope lost? Obviously, there is no reversing the clock, but is there anything the masters athletes can do to catch up to the younger athletes?
Getting older is not all bad. We have the advantage of wisdom, of having learned through more time of trial and error what works best for our bodies—what types of training cycles produce the best results, when to rest and when to push ahead, and what foods are the best fuels for our bodies’ recovery. (And if you haven’t learned these things yet, then it’s time to start paying attention!)
My training has shifted drastically over the past 4 years. My career as an adult athlete began sporadically. One day when overwhelmed with stress and too mentally exhausted to go to the gym, I went for a run. I soon set my sights on a half marathon and discovered the running plan. Typical plans schedule speed and hill work, and most that I’ve encountered include 5 days of running. Add to that strength training and the weeks became full of workouts very quickly.
My body didn’t enjoy the high mileage that half and full marathon training brought. I probably wasn’t resting enough. Probably wasn’t eating the best foods. Definitely wasn’t doing enough stretching. But the constant battle with aches and pains, combined with my discovery of Crossfit has caused me to trade long slow distance and marathon globo gym sessions for short intense training.
As a matter of fact, now that I’ve begun to compete in CrossFit, I work with a strength coach who plans my workouts carefully. Runs are now short speed sessions that prepare my body and mind for the discomfort of competition. WODs incorporate plenty of work on my weaknesses and complement my main lifts. Contrary to how that may sound, it doesn’t fly in the face of “constantly varied.” My workouts are still greatly varied; they just aren’t random.
Now that I’m staring down the Masters’ category, the following aspects of training have become key:
Every workout has a purpose. I don’t have time in my life or the energy for “junk miles,” cardio or going through the motions. Know your goal and target it. If you are too sore or too physically tired, skip the WOD, and do some foam rolling and stretching instead. Giving half effort today will only tear down your body for tomorrow’s WOD. Concentrate on intensity and make every workout count. If you’re looking to compete, consider investing in a coach who can program for your weaknesses, so that you aren’t overtraining your strengths.
Food is about nutrition, not pleasure. Let’s face it—we can no longer get away with multiple pizza nights a week. Good food doesn’t have to taste bad, but we can no longer let our taste buds be our only guides. Nutritious food requires more planning and preparation. For those who are short on time, Paleo and organic meal delivery services can be a smart option. Staying healthy and recovering well demands that we eat a clean (non-processed, non-fried) diet.
Supplements make a good diet better. Regardless of your level of training and your goals, it can be challenging to eat all the macro- and micronutrients your body requires for optimal health (while keeping your calories from skyrocketing), so supplementation can be an important factor in recovery as we age. Do your research and experiment with yourself to find the right supplements for you.
Water is the drink of choice. Those days of late nights at the bar aren’t helping the training and recovery. Missed sleep and alcohol aren’t a match made in healthy heaven. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and avoid soda and other artificially sweetened drinks—these do nothing to help the body cleanse and repair itself.
Sleep is training. Lack of sleep is bad for the body and the brain. Your body relies on those hours of uninterrupted sleep to rebuild and recover.
Massage, foam rolling and stretching are training. Now more than ever, we need to be treating our bodies well. Massage, foam rolling and stretching benefit soft tissue and also quiet our minds and help bring focus. Avoiding and reducing stress frees up our bodies to repair damage caused by workouts.