If you’re over the age of 50 I’m pretty sure you’ve had that moment where you think shit, is this what getting old feels like?
The spark for that thought can be anything from difficulty playing with your kids, suffering from ever more aches and pains, or noticing your performance deteriorate in your chosen activities.
Before you know it visions of nursing homes and colostomy bags fill you head as you contemplate your demise.
Wait! Don’t stop reading!
It gets more positive from here I promise.
Here’s the issue and it doesn’t have much to do with your age.
Your muscular system needs some attention.
Your current training
I guess you’re the type of person who already does some type of exercise.
You’ve probably done your research and try to participate in regular aerobic activity for cardiovascular health.
You may even lift some weights now and again as you’re aware this is important, particularly as you age.
This is great but here’s the truth, whatever you’re doing isn’t providing an adequate stimulus to your muscular system.
This is why you’re experiencing issues and beginning to think it’s connected to your age.
The car analogy
I’m not a car guy and you’re not a car but this analogy seems to work for many of my clients.
Picture yourself as a decent car with a few miles on the clock. Let’s say something German in red.
Note you can have a relatively new car with many miles on the clock, or an old one with one with virtually none.
The age of the car isn’t the issue and neither is the mileage necessarily, it’s how well the car’s been maintained.
You’d rather buy a car with a full service history than one that only comes with a couple of Halford receipts right?
Exactly. The concept of regular maintenance works for your muscular system too.
How to maintain your muscular system
When you think of muscle maintenance you might think of regular massage or trips to the physio. Neither are likely to improve your ability to contract muscles however.
This is a critical factor in how well your body performs.
Maintenance is less about giving the sore bits a rub and more about the deliberate focus of contracting muscles through their available range.
Losing range of motion, reduced performance and suffering from various aches and pains are all related to one thing, the ability of your muscular system to generate effective contractions.
This should be the primary focus of any intervention therefore.
Try this experiment
If I had a pound for every client who told me they had tight quadriceps (thigh muscles) I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Actually I would. I’d just be doing it looking at the ocean, rather than the walls of a basement in Liverpool St.
Stand up and hold on to a wall. Slowly bend up one knee as far as it will go without letting your hip come forward.
Now do the same on the other one. Did your quadriceps feel tighter on one side?
Start with the tight side if so.
Bend up the knee again and hold it there for 5 seconds. Focus on trying to get your heel a little closer to your butt without letting your hip move forward.
Repeat a further 5 times, each time with the same focus.
What you’ll start to notice is how difficult this is and secondly, that you’re now experiencing less tension in your quads.
So what just happened?
You have improved the ability of your knee flexors to contract into a range that’s rarely explored.
This improvement will stick around for a while. In order to sustain it however, you’ll need to train it with the same focus you used in the exercise above.
Improving the function of your muscular system is possible at any age.
In fact the research suggests we age because we stop challenging our muscular systems, as Professor Stephen Harridge explains in this presentation.
Aches, pains and performance deficits are indications your muscular system needs attention.
Go back to the gym and try focusing on single joint exercises. Keep the exercises slow and controlled and concentrate on the muscles that are being challenged.
There’s a big difference between throwing some weights around at the gym and consciously trying to improve muscle function.
It’s the difference that makes a difference.