As a 56-year-old chiropractor involved in competitive swimming for most of my life, I’ve got a pretty unique perspective on aging athletes. I currently race in the 55-59 age group in the Michigan Masters competitive swimming program.
Though I would like to say that my musculoskeletal system is free from pain or soreness, the truth is, I’m usually managing some sort of physical ailment. The usual complaints typically revolve around the left side of my neck, left hip-flexor muscle, right elbow, right wrist, the list is ever changing.
There is nothing like dealing with injuries and irritation from my daily activities at work, and then being concerned about the up-coming swim competition. Oh, the life of a middle-aged athlete!
Keep Your Joints Greased
I am frequently telling my patients that we all need to “keep our joints greased” and to increase physical fitness. Synovial fluid cushions the cartilage in your joints to prevent damage. Advanced age or weight can increase your chances of tearing that cartilage, and lead to arthritis. My recommendation for both the health of bones and joints is to eat a healthy diet including plenty of calcium and vitamin D – and take a quality joint supplement.
Increasing Strength and Tone
Many of my days at the gym are primarily for rehab purposes. Lifting light to moderate weights just feels good. Adding tone surrounding the compromised joints helps reduce my pain and inflammation. I truly believe that increasing your strength and tone will help prevent future overuse (or under-use) injuries.
No Pain, All Gain
My lifting motto is “keep it below the pain threshold.” Contrary to popular “wisdom,” pain is not weakness leaving the body. I’m old, so there’s no need to further pound on my body. Be selective about when and where you turn up the intensity. During swim workouts, my body gets pushed harder.
Work With a Group of Peers
I am fortunate to swim with some of the top swimmers in the state relative to their age group. On Sundays, I swim with a team called the “Doughboys” (great play on words). That workout I call my hour and fifteen minutes of intensity. There’s nothing like that feeling I have the rest of the day after that work out session.
There’s no need to avoid competition, just follow some of the common-sense guidelines we’ve discussed. Racing gives me the incentive to train. As a competitive athlete, I typically average 4000 yards a workout 3-5 times per week. I also lift weights 1-3 times per week depending on my work schedule.
Both as a chiropractor and basically, an older guy, training relatively hard (It’s all relative); I want to remind you not to neglect your core strengthening. A strong back and abs will help you stay balanced and prevent falls that might injure your joints. Keep good posture, and if your sport has some available – use the appropriate protective equipment. If you do injure joints, indirect ice for 20 minutes or less is your friend.
Dr. Michael Schuldinger is a board-certified chiropractor practicing in the area of Waterford, MI. Click to learn more about his practice (Lakepointe Chiropractic) and his Michigan Masters Swimming results.