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Fitness first - Variety keeps you healthy

As we age and grow older, our bodily functions slowly change and decrease. In football, those changes can have a huge impact on a player’s career after they reach the age of 30. Equally, when such players suffer an injury, they might take longer to recover and never reach the same fitness levels they once had.

The decline of our physical attributes and fitness levels as we age is inevitable, but what we can control is how we are going to deal with it. As professional footballers or not, this is about knowing the facts and being smart about your training and your body.

After the age of 30 the human body starts to present a decline in its physical attributes, such as:

  • Muscle strength, endurance, size and weight start to decrease. Typically, by the time we reach the age of 80 we will have lost about 23 percent of our muscle mass, as both the number and size of muscle fibers decrease.

  • Body fat increases as the lean body mass decreases, even in those who don’t put on weight as they age; exercise can reduce but never completely prevent this age-related body fat gain.

  • Once peak bone mass is reached at the age of 30, exercise can help maintain it but it won’t build any more; a decline in bone mass is present especially after the age of 40.

  • The VO2 max (maximum volume of oxygen consumed by the body per heartbeat) presents a decline of 1.5% per year, but highly trained older athletes can show a smaller percentage of 0.5% a year.

  • Flexibility has a marked decrease with aging as the collagen fibers begin to stick together, making tissues less elastic and stiffer.

During the early 30s these changes might not be that significant for the casual football player, but they are taken very seriously by most professional football clubs. As the body’s physical attributes decline, it can take longer for a player to recover from injuries, possibly jeopardizing a club’s chances in a tournament.

It can also represent the end of a career for some. When players are out of action for a few months, a huge drop is seen in their fitness levels, and a whole new training program is needed to bring them back to, or as near as possible, their previous fitness levels. It is known amongst personal trainers that for each week of training you miss, you are actually missing the equivalent 3 weeks of training done. While these are shocking facts, they are a reality.

To prevent injuries, amateur and professional players over 30 should decrease the repetitive impact to the body, particularly the joints, by adding variety to their training.

How you perform your sport makes a difference to how your body adapts to it when you age. Most common footballer’s injuries have one thing in common: they are caused by too much football training. Frequent over-exercise injuries in older players include back pain, Plantar Fasciitis, stress fracture, hamstring injury, ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears and Achilles Tendonitis, to mention a few.

While some would argue that to become the best player you can you need to repetitively play to refine your abilities, in my experience as a fitness professional, best practice involves a number of different types of exercise when improving your fitness levels in a particular sport. It will have a greater impact on the recovery of different metabolic systems, allowing quicker reaction times, joint stability and muscle endurance. Variety is the key.

Yoga

Flexibility sessions, such as Yoga, done once or twice a week are highly recommended to prevent injury, maintain joint nourishment and body alignment, de-stress, and to help with high blood pressure. With age not only our muscles but also our blood vessels (arteries and veins) grow stiffer due to the lack of flexibility of the collagen fibers, causing high blood pressure to settle in. Regular Yoga not only stretches the muscles, but also the arteries and veins, aiding the break-down of collagen fibers. This fact makes Yoga the most effective multi-level exercise out there.

David James, Bristol City’s goalkeeper, has taken up Yoga as part of his rehabilitation after he suffered a knee ligament injury caused during a World Cup match in 2001. He quickly saw the benefits of an ongoing practice and took regular weekly sessions to help with body alignment and de-stress. He became the oldest ever World Cup at the age of 39 years (South Africa World Cup in 2010). Yoga certainly wasn’t the only factor to allow him to have such an extensive career in a profession that has a relatively short career span - surely genetics, dieting and training also played their part - but the benefits Yoga can bring are noticeable on a daily basis.

Swimming is another fantastic exercise. It’s a sport where there is no impact on any joints; it will help tone your arms, legs and core muscles, and will help increase your VO2 max as you work your breathing. Swimming is also a great de-stressing exercise. Many people get into a trance while they’re swimming and often describe a clarity of mind during and after their session, followed by a sense of relaxation often gained from being in warm water.

Gym workouts with weights should also become a part of a footballers training program. While some people can describe it as “boring”, it is vital that they have workouts with weights in order to keep their muscle mass weight loss to a minimal. Specific training programs with personal trainers to help build and maintain muscle mass are highly recommended, as the same will keep muscles strong enough to aid in the prevention of all sorts of tear-types of injuries.

Respect your body and add variety to your weekly training, and you will have a long time until you have to retire your boots.

By Bruno C. de Jongh - Bowen, Emmett and Shiatsu Practitioner

After completing studies in Shiatsu Massage and acquiring a degree in Physiotherapy in Brazil, Bruno de Jongh came to England and embarked on a successful career as a fitness instructor, teaching in health-clubs across London. During this time Bruno discovered The Bowen and Emmett Techniques which have proven to be valuable tools when treating conditions that previously have not responded well to conventional treatments. Bruno opened his own practice The Calm Blue Room in 2009 in Waterloo, London, and has already aided over 600 people with a vast array of ailments and conditions, enabling them to recover a life full of energy, physical health and emotional well-being - www.thecalmblueroom.com


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