Staying in the Game as a Former Athlete

Former Athletes Continue to Compete
Former athletes line up and continue to stay fit.

A common mistake made by ex-collegiate, professional or recreational athletes is forgetting that…well…their bodies are just not capable of what they used to be! Not only does the former athlete not have ‘youth’ on their side any longer, but their bone mineral density is decreasing, their metabolism is slowing and their muscle mass is decreasing. These are all side effects of that dirty little word we call aging.

It is important to understand, that even though the above inevitable physiological disadvantages are occurring in our bodies, they can be counteracted with an appropriate exercise prescription.

Here are some ideas and tips for former athletes to train smart, to train to prevent injuries and to train with a competitive edge.

  • Create a Goal
    If you were once a competitive athlete, you have been trained to think like an athlete. To set your sights on your goal, and to attack that goal with everything you have is the essence of an athlete’s mentality.
    For many former athletes, it is important to stay motivated through goal setting.Follow these steps when setting a new fitness/wellness goal:

    • Make goals specific, measureable, achievable, results-focused, and Time-bound (SMART).
      • Specific: What, how and why.
      • Measurable: Ensure goals are quantifiable (tangible evidenced)
      • Achievable: Challenging, yet achievable
      • Results-focused: Measure outcomes, not activities
      • Time-bound: Link goals to a timeframe
    • Set positive goals as opposed to negative goals.
      • Goals can be stated either positively (increase the number of assisted chin-ups) or negatively (reduce the number of times I fail during chin-up rep in my 3rd set). This helps you focus on success and not failure.
  • Seek support of goals.
    • Significant others and other family members can help ensure goals are achieved. In addition, a personal trainer who is assisting you every step of the way needs to be aware of your SMART goals.
  • Hire a professional
    • Hiring a strength and conditioning coach is a great way to ensure you are preventing overuse injuries from your ‘past’ sport, and identifying imbalances in the body.
    • A trainer will also help you work toward your new goal (muscle gain, compete in a triathlon, rid yourself of back pain) and systematically create a program which is periodized towards those specific goals.
  • Workout in a Group
    • Former athletes are used to working out in a group environment and receiving motivation from other team members. It is important to stay motivated by friends, family members, colleagues or even other exercisers with similar interests.
    • Group training holds each group member accountable.
    • Finding a running group, a personal training group or any type of environment that promotes ‘team work’ is essential to keep your mind in the game and to keep your sights set on your goals.

If you want to continue to be active and feel great while doing it, it is important to be sure that your body is prepared to do so. Correcting muscle imbalances, increasing muscle and bone density and ensuring that you are cardiovascularily fit are all equally important. Sure, maybe our bodies aren’t capable of what they used to be, but it is still possible to compete at any stage of our lives if we engage in prehabilitation exercises and stay motivated!

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