A Strength & Conditioning Approach to Our Health as We Age

When I created the concept of AthleticOver40 a couple of years ago, it linked the fitness approach of traditional exercise for the masses to the physical preparation approach used by athletes.

Greg Lawlor
Sep 27 · 7 min read
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A strength and conditioning approach to our health focuses on skill components of fitness as opposed to only health components. Photo courtesy G Lawlor.

For those of us over 40 this was a connection I felt would be useful as we look to stay strong, move well and have energy as we get older.

We want to feel good, and the approach used in preparing athletes was a recipe that could help.

It evolved from my experiences not only is working with strength and conditioning coaches in equipment supply, but seeing them at work, studying athletes preparing and my own workout approach. It also has worked wonders as my programming has evolved in working with young athletes and those young at heart. (aka people like me!)

In 2014, I started working with my friend Wayne Burke of Pursuit Athletic Center in Guelph, Ontario. I should say he started working with me. We connected around equipment supply, I wanted a good coach for my son, then 14, and I was intrigued.

Although I thought I was fit, I had developed a lot of weaknesses over the years. Most of us do. We hear it all the time. We sit too much, we at the computer too much, blah blah. So I had imbalances. Weaknesses that time on the elliptical or climbmill would not fix. In fact, repetitive motion of dumbbell presses and elliptical work was not addressing my imbalances.

Is that something you can relate to?

I documented Wayne’s story in an article for The Physical Movement here:

Wayne’s approach was different that the approach I had seen in a gym.

He and his coaches (shout out to his partner Adam Martin and all the good coaches there!) assessment was different, their warmup was different, their programming was different. Many of the exercises were new, some were not.

The context, the purpose and the delivery were different.

After a few sessions, I immediately started to feel better. Move better, was stronger, have more energy.

Wayne and his coaches did not talk about cardio training, they spoke of conditioning. They showed me the difference between cardiovascular exercise and metabolic training.

They did not talk about bodyfat or weight loss, they showed me how to work on developing power, speed, reaction time, coordination and balance.

Speed? At 48 years old? Power? I started to feel awesome.

They did not use many machines, but introduced applications of medicine balls, suspension trainers, balance balls, kettlebells and other tools that many gyms or fitness settings do not make available to the public.

I observed. I asked questions. I experienced.

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Medicine balls are simple and so beneficial in many ways. photos courtesy of G Lawlor.
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Letting out all that has built up in a day is a great release!
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The athlete preparation approach was not around in my day. We simply played to get better. To focus on skill components of fitness felt very different. To be clear, focusing on health outcomes like weight loss is not bad, but this felt more in line with a purpose.

The purpose of moving well, having energy, getting stronger, moving things quickly, sprinting, recovery. Skills that were leaving me as I got older, were now coming back.

And quickly.

The health outcomes, by the way….the reduction in body fat, the increased metabolism they happened. They were not ignored. This was not a choice of 1 or the other.

The health outcomes were a byproduct of developing the skill components of fitness.

These skill components are ignored most often in the media and delivery of fitness programming.

They are critically important because this is what leaves us so quickly as we get older.

Reaction time: The decline of reaction time is the leading cause of falling later in life. More than balance, more than strength. (They are important as well, but not being able to react quickly tops the list).

Power: Power (Speed x Velocity, also known as moving things quickly) leaves us faster than strength does. Speed has strength as a requirement. To get faster, we must be strong. If your strength leaves then the dominoes start to fall.

Balance: When was the last time you saw someone working on balance at the gym? Athletes do it all the time. Why ? Because the skill they need to do well at requires balance. Skating, Swinging a club or bat, driving to the basket, changing direction, slowing down, speeding up….they all require balance.

Coordination: Have you seen people start to stumble as they get older? This is not so much because of getting older, it is because they have not practiced.

Agility: Move quickly, change the body’s position efficiently. IS that relevant to us in your 40s, 50s, 60s? of course. Will it develop without practice?

You tell me something that does develop without practice?

Then we factor in conditioning.

Conditioning is the ability to exceed the demands of your activity. With strength and conditioning coaches, they don’t talk steady state cardio. They don’t talk going for a long run (Unless you are training to run a marathon).

They talk about metabolic training to teach your system how to delivery oxygen through the body efficiently to meet the demands of your game, sport, activity.

If we are not competing in sports, then we still need to be physically conditioned. Get up those stairs, play with the kids, carry the groceries or suitcase, play that game of hockey 2x per week etc.

The crazy thing is metabolic conditioning will benefit your aerobic system. The studies are there. You may know it as interval training. Interval training is the term you will find in the fitness industry. In athletic preparation, you will hear conditioning.

We addressed that previously in multiple locations, but you can look it up yourself.

https://athleticover40.com/what-does-the-interval-training-research-say/

I am not discarding the equipment portion of the equation. That would be crazy. But the perspective has changed.

There are multiple ways to get the metabolic conditioning done and equipment are tools to support that. In fact, equipment plays a VERY IMPORTANT role as we get older, because it allows us to be very efficient. This means that you can get your work in, without beating up our body.

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Interval Training/Metabolic Conditioning on a machine taxes the system while easy on the body.

For example, we probably won’t be sprinting 3x per week to do our metabolic/interval work. It’s too hard on our joints. It depends on the distance and your overall strength. But complimenting that work with a bike, or slideboard or elliptical or weighted sled are all options that make it easier on the body while working metabolically.

In fact, this becomes the secret sauce. The blending of tools/equipment to help build the body up rather than beat it down. The soreness the next day, the no pain no gain mentality has been overplayed in the media and there is no room for that anymore.

As we get older, need to train to be better the next day, not sore. Change in mentality required.

Strength and conditioning, movement and performance coaches get this. They can not have an athlete sore for 3 days after a workout.

I recently published an article around the benefits of a strength and conditioning coach for the young athlete. In fact it is a secret weapon that most in the youth sports community do not understand very well.

Here is that article:

I would venture to say that this is the same for us over 40. It is an approach worth your time that can provide tremendous benefits in making sure you can keep doing the things you love while reducing soreness and pain.

Don’t listen to society’s expectations around the decline over 40 and 50 and 60 years old. We are building momentum and we WILL FINISH STRONG.

Athleticover40 is committed to helping you FINISH STRONG!

This article was first posted here:

https://athleticover40.com/the-strength-conditioning-approach-to-our-health-as-we-age/

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