The Plight of the Aging Athlete

There comes a time in every athlete’s life when you realize that it’s happened! “You’ve lost a step…or two” and you realize that you can no longer compete at the same level you once did.

This happens to professional athletes, elite athletes and weekend warriors. It happens in every sport from football to baseball to golf and running. It doesn’t matter. Sooner or later Father Time will get the best of you.

When this moment comes, you have two options: stop playing a sport you love or find a level of completion that is more in line with your abilities.

If you’re like me, you have or will choose to find new outlets to play the sports you love. At 65, I was still play basketball, tennis and football, but at a considerably less intense and competitive level. I also still lift weights and run regularly. I do those activities so that I can still enjoy playing my chosen sports.

In professional sports, you see baseball players moving down to the minors, basketball players playing in Europe or Israel. Golfers move to the senior circuit. Amateur athletes like me just move down a peg in the competitive ladder.

I recently ran into a friend who played with me on a league basketball team 30 years ago. I asked him if he still played and he replied. “I quit when my mind kept trying to write checks that my body couldn’t cash.” For him the pain of staying fit enough to play was greater than the joy of playing. I know that someday that time will come for me as well. Until then I want to play as long and as hard as my body will allow me. If this sounds like you, stay with me.

You’re not Michael Jordan… but neither is he (More on that later).Many athletes, including me, are surprised that suddenly, we can’t perform like we used to. Our body betrays us. Or, so we think. We just become victim to the normal aging process.

Somewhere between 30-35 (it varies by individual) our body starts losing many of key components that allowed us to compete. Like air leaking from a tire we slowly start losing:
• Muscle mass
• Fast twitch muscles
• Testosterone
• Bone density
• Vo Max (lung capacity)
• Vitamin D
• Heart rate capacity
• Metabolism
Combine this with the normal wear and tear on your body from competing and you’ll find a body that is weaker, slower, less flexible and less explosive than it once was. Just like cars with high mileage on them your body is subject to breaking down more frequently.

To highlight the fact that nobody is immune to the effects of aging, consider Michael Jordan. A while back he was videotaped dunking at one of his basketball clinics. It created quite a stir because Michael could still dunk at age 50. It also grew a stir because he could barely dunk. Here is Michael Jordan, 6’6” and arguably one of the greatest athletes of our generation and he’d “lost a step” just like everybody else. Watch here:

Although aging is inevitable, there is hope and there are options for those who want to continue to play on. In my next post, I’ll outline five important steps you can take to continue your pursuit of glory on the field of battle. Until then, play on.

About the Author Phil Faris

Phil Faris is host of Never Too Late for FitnessRadio and the author of "Never Too Late! 21 Strategies to Reclaim Your Fitness After 50", "Take Command of Your Health", "The 5-Minute Anti-Aging and Fitness Blueprint" and numerous articles on fitness, anti-aging and nutrition. He also publishes the online newsletter, "Never Too Late for Fitness" that helps people of all ages get fit and stay fit for life. Phil lives with his wife in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He has three grown daughters and two grandchildren. In his spare time, he coaches high school and youth lacrosse.

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