Dan Staton MS, CSCS
Fitness Editor

To stay in the hunting game we must implement proven strategies that will aid in the battle against Father Time.  The older I get, the more I appreciate hunting adventures and the camaraderie.  I don’t want to miss a thing when it comes to mountain top sunrises and backcountry bugles.  I’m sure you don’t either, so let’s get your mind on the important components of fighting aging – a battle that many of us wage each day.

Don’t Be Uptight
Loss of flexibility is a natural effect of aging that can be counteracted through stretching continuity.  The repetitive movements involved in pounding a keyboard and staring at a computer eight hours a day don’t bode well with your muscles.  Identify your short and tight muscles and devote special efforts to lengthen them through stretching.  Most desk jockeys will be tight in the hips, lower back and shoulders.  Work in intervals at your desk, stand up and stretch often and pay close attention to your posture.  I recommend a 15 minute rule where you don’t sit on your bottom for more than fifteen minutes.  When you do stand up finally, squeeze your glutes, tighten your abs and stretch your shoulders and chest.

Free-Radical Fight
Free-radical damage, also known as oxidative stress, is now known to be one of the primary components of aging. Unfortunately, athletes are even more prone to free-radical damage than non-athletes.  For this reason, they need to be especially vigilant in consuming antioxidants, those vitamins and vitamin-like compounds that protect against and repair such damage. Vitamins C and E are especially helpful to athletes, as controlled studies have shown they can dramatically reduce post-workout muscle soreness in the short term, in addition to minimizing long-term oxidative stress.  The moral of the story, eat more fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

The chances of performing intense workouts like you once did in high school are probably not realistic.  This isn’t to say that your workouts should be soft, but definitely listen to your body.  Older athletes need to allow themselves more time to recover between their most demanding training sessions. The extra time may be given to outright rest, active recovery, massage or a combination of all three.

Post Workout Replenishment
Current research shows that consuming the right nutrients in the right amounts immediately after exercise can enhance recovery significantly.  Avoid appetite suppression after exercise and take in protein, carbohydrates and fluids as soon as you finish your workout.  One easy method is consuming one of the sports drinks on the market that are designed especially for recovery.  Look for one with around a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein, as more protein will retard the flow of nutrients into the bloodstream and less protein results in a less pronounced insulin spike, hence slower restocking of glycogen stores.

Bang For Your Buck
As an athlete matures, accumulated knowledge of one’s own body, particularly as it reacts to various types of training, enhances. Simply put, more experience enables you to determine which workouts work well for you and which ones are less effective.  Take advantage and arrange your training program so it maximizes the goods that foster the greatest performance bang for the training buck.

Strength Training Priority
The older you get, the more important strength training becomes.  One of the more crippling effects of aging for athletes is the gradual loss of lean muscle and the strength that it enshrines.  Athletes in sports that don’t require tremendous strength are particularly susceptible, as they tend to try and get by without resistance training.  Hunting and strength training are definitely married.  As you age, strength training becomes more and more invaluable.

Another thing that many athletes try and get by without is sleep. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation is an epidemic in U.S. society. Researchers have shown that sleeping too little leads to a host of problems from depressed immune function to decreased mental functioning.  Skimming on sleep is also harmful to athletic performance, due to the less opportunity for human growth hormone (HGH) to be released to do its job.  HGH is a powerful agent of recovery and adaptation to training released while you sleep.  Bottom line, less sleep means less HGH and therefore less freshness for the next day’s workout.

In closing, growing older doesn’t mean you cannot reach your peak physical preparedness.  You’ll need to ease into your new program more gradually than someone younger could.  Aging tendons and joints don’t adapt as quickly as they did when you were younger.  That doesn’t mean you can never lift heavy, but if you’ve been out of the exercise scene for awhile, spend your first few weeks of training with lighter loads and sets of higher reps.  Current research shows an increased perception of fatigue and muscle soreness and decreased speed of recovery in older exercisers.  You’ll need to plan easy days with fewer sets and reps and make time for active rest such as taking a hike and cross training.  You should make sure to take two to three full days off during the week.  Beyond this, there are no exercises you shouldn’t try because of your age and no reason you shouldn’t be able to get into amazing shape, maybe even better than that of much younger folks.  Though it might take longer, you just have to listen to your body along the way.  Fighting the clock means not going over the hill so easily, in fact, if you stay on top of your fitness, you might just slow down the sands of time.