STRENGTH AND THE OLDER ATH­LETE

When it comes to older ath­letes, Erin Car­son is un­equiv­o­cal about strength work.

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“The bot­tom line is if you are an ag­ing ath­lete who cares about main­tain­ing and gain­ing per­for­mance, then you have to do some kind of strength work. It’s that sim­ple,” she says.

Among the scores of ath­letes Car­son trains at Ral­lyS­port, is an 82-year-old skier with whom she loves work­ing. “I get ex­cited to work with any ath­lete who is keen to el­e­vate their level of per­for­mance, but when it comes to my 82-year-old skier, I get to­tally stoked to work with him be­cause he is just so pas­sion­ate about what he does and at his age he can still achieve a high level of per­for­mance,” she says.

For older ath­letes, Car­son ad­vo­cates fol­low­ing a strength pro­gram which fo­cuses on healthy move­ment first and fore­most.

“I would never ad­vise adding ex­ter­nal load to an un­sta­ble or in­ef­fi­cient struc­ture,” she says.

Af­ter as­sess­ing injury and pain, she ex­plains that with older ath­letes, the first thing she fo­cuses on is rhythm and tim­ing of move­ment.

“Hav­ing the abil­ity to move freely and con­fi­dently is re­ally where it all begins. Think of each one of us hav­ing a ‘bub­ble’ in which we move. As we get older the bub­ble tends to get smaller and we move less and less. As we get older, I want the bub­ble to be as big as pos­si­ble. The lim­iter here will be strength or any in­juries.”

In or­der to min­i­mize that lim­iter, Car­son says that lift­ing heavy weights is es­sen­tial as we age.

“It’s much eas­ier to teach tech­nique at a younger age,” she says, “but it’s 100 per cent pos­si­ble to teach any­one how to lift weights safely.

“It is al­ways my goal to find two or three chal­leng­ing move­ments that can be safely loaded for ev­ery­one. These chal­lenges are not the same for ev­ery­one due to dif­fer­ence in body type, ex­pe­ri­ence and his­tory, but they can be found and worked upon.”

There is also ex­ten­sive re­search which shows the hor­monal ben­e­fits of lift­ing heavy weights.

“Our mood can be pos­i­tively af­fected by lift­ing heavy weights,” says Car­son. “Al­most 100 per cent of the time, my ath­letes of all ages re­port that they feel sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter and even hap­pier af­ter a good gym ses­sion.”

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