STAND­ING THE TEST OF TIME

Jeremy Ell­wood, now 52, gets the lowdown on how best to keep on golf­ing into old age from phys­io­ther­a­pist Suzanne Clark, au­thor of new book

Golf Monthly - - Fit­ness -

hen it comes to fit­ness, I should know bet­ter. I stud­ied phys­i­ol­ogy and biome­chan­ics, so I should know what to do phys­i­o­log­i­cally to keep my swing work­ing as well as pos­si­ble. Should! That de­gree was half a life­time ago, and I don’t know what came first – con­tent­ment or com­pla­cency. One way or an­other, I have ne­glected to do what’s needed to keep me golf­ing rel­a­tively pain-free, and it’s fi­nally catch­ing up.

I want to be able to swing more freely, then ache less the day af­ter, but have clearly not been do­ing enough to make that hap­pen. I’m not alone, though, which is what in­spired phys­io­ther­a­pist Suzanne Clark to write Play Golf For­ever: a Phys­io­ther­a­pist’s Guide to Golf Fit­ness and Health for the Over 50s, a sis­ter ti­tle to her ear­lier Play Ten­nis For­ever.

Suzanne has founded an or­gan­i­sa­tion called Fit­ter For­ever to ad­vise over-50s sports lovers how to stay fit and healthy enough to cock a snook at Old Father Time. The books ex­plain in lay­man’s terms how your body works as you play golf, and how you can help your­self by, among other things, strength­en­ing key mus­cles to pre­vent in­jury.

Speak­ing about the orig­i­nal book, Suzanne says: “I no­ticed that more elderly, reg­u­lar ten­nis play­ers got in­jured quite fre­quently, and re-in­jured very fre­quently. They didn’t do any warm-ups and ob­vi­ously weren’t get­ting ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment af­ter get­ting in­jured, be­cause they were get­ting re-in­jured straight away. I thought I’d print out some leaflets to help, but one thing led to an­other and I ended up writ­ing a book!”

Suzanne soon re­alised the whole process could be equally ben­e­fi­cial in golf. The golf swing may not be aer­o­bi­cally de­mand­ing, but all the twist­ing places great stress on the lower back, in par­tic­u­lar.

As Suzanne ex­plains in the book, we are all fight­ing the ef­fects of sar­cope­nia, in which skele­tal mus­cle mass and strength be­gin to de­cline from the age of 30, al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly at first, but then typ­i­cally to the tune of 30 or 40 per cent by 70 years of age.

Spend­ing a lit­tle time do­ing spe­cific ex­er­cises can be hugely ben­e­fi­cial, but play­ing golf alone is, sadly, not enough, as Suzanne ex­plains: “The big mis­con­cep­tion is think­ing, ‘Oh, play­ing golf is my ex­er­cise’. It’s about un­der­stand­ing how your mus­cles de­cline in strength nat­u­rally, and even though you are play­ing golf, you’re not do­ing spe­cific strength­en­ing ex­er­cises, so your mus­cles will still de­cline.”

My typ­i­cal pre-round rou­tine of­ten in­volves a last-minute dash to the course, half a dozen putts (if I’m lucky), then, bang – my open­ing drive. You may get away with this in your youth, but mus­cle re­gres­sion makes it sig­nif­i­cantly harder as you get older.

“When you’re ly­ing in bed just be­fore you get up, run through a cou­ple of ex­er­cises where you mo­bilise your back and take your hips through a range of move­ments,” Suzanne ad­vises. “When you’re in bed, your mus­cle tone is nice and re­laxed – that’s the best time to do a lit­tle gen­tle move­ment of the joints for five min­utes.

“Just go­ing up and down­stairs two at a time works all the mus­cles in your legs re­ally well, too. When you think about it, you’re lift­ing your whole weight – that’s the re­sis­tance. You don’t have to go to the gym to do that. Sim­i­larly, ev­ery time you get out of a chair, don’t use your arms. If you just stand up us­ing your legs, you’re lift­ing your whole body weight.”

The good news is that I could ac­tu­ally be do­ing things to help with­out tak­ing any more time out of my day, as Suzanne ex­plains on the fol­low­ing pages, and in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing videos on our dig­i­tal chan­nels...

“I WANT TO BE ABLE TO SWING MORE FREELY, THEN ACHE LESS THE DAY AF­TER”

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