When I was on the high school track team, we used to run 10 400-meter repeats every Monday. We would also have meets twice a week. It felt like it took my 16-year-old body approximately 12 hours to recover from any type of workout. However, even in college, I began to feel the effects of my age on recovery time. I needed at least 2-3 days of easy workouts before competing. I would feel tired if I went hard too many days in one week. And now, as I reach the ripe age of 30, I have found my body needs more recovery than it did even 2 years ago.
Not to depress anyone, but the peak age of performance for most sports is your mid-20s. The gradual decrease in performance as you age is due to a variety of physiological reasons (muscle mass, bone health, flexibility, metabolism, etc.). However, this does not mean you can’t excel athletically past your 20s, it just means you have to be more careful about how you reach your fitness goals.
I think we all agree that roller derby is a unique sport. One aspect that I find amazing is the age range of derby athletes. For most sports, your team consists of a very homogeneous group. In roller derby, I have been on a team with athletes from ages 20-60. Although we all practice together, everyone’s fitness capacity will undoubtedly be different.
If you’re still in your early 20s (or younger), go crazy! Work out all of the time! Do everything you want to your body! However, for people who have started to feel the effects of age on our bodies, it is crucial to “train smarter, not harder” outside of practice.
And yes, I realize I’m ONLY 30 and I am physically doing pretty well. But I have been working out or training for a sport since I was 10. So that’s 20 years of wear and tear on my body! It’s better to start thinking about how to keep myself physically healthy NOW, as opposed to 10 years down the road.
When working out begins to get more difficult, there is a tendency for athletes to do more frequent, easier workouts, such as jogging 4 miles or biking for an hour. However, it is crucial to continue engaging in high intensity workouts, just less frequently. So don’t avoid the discomfort of a hard workout (and the soreness that comes along with it), just know how much your body can handle and how much rest you’ll need afterward. It is also good to add in cross training activities on your “rest days” that don’t put as much stress on your body, such as yoga. This will also help with flexibility, which I am finding I need more and more.
But before you give up all hope and crawl to the couch, there is also an advantage to being a more “experienced” athlete: “In sports such as tennis, golf, and baseball, or at specific team sport positions, such as ice hockey goaltender or the American football quarterback, the mental training and experience components are of greater importance to athletic performance” (Dr. Agbeko Ocloo, 2014).
So as we continue to play roller derby, our technique and strategy will have much more of an influence on our performance than our fitness level.
The hardest thing for me has been accepting the changes I must make to my own fitness routine. Sure, I can run myself into the ground (and feel tired and sore all of the time), or I can change how I work out to reach my maximum potential.
“To be elite you have to quit thinking that fatigue is the answer.” – Dan John