I had a discussion with some friends over beer and barbecue yesterday about the effects of training and age on your body. We’re all of the same age (mid to late thirties), and are of varying levels of physical activity. We had a bit of a laugh at the niggles and stiffness we were all suffering from. One friend was standing against the wall rather than sitting because it was easier on his back, another was saying how he can still do the splits but can’t cross his legs when sitting , and I was complaining about my hands. It was like an episode of Grumpy Young Men.
Undoubtedly, age takes its toll on the body. When you get to your mid thirties, and have been training a sport for a number of years, you have a fair few miles on the clock, your capacity for recovery is lower, and your hormonal makeup has changed. But it’s not just age. When you were in your twenties, while you had the benefit of youth, you probably didn’t have a mortgage, kids, or a lot of the other stress givers in your life that you do now. You probably slept later, ate with better regularity, and your biggest problem when you clocked off work was what movie to watch, or which book to read.
But while we can say for certain that age and stress play a role in the new aches and pains you feel, we also have to accept that sport takes its toll on you too. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hard on the body, especially when you train a lot. Your hands, your hips, your neck and back, they all take a beating. For the first time in my life I’m now noticing that almost everyone I roll with is younger than me. A lot of them are stronger than me. Some of them, I’m old enough to be their father, and who knows, maybe I am…
However I’m here to share this tidbit with you. There’s one thing that takes a worse toll on your body- Nothing. A little while back I was forced by circumstance to take a few weeks off training. I tried to look on the bright side of that. The time off would help the little niggles heal and loosen up the tight joints and muscles. I’d come back brand new and ready to train.
This, as you might already have guessed, is not what happened. I discovered something about my body that it has in common with my lawnmower. When you don’t use it, it rusts.
It turns out that the stiff shoulder I have is only being sustained by the range of motion I put it through every time I train, and that the trapped nerve in my arm is getting flossed by me gripping and arm dragging my training partners. My stiff SI joint? Oh that needs me to be triangling people and put in spider guard to stay loose.
By the end of the two weeks rest, I was a crock. Shuffling along like an old man when I got out of bed in the morning, crackling like a bowl of cereal when I stood up out of chairs, and waking myself in the middle of the night when I rolled onto my shoulder. Rest? Fuck it. I’d sooner be stiff and sore from having done something than stiff and sore from having sat down for an hour. Worse than that, I then had to come back to all the young guns in the gym 2 weeks off my usual pace.
Rest and recuperation has its place for certain. I’m a recent convert to Yoga and I try to make sure I eat and sleep well every day. But taking time off? Never again.
See you on the mat!