Why do athletes slow down with age? And how do athletes, such as last years French Open Champion Schiavone, stop time and keep performing?
Why do athletes slow down with age?
One reason older athletes have a drop in their performance is due to a loss of muscle mass. This means decreased strength, decreased force production, and thus decreased speed and power. Around the court this can mean the difference between winning and losing.
An Australian expert in masters athletes, Associate Professor Peter Reaburn, gives us some insight into the limiting factors of aging and the secrets of the athletes who can keep performing. Most studies suggest that older athletes do not recover from training as well. Reaburn explains, "Certainly, my own anecdotal evidence based on years of observing my own response to training, and listening to and observing other aging athletes from endurance sports, is that recovery takes longer as we age following intense training sessions." He points to various factors including:
â€¢ Muscle size and strength decreases
â€¢ Flexibility or range of motion decreases
How do athletes stop time and keep performing?
If this is why older athletes see a drop in performance, then how can the older champions keep performing? Many of the world's best have incorporated weight training to help hold on to muscle mass into older age. For these champion tennis players this has been an important training activity. They also make use of massage and physiotherapy to help keep their flexibility and range of motion.
For the top athletes, such as Schiavone, this means training smart as well as hard. Strength training has become a vital part of older athletes' programs as well as stretching and mobility exercises. See
www.mastersathlete.com.au for more tips and resources.