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Training Martial Arts After the Age of 40 - Ten Pieces of Advice

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

From the age of 30 a lot of biological changes occur in your body. Fitness decreases. The physical strength decreases. We become stiffer in muscles and joints. It takes longer time to recover after training. We become more susceptible to injuries. And reaction time decreases. In short, it becomes more demanding and tiring to train. Yes, I agree, it really sucks!

However, it is quite possible to continue practicing martial arts after the age of 40. I know from my own experience. However, You cannot train exactly the same way as when you were 20 years old. You need to do some adjustments. You can still train (and you can train hard). But you MUST train smart. Here are 10 tips on how to get more out of your training after your 40th birthday.

1. Think positively

Stop telling yourself that you are too old! In the end, you start believing it yourself, and you give up. You're NOT too old. Period! On the other hand, you have a lot of life experience. Use it for something positive!

2. Drill a lot!

Invest a lot of your time in technical training, and especially on drilling. You should focus more on this than free-sparring. Drilling is a very effective way to improve your skills. That's because constant repetitions make the techniques instinctive and natural. Drilling will also alleviate the effect of loss of reaction time and reflexes that age brings. Moreover, the risk of injury is reduced significantly.

3. Sparr smart!

Sparring is an important part of training. However, because it is easy to injur yourself in this type of training, it is important to sparr in a smart way. Instead of using a lot of force, you should emphasize light, technical and playful sparring.

Quite often you learn more from sparring in this way as well. This is because sparring with a lot of power and fast pace often come at the expense of the technical quality.

You can sparr with full power from time to time. But then you may want to break up the sparring in various tasks that you have to solve.

4. Choose your training partners carefully!

If you have the opportunity, you should choose your training partners carefully. Steer clear of those who obviously have no control over what they are doing; those who are keen to assert themselves; or those who otherwise show disrespect to others. Rather, train with those who seem concerned with good partner cooperation and learning something in training.

Note: If there are many people with a big ego in your club, it might be a sign of lack of competence on the instructor side. If that's the case, you might want to consider switching to a club with a better training environment.

5. Stretch regularly!

We get stiffer with age. Flexibility is one of the first capabilities that diminishes as we get older. You should therefore stretch on a regular basis. If you have a good instructor, he or she will make sure to put in stretching exercises in the training sessions. But it will often not be enough for those who have passed the age of 40. You should therefore do some stretching on your own.

6. Get enough sleep!

As you get older, you need more time to recover from exercise. However, a good night's sleep can alleviate this. The more you exercise, the more sleep you need. Therefore, be sure to get enough sleep. Make sleeping a part of your training program. I've gotten pretty good at this myself over time. That's perhaps my strongest side as a martial artist!

7. Eat healthy!

A good diet is important for any athlete. When you have passed the age of 40, it is crucial. You simply can't eat hamburgers and pizzas several times a week. The body must have the right nutrition in order for it to function in training, and for it to be able to recover for the next training.

8. Take your health seriously!

Health problems tend to increase with age. If you have an ailment or injury, go and see a doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist or other health therapist to have it checked out. There may be a way to treat it. Do not stop training until you have tried this.

9. Don't give up too easily!

Often it is possible to train, even if you have an injury. For example, if you have a sore shoulder, you simply stand over exercises/tasks that strain the shoulder. Other times it is possible to relieve the injury with the help of technical aids, such as knee rails, support bandages, sports tape, etc. I've never been completely injury-free myself. But I still get to train.

You should also be aware that medical personnel often are a little ... what shall we say ... squeamish. Therefore, take what the doctors conclusion with a never-so-small pinch of salt.

When i was 16 years old, I suffered a very serious knee injury during a football game. After the surgery, the doctor told me that I could never do any kind of sport again. I'm glad I didn't listen to him.

10. Steer clear of tobacco, drugs and anabolic steroids. Drink sparingly

Finally, something very obvious: Cigaretts, snuff, etc. are very difficult to combine with with exercise , even when you are young. After the age of 40, you can just forget about this. That you should not use drugs and anabolic storoids, goes by itself. You should also limit your alcohol intake. But it's OK to have a beer or a glass of wine every now and then.

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