View Full Version : replies to ageing and fitness

David Smith
07-21-2007, 03:10 AM
Dear all here is a review of relies to the question below. I know it's a long time coming but I left it to see if some of the advice worked ad it has. I reduced the amount of body contact, high impact sport and did more aerobic and heavy weight training. The result is that I have more energy feel stronger and much less or even no joint and muscle pain. I feel stronger and fitter and in a recent kickboxing competition I dominated the all the rounds. I ended the fight with a slightly illegal throw (Harai Goshi for those who know Judo), which I could not resist as he rebounded of the ropes. OOPs! I am training up for a Pro MMA (Cage Rage) fight at 90kg but so far I cant get below 98kg. I think the weight training is holding up my weight.

Many thanks all and cheers

Dave Smith

MSc Biomechanics research

Strathclyde University




Folkestone Kent

First Question

I know this isn't strictly biomechanics but many of you are in related sports and physiology disciplines so:-

I'm kicking the butt of 50yrs old (this july in fact) I train at least 3 times per week. Judo, submision wrestling and mixed martial arts (cage fighting). Some weeks I also do karate and kick boxing plus occasional competitions.
I have trained since I was 10yrs old pretty regulary up until the present time.
Why is it that now I can't get the intensity or strength that I used to have? Why does it hurt much more after I train hard?
I can't regularly train more than three times a week because I get to fatiuged ie joint and muscle pain make me sieze up.
Why do injuries last so much longer? Why is it also that I can carry on at a medium intensity training pace much longer than younger players but can't keep up high intensity work for very long? Why do I keep pulling my hamstring when I regularly stretch and am, apparently, more supple than most younger guys? I mainly rely on skill to win but the ability to get into overdive and my strength just seems to decrease rapidly as the years pass.
I know its all down to age but if you would like to enlighten me further and in more depth I would be grateful.

Sincerely, Grumpy old git, Dave [and just to top it all the hair that used to grow on my head now grows out of my nose, eyebrows and chest, tempest fugit :-( ]


Hey David
I dont have the answers, but could not resist from sending a short reply to say that those, indeed, are very, very good questions. I dont think all the answers have been found yet, I am sure some of the m have. Look forward to seeing a compendium of replies!
Good luck with your training!
~ Trisha

Hello, David
> I've read your message on biomech-L forum. It was actually a typical
> problem experienced by monks practicing martial arts at Shaolin temple in
> the olden days. The priest called Damo developed techniques to counter
> these problems. One is called muscle/tendon classics where you tense your
> muscles for several or more seconds, relax for double the period and
> repeat this cycle. It may be difficult to find a text on this, but
> muscle/tendon classics is very similar to 'progressive relaxation'(in
> fact, I suspect progressive relaxation came from Damo's). There should be
> a good few texts on PR available on Amazon. Your joint pain maybe a sign
> of osteoarthritis. With advancing age, your joints become dryer and dryer
> and your joint catilage loses its smooth glistening appearance and turn
> coarse.
> In classic jujitsu such as Daito-ryu Aiki Jujitsu, a myriad of
> self-mobilisation/muscle relaxation techniques are taught and practiced..
> Have you not trained in these? I know from my own experience that many
> martial arts groups are ignorant about the importance of good old training
> techniques, but instead they instruct ballistic stretching & warm-up. As a
> consequence, a lot of martial arts practitioners have never come across
> the techniques which have designed and resigned by trail and error through
> centures.
> Best wishes
> Dai Nishikawa

Nishikawasan, Hajimimashite, arigato gozimashita, Dou desu ka

I am assuming from your name that you are Japanese (if not DOH!) I have not
heard of progressive relaxation techniques or muscle tendon classics.
However I do muscle tension techniques mostly from Kyokushin karate and
isometric exercises. are these similar?
Most western players do not like to train in techniques that they do not see
give them results in terms of winning competition or fitness.
These days I find that it is quite difficult to keep student interested in
the more esoteric techniques and tend not to teach them. As I have aged I
have found the value of traditional training techniques and values that I
did not understand when I was younger. The objective for me was to get as
fit as possible with techniques that win competition. Now that I do not have
the capacity to compete or train at such high intensity I find the old
values very useful. softness, patience and skill are replacing, fire, speed,
strength. I wait for an opportunity to come to me instead of forcing a
technique to work. This works very well in both grappling disciplines and
striking disciplines.It can be very frustrating when a 20yr old muscle bosun
who has only been training a couple of years and has poor technique can make
life difficult thru sheer determination and the advantages of youth.

Thanks for your interesting reply

Oyasumi nasai ( if your in Japan) cheers Dave

Oh! BTW does your name Dai Nishikawa read as Great western river?


Consider that if you've been training since you were 10, your body probably peaked at an age between 26 and 33. This peak is in terms of rate of growth and absolute growth (of organs, bone density, blood volume, heart size, lactate buffering, muscle, strength, mitochondrial density (energy producing sites in cells) and the list goes on) of all the systems and anatomical objects that aid in high energy activities. With this in mind, you can do little to increase overall capacity following your peak. It may be possible to increase capacity of some specific systems if you train very specific to that system, but you risk a degeneration in all other systems. Instead, for a long while afterwards you are able to at least maintain your peak level and minimize the rate of loss of all of your physiological systems, especially those that are utilized in your training and competition. Since your peak you particularly (as judged by my interpreted level of your commitment to your sport, and to the training / intensity involved) have probably done well to maintain all of your systems at a high level and therefore have not only been able to consistently compete at the top level of your age group, but likely with many of the top competitors at lower age groups as well.

The problem with maintaining strength, coordination, fitness, reaction time, lung capacity (especially suprathreshold level work), lacate buffering, and overall conditioning is that at a certain point [probably] every human's life the ability to maintain begins to drop rapidly. At this point, no matter how much training you do, no matter how many competitions and no matter how much high intensity work you accomplish, your systems are going to degrade. The first to go, as you've noticed, are the systems that enable the highest intensity work. In male athletes especially, moderate intensity endurance fitness and strength can be maintained until much later than high intensity endurance or high intensity stop-and-go ( e.g. soccer, basketball, wrestling, fighting) anaerobic type exercises. This is best demonstrated by looking at results of older competitors in true endurance sports such as ultramarathon running, cycling racing, triathlon, marathon rowing, etc. In these results you'll see high placings even in elite events by men who are well into their 50's and in rare cases, even their 60's. However, if you look at sports such as wrestling, soccer, track sprinting, cycling track racing, crew sprints and other higher intensity events, even of the same sport just shorter duration, you will rarely see men in their 50's and sometimes even in the late 40's anywhere in the results of an elite level competition.

The higher intensity systems shut down down first because of degredation of high level strength, decreasing elasticity and strength of tendons & ligaments, decrease in bone density, decrease in bodie's ability to bind oxygen to hemoglobin, thus reducing metabolism during exercise, and many other physiological factors. Because the demands are so much greater in higher intensity efforts, the effects are more pronounced.

In males generally by 55 or 60 the lower intensity systems also begin to degrade. This means total lung capacity decreases which automatically decreases maximal effort and even maximal sustained effort over a given period of time above the base endurance level, strength begins to rapidly reduce, our nervous system becomes worn out and the lines of neurotransmission become less efficient, decreasing reaction time and our body's general ability to react to stimuli, including the rate of contraction of muscles which in turn decreases not only strength, as mentioned, but speed. In your types of sports, I imagine this is a big deal! In fact, the only organ which seems to maintain very well beyond 60, and only in very healthy people, is the brain. If you think of the heart, skin, lungs, internal organs, taste buds, ears...they all degrade. The brain is able to stay healthy and acute for much longer, especially in recent years, and one reason may be because it is prioritized in terms of resources over all other organs!

I hope this general information is some help, and maybe some consolation. Please collate and forward on any other, more scientific replies to the list serve after you've finished receiving them, I'm sure many people are interested in this discussion.


Christopher Mina
B.S. Bioengineering - Lehigh University

Hi Dave,

In a word, Testosterone. One could go into all of the physiological changes that occur after about age 26, but the one with the biggest kick is decrease in testosterone levels. You might try having them checked. Since it is certain they are below normal, the trick is having a physician that doesn't mind writing a script for it. (You must inject it) There is a growing number of gerontologists, and some endocrinologist who argue that we give women estrogen, why not give men testosterone. The evolutionary biologists say that once we get past an age where our offspring would have been reared, there was no evolutionary pressure to keep us going any longer. I'm sure you already know about the telomeres and their role in apoptosis, apparently, the entire body has a similar mechanism that eventually leads to death from old age.....but not without making you suffer from hormone depletion first. :-) I am 43, and began feeling like you describe after I fell from a tree and broke my back. I had been a track athlete in college, and a heavy mountain biker after college, as well as a body builder. The last event kept my testosterone levels higher than normal for longer than normal, so when I was forced to stop working out for 2 years, I could really feel it. I took my own advice and had my levels checked. A mil and a half of depo test every two weeks is all that it takes to keep my levels normal. In weeks I put on several pounds of lean body mass and began to look more like I did when I was lifting. The extra strength in my paraspinals has helped with the pain unbelievably. If I could get past the blown disks, I would lift again!

Kevin M

I'm a few years behind you, but have been noticing similar things for
about the past 5 years and dealing with occasional strained ligaments
and tendonitis. I've looked into the issue informally, and I see two
main well-known causes for the decline, a loss of elasticity of tendons
and ligaments with age, making them easier to injure, combined with
slower healing, so that it takes longer to recover from the
more-frequent injuries. My own response has been to shift to lower
impact exercise (paddling a canoe/kayak, swimming, perhaps bicycling, as
opposed to running), and generally speaking if it hurts, don't do it.
Martial arts or competitive sports just strikes me as asking for
trouble. I suspect that some form of hormone therapy involving an HGH
component would be helpful, but this gets us into the realm of
experimental medicine with potentially troublesome side effects.

Getting old just isn't much fun :)

Clark Andersen

(ME) Kevin

"I'm sure you already know about the telomeres and their role in apoptosis" No, Tell me about them.

Cheers Dave

Hi David,

At the end of every chromosome, there is a region called a telomere. With each replication of the cell, the telomere shortens. When it gets short enough, the cell is told to kill itself. Pesumalbly this is to prevent an abnormal replication of DNA that could cause a cancer or tumor. The problem that the death of a cell in this manner does NOT trigger the replication of another cell to take its place. You can imagine the long term effects of this...brain cell number decreases, collagen fiber density decreases, even muscle mass. All of these we know to happen, we just didn't have a mechanism until until telomeres were discovered. the current research is to get around telomere shortening wihtout DNA replication problems. At any rate, this is a main cause of old age as seen by gerontologists at this time. I was not sure I would cive you a good explaination, so I found a link that explains it pretty simply, then has other links to explain the more difficult parts. I hope it hlep.

Sorry I presumed that you would already know this. It is sort of cutting ecge, and if you aren't into this stuff, you would miss it. Its not like it has made it to the textbooks yet...'Cheers,

Kev..............Here is the link: http://www.hhmi.org/cgi-bin/askascientist/highlight.pl?kw=&file=answers%2Fgeneral%2Fans_057.html

(ME) Kevin

Very interesting, I used to do a lot of heavy weights but I got bored with it and hav'nt done any proper weights for about 10years do you think weight training would help?


OMG yes! Studies have shown that if your body can handle it, your testosterone will rise in the teens. It can't get back up to puberty level without some help, but you can work out and take a little DHE and see some good results. Oh, by the way, light wieght and a lot of reps won't do it. You need as heavy as you can lift without hurting yourself and keep the reps below 8. It has to do with which energy system you are using. (You need to access the creatine/ATP sytem) If you really want to get into it, besides the DHEA, get some creatine monohydrate, do what it says on the can, and it will help keep you from getting hurt. Chances are that you have decreased your diet in recent years, increasing your protien percentage also increases testosterone. Many folks, who cannot seem to get enough with regular meals, supplement with a powdered supplement from GNC or some other similar store.


Dear David Smith,

What's happening to you is just simply "natural ageing process". But just because it's natural, it doesn't mean you have to accept it as it is. You can "naturally" fight it back, with the right weapons!

Focus on training for strength and power, which are two important abilities we ALL lose as we age, and that have the greatest impact in our daily activities (including playing, fighting, sporting, etc).

Ah, about your hamstring pulls: that would need further examination, but check your knee muscle balance: hamstring to quads ratio. The hams should have around 65%-75% of the quads strength/power. If it's less or more than that, it could predispose you to injury (stretching is also another component, as you've mentioned).

And also as an "athlete wannabe" as I am, I've also noticed decreases in my performance... since I was 25. And I'm 30 now.

We all lose it... But how much we lose it, and how much of it we can recover is partially up to ourselves!!!

Keep up the good work! Keep lifting iron!!!

Best regards,

Alexandre de Oliveira

Physical Therapist and Master in Rehabilitation Sciences (from Brazil!)

Dear David

This is part of the very normal ageing process of our musculoskeletal system or MSS (I'm 43, and
apparently like you, I've always been doing sport [rock climbing, rowing, ...] regularly ... and yes, I
have a better technique that most young people I see around me, but I canno't catch up anymore on
a pure physical basis ! Frustrating, but natural.

The ageing process is mainly occuring at cell level: muscle cells will become less performant. Also,
the muscle physiological equipment (blood supply, contraction mechanism, recovering period, ... ) is
becoming less efficient. Tendons are becoming less strechable and fragiler.

There is not much you can do that fight against that and guys like us will never be able to compete
with youngsters in high-intensity sports (like the sports you are doing, karate, etc). On the other
hand, older muscles are relatively performant for endurance. Also, regular and well-balanced training
will certainly slow down the side-effect of ageing.

Can I give you a few advices?

- Mind your diet. Eat as natural as possible. Do not take these "magical powders" promising miracles.
A balanced diet will probably help your MSS system to be more performant.

- Maybe go to see a physical trainer used to "older" people for some advices. You should organise
your training towards endurance and less on power to decrease the "chances" of injuries.

- And learn to accept you're getting older ... I know this is frustrating, but this has advantages too !

Bye for now,