The mats are soft and padded but like an eraser rubbing it’s way across paper, I try my hardest to turn and gain the advantage. The gi gets heavier as you struggle and heave at each other increasing the vat of sweat building up on your body. And the eraser gets harder to move and I’ve got a 27 year old, 6’ 1 – 175Lb kid trying to twist me, and yank at my joints. He presses his weight on me when necessary to pancake me down, and it feels like all you could hear in the dojo is the heavy breathing of a 44 year old man. It’s loud and laboured and it’s the only survival I have left in this rolling session. 3 – 5 minute rounds and an average of 3 – 5 opponents; survival is the key word in this sentence. Not because my life is at stake but more so because as much as I was lucky to have a natural affinity to the sport, I feel slightly outmatched from a few different perspectives, and all that’s left is a broken ego. What can I say, boys will be boys, gracefully entering their forties
So let’s have a closer look at these perspectives for a moment, first off there’s a massive age gap, which benefits my opponent based on a comparison of heart rates, resting heart rates, and heart rate variability which are major components that aid the much younger opponent. Give hm 6 inches in height and 10 pounds and I have a problem! Here’s the thing though, give him the weight and height difference, even out our skill level (he happens to be a higher grade) and give me back 15 years and this young lad has a challenge on his hands. Needless to say, I was chocked out twice, and experienced a few armlocks. But he was kind enough to share some insight on my jiu jitsu skills and strategy on my way to the next opponent, so all was not lost.
One in particular that I recall was in regards to my breathing and the lack of control I was experiencing. Of course this young man doesn’t know that I’m a trainer and that I understand what the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are. Or that I also know that I need to work on my own strength and conditioning, specifically conditioning. Maybe spend less time on the laptop and more time on technique, breathing, my autonomic system, and yes, I get it, my conditioning needs more work.
I know that at 44 years of age, I’m not at retirements door but there’s definitely a change in my body type now (my fault), and there’s a definite change in my metabolism (age), and here’s the big one which I can’t bore people enough about. There is a definite change in my recovery time and it doesn’t help that once again, my conditioning needs more work. Now we’re not just talking about recovery heart rate after intense training, but more so recovery the day after. It’s interesting but as of late I’ve been hearing the same tale of the tape. Old friends approaching me because they want to get back into shape again, they walk around in pain, or can’t play a simple game of basketball with their daughters; some entering their forties and others already there.
You hear the traditional expressions, ‘boys will be boys,’ ‘men are all boys inside,’ ‘boys never grow up.’ We do grow up, as kids though we just enjoy playing hard, we taunt each other and tease, then we get older and the jokes get wittier, and still think we can roughhouse the way we used to. Well we still can, we just don’t get out of bed with a spring in our step the next day like we used to. Our hormones start to change, for example we produce less testosterone, our muscles begin to atrophy a little, our V02 max decreases which means we have less conditioning performance, which also means we recover slower from training and sports.
Yet we still want to hike a little faster, ride a little faster, and play a little harder. Ok maybe this blog is a little bit more about self realization, and the understanding that there is the ever fragile male ego in contention on top of the performance aged disabilities. That’s right, we seem to forget that inside all of us men, there lies that daring boy waiting to peak his head and challenge us to do the unthinkable still. And we take these challenges without a care in the world, even with families to take care of, or jobs that we need to punch into, and any other general responsibilities life has us doing. At some point we need to take a step back and realize that our game has to get smarter, not harder.
My body’s a storyboard of injuries, let’s do a top to bottom and I won’t delve into every adventure attached to the injuries because some come with R-rated stories and it was in a different time of my life. Let’s begin with the scar on hy head, the one above my mouth and the bridge for front teeth. The rubber neck, the shoulder dislocations that are in double digits. Broke my left elbow and left wrist, and cracked six knuckles in both hands with dislocated thumbs. The scar in my back, both knees with sprains and tears, ankle sprains and turf toe (I hate turf toe). And the coup de grace, right achilles tendon rupture. I know, you’re thinking how is this guy still prancing around, but I am and enjoying my life with family and a new business on the horizon.
The difference these days like I mentioned earlier, is I need to play a smarter game. I do this by listening to my body when it comes to training and sports. There’s no medals to be won, only pyrrhic victories with scars and pain to remind you of your squandered youth. Rest is a welcome sight, training my mobility and core strength within a session is now a must, and not at the end of a program if I have time to get to it either. My training is full body and sport specific so I have enough juice in the tank to grapple with the young fellas. And let’s not forget that there’s a brand new little man in my life now that I love to roughhouse with, which means if he’s half as crazy as I was growing up, I’ve got my hands full.
Finally there’s my wife as well. Let us not forget that us men in our forties, are performance through and through, and I don’t just mean weekend errands. That’s right guys, you can’t just sit on your laurels and hope that the memory of your slimmer sexy physique is what keeps the wives happy. Our performance doesn’t just stop on the court, the turf, or the mat. No, we also need to perform in all aspects of our lives, don’t forget the saying, “happy wife, happy life,” and yes read into that statement as much as you need.
We want to be boys and we want to play hard all of our lives, and no one can tell us differently. But humans like life, we are ballistic and dynamic, we’re also static and sedentary, with ups and downs and it moves some of us to be adventurous or relaxed. I’m not saying we need to stop playing sports, or training too hard, rather we need to play smart, we need to listen to our bodies and rest when needed, and we need to have the energy to perform in the right moment. Personal training has become popular once again to those in these same predicaments, I train men in their forties and a little less to feel young and proud and energetic so that longevity becomes important once again. You now hear the term ‘dad bod,’ and although funny sounding it comes with a little sting. A small reminder you’re not the man you used to be; but maybe, just maybe, you can be that man once again. With him brings the boy you and everyone loves, who knows, maybe tonight instead of a beer and watching a game, head upstairs a little earlier and; well, you get the picture…
Stay healthy my friends!
Your Coach, Franco Gomez