On this episode of The Omega Sports Move More Podcast, hosted by Dr. Scott Jablonka with Carolina Movement Doc, discover why being a veteran athlete doesn’t mean you need to stop moving. Age is just a number. Dr. Jablonka is joined by Thomas Clark to discuss why aging shouldn’t keep you from moving.

Listen to Dr. Scott Jablonka full episode on The Omega Sports Move More Podcast.

The Omega Sports Move More Podcast with Dr. Scott Jablonka

How do we define athlete? What is a veteran athlete?

Dr. Scott Jablonka believes that everyone who comes to visit him is an athlete. If you want to move more, perform more, or even get off the ground better, you’re an athlete.

For the most part, the individuals that Dr. Jablonka sees are not the young guns. They tend to be in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Their age does not dictate their health, these folks tend to be in pretty good shape with a majority in even better shape than Dr. Jablonka himself. These individuals come in because they are sick of feeling pain. They want to make it through workouts with less pain.

Dr. Jablonka is 35 years old and has found he needs to scale back his workouts. He has a really competitive nature and doesn’t like to admit that he can’t do something, but lately, he has been totally okay with it. It’s that kind of “swallowing your pride” that has him believing that he is moving down to the Masters/Veteran athlete path.

Age and decrepitude are not synonymous

Thomas Clark, age 50

Just because you’re getting up there with years, does not mean you can’t do something. You should not stop doing something that makes you happy as long as you manage your pain, listen to your body, and focus on things that may be going wrong.

“If this hurts – stop doing what hurts” is often touted and Dr. Jablonka doesn’t think this has to be the case. If it hurts, find out why it hurts, correct it, and continue on so it does not hurt.

That’s where Dr. Jablonka steps in.

It’s not like everybody has a medical degree, so not everyone understands what we’re capable of doing. Your first stop at the chain of health is your doctor’s office. They’re probably going to do x-rays and quite possibly give you a diagnostic of arthritis. That diagnosis of arthritis goes everywhere with you in your medical files, and Dr. Jablonka hates that because arthritis is such a debilitating term. And s many people say they can’t do something because they have arthritis.

What we have to understand is that arthritis literally means “joint inflammation.” What tends to happen is you go to the doctor, you get these X-rays and they see the joint spaces are narrowing.

Dr. Jablonka would say a lot of this can be normal age-related issues that you need to manage better. Let’s face it – anybody out there who is an athlete, will probably not stop. Instead, they’ll search for someone that tells them they can keep moving. You can not stop people from moving. Arthritis is not going to ruin you, it can be managed.

Exponential influx of veteran athletes in the gym

Dr. Jablonka is thrilled that veterans are hitting the gym. It brings a lot of benefit into their lives, stuff that they don’t even realize. The goal to die as young as possible, as late as possible.

Dr. Jablonka doesn’t want you to fall into this giant hole of decrepitude where you’re bedridden.

What does the research say about veteran athletes?

A 2004 study in The Journals of Gerontology looked at the effects of progressive resistance strength training on older adults. What they found out was that strength training improves overall strength and gait speed. There’s a principle in the therapy world called the “SAID principle,” (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). If we ask our bodies to become stronger, they will get stronger, and vice versa. The veteran body will not respond as fast, but it will still respond.

In 2010, in the Clinical Geriatric Medicine journal, there was a study of strength training in older adults and benefits as it pertains to arthritis. It found improvements in lower extremities, improvements in overall function, and significant pain reduction. It is an 11-year-old study, but it proves that strength training reduces pain, makes you move more, and makes you stronger. The study also goes on to say that clinicians should encourage participation in exercise training even in the oldest of old with osteoarthritis.

Interview with Thomas Clark

Thomas Clark, age 50

Veteran athlete, Thomas Clark

Thomas grew up in the military, specifically the Air Force. His father was a pilot and he grew up in upstate New York. It is there that his athletic career started. He has 3 kids and has been married to his wife for over 17 years in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He was a track and field athlete, pretty quick and fast, full of power, and got noticed in college. After school, he moved to Charlotte to be a teacher, but that really wasn’t what he wanted to do. He eventually moved back into athletics.

The reason Thomas got back into athletics is because of his wife, Mary. He’s one of those guys that thought they were going to be athletic their whole life but was told to slow down by his doctor, otherwise, he’s going to become a statistic.

One example was his cholesterol level got up to 240. A medical professional said that they have a pill to fix that. Thomas refused. He believed that he got himself in this situation and he could get himself out. He did what he had to do to fix it, but it wasn’t working. His wife pushed him into CrossFit and that made a difference.

How does Thomas stay healthy?

Thomas Clark, age 50

Thomas is 50 years old. He trains 4-5 days a week doing a lot of squats, pushups, pullups and barbell cleans. He doesn’t like running, but he does it anyway. He doesn’t do this at 100% every single time, sometimes it’s literally just “let’s work out,” get your heart rate up, break a sweat.

Despite his age, Thomas has impressive lift numbers. He deadlifts 495lbs. His clean and jerk is 265lbs. His 400m sprint PR is 1:12.

How often is Thomas “injured?”

In the 5 years that he’s been doing those types of workouts, he has been injured once. He was being ridiculous because he had the mindset of “when he was younger, he could do this,” and he seriously tried to do “that” and his body said, “hold on, you’re not 20 anymore.” He didn’t warm up properly, and he thought he could stack that weight and go for it. His groin begged to differ. It was just a strain, but he listened to it.

You have to listen to your body and know when to stop, don’t let your ego get in the way.

Working out vs. not working out for some time

When he works out he feels great. He wakes up the next day and he’s glad he did what he did. Sure, perhaps a bit sore, but nothing stretching doesn’t help. When he doesn’t work out, he feels sluggish. he almost feels like he has to take a shower and he literally feels like he needs to work out to shake the sluggish feeling off.

Advice for veteran athletes who are hesitant to work out

Hesitation is your worst enemy; it’s just another form of fear. People are scared to start over again, scared to find out where they are from where they were. Fear will keep you from doing a lot of things, and people are scared of jumping out of their comfort zone

From his personal standpoint, he can say that it’s easy to be lazy because it’s easy to do nothing. It feels good to sit there and do nothing, but the results are not the results that you actually want. Once you step out of that comfort zone, you’re going to say “why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

You can’t be scared of failure, because it allows you to put things off. Thomas learned in college is that excuses are monuments of nothing that build bridges to nowhere. If you have an excuse, you’re not going to go anywhere. Just do something.

Aging is a beautiful thing. It’s experience, it’s knowledge, it’s wisdom. But, it’s completely up to you how you choose to age. Do you want to age like a redwood, or do you want to age like milk? The choice is yours.

Check out Dr. Jablonka’s other Move More Podcast episodes!