The Natural Decline
One of my most motivating factors in training and sharing the DRT program with you is to help you do more of what you love for as long as you choose.
You have heard me mention before that I want to be riding when I am 80. So on my 40th trip around the sun, I train not only to improve the performance of my riding today but also to ensure my riding in the future.
The strength, stability, coordination and stamina I have today are the foundations of my tomorrow.
Not to scare you, but the truth is we hit our physical peak at approx age 25-30 and then from there naturally decline.
Studies show that from 25-50 we would expect to lose about 3-8% of our muscle mass per decade and it is not uncommon for a person to have lost 50% of their muscle mass and strength by the time they hit 70.
Most injuries in the elderly are the result of falls; fractures of the hip, forearm, humerus, and pelvis usually result from the combined effect of falls and osteoporosis. This is without adding a horse to the equation.
So if my goal is to ride at 80, I need to picture what that involves and work my way back from there.
Reverse Engineer Your 80th year
Envision yourself at 80 years old. What do you want to be able to do physically?
Perhaps it’s as simple as being able to walk across farmland feeling stable and balanced. To be able to catch your horse and be able to head out for a gentle hack feeling confident and stable in the saddle.
In keeping your horse, it may involve using a wheelbarrow to muck out and being able to lift your saddle and tack up your horse by yourself. To feel confident and sure-footed enough to be around horses and enjoy their company.
To have the ability to squat down to put horse boots on and bend over to pick out their hooves.
These things all require a combination of strength, coordination, balance and stamina. All things we lose as we age, unless we deliberately do something about it.
Maybe your goal is to be competing still at 80, we have members of this age out competing, so I know this can be realistic for us all to achieve. They inspire me every day!
While these activities I mentioned above may sound “simple” today, your body naturally declines with age.
With the average age of our members being 55, most of us are on the natural decline, and I am sure you have felt the decline yourself from your younger days.
I know in myself that I felt a dramatic change in my strength and stamina around age 35. Having had chronic fatigue before, I think this played some part. Suddenly my body wasn’t recovering as quick, I felt stiff and so much weaker than I remember.
My back was also becoming achy and stiff. It was my first sense of aging and my first big realisation that unless I do something more deliberate about my training, it would only get worse. Just riding wasn’t enough and wasn’t going to work anymore.
What really nailed it for me was trying to ride my young horse and being exhausted after doing so. I have fought hard to be where I am today, and after giving up riding for ten years to be able to be where I am today but not having the stamina to do so, it really hit me.
I have worked hard to finally have the horses and the property and be set up to be able to do what I love, and suddenly my body was giving me little signs to step up now or else. My mind was willing, but my body wasn’t.
Unfortunately, aging is inevitable, and I am sure I am not alone in this feeling. To fight the aging process, a deliberate practice needs to be in place and an understanding of the strength, mobility and suppleness you need to have today to easily do these “simple” activities at 80 years old or even as an active 60-70-year-old.
Remember the natural decline starts from approx age 25-30!!
How you take care of your body today matters. Your strength today is the baseline from which the natural decline drops. So what muscle mass you have today will outline how you achieve your goals tomorrow.
Without deliberate practice to maintain you can expect to keep losing approx 1% muscle mass per year, so unless you do something about that decline and fight the aging process, you can predict what your 80th year may look like.
If you have a deliberate training practice, you can slow that decline and preserve muscle mass, however, if you don’t you may notice an even staggering drop in muscle mass over that time.
There are so many things out of our control when it comes to aging, but maintaining strength and muscle mass is something you can control. Yes, there are things you can’t avoid as we age but knowing that strength is something we can control, I hope this gives you the power to take ownership of this area as you age.
If your goal is like mine to be able to continue to ride as long as you choose too, then choose to have a deliberate practice of maintaining and improving your strength too.
This will help you continue to do more of what you love, and that’s what it is all about.
Here’s another article on this topic you might enjoy – Strength training for dressage