Stress, Adaptation, Recovery – Powerlifting lessons for the older folk

16 May Stress, Adaptation, Recovery – Powerlifting lessons for the older folk

We’ve seen this for years. Young men at the beginning of summer start hauling hay and that first day is almost murder for them. But after hauling hay for a few weeks, they get leaner and stronger. It was very hard to load 400 bales on the trailer and stack them in the barn on the first day.  By the third week, it’s become pretty easy. Even as older people, we have the ability to apply stress to our bodies, to then recover, and then to have an adaptive response that leaves us stronger than we were at the beginning. For very young people, that process is quick and the adaptation is quite large. For older people, it’s slower and the adaptation is smaller, but training session after training session, day-by-day, you’ll find that what was at first very hard or too heavy, becomes easy and light.

Step one in this process requires stress, so we apply a stress to our body. We pick up something very heavy, we push something very heavy, and it’s stressful. Our training will be stressful, but it’s low impact. It’s stressful, it’s not water aerobics. It won’t be soothing but it is low impact. It won’t hurt your joints and you’ll be safe.  We’ll apply that stress every training session. After applying that stress, you’ll need to recover.

Next, after training, your job is to go home and recover  Do not do more exercises or practice or stretch.  Just rest. Rest and sleep aids your recovery more than anything. Get that rest and get your sleep. Also, part of recovery is eating enough food. I have found that older people do not want to eat enough food to maintain their muscle tissue and their strength. You’ll need more carbohydrates than normal. You’ll need more calories than you have normally been eating. But more important than any of those things is you’ll need more protein than you normally have been eating. Ideally, we would have a trainee eat one gram of protein each day for each pound of body weight they have. So a 150 pound woman would eat a minimum 150 grams of protein a day. Research has shown that older people do not use protein as efficiently as younger people. Powerlifters and strength trainees have known over the years that the older we get, the more protein we need to do the work we need to do. It’s my experience that women in their 50s or more typically eats very few grams of protein each day.  Often as low as 50 or 60 grams of protein each day> That will not be enough. If you can, please eat at least a chicken breast extra every day. Try to get as much protein as you can.

Three: adaptation. Once we’ve applied the stress, once we’ve done the recovery, your body will take care of the adaptation. We apply a stress on Monday, we recover and apply that stress again on Wednesday.  Every time we apply the stress and come back and do our next training session, we’ll find that we can lift a little more weight than we could before. After we’ve done many, many training sessions, tens or maybe even dozens, each of those adaptive responses will have piled up on top of each other, ounce by ounce, ounce by ounce. Our force production will increase, and we’ll find that in a few weeks or months that we’re quite a lot stronger than we were when we started, and what was once too hard is now easy.