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Tips For Older Rollers
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Tips For Older Rollers

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We are fortunate to live at a time when people are living longer.  But as we are living longer lives, we have to deal with the question of how we're going to spend all of that extra time.


After all, what's the point of a longer life if we're just going to squander it in front of the TV?  And compared to other countries, Americans spend too much time working as it is, so why do more of that?  


After a while, there's just nothing new or interesting on our social media feeds.  Sooner or later, our friends will be all texted out and have nothing new to say.  And Doodle Jump got boring a long time ago.


So, what should 40-, 50-, or 60-somethings do to fill up all that time stretching out in front of them?  For a lot of us, the answer is that we're going to do that thing that we've always wanted to do.  


Whether it's learning to play a musical instrument, taking up a team sport like hockey or softball, learning tap or ballroom dancing, or studying a martial art, many adults are going back to explore an interest that was previously reserved for the young.


For many of us, the decision is about more than just passing the time.  As employers increasingly treat workers as disposable products, it has become unlikely that any of us will work for the same company our entire lives.

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Whereas our great-grandfathers might have found meaning in being a "company man" and earning that gold watch at retirement, this is simply not an option for most of us.  In fact, today, a life coach would probably tell us that we're missing out on opportunities for growth and higher pay if we stay put and don't test the job market.


At the same time, for many of us in our 40s and 50s, our schedules are suddenly opening up as our children leave the nest.  As they become more independent and move out, our schedules are no longer glutted with their activities.


Not only do empty nesters need something to fill up our empty schedules, we actually deserve it!  For years, we've dutifully attended school functions, helped with homework, and watched our kids' pee wee sports games.  We've shuttled our kids from here to there and back again.


But for many of us--especially those interested in a physical activity like dancing or Jiu Jitsu--our desire to get out there and try something new smacks into a nagging doubt: "Am I too old?"


I think the best response to this question is to remind yourself that you'll be even older next year.  So, you'd better start now!


Of course, for those of us starting off in a strenuous activity, it's important that we maintain our perspective.  We're doing this for ourselves and for our own enjoyment, after all.  Playing on an amateur hockey team won't catapault us into the majors.  Starting our BJJ journey at middle age, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we will not be the next Georges St. Pierre or Gordon Ryan.  


That doesn't mean we can't be darn good.  That doesn't mean we can't aim for that black belt.  And that doesn't mean that we shouldn't expect our age and experience to level the playing field against younger but less-experienced teammates.  We might even choose to compete in local tournaments that offer "Master" and "Senior" brackets.


But it might mean we need to take a second look at the BJJ academy we choose.  Enrolling in a school with a heavy emphasis on competition or on grooming students for MMA careers may feel like constantly rubbing salt in an open wound to an older grappler whose prime years are past.


An academy with more of an emphasis on self-defense may be a better choice.  There, an older grappler may find a place with more of an emphasis on technique instead of competition (not that technique isn't important in competition).


Keeping our perspective also means that we take care of ourselves.  Stretching becomes serious business for older grapplers--both before and after a class or open mat.  Ligaments and tendons become brittle with age, so we need to be diligent in our efforts to maintain them.


We may even want to talk to a knowledgeable doctor before starting Jiu Jitsu.  A frank discussion with a doctor can help to map out an approach to grappling that limits injury and promotes a lasting relationship with BJJ.


That discussion may include some use of supplements for joint health or a change in diet.


Likewise, we need to be mindful that recovery time--both for serious injuries as well as minor aches and pains--will be longer for us than for some of our younger training partners.  This will probably be the single biggest limitation we face compared to our younger teammates.  They can bounce out of bed the next day while we take a bit longer to get back to bouncing shape.


All in all, it'll be worth it.  Though we may have to begin with a bit more forethought and planning than a 22-year-old, this is still a journey that we can take.


The alternative is to spend long, tedious evenings watching bad television.

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