Staying powerful over 40: Basketball and Tennis
Just because you’ve hit age 40 or older on life’s highway doesn’t mean you have to give up playing sports that take a lot of athleticism, like basketball and tennis. While you likely will have a tougher time showing the agility of players in their 20s or maybe even 30s, with training and smarts it’s possible to still keep up whit the youngsters. Or even show them a thing or two, old-school style. Here are three key components for over-40 athletes that can apply to basketball and tennis. I’ve grouped both sports together because they take similar conditioning and footwork to be successful.
Basketball and tennis players can both benefit from lifting weights. Pay particular attention to movements that will strengthen your knees, shoulders and calf muscles. For knees, do leg extensions and leg curls to build up the muscles around the knee. For shoulders, do front raises and side (lateral) raises with lighter dumbbells, and overhead presses with heavier weights. Do calf raises while holding dumbbells, on a machine or even standing on stairs while being careful to keep your balance. As we get older, we become more vulnerable to injuries. So always remember to stretch before and after any physical activity.
STAY IN SHAPE DOING CARDIO
It’s going to take more effort than when you were younger to keep up your stamina on the court. To avoid being THAT GUY of THAT GAL who is bent over huffing and puffing after just a few fastbreaks on the hoops court, or long rallies on the tennis court, practice a regular cardio routine. Just playing sports will help endurance, but on the side you can do a lot more. Try to get 30 minutes or more of cardio several times a week. Running on a treadmill, using an elliptical or riding a bike are all good ways to get a good cardio workout.
SPECIALIZE YOUR GAME MORE
When players are young they often want to do it all on the court. In basketball that might mean leading the fastbreak, driving the lane, shooting the 3-pointer and maybe even rising up for a dunk. After age 40, you have to earn respect all over again. It will be much harder to be the all-around Basketball Jones you were years ago, so concentrate on specializing more. Instead of trying to take the ball inside as much — where, let’s face it you’re more likely to get hacked anyway — work more on your 3-point shot. Learn a ball fake into a fadeaway mid-range jumper. Try to become the John Stockton of your league known for good passes, rather than emulating Air Jordan or LeBron James with drives to the hoop. In tennis, you might want to focus on more consistent strokes from the baseline rather than charging the net as much. Go for more accuracy on the serve instead of trying to hit it as hard as you can.
One of the biggest improvements to my game came last year when I visited a specialty shoe store. Turns out I had been wearing a shoe that was a 1-2 size too small for most of my adult life. The salesman put me in a 1-2 size bigger shoe, recommended a shoe insole and it’s just about gotten rid of problems I’d been having with my Achilles’ tendon. So if you have foot, Achilles or calf problems, you might want to reconsider what shoes you’re wearing. When we’re young we’re taught to make sure the toes come to the edge of the shoe, but you should actually have a little extra room for shock absorption.