I have been training really hard for the past month, kicking drills, running, jumping rope, aerobics, and stretching. My legs have been really tight for three days now. I have tried soaking in the tub with hot water, tiger balm, etc. I even give myself leg massages when I come home from TKD training and resting my muscles for three days. I'm supposed to compete in a tournament in a few days and I'm afraid I will be useless. What can I do to loosen my legs? I am a 40 year old, 5'6 “, female, 1st dan. My sparring style is powerful and not as quick as I'd like. What do you suggest I do to be prepared? I'll be competing in forms and sparring. This is my first tournament as a black belt. In the past I've competed and done very well in forms, usually taking first place. Sparring I came out 1st a few times but I usually take 2nd because I'm slow. I don’t get warmed up until the match is just about over.
Sounds as if you may have contracted the insidious disease that creeps up on all of us when we least expect it and then changes our lives forever—age. No matter how much we dread it and fight against it, it infects us all. We still want to do the things we could do at a younger age, and many times we are able to do them, but we find it takes much longer for us to recover afterwards. As we get older it, we need more recovery time after intense physical activity. Also, we must be more aware of dehydration.
When you are training, you must constantly drink water, lots of water. You may not be thirsty and you may not be sweating very much but your muscles are still losing water, so your aches and pains intensify and it will take longer to recover. On tournament day, start drinking water in the morning and continuously keep drinking water before, during, and after the competition. If you are sweating profusely, you may want to substitute a sport drink occasionally to replace electrolytes, but primarily drink water. Drink water even when not thirsty. You will find your energy level will stay high longer and that you will recover more quickly in the following days. The same holds true for training sessions. As you get older, your body cannot work as efficiently as in the past and you need the extra water.
You will not be able to increase your sparring skills and physical abilities appreciably in the next few days before the tournament, so don’t bother. Rest, eat properly, train lightly, and think a lot about what you what to do at the tournament and how you will do it.
As you get older, no matter how much you hate to admit it, your reflexes get slower. In the beginning the slow down is so gradual that you don’t realize it, but you start noticing how quick your younger opponents have become. It is not so much that they are getting faster, it is that you are getting slower. Your prime physical age is at about age 30. People approaching that age train hard and every day they get better. Once you pass that age, everyday is another day past your prime. If you train hard, you may slow the rate of decline, but you will still decline.
However, not all is lost! Your body may start to decline, but your wisdom and experience increases. Instead of relying upon your body to win, start using your brain; fight smoother and more effectively. Learn to read your opponent’s minute movements and, instead of reacting to an attack, learn to anticipate the attack and act before it occurs.
As you get older, you will not act or react as quickly as in the past. Your kicks get blocked and you are just a tad too slow with your blocks. You block, but you still get scored upon. If find you are slower than your opponent, become a counter fighter. The instant you detect an attack, counterattack with a flurry. You may get hit, but you were going to get hit anyway. The opponent’s single attack may score a point, but your multiple attacks will score more points. Every time an opponent attacks, make her pay a price.
Don’t’ try to fight fire with fire. Fight fire with water. You can’t fight a younger opponent the way they fight you, you have to make them fight your fight. By anticipating their attacks, you make them think you are reading their minds. This will slow their actions and reactions by the split second that you have lost due to age, and it may help even the playing field.
As you get older, you have to warm and stretch your muscles before a fight, and you must keep them warm and stretched. Don’t stand around waiting for your match. Get warm and keep moving and stretching up until the moment you enter the ring. If you win, keep moving and stretching until the next match. If you cool down between matches, you will not only tighten up, but it will take longer to get back up to speed, which may be too late.