On March 8, 2016, we hosted the webinar, “Geriathletics: Training Competitive Athletes Over 65 with High Intensity Underwater.” Mike Studer, President and Co-owner of Northwest Rehabilitation Associates located in Salem, Oregon, presented key information to tailor aquatic programs for senior competitive senior athletes involved in activities such as recreational running and even triathlons._DSC7393web

Mike has been designated as a certified fitness expert in the Aging Adult (CEEAA) by the Geriatrics section of APTA, and the goal of his webinar was to accomplish the three main objectives he set in the beginning of his presentation.

To leave the attendee with the ability to:

  1. Identify strategies for implementing aquatics in competitive sports including programs for athletes over 65 years old.
  2. Critically appraise and utilize literature on and empirical evidence of aquatics in high level performance athletes.
  3. Identify and apply evidence for and properties of high intensity training with aquatics.

Mike used different research findings to demonstrate that neither high resistance training nor high endurance training is better than the other, rather a combination of both types of training styles results in the most improved strength in aging athletes.

He shared sharing that there are five different applications of aquatic principles that specifically help the older athletes, those being:

  1. Strength Training/ Plyometrics
  2. High Intensity Interval Training
  3. Complement to Land-Based Training
  4. Jet Resistance Applications
  5. Kinesthetic Training

Mike elaborated on each application of aquatic training and the specific benefits that are associated with each. Along with an example of different exercises for each application, he compared land training to underwater training and the different aspects that go into both of these styles. Mike concluded the informational portion of his webinar by going through five specific benefits of using water for training geriathletes; buoyancy, viscosity, hydrostatic pressure, warm temperature and motor control environment.

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The webinar was exceptionally informative with a lot of practical ideas that could be implemented immediately for those working with geriathletes, like Mike is doing in Salem, OR. Because it was so engaging, it also garnered a lot of great questions. A few of them are reviewed below:

Do you only typically train older athletes after they have had some type of injury or do you commonly treat healthy athletes as well?

We do both. We have a few different approaches and we train some before they have a surgery to have a more successful outcome post-surgery. We’ll additionally take some healthy athletes that want to get back into their competitive sport that have no medical diagnosis or injury.

How often do you do these water training programs for this demographic and how long would a typical session be?

For the longer endurance athlete, like an IronMan, it would be typical for us to go two times per week during training season for them as they are leading up to competitive events. We might use it a little more frequently during a taper week, a two week period right before competition, where we want to limit the exposure to impact. Typical sessions are going to be 45 minutes to an hour, and as the endurance athlete continues participating in things such as an IronMan we can go longer like 90 minutes when needed.

Is there a specific speed of the treadmill that you’ve found that you use most often with this group and what would be the maximum speed of the treadmill you would use?

We’re plus or minus in the 5.5 mph range for a lot of these individuals, understanding that it is going to be very typical for us to use our high intensity interval application by adjusting the resistance jets.


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