Exercise in Old Age

This week I had a big girl job interview and as part of it I had to present a ten minute speech about increasing exercise participation in a target population. I researched it quite a lot and there was a large amount I couldn’t actually fit into the time frame so I decided to write it up into a post. Enjoy!

There is a general trend that as our age increases our exercise levels decrease. There are many reasons for this; time constraints, money constraints, or general tiredness from our busy lives. However 3/4s of the older adult population are not exercising to recommended levels. Evans (1999) went so far as to say that there is no segment of the population that can benefit more from exercise than the elderly.

Exercise is of course wonderful for our health – even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. For the elderly population, exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure, reduce risks of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and help with weight management. Exercise programmes that focus on improving balance and strength can decrease the number of falls and reduce physical frailty, so any falls are less risk. In depressed elderly adults, meeting for group exercise can provide social support and reduce depression symptoms.

If exercise is so great then why aren’t they doing it? It could be a generational thing – my generation has a greater exposure to gyms, races, activities, even healthy food, yet for the older generation this is relatively new; they’ve never had cross-fit, wolf runs, or tough mudders. Gyms can be a scary place – there’s a lot of equipment that they don’t know how to work. Bodies suffer wear and tear so this generation has a fear of injury – particularly re-injury of joint replacements. Another factor is that many of this generation must rely on public transport to get around so that can take a lot of effort and may not be on a route to a sports centre.

What exercises can this group do?

Any casual exercise programme should be straightforward and fun – aerobics and dancercise classes fit that bill. The music can be adjusted to songs from their “heyday” such as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, old school fifties Rock and Roll. It can also be adapted to different abilities: for people who find it easy, small hand weights can be provided of a few kilograms which emulates lifting shopping and laundry; for people who struggle with balance then exercises can be performed whilst sitting down like swinging legs and tapping feet; aerobics can also be performed in the water which relieves the impact on joints and reduces risk of injury. health-fitness_04_temp-1306750736-4de36f10-620x348Another great, but under performed, activity is Tai Chi. It’s a martial art but not a typical combat one. It involves balance and shifting weight between the legs which makes it excellent for elderly people because the focus is on improving balance. It is also a low demand activity involving slow, flowing movements – perfect for people who currently do not exercise, or are unable to exert themselves too much. It can be adapted for people in wheelchairs, and can settle people who are perhaps restless in retirement. Tai Chi can also reduce the number of falls in this population too.

Sooooo, anyone for Tai Chi?


A Rugby Primer

Rugby is played worldwide but perhaps doesn’t garner the same level of coverage as other sports. It’s from my hometown so I feel responsible to spread the word about the one sport England always dominates…

Rugby School and the pitch the game was invented on 

A quick primer about rugby

Legend has it that William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran during a game of football at Rugby School. Rules were established at Rugby School, Cambridge, and Eton (hence the idea that it is a gentleman’s game). rugbyA few variations of rugby now exist, including union, league, touch, and sevens. When rugby is spoken of, it is usually in reference to rugby union – the most popular form. Rugby union is a contact team sport played between two teams of 15 players, divided into eight forwards and seven backs. The pitch is 144m x 70m and goal posts are 5.6m apart with a crossbar 3m above ground. The game lasts 80 minutes, split into two halves.

A try: grounding the ball in the in-goal area and is worth five points then a conversion kick can give an additional two points.
A drop goal: kicking the ball through the H shaped goal post wins three points.
– A penalty kick gives three points too.

Rugby is unique in that forward passing is not allowed. The ball must only be passed laterally or behind therefore to move the ball forwards, it can be kicked, ran, or moved within a scrum or maul. Tackles are used to gain possession: tacklers cannot tackle above the shoulder and must attempt to wrap their arms around the player to complete the tackle. It’s illegal to push, trip, or shoulder charge.

England during a line out

There are two specific set pieces. A line out occurs when the ball leaves the side of the field and a ‘throw in’ is awarded against the team that last touched the ball. Fowards line up a metre apart slightly away from the touch line and players can be lifted by team mates to catch the ball. A scrum restarts the game after an infringement such as passing forward or offside. If a team is granted a penalty, they can choose to take a scrum. The eight forwards of each team line up into a 3-4-1 formation and the ball is rolled between them; the hooker will try to hook the ball backwards with their feet whilst the pack tries to push the other team backwards to gain possession.

The Scrum

It can be a rough and bloody game, and some players choose to wear headguards to avoid cauliflower ears, and the majority wear mouth guards – but that’s basically it in terms of protective equipment. Most players at a national level are built like tanks.




The competition began in 1883 – and was once known as the home nations. Originally, it featured England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. France joined in 1910 making it the five nations, however, during 1931-1939, France did not compete. Italy wanted in on the fun in 2000 and thus the six nations was born. The competition is held every year for five weeks in February/March. England is the current title holder and are currently top of the table with two games left to play. england-celebrate-six-nations-trophy_3435642.jpg

Not only can one country win the six nations, but they can also complete a grandslam victory where they beat the other five teams. A grandslam is also known as caithréim mhór, y gamp lawn, or le grand chelem in Irish, Welsh, and French, respectively. This has actually happened thirty seven times – thirteen of those by England, eleven by Wales.

They love trophies…

  • The Triple Crown – awarded to one of the home nations if they beat the other three. England achieved this feat in 2016 and have completed it 25 times.
  • The Calcutta Cup – awarded to victor of England vs Scotland
  • The Millennium Trophy – awarded to victor of England vs Ireland
  • The Centenary Quaich – awarded to victor of Ireland vs Scotland
  • The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy – awarded to victor of Italy vs France
  • The Wooden Spoon – also known as my favourite – is awarded to the loser of the six nations (savage) and if a team loses every single match then it’s a white wash. Italy have won it eleven times since 2000. That’s the one ‘trophy’ that England and Ireland have not won.


There is also a rugby world cup held every four years (next one coming in 2019 hosted by Japan) and the current holders are New Zealand. The trophy is named after the founder, Webb Ellis. This competition only actually began in 1987 – and the inaugural world cup was also won by New Zealand. The All Blacks have a third world cup win, giving them the honour of the most titles. Before their games, they also perform a haka, which is fantastic to watch (the one linked is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen!). South Africa and Australia have won twice, and England once with the sweetest drop goal from our hero, Jonny Wilkinson, in extra time to win the game. (One of the English world cup winners is also the grandson in law of Queen Elizabeth, neato).



This haka performed at Jonah Lomu’s funeral is spine tingling too. Jonah was the youngest ever All Black and a true superstar player, but died aged 40 of a heart attack relating to a serious kidney disorder that had ended his career and resulted in a kidney transplant.

Let’s Get Physical

Those immortal lyrics of Olivia Newton-John should hopefully be ringing in your ears. Over the next couple of weeks there will be a series of blogs about (the very basics) of training and original resources will be provided. Feel free to utilise them, share them, laugh at them etc.

I’ve knocked up a simple  fitness testing sheet that can be printed out and be used to asses fitness pre/post  a training plan. The majority of it doesn’t require too much advanced equipment. It’s better to do the testing across the same day and perform the exercises in the same order upon completion of a fitness plan. This is basic but covers the main areas of fitness.

Also, the pacer/beep test can be found here

fitness testing.jpg

Coaching Tips Cont.

Yesterday we posted the first five coaching tips which can be found here. Now the part you’ve all been waiting for, tips six through to ten. Enjoy!

  1. Three Second Game
    1. Netball and ultimate already use this in their sports, but using a three second rule can be beneficial to improving decision making. Some coaches may argue that intelligent and quick decision making in a game is more of an instinct than something that can be taught – but it’s a poor excuse. Excellent players will have that natural decision making but you can improve it in other players, and it seems that coaches who refuse to believe that can never actually suggest a way to improve it.
    2. In a match (either full team or reduced numbers), have one coach count to three each time the ball is in a player’s possession; players should be moving the ball on ‘two’, and if it’s not been passed by ‘three’ then the opposing team is given a free.
  2. Increase the traffic
    1. This tip is by far my favourite to employ near the end of training on a Friday at 9pm when the team just wants to go home and get ready to party. Have multiple drills running (can be the same or different ones) then once players are adjusted to them, bring the sets closer together so players not only have to concentrate on their own drill, but the other one too to make them aware of the space. Just beware of collisions!
  3. Silence
    1. Good communication skills are vital to teams, but the best partnerships – think the Two-Headed Monster or Xavi and Iniesta – say that they just know where the other player will be and don’t have to talk much
    2. Start a game, let it flow then play it for five minutes in complete silence – no talking to the referee, no calling for passes, no reminding to mark. Any communication results in a free for the opposite team. It forces players to focus and it can make them frustrated (hence why only short bursts should be used).
  4. What can you add?
    1. Being a substitute player can suck – nobody wants to live on the bench. Substitutes might be brought on due to another’s injury, other times to change the game – and how can a coach encourage a substitute to have an instant impact? Ask the substitute ‘what can you add to the game?’ What do you bring to the game that the first team player doesn’t? It provides focus and motivation.
  5. Opportunity vs Time
    1. This isn’t a tip I’ve employed but definitely one I should consider. A Gaelic football coach from the 90s substituted players or had them switch positions early on in the game, and when asked why he didn’t let them have more time to settle into the game, he explained that time had little to do with his decision.
    2. only count opportunities not time.

    3. If a player has 4 opportunities to win a tackle but loses three of them then they need to be changed before their confidence is shattered – it didn’t matter if this occurs over a five minute period or an entire first half. The switch isn’t to say the player isn’t good enough, only that this isn’t your spot today so we’ll try you somewhere else.

A final piece of advice: a coaching session needs to hit the four principles listed below and these tips roughly cover each area. Coaches need to know their sport, be knowledgeable, offer advice, be flexible, but importantly be supportive – no matter what level or age coached.


Coaching Tips

Here at the Mighty Pucks we try to educate you every now and then so it’s about time we gave some practical advice – just in case Therrien is reading this and fancies improving his coaching abilities. I was thrust into coaching a sport I had only played for a couple of years purely because we had nobody else to coach the team then I spent the next two years learning how to balance being a good coach and a good player. These tips come from my own experiences as well as a coaching course I attended – to apply them to a variety of team sports I’ve kept them as general as possible.

  1. Drills vs Games
    1. Drills are there to develop the necessary skills – and it’s great if drills can mimic game settings as closely as possible. However, running games in a training session is crucial for actually putting the technique into practice and having the opportunity to make the right decision, plus it’s less pressure than a competitive game.
  2. Technique to Team Play
    1. We’ve seen players not fulfill their potential despite being heralded as The Next Big Thing, which is sometimes due to their playing style not suiting the team. This is something a coach must rectify; an individual’s technique must be able to fit in with the team.
  3. Cut the Queues
    1. For someone who plays a winter sport in shorts and a t-shirts, this is probably the tip that I really tried to implement when I took over as coach. When running drills, players should not work for 3-4 seconds then rest for another forty seconds. Don’t let queues build up. It’s a very easy problem to fix – duplicate the drill and split the players between it.
    2. The WORK:REST ratio should be implemented for drills. A good rule of thumb is for a jogging drill it should be 1:1; 30 seconds jogging, 30 seconds rest – then for a speed drill 1:4 or 1:5, so 10 second sprinting and 40 seconds rest.
  4. Probables vs Possibles
    1. Whilst most commonly used in rugby, this is a useful tip for cohesion. Have the probable team for the next match play against the “left overs”. This lets the probable match team get acquainted with each other and develop cohesion. It also allows a substitute or secondary player from the possibles team to catch the coach’s eye if they’re putting up a stellar performance against the better players on the probable team. On the flipside, it allows a coach to see who isn’t fitting in with the probables and not really pulling their weight.
    2. However, don’t forget it’s good to play the strongest forwards vs strongest defensive players sometimes too.
  5. Spot and Fix
    1. Perhaps more appropriate at youth/beginner levels, however even experienced players can still have incorrect techniques. There is no such thing as a perfect player. Coaches ought to be able to spot and correct players’ techniques; not correcting them is tantamount to saying “they’ve never been able to do it right” and focusing on improving their fitness instead.

Self-Determination Theory

Is this all there is? A question that has plagued humankind for a long time. Our pursuit of knowledge and growth has ensured that each generation extend themselves further than the previous due to our innate need to grow. The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) holds that we seek to resolve psychological inconsistencies and satisfy needs, therefore interventions focus on facilitation, support, and nurture.

There are three fundamental needs and a good way to really understand them is thinking about the PK//Weber trade:sdt1

  • Autonomy – volition and agency is your actions aka when PK was traded to Nashville, it was not an autonomous decision from him.
  • Competence – the need to feel effective within your environment and experience the optimal exercise of your capabilities e.g. PK is more than a competent player – he’s incredible but I’m biased – however Therrien didn’t feel he had competence in Montreal so bye bye Pernell
  • Relatedness – the need to experience mutually satisfying social relationships… Therrien banned the triple low five between Carey Price and PK Subban because they had an overwhelmingly satisfying social relationship, and it is one he cannot relate to

So there we have our basic needs. But not everybody will seek to have meaningful relationships, be autonomous, or be competent at what they do; and for some it will not be of their own free choice. We all know that going running is great for the body and the mind, but let’s be honest – it is awful. So why do people run? It’s all down to different motivations.


On this spectrum amotivation is a complete lack of intention to engage in a behaviour (definitely me on the running front). External regulation is running because others have pressure me to go and if I don’t go running then I have to cook dinner/I get to run and come home and eat dinner. Introjected regulation is accompanied by a negative emotional tone and an inner conflict because you don’t value the activity but you have a high demand to do it. I must go running or else I will feel guilty about not going. A little further along the scale there is identified regulation whereby you engage in a behaviour because it has personally valued outcomes. I run because it has health benefits and is good for my asthma therefore it’s important that I do (no matter how much I cry). Integrated regulation means the activity fits with your own sense of self, I run because I am a runner. Now this is different to intrinsic motivation where you run just because you love running and love a challenge (very strange). The goal is to shift motivations closer to intrinsic.

You can have all these needs and the desire to achieve them but you need an environment where you can thrive. Think of PK in Montreal. Quality player, good relationships, he was the only player who had his sh*t together last season, the city of Montreal really loved him – they still love him – he gave a lot to charity and got involved with the community. So naturally, you trade this player from his facilitating environment………… Likewise, Shea Weber was very loved in Nashville and served as their captain. Changing environments can be a strange experience, so another part of SDT is to maintain a facilitating environment to nurture the three needs. Conversely, one that is controlling, over-challenging or rejects an individual’s needs will result in defensive behaviours and psychological withdrawal. Take Tyler Seguin who started out alright in Boston, but he was a young guy with the world at his feet on a team where the majority were married and settled down and the management began to restrict him. Send him to Dallas, with an environment that better fits him and what a turn-around in his stats. How do you provide a supportive environment?

  • sdt3Autonomy Support – provision of options, minimise pressure, encourage them to initiate their own actions
  • Structure – Positive feedback, clear and realistic expectations, behaviour-outcome relations are understood by both
  • Involvement  – emotional support, genuine interest, empathy


(If you really want to thwart someone’s needs then be controlling, give unstructured or negative feedback, and alienate them!).



Imagery is a way of cognitively reproducing or visualising an object, scene, or sensation, as though it were occurring in overt, physical reality. One of the easiest ways to do this for yourself is to close your eyes and imagine yourself peeling an orange. Think of your nail scraping through the peel, the smell of the fruit, the stickiness of the fruit. And that’s imagery in the simplest of terms. It can be used in sport to visualise movements, e.g. complex  sequences in gymnastics, or slow motion imaging of taking a penalty kick.


Imagery can be internal or external therefore it’s essential that you assess whether athlete’s have a preference. This can be done using the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire which assesses whether athletes visualise the movement as watching themselves, through their own eyes, or by feeling it.

An imagery script can be written with an athlete to maximise the effects of imagery. The more vivid the actions and emotions are, the more valuable the script will be. It’s good to do this with the athlete, with only a small amount of input to help them, as it ought to be written in terms they will use as they are the one using the script. Scripts should include salient details to generate a good image.

Step 1: Tell the basic story Step 2: Add the details Step 3: Refining the script
Descriptors Action/Emotional Words

e.g. Usain Bolt is writing an imagery script to prepare himself for the 100m sprint.

Step 1: Getting ready

Step 2:Excited but energized, nervous, confident, aware of crowd buzzing

Step 3: I am getting ready for the start of the final in the 100 metre sprint. I am excited but energized, nervous but confident in my ability.

The script can help an athlete to focus and prepare themselves prior to a performance. As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Imagine standing on a putting surface seven feet from the hole. The hole lies at the top of a slight incline. You are aligned to the ball with an effortless stance. Your arms, wrists and putter are a single, relaxed but firm unit. You begin your backswing which is performed with a smooth pendulum like movement. As you make contact with the ball, your forward swing glides above the surface as you maintain a solid flowing form. – Holistic Imagery Script for a golfer

Injury Related Imagery

Imagery can also be used during injury rehabilitation as it can accelerate the process in some cases. If an athlete has injured their knee and has never come across imagery before then a good method is to show them the x-ray and highlight the damage then have the athlete visualise it. Then imagery can be introduced for the physiotherapy exercises used for rehab. Injured athletes have reported using it prior to performing exercises, to maintain their sport-specific abilities, and to motivationally image themselves as healthy. To assess motivational, cognitive, and healing functions of imagery, the Athletic Injury Imagery Questionnaire (Sordoni, Hall, & Forwell, 2002) is used.