What Phil Mickelson’s win can teach us about staying fit over 50

Phil Mickelson holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Less than a month shy of his 51st birthday, Phil Mickelson beat out other pro players in their 20s, 30s and 40s to become the oldest PGA Championship winner in history.

How older adults can regain their game after being cooped up for over a year

While we can’t all be pro athletes, Mickelson’s win shows us that we surely can extend our active years when we take proactive measures to stay fit.
If you’ve been watching Mickelson throughout his decades-long golf career, you likely noticed a visible transformation — for the better — in his fitness as he’s gotten older. To learn more about what changed, I reached out to my friend Dave Phillips, co-founder of Titleist Performance Institute, who is a longtime friend and health and wellness advisor to Mickelson.

Be conscious of what you put in your body

Staying healthy means saying no, perhaps a lot. There’s “a high-level lifestyle that goes along with being a high-level athlete, which can include many decadent meals out with expensive bottles of wine,” Phillips said. “In those situations, it gets difficult to say no.”
Although the general population might not be offered lavish meals as regularly as a pro athlete, almost anyone can relate to the temptations our favorite foods and drinks present. Over many years of giving in to our indulgences, the extra calories and fat can add up.

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“When we age, we don’t burn fat as easily,” Phillips said. “Phil got to the point where he recognized that and started becoming much more conscious about what he puts in his body.”
Becoming more health-conscious about eating doesn’t have to mean counting all your calories or avoiding your favorite foods altogether. It’s about viewing food as fuel, taking in mostly unprocessed foods, and ensuring you give your body the time and activity levels necessary to metabolize what you eat.

Maintain mobility and build a base of strength

According to Phillips, Mickelson has always been flexible but, like everyone else, as he aged, he had to work harder to maintain his mobility.
On top of that, Phillips said Mickelson worked with his trainer, TPI-certified coach Sean Cochran, to add a bigger base of strength.
“This is really important because, as we age — especially in our 50s, 60s and 70s — we lose muscle mass,” Phillips said. “Also, without strength, you can’t really use your mobility. You need that base of strength behind your range of motion.”

Think about it: You need the mobility to take a full, fluid swing with your golf club, but without strength, you won’t have any power behind your swing.
The same applies to any physical activity we take part in — even simply playing with our kids, grandkids and pets. We want to have the ability to run around and move freely, but also the strength and power to throw a ball and lift up those loved ones.

Additionally, maintaining muscle mass is important for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Having more muscle means we burn more calories all the time, not just when we’re exercising.
Even more importantly, having a solid base of both strength and mobility decreases our risk of injury in all aspects of life.

Train based on your current fitness level

As a TPI-certified coach, I am familiar with the structure of Mickelson’s program. All TPI programs are built off the results of an assessment, which is designed to help you become aware of how well you currently move and where you have deficits in your ability to move. There is no question that Mickelson’s trainer assesses him regularly to ensure that his training program focuses on exactly what he needs in a safe, effective manner.
Mickelson’s win and his fitness transformation should serve as inspiration for anyone over 50 to get back in shape. But to do it safely, it’s important to start where you are, building up from your current fitness level, and avoid an injury that would hamper your progress.


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