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Your Ultimate Guide to Qualifying and Training for Senior Olympics
Alexander Stone

Fact Checked And Reviewed By Modern60, Editorial Team

By Alexander Stone, Doctor of Physical Therapy | Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Last Updated on May 7th, 2024

Senior Lifestyle

Your Ultimate Guide to Qualifying and Training for Senior Olympics

Age is just a number, and if the Senior Olympics are anything to go by, truer words were never said. Every year, thousands of seniors display their talent across various sports like basketball, golf, shuffleboard, and even endurance-testing triathlons. Senior games are an excellent opportunity to discover and nurture the sportsperson in you. If you wish to participate in this event, keep reading to learn about eligibility criteria and helpful training tips to prepare for the event

National Senior Games Association (NSGA)

National Senior Games Association (NSGA) Logo

The first Olympics for seniors was held in 1987, where a record total of 2500 competitors participated, representing 33 states to script history. It began as an initiative by a small group of older individuals to promote a healthy and active lifestyle after reaching a certain age. Three decades later, the seniors’ games have blossomed into a national phenomenon that receives massive amounts of encouragement. Participation is openly encouraged, but some qualifying criteria must be met before seniors can play to win. The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) is all set to host its upcoming exciting edition of the Senior Olympics this year in Pittsburgh.

How to register for the Senior Olympics?

The registration and participation criteria for the upcoming Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh are relatively straightforward.

  • You must be at least 50 to sign up for the games; there is no upper age limit.
  • Furthermore, in the previous year, you must have qualified for any sanctioned games featuring sporting events authorized by the state you live in or represent.
  • Besides winning games and qualifying for the National Olympic event, all athletes can enter the Olympics by meeting the minimum performance standards. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you finish first or last; meet the performance standards for specific sports in any age division, and you will be eligible for the Senior Olympics 2023.
  • Registration protocols will vary slightly depending on the state you represent, with variations in the number of games and events you can participate.

NSGA sports categories

NSGA sporting events are divided into individual sports, non-ambulatory sports, and team sports. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, and softball are team sports open to all participants over 50. Non-ambulatory sports include bowling, cornhole, and shuffleboard events. All other sports ranging from archery to triathlon events, are reserved for individual participation. You must specify the sports category during registration and qualify to participate in the district and state finals. National games eligibility is open to only those who have met these criteria.

Exercises advised by the American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Registration is just a formality that can be completed within the requested deadline. However, seniors must also be prepared physically and mentally to participate in the games. ACE- the country’s premier council on fitness, which is also a nonprofit organization – provides valuable resources for planning and fitness training to meet the eligibility requirements of the Senior Olympics.

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Free access – ACE Fitness® Exercise Library

ACE Fitness® Exercise Library Logo

The NSGA and ACE have partnered to provide study materials, video tutorials, and even complete fitness programs specially designed to prepare you for the Senior Olympics. These physical training programs are easy to search for and incorporate into your daily routine, with exercises categorized based on the body part, range of difficulty, and equipment type. In addition, there is a vast library of published articles that you can refer to and learn about everything in healthcare & fitness. All significant categories cover topics on active aging, behavior changes, training modules, lifestyle choices, healthy nutrition, and holistic care for proper recovery and outlook. You can also check out helpful tools and calculators to track changes in BMI and keep a thorough report of progress. These tools can help you understand how to track and monitor blood pressure, daily caloric needs, heart rate, and cardiovascular fitness, and even evaluate the risk of diseases.

When is state and district-level participation required?

The National Senior Games Association encourages participation from all 50 states yearly. These states are divided into five regions- the Northeast, Southeast, Great Lakes, West, and Pacific. It’s not about what rank you get placed at in the games or whether you win any events; participation is the only mandate to be eligible for NSGA.

With dates already set for the 2023 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, the qualifiers list has also been announced for people who participated in the 2022 district and state games. Participants have been chosen based on the qualification by place, minimum performance standards, qualifying down, reciprocal qualification (when an athlete is automatically qualified in a second event once they qualify for a similar event), and even participation in bonus events or limited rounds. There is no specific need to win an event to participate in the national games. This spectacular display of grit and determination is the perfect opportunity for you to break out of the boredom of routine and set an example for future generations.

Examples of statewide participation

Let’s consider the example of Michigan; to represent the state in the 2023 National Senior Games, a participant must have competed in the Michigan Senior Olympics 2022 state games. The qualifying list for 2022’s Michigan Olympics participants has already been declared for all individual, team, and non-ambulatory events across approved sporting categories. Unfortunately, according to the latest update on the event’s official website, this year’s state games will not be counted as qualifiers for the upcoming 2024 season. Similarly, for Wisconsin, the rules and regulations are similar to those listed for all eligible states. However, Wisconsin is among the few states allowing a lower age limit for men and women competing in district and state sporting events.

However, you should’ve turned 50 before competing in the National Senior Games, as the minimum age bar has been binding since the start of the Olympics. Note that all other states follow similar qualification and enrollment criteria with applications that can be sent online or by post, depending on the region and offices operating under NSGA.

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Senior Olympics – Tips for State-wise Qualification

Seniors racing at Seniors Olympics

Join one of the biggest celebrations of fitness and sporting events in the Senior Olympics 2023. With a rich history of participation that goes back more than thirty years, these games offer seniors the perfect opportunity to have a grand time outdoors. The event is open to anyone from pro athletes who have previously dominated the sport to enthusiastic new seniors looking to add energy to their retirement life. You’ve come to the right sporting event to make new memories with other senior citizens who are just as excited about the unique sporting opportunities that await here.

Signing up for the games is a straightforward step-by-step process. New applicants can view the sporting events ranging from badminton to cycling, archery to basketball, and even golf and choose any one sport for signing up. Remember, games are categorized and divided across chosen districts in the state, and all events are scheduled based on sports criteria. Once you sign up, the committee will provide an email confirmation, and you can check the schedule of games for the chosen sport. Entry forms can also be filled out and mailed to the authorities before the deadline.

Participation in the district games is necessary for locking in a spot in the state finals that will be held next year. All athletes aged 50 or above residing in the state or up to 30 miles from the border can enjoy a spot in the district and state games regardless of the result. Here, everybody who takes fitness seriously and prioritizes an active lifestyle is a certified winner!

Best training tips and suggestions to follow before joining the Senior Olympics

Preparing for the senior games is an experience wherein you must focus on the physical and mental aspects of training.

Start slow and step up gradually

Senior man stretching

There is a significant difference between training at a young age and training when you are an older adult. Plan a systematic approach to achieving the level of fitness you aim for. Setting a goal first will help you get on track one day at a time. For example, if you want to participate in track and field events that demand a certain level of endurance and stamina, plan your exercise to warm up the body slowly. Pace your training with a few laps or sets and increase it daily so that you will be prepared before the start of the event. Setting realistic goals and pacing yourself will help build the endurance and stamina needed for events like the triathlon. The triathlon is one of the most challenging and physically grueling events for seniors, with 400M swimming followed by 20K cycling and a 5K road race for the finish. These three different sports modes require different levels of cardio and fitness with a focus on controlling breathing.

Form is important

women working out on exercise ball

Exercising regularly but with incorrect form or posture can seriously increase the risk of injury, especially among older adults. After a certain age, the body cannot generate the bone density and muscle mass necessary for endurance activities. Therefore, you must train with proper form and take the help of a professional trainer or athlete who has competed in such sporting events. Professionals know ways to prepare themselves for these events without pushing their bodies too hard. After 50 or 60 years of age, you should avoid pushing yourself beyond the limits to preserve function and avoid chronic diseases.

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Eat well

Seniors enjoying breakfast in morning

Daily nutrition is another crucial factor that will help boost strength to compete in the Seniors Olympics. Bones require calcium and vitamin D to maintain strength; muscles need vitamins A, C, D, and E to grow and maintain tone. And overall, the body requires essential B vitamins and minerals that support physical activities like lifting weights, running for long distances, and even later for recovery. Your daily nutritional habits must be changed to include healthy foods and beverages that supplement proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and immunity-boosting nutrients.

Balance your routine

Balance your routine to stay fit

Plan adequate warm-up exercises before working out and stretching after completing the exercise to reduce the risk of muscle injuries. Warm-up and cool-down exercises increase blood flow and prepare the muscle groups for a heavy-duty workout. Plan a mix of strength and cardio exercises as instructed by the trainer to target specific muscle groups. If you are preparing for a specific sporting event, focus on the exercises that will boost either strength for lifting or cardio for long-distance endurance.

Consult your healthcare providers

Consult your healthcare providers

Discuss with your doctors to understand what all changes can be incorporated into your routine after considering your present condition. If any underlying chronic ailments demand treatment, discuss options to manage these problems better while preparing for such sporting events. Any recent injury or physical discomfort must be appropriately addressed before you start working out and training for events like triathlons. Once your primary care physician gives the nod, you can proceed to plan for the Senior Olympics. You will have plenty of time to make new changes and adjustments to your daily routine. It is only possible to participate in the national games after meeting the requirements for the district and state games held in the previous year.

Get enough rest

Women taking proper sleep

Rest and recovery are important aspects of training regimes for any sporting event. The body and mind need adequate rest to recover from a hard day of training and other activities included in your daily routine. Good rest and recovery promote better muscle health and prevent complications like cramps or muscle soreness from affecting your peak performance. You must prioritize sleep. Inadequate sleep will negatively affect your performance, and your body will take longer to recover after working out.

Senior Olympics is more than an active effort to get older adults to consider their fitness seriously. The reason why crowds gather to witness this event wherein senior citizens actively compete is because of a cultural phenomenon of encouragement. Senior games are more than just winning medals, setting records, and achieving accolades. The enthusiasm to prove that age is merely a number is one of the main driving forces behind such initiatives.

What more motivation do you need to be a part of something so unique and spectacular? Visit the official website today and sign up for the district and state games to begin your journey to the National Senior Olympics next year!

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Alexander Stone

Written By

Alexander Stone

Doctor of Physical Therapy | Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

  • Alex Stone is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA).
  • He is experienced in orthopedics and sports medicine, and creates educational content for websites + social media pages (@dr.alexstone). He is passionate about health science education and general health/wellness optimization.

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