David Mutton is one of the founders of Land & Wave. His role within the company remains physically active and he's acutely aware of how important good physical and mental health is to sustaining an outdoor career in your late 30s and 40s. Here's the advice he wished he'd listened to in his younger years...
"I’ve been working in sport and outdoor adventure for 20 years now. It’s what I love doing. Next year I’ll turn 40 and if I was a professional sportsperson I’d be retired or sent to the scrapheap by now. Thankfully the outdoor industry is more forgiving and fingers crossed I hope that I have a few years in me yet.
When I first started this career, I didn’t appreciate or respect the importance of physical and mental health and its impact on my ability to do the job which pays the mortgage. I definitely wish I’d listened more carefully when my elders told me not to ‘lift that boat like that’ or ‘move that mess tent in that way’. I’m now involved in training new instructors and it’s so hard to get them to appreciate how important it is to look after themselves.
A few years back, the AAIAC produced the guide Surviving a Career in Adventure Activities; it’s a good read and one I’d recommend. That said, I think the title could be improved... rather than ‘surviving’ I think it’s vital that we ‘build’ a career in adventure activities and this involves promoting physical and mental health.
When I turned 35, I set myself the mental challenge of being fitter at 40 than 30. I’m never going to be a faster sprinter than myself at 18, or able to do as many days work back-to-back as a 20-year-old, but I’m so much more aware now of my strengths, abilities and what I have to do promote and maintain my health for working in the outdoors. Working smarter, not harder has to be the key as you get older. If you can get into this mindset from early on, then you'll be on the right track for a long injury-free career.
Here's some advice I wish I'd listened to earlier on in my career. Whilst I’m not expecting the young guns to take one bit of notice (!), I hope it plants the seed and gets people thinking about where they want to be in years to come:
1. Be pro-active
Regular exercise and activity has a way of uncovering weak areas of your body. Whilst it's frequent in many sports settings to make provisions for predicting injury, it’s not so common for outdoor instructors or organisations. Considerations such as weak muscles, muscle imbalance or muscle stiffness have been shown to directly relate to muscle injury risk (1). Whilst it may seem expensive to receive medical guidance, such as regular physio appointments, it could cost you a lot more if you do get injured. Remember, you don’t have to be injured to seek training and medical advice.
2. Allow time for recovery
Whilst commercial pressures can make it difficult to allow time for recovery it’s important to plan this in to your schedule, particularly as you enter your 30’s and 40s. As we age, testosterone levels decrease. When you combine this with heavy endurance loads, then injury recovery times and increasing fatigue becomes a real issue. As a suggestion, some form of strength/resistance training has been shown to really help with levels of testosterone and lay the foundations for a healthy and active older age (2). Fundamentally, we all want to play as hard as we can for as long as we can. The simple message here might be to reduce your volume but maintain your intensity.
3. We’re born to move.
It's no surprise that when outdoor instructors are promoted to management positions, then problems with their backs start to occur. Why? Well they suddenly go from being an active person day-in-day-out, to one that may spend half of their time sat down in front of a laptop. We’re born to move; the more we move, the more muscle we maintain and the better chance we have of maintaining our health. If you have to sit behind a computer for some of your time, make sure that you move around, set your computer up carefully and combine mobility training in to those days where your static.
David is a director at Land & Wave and works hard to stay fit and mobile for his physical role within the company. He’s still moving and hopes to do so for a good many years yet!
If you're looking to move more in your career and are considering working in the Outdoor Industry, get in touch about our 15-week Outdoor Instructor Training course. We have people of all ages making the leap from a static career to an active one.
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