Sports are seen as a young person’s field, but increasingly, sports stars are playing for longer and longer. According to studies analyzed by The Verge, athletes will continue to enjoy longer careers as a combination of improving sports science improves athlete health, and the use of data analysis will continue to pick out players with the greatest potential. The experience of the past can give a valuable window into what to expect, too; in the world of boxing, one individual that clearly showed this was the iconic fighter Larry Holmes.

In the nutrition

Larry Holmes was legendary for his 48 match winning streak, stretching from 1973 all the way to 1985. Even after losing to Michael Spinks in back-to-back fights and then Mike Tyson, Holmes went on to rack up another 21 wins before retiring in 2002. According to Holmes, a huge driver behind this longevity has been looking after your body. In a report by Penn Live, the boxer urged young athletes to look after their body nutritionally and physically to ensure they live long and happy lives. The impact of nutrition on a long career can’t be underestimated, and fine-tuning your diet past 50 will help to continue your own progression. In particular, vitamins like iron, vitamin B12 and magnesium come together to help you both physically and in cognitive terms.

Focus on your craft

In an interview with GQ Magazine, Holmes revealed that his favorite boxer to watch was Floyd Mayweather. Why? Because of his technique; Holmes lauded the defensive style of Mayweather, in trying not to get hit. In all sports this can be a virtue for your long-term health. An all-action, super aggressive style can cause further injury and mental fatigue. In contact sports, it can lead to injuries such as concussion and broken limbs that have a long-term impact on player health and can potential end a career. Be committed, but if you have the skills try and take it slow, steady, and easy – apply yourself in a calculated and calm nature instead of charging head-first into every confrontation on the field.

Psychological calm

Holmes was renowned for staying cool under pressure. In bouts against Mohammad Ali, notes how Joe Frazier ‘seethed for a lifetime’; Holmes was more dismissive, and happy to brush off threats and bravado. Perhaps this, more than anything, shows how to enjoy a long career. There are now clear links between mental health and overall vitality, with the ability to disengage from the stresses of life and have perspective over life and what’s important helping with a range of key health indicators.

What did Larry Holmes show athletes is the root of a long and productive career? In many ways, it’s the element of being calm. Methodical, incisive and thoughtful athletes who have careers based on skill rather than sheer power can find themselves enjoying a longer and more fruitful career than those who opt for overwhelming strength every day of their life. Slow and steady will win the race. 

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