Interview with an “Aging” Athlete
As a lifelong competitor in multiple sports, competition can take a toll on your body and mind. Improving performance and maximizing recovery are key to ensuring success well into the later years of one’s life. One such athlete being highlighted is Retired Marine and Corrections Officer Michael KALNAS; a High Tide Herbal customer and athlete who played full contact football until nearly 50 years old. Now at 70 years young, he is enjoying his retirement(s) while continuing a long-time national ranking in multiple Track & Field events. We interviewed Mr. Kalnas to get his input and advice on living the best and healthiest life, even into the later years.
Q: What was your first sport or earliest activity you were involved with growing up?
MK: Initially I grew up learning about the outdoors which entailed a lot of time in the forest and creeks around our farm. Hiking, climbing, and rowing our boat around swamps and creeks was a daily activity. The first official sport was basketball in 8th grade, but soon thereafter following my 3 older brothers, I started throwing the Shot Put.
Q: So it’s safe to say you threw Shot Put into High School. Any other sports?
MK: I continued throwing Shot Put and also picked up Discus. I started playing football my freshman year for the Red Raiders of Paulsboro High! You may have heard of them. Nationally ranked in two major sports, Football and Wrestling!
Q: Well, being local we certainly know about Paulsboro. Considering you played Football and were a Track & Field Thrower, a lot of throwers are typically linemen. Were you?
MK: Not at first. I started as a running back my first year and then switched to the line for the remainder of my high school career before enlisting in the Marine Corps.
Q: How many years were you in the Marine Corps and during that time were you able to continue playing sports?
MK: I served for 22 years and during that time was able to continue throwing competitively and play full contact football across the country and abroad.
Q: First off, we want to thank you for your service. That’s awesome you were able to continue those sports. Were you able to compete on a club level or was there an official team?
MK: You’re welcome. I thank our country for allowing me to serve. I was always training and competing in the throwing events but in 1973 while stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, I returned to full contact football and played for my companies’ team in the base league.
Q: There were other teams on base then for there to be a league, was it only like this for football?
MK: We would play against other companies who were able to field a team but over the years and throughout my duty stations we would also play against teams from other bases too. There were numerous sports to participate in, all of them for the most part were part of a league. But for Track and Field there didn’t need to be an entire team which made it easier to compete in the throws.
Q: You had multiple “duty stations'' throughout your career. Where else were you able to play?
MK: Well initially just Camp Lejeune. Then soon after I was given the opportunity to walk on to the football team at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, while an Active Reservist. I trained with the team, then led by future NFL Coach Bobby Ross. Ultimately, I was on the roster but could not secure a position. I was thanked for my time and released from the team. After there I continued throwing and playing on numerous base football teams, some all – star teams that played throughout North and South Carolina, plus a couple semi-pro teams in Virginia and Japan.
Q: Wow! Safe to say you had a pretty successful career in both sports during your time in the Marines.
MK: I was fortunate to pursue my hobbies during my time in the Marine Corps. I never looked at it like a job, I was able to serve my country while competing across the world.
Q: Clearly you were in great shape to compete in two sports while in the Marines. Did you ever encounter any injuries?
MK: Oh damn, I did. I completely tore my ACL playing football at Camp Lejeune in November 1985, just before the last game of the season against Engineers Battalion. I’ll never forget waiting for surgery at the Naval Hospital on base and watching Monday Night Football, Redskins vs. Giants.
Q: Clearly you came back and were able to play again. What was your recovery like?
MK: Surgery back then is nothing like it is now. They completely opened my knee (lifts his pant leg), now that’s a scar! (Showing what resembles a zipper from above his knee down to his mid shin). It took nearly 3 years to get back in the shape I was in before I got hurt.
Q: So you played and/or trained in full contact football until nearly 50 years old. What did you attribute to being in such good health?
MK: I was always and still am involved in some type of daily vigorous activity. I always ate clean, limited junk food when I would splurge, was sure to get my lifts in, ran nearly every day, always got the ab work in with sit ups and the roman chair. I never smoked, I never drank. Growing up and during my time in the Marine Corps I didn’t party with everyone else; I would go work out.
Q: And now at 70 years old and though not playing football anymore you continue to compete in Track & Field. Are you competing in the same throwing events? Has your training changed?
MK: I’m still tossing the shot put and discus, but have been focusing on the hammer and weight now too. Plus racing the 400 meters. Ultimately what I used to be able to do for hours every day I can only do a few times a week now. Before I could hit the weight room, move some iron, head out for a 3-mile run and then wrap it up with a few hundred sit ups. Now I can tire much sooner so it’s just more about quality then quantity when it comes to training.
Q: As the adage goes, train smarter not harder. Have you found yourself dealing with any injuries considering you’re still involved in a pretty demanding sport?
MK: Bingo. Just because I can’t do as much in one session doesn’t mean it’s not a good session. I’ve dealt with the typical muscle and joint soreness which is my body telling me I need more rest, but I’ve had two “larger” injuries. One was my rotator cuff in my throwing arm and the other the meniscus of my left knee which takes on a lot of stress in the throws as a right hander.
Q: Did you do anything to treat those injuries?
MK: A fellow thrower had raved about stem cell treatment for his shoulder, and I eventually looked into and then did the same. The meniscus, a doctor went in and cleaned it up.
Q: You mentioned that you must focus more time on recovery, is there anything else you’re doing to help you recover faster or to help with your training?
MK: There’s been changes to exercise routines, length, or frequency of training, modified the diet here and there but also incorporating more supplements to help.
Q: Which supplements do you take?
MK: I’ve always been big on Vitamin E and Potassium but recently with its resurgence I’ve turned to hemp products.
Q: Are there any lasting effects from your careers or sports that prompted you to try hemp-based products?
MK: Initially I would have never thought to try hemp, I equated it to marijuana until I actually did some research and realized the difference between the two. I was looking for a natural option to help improve performance and recovery, ease the pain in my muscles and joints. Plus it was legal within the organization I compete in nationally.
Q: So which type of products do you use and why?
MK: There’s a full complement of products I now use which are all from High Tide Herbal. The salves I’ll use on any sore muscles or joints after working out and before bed; typically my low back, knee, and shoulder. The Cold Therapy Muscle Relief Gel which is like BenGay but doesn’t smell anywhere near as strong. I’ll use that before I train or do anything active. The oil tinctures I’ll take a dose of before working out too because it gives me an alertness plus a feeling of more energy and stamina here and there. Especially after a longer day or bigger day of training I’ll use a sleep gummy to make sure I can get to a deeper sleep and be fully recovered for the next day.
Q: You’ve pretty much covered all the bases. Is there anything you would suggest to someone who is not familiar with hemp-based products?
MK: Do your own research to learn about what exactly hemp is, but do yourself a favor and try them. I never once thought it would be an option until it was suggested to me to experience the benefits I have from using them so far, I wish I would have tried it sooner.
Q: Well Mr. KALNAS, it’s been an eye-opening experience chatting with you. Do you have any suggestions for Aging Athletes who have been training or may just be starting?
MK: Stay active. Stay involved. If you can’t jog everyday just try to do what you can. The main factor is getting in shape. Build your cardio by walking, jogging if able, or start with biking or swimming. Playing basketball or tennis, it all depends on your ability, but find something to remain active and continue to move your body. If you’re healthy enough, then weight train and practice your events. Diet and rest are necessary. Stay motivated and don’t worry about breaking records, just focus on participating in something that will get you to move. GO RED RAIDERS!