Preserve your fast-twitch muscles!

sprint drill 1As we age we lose bout 7 pounds of muscle each decade and this loss is predominantly noted in the number and size of fast twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are the ones responsible for allowing an individual to move quickly, and to maintain agility, reaction time, strength and power. As these fibers atrophy, we find ourselves moving much slower than our younger years and our quality of movement deteriorates. However, the good news is that this loss can be slowed down and in some cases, prevented by training your fast twitch muscles. The rule is “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. So it’s important to do whatever you can to keep these muscle fibers working so they don’t perceive that they are no longer needed.

Here are some ideas to help you maintain your agility and mobility as you age. Pick up some cones or use any item that we can place as your markers – even tape on the ground can work. Try to perform at least one agility drill 2-3x each week.

Side to side drill – Position 2 cones, chairs or props a few feet apart. Now quickly step laterally to the outside of one cone and back to the outside of the other touching down towards the floor or cone on each end. Try to go as fast as you possibly can. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Recover and complete 3-5x.

4 corner drill – Position 4 cones in a square formation and stand in the middle. Run forward/backwards to one cone and then back to the middle. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Recover and complete 3-5x.

Plank Sprint – Place a cone and start in a prone/plank position 20 feet behind it. Quickly stand up and sprint forward to the cone. Walk back and do it again 3-5x.

lateralshuffledLine Drills – Place 3 cones in a straight line each about 20 feet apart. Start the exercise by sprinting or walking fast to the first cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Then sprint to the second cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Then sprint all the way to the third cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Take a short break and then repeat this 3-5x.

“Square Drill” – Place 4 cones in the shape of a square with each cone about 20 feet apart from each other. Start at one corner and sprint to the top of the square. Then shuffle across the top of the square. Then back-shuffle. Then laterally shuffle back to the start. Do this 3-5x one way. Take a break and go the other way.

Sports – An easy way to incorporate agility training into your training program is by participating in sports like tennis, squash, racquetball, basketball, soccer, frisbee or volleyball which all involve a high level of agility and speed. You could also consider enrolling in dance programs like Salsa or Ballroom dancing or choreography-based fitness classes like Zumba and Hip Hop. These types of activities will slow down the atrophy of your fast twitch muscle groups and keep you agile and mobile into your later years – plus it’s a fun way to achieve these benefits.

Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a two-week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.



Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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