THE BLOG

The Golden Age of Sports, Where Everyone's a Winner

09/12/2013 03:56 pm ET | Updated Nov 12, 2013

Perhaps it was sheer coincidence it all began on Labor Day -- the first Monday in September -- where strength, achievement and hard-work are celebrated. Whether it was or not, what better way to kick off a week where attributes like these were on full display.

The moment 64-year old Diana Nyad stepped onto the shores of Key West, completing her historical 110 mile swim from Cuba to Florida the stage was set. No one, especially someone past the recognized retirement age and able to collect Social Security, had ever managed such a feat.

As media outlets worldwide bandied about a chorus of "age defying" euphemisms, little did we know by weeks end both tennis and football would be receiving similar accolades. Nyad's record-breaking swim had delivered a rippling effect - not only by raising the belief that anything's possible if you persevere, but also by demonstrating what once was old is new again and no record is safe, regardless of a competitor's age.

The numbers tell the story and what better place for it to be showcased then in the world's greatest city, on tennis' biggest stage - The US Open. For the first time in Open era history, five women over the age of 30 reached the quarterfinals, with three of them advancing to the semis. Only, Victoria (Vika) Azerenka, 24, was able to prevent it from being a clean sweep. Vika would go on to lose in the finals to 31, soon to be 32-year old, Serena Williams. With Williams' victory, she too broke a record - becoming the oldest US Open Champion, in Open era history.

Such success wasn't solely reserved for the women. The men's side found its way into the record books with its own version of the "over 30" club. The Round of 16 - for the first time since 1982 - played host to five such players with three of them advancing to the quarterfinals and where not one of the eight remaining men was under the age of 26 - with 27-year old Rafael Nadal defeating Novak Djokovic for the title, in a grueling and physical battle more reminiscent of a heavyweight fight than a tennis match.

The days of teenage tennis superstars and a Top 10 dominated by those barely, if even, old enough to legally drink are a thing of the past and tennis isn't the only sport feeling an uptick in athletes challenging the age limits.

At 37-years old, and 2 years removed from what many predicted might be a career ending neck surgery, Peyton Manning showed why he's still at the top of the NFL QB heap. In the 2013 season opener, against the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, Manning threw seven TD passes, becoming the first player in 44 years to do so. Just as impressive, Manning's sixth touchdown pass of the game, inked him a place in the history books - making him the only quarterback to do so three different times.

So what if anything is behind this increase in player longevity across numerous sports? Especially in those where such extreme physical and mental demands are required in order to successfully compete? For many, like Victoria Azerenka, Venus Williams, Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons), Arian Foster (Houston Texans) and Novak Djokovic, nutrition has become an integral component.

From gluten-free and dairy-free to vegan and 80/20 (80% plant-based/20% lean, organic proteins) these dietary shifts have aided in improving performance and increasing energy levels.

This coupled with sophisticated training regimens, like those of Rafael Nadal and Drew Brees (34-years young) and the advancement in recovery and rehab routines today's superstars are competing at higher-levels longer than ever in their respective sports.

"The sport (tennis) became so much more physical, and on another level that everybody's taking care much more of their bodies to be able to play longer," said Azerenka.

Andrew Small, a New York City based Physical Therapist and Exercise Physiologist, who has worked with numerous pro/elite athletes and is a consulting Physical Therapist for both Dive and Volleyball Australia, agrees. "Athletes these days have great (medical and performance based) teams to support them. The little things done well over the course of a career can increase their longevity."

With more and more pro and elite athletes successfully keeping "Father Time" at bay, not only do they themselves win, so does everyone else. From organizations and teams to TV networks and diehard fans - we're witnessing a unique and seemingly game changing time in sports - where 64 looks more like 46, where "over 30" is becoming synonymous with "twenty-something" and age is a state of mind.

So, no matter whether you're a pro athlete, a weekend warrior or someone just simply looking for motivation - there are lessons to be learned from the inspirational examples and record-setting accomplishments set forth during the first week full week of September - where determination, dedication and the desire to the best you can be, reaped countless rewards.