Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym
So, you’re in your 40’s or 50’s. Congrats, God willing you have reached the midway point of your life.
But, now that you are here does that mean that you need to start training your age, start training with precautions and restrictions because you might break?
First a Funny Story
My loving husband, who is 10 years older than me, gives me a heads up with every passing decade as to what to expect both physically and mentally for the years ahead.
For example, when he turned 30 he enlightened me that my body was going to start to change shape (in case you are doing the math in your head I meet the love of my life when I was 19 years old. 25 years later he’s still with me.).
Sure enough at 30 years my hips grew wider (a lot wider) and things shifted. I was happy though. Prior to that I was kinda built like a boy. Now I had me some curves.
At 40 he then warned me that simple tasks, like getting up and off the floor, was going to start getting harder. As well, things that I completely take for granted now, like reading the small print on food labels, or menus in a dark restaurant, would go the way of the dodo.
On top of that he coached me that I will also experience a big decline in my energy levels and I won’t be able to, nor want to be able to, be in a constant state of motion like I was in my 20’s and 30’s.
Sitting at 44 years now, with 45 staring me in the face, he has been, and is right on target.
I’m Old So Therefore I’m Frail
Many people, including loving husband, think that as we age we tend to slow down and do less because of aging. For the most part this is complete and utter BS (sorry loving husband).
Much of the physical frailty attributed to aging is actually the result of inactivity, disease or poor nutrition.
The good news, many of these problems can be helped (or even reversed) by improving lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising on a regular basis and eating a whole food diet.
The Effects of Aging
- Shrink and lose mass with age. This is called sacropenia and it is a natural process, but a sedentary lifestyle will also speed this nasty process up.
- The number of our muscle fibers decrease as we age, which means that it takes longer to respond in our 40’s and 50’s than it did in our 20’s.
- The water content of the tendons decrease which makes our tissues stiffer and less able to handle stress.
- The heart muscle becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we tire more easily and take longer to recover.
- Our metabolism slows down (this is how quickly our body converts energy) which means we don’t burn fat like we used to.
Aging bones & joints:
- The mineral content in our bones decrease (for both men and women) making our bones more fragile.
- The connective tissue that attaches bones to bones (called ligaments) become less elastic which in turn decreases our flexibility.
- Cartilage, which provides the cushioning between our bones and in our joints, changes. With these changes comes less water content and a joint more susceptible to wear and tear (ie. arthritis)
- Our joint motion becomes more restricted due to these changes in our tendons and ligaments making us all around less flexible.
Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym
1. Build a fitness base.
If you are just starting a fitness program you need to build a base first. This is extremely important, especially in our later years as it is much easier to get injured and it takes longer to get better when we do injure ourselves.
Why is it easier? You can thank the decreased water in our tendons and ligaments, as well as our restricted range of motion in our joints and our loss of muscles mass and muscle fiber size.
My recommendation: perform a strength training workout 3 times a week, 1 set an exercise, and then the next week do 2 sets, the week after add about 10% more weight to what you are lifting and then on the fourth week add another set.
2. Lift heavy.
Once that base is built, or if you are already fit, start lifting heavier but for fewer reps. If your joints and cartilage have already encountered years of wear and tear (which we know that they have by mid-life), and they don’t have the water content that they used to, a weight training program with lots of reps will only inflame the joint further.
Instead, lift a weight that you can maintain good form with, but are starting to crack by the end of your rep range of 12-15.
3. Watch out for long distance, repetitive workouts.
Cross training is your goal in your later years. If you like running, great run but keep the mileage down and perform other activities as well. But, if you run and run and run (or bike and bike and bike, or swim and swim and swim) be prepared to hurt.
Unless you are one of the blessed individuals who can perform repetitive long distance workouts without injury you are going to inflame those joints of yours and send yourself to physio.
In fact, even my younger clients that only ran for their workouts prior to seeing me have a longer history of injuries than those who run as well as lift weights.
And if you are running for weight loss, just stop right now. Cause it ain’t gonna work as well as other forms of exercise will.
4. You ain’t dead yet.
I, personally, know that I could kick my 20-year old’s ass. I am stronger, faster and more focused at 44 than I was at 24.
So, once you have built that fitness base, layered on it for a year I want you to GO FOR IT – cause you ain’t dead yet.
With the advances in nutrition and fitness that we have seen in the last 5 years we can get better and live longer and play just as hard as we did in our 20’s and 30’s.
Keep training everyone.