EXERCISE & AGEING: Give Up or Adapt?

Should you abandon your dream just because of a number?

Do not waste away.

With a sense of fun, I often refer to myself as an old fart. That said, it’s also with a modicum of self-awareness. You see, I’ve now entered my sixth decade with no sign of the clock slowing down: this shit is inevitable!

Being an older Coach within the fitness industry, there are certainly times when the age difference with my fellow PTs is apparent. And I’m well aware that the vast majority of people I used to work-out with, hung up their weight belts decades ago.

Why do I continue to this day with full commitment and zero intention of ever stopping? You could, no doubt, make a compelling case that I’m obsessed? On that score you may be accurate; but not in the way you might think.

I’m not, as you may surmise, obsessed with working out. Of-course I enjoy it; pain and all. But what I’m really obsessed with are the side-effects:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Stamina
  • Mobility
  • Metabolic flexibility
  • Hormonal balance
  • Overall health

And let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to look good naked?

But wait a minute: I’d better enjoy it while it lasts, ‘cos it can’t go on forever, right?

Well, here’s where I depart from conventional wisdom: I do not accept that age is a restriction when it comes to looking good and being healthy. Honestly, stop listening to anyone who would tell you the opposite!

You want another paradigm shift? It’s never too late to start your fitness journey!

Of course, you can’t just ignore your age and it would be folly to train with reckless abandon, like someone twenty years younger.

That said, you really can continue to build muscle and lose fat as you get older. You just have to do certain things a little differently.

Consume More Protein:

Protein anyone?

Without exercise, getting older will result in a steady decrease of muscle-mass. It’s a case of use it or lose it. Having this reality as a backdrop makes adequate nutrition even more important. In order to preserve as much muscle as possible, you must prioritise protein; even if that means eating quite a bit more than you’ve previously done.

Use Less Weight:

While I’m not a hater of heavy training – I’ve done my fair share – it is the realm within which most injuries occur.

It would be remiss of me not to point out that we must take care of our joints as we age. I find that on the days where I do use heavier weights; it takes that little bit longer for my joints to recover.

The answer: use less weight but employ techniques that increase intensity. There are many such techniques to choose from, that will also make your workouts more interesting.

Put it this way: if you’ve never experienced a set of 20-rep squats, or 30-rep leg-press; then you may need to rethink your definition of intensity.

Increase Volume:

A consequence of using slightly less weight in your workouts, is the ability to handle increased volume. More sets, with sub-maximal loads, just seem to work better for older athletes.

Personally speaking, this works very well for me and my clients. We look after our joints, while the total amount of weight moved within the workout is enormous!

Train More Intelligently:

Both the previous points will ultimately fall under the banner of training more intelligently. Or to word it another way: Listen to your Body!

If you treat your body well, then it’ll reward you with many years of loyal service. Use it unwisely and you can count on it giving you feedback – stiffness, pain, lethargy, reduced immune function – that you ignore at your peril.

All these negative side-effects can be avoided by taking a measured, thoughtful approach to your training. You may be impatient for progress, but you can easily set yourself back by being reckless or ignoring the signals that your body provides.

For example: I’ve known plenty of people who’ve permanently damaged their shoulder-joints through heavy bench-pressing while ignoring regular discomfort. The bench-press is just an exercise. It’s how you use it and make it work for you that counts. It’s also something of a vanity movement – there are alternatives

Stress, Rest & Recovery:

Make time for yourself.

Stress is cumulative. It’s a subject I don’t often hear discussed in this context, but it’s true. Of-course, we are all going to experience significant traumatic events within our lives. These are largely unavoidable, and with great effort can be processed, understood and overcome.

In fact, a stressor that is easily identified – regardless of the severity – is often easier to overcome because it’s a clear-cut event.

More insidious is the chronic stress that accumulates over time. Stress that sneaks up on you, yet never gets dealt with.

Stress can come at you from all sides and there are multiple origins:

  • Not dealing with long-standing emotional issues
  • Being unhappy in work and not seeking an alternative
  • Under or over-eating
  • Regular lack of sleep
  • Overtraining
  • Not getting enough rest.

While the first two points admittedly require a longer approach, the latter four – while rarely being given as much credence – can be addressed starting tomorrow and will directly contribute to your ability to deal with the former.

If you could start with just one thing that would positively impact your future health: address your stress.

Slower Metabolism:

Disclaimer: not everyone will experience a slowing of their metabolism. But it’s enough of a thing to make it extremely relevant.

As a Coach who specialises in the nutritional aspect of health and fitness, I typically calculate a client’s ideal caloric number and most efficient macro ratios to achieve their goals.

Experience has taught me that while this equation is most often accurate, it must also include the flexibility to allow for those of us who experience a slower metabolism as we age.

Many of us are forced to accept that it’s now easier to put on fat that it was when we were younger. This is what I’m talking about.

So long as older athletes pay attention to ingesting enough protein, they often don’t need as many calories as their younger counterparts to function extremely well. Also, trying to eat as much as some of the online calorie/nutrition calculators suggest will very often result in fat gain.

In short, as you age, you have to be more open to what your body is telling you and be more flexible in your approach to nutrition.

NOTE: this does not involve hunger or deprivation. Believe me: I love food!

Be an Awkward Old Git:

Who you lookin’ at?

I mean it. Ignore conventional wisdom and get comfortable thinking and doing outside the box. Be that person who does things differently. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to follow a path that’s contrary to what society or the wider fitness industry would assign you.

In other words:

  • Grow old Disgracefully
  • Be Fit
  • Be Strong
  • Be Unique
  • Be your very Best……

………every single day!

Read more:

How to Blow a Diet, by Accident.

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