These are my views and opinions on ageing, strength training over 40 and the things you should consider to ensure you get the most from your body and your workouts. There’s no real science or research behind my comments, just experience and knowledge gained over the years.
Not only am I older than the average PT and I still train, I am also still getting older, just like everybody is. Which is why this is important. You are all getting older and living longer, therefore the interest in maintaining a physically capable and active life is or should be important to everyone.
I have written several short articles as well as shared some good posts on training as we age. It is an important topic for us all as we are living longer and learning more about how much we can still actually do as we age rather than follow old tradition and accept that as we age we become useless and decrepit. Keeping fit and lifting weights isn’t just about looking great, it’s about feeling great too as well as gaining the various health benefits and having an improved quality of life.
One thing you must accept is that you will age; However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get “older” at the same rate that you age. I think that you need to differentiate between age as in years on this planet and getting old which I feel is as much a state of mind as a physical manifestation.
However, maintaining a good quality of life as you enter the third quarter-century of your is now a real deal, something that is achievable and realistic. My previous articles have looked at strength training over 40 to 50 years of age and the associated health benefits gained from an appropriate and progressive training plan.
Ageing Is An Attitude
So let’s look at how getting old can impact us. It’s widely accepted that the mind is a powerful thing; if you think you can or if you think you can’t then you are right and you won’t!
What I mean by this is that all things being equal as in there are no extenuating circumstances such as illness or injury then if you think you are unable to do something because you are getting old or if you think that you shouldn’t be doing something because you are getting old then you won’t be able to do it!
This is quite a mindset change for those of you already in your later years but it’s not too late. It will more than likely be harder to make the necessary changes to your mind and body to have any real impact. If those of you who are moving through your 40’s and 50’s now are not already active and training then it’s time to get moving.
It’s not too late to start strength training and changes can still be made so don’t procrastinate, just get going. Those of you who are even younger have more to lose and can also make greater gains. Any activity at any age is better than none, but the right activity for your age will be far more productive.
Strength Training Over 40
It is during your 40’s and 50’s that your lives tend to be the busiest in terms of work and family. Climbing the career ladder, running around after your children as glorified taxi drivers and supporting them as they move through their teenage years in growing up, studying and learning about life. All these things bring their own challenges and stresses. If you want to be able to support your family and friends then you will need to make sure you look after yourself and stay healthy.
It’s something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you deliberately think negatively then eventually you will feel miserable and this has come from within you, no external input needed. Likewise, if you smile at people, say hi and think positive thoughts then some people might think you strange, but you will feel happy and positive.
I get asked if it’s OK to start training once you’ve retired, or should you lift weights at 73?
You may say whoa hold on there! Surely that’s too old to start working out in any way let alone lift weights? Well no it’s not, I have a client who lifts weights and she’s over 70 and does well. As long as all due care is taken, a quick check-up with the GP and a thorough screening process is conducted then all should be well.
My point being that chronological age is no barrier to working out, attitude is everything.
Chronological age will bring its own issues and you do need to pay heed to them. Your body doesn’t have the recovery or regenerative abilities that it had at 20. Hormone levels are lower, there is a decrease in organ mass as well as a decline in the functional reserve of the bodies systems, more on this in another post. That said your body can still be robust and withstand quality training sessions at twice that age and more, much more.
However, respect must be paid to your body and you must accept that you are ageing and understand that you may have to do some things a little differently.
For example, I have played rugby for over 30 years, some of this at a reasonable standard. Fortunately, I didn’t get any serious injuries, just wear and tear. I know I can’t do a lot of running or spin classes, high volumes of jumping also aggravate my knees and back. Nothing serious but enough to be uncomfortable and slow my training down. So I don’t run, jump or spin! Rowing is fine as is Stair Climbing, and I can lift, so that’s what I do.
Health, Strength & Fitness Over 40
This whole strength training and ageing thing can be a bit of a trial and error process, trying to figure out what will cause some kind of negative reaction and what works to improve your health, strength and fitness. Sometimes you will need to take an extra rest day or change training plans to maybe do a recovery session. This isn’t quitting or giving up, it’s being sensible and listening to your body so that you get the most from it. Better to rest one day than be injured and unable to train for a week or more!
Finding time can be a challenge too, and if you want to continue to be able to support your family and have the energy to progress your career then you need to keep fit and healthy. If having time to train is a limiting factor then find a way to workout that suits your schedule i.e. take short walks more often, do shorter workouts such as HIIT or Metafit.
This can be different from the training you may have done in your 20’s when how you looked or how you performed in your chosen sport was the priority.
Now you need to consider what you can still do as well as what your training and lifestyle goals are. Keeping mobile, fit and healthy must come higher on the priority list than washboard abs and bulging biceps. That said, this is still possible too with the right training programme, good nutrition and more than a little determination.
As I’ve said before you lose muscle at an ever-increasing rate as you age, your metabolism slows down and you will take longer to recover during and from training sessions.
With this in mind, it is clear that there are certain training goals that should be part of the programme irrespective of your personal goals or preferences. Hence why strength training over 40 is so important.
- Train to keep and gain muscle mass
- Take appropriate recovery and rest between exercises and training sessions
- Ensure appropriate nutrition for lifestyle goals, training aims and recovery
- Employ both steady-state and high-intensity conditioning training methods
- Listen to your body!
Training to maintain or gain muscle mass can be achieved by a progressive overload of those muscles. That overload can be in the form of an increasing resistance or load, an increase in repetitions or a decrease in rest time.
High-Intensity Interval Training
For high-intensity anaerobic conditioning, Tabata or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) would be most appropriate. This includes classes such as Les Mills Grit and Metafit, or gym based training such as CrossFit.
Stretching and mobility work is essential as you age to maintain joint range of motion. Yoga is an excellent way to stay mobile and partners well with gym training too.
No matter what method you choose to work on your mobility it is important to remember to ensure as full a range of movement as possible when exercising, as this will help to maintain and improve flexibility, mobility and joint range of motion whilst exercising.
From a purely physiological point of view, the body will still adapt to the overload of training, it’s just that the overload will be gentle and the progress of adaptation will be slower.
That being said progress can mean different things to different people. Better movement, improved coordination, managing stairs and getting off the couch more easily my be your priority. These are all progress and improvement, not necessarily a better back squat 1RM!
Over 40? Get A Health Check!
The key points to remember when starting your new gym regime in your 40’s and 50’s are;
- Check in with your GP
- Be honest about your medical history with your PT or gym instructor
- Get a thorough screening completed at the gym including
- A PAR – Q
- A movement screen
- A Q&A session with a PT or gym instructor
- Have realistic goals and targets
- Adapt and change your targets and training plan as needed
- Accept your limits
- Challenge your limits
The health benefits gained by continuing to lift are many and have been covered before. So keep moving, don’t be afraid to lift weights; in fact, I wholeheartedly recommend it! If you are thinking of returning to training after a long lay off or even starting for the first time as you’ve just retired then definitely do it. Check-in with your GP, talk to a Personal Trainer and go for it, you won’t regret it!
Thanks again for reading this far, I hope you have found this informative and helpful. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my Facebook page @getcoached.net
You can also join The HIIT Works by Get Coached membership site and access workouts, training programmes, recipes and lifestyle advice.