I’m solidly in my early 40’s. Stuff hurts that never used to. I can’t eat pizza and keep a 6 pack anymore. I don’t recover as fast form training as quickly as I used to. Everything is HARDER to do. There are certain realities us 40-plussers have to acknowledge when trying to stay in decent shape. Certain realities we have to acknowledge… not accept.
There is still hope for us “old” guys.
The good news is, with some common sense best practices, we don’t need to quietly ride off into the sunset and relinquish the gym to the young stallions coming after our gains, but first you have to…
Recognize high school (and college) is LONG gone
You’re not 22. You probably COULD do what you did 20+ years ago but SHOULD you? You’re at significantly higher risk for injury, you don’t recover as well and those crazy workouts you loved back then just aren’t sustainable NOW.
Better option: Simplify your training sessions and focus on getting progressively stronger over time.
You don’t need to be all Crossfitty all the time. Most of your year should be spent on basic strength training, regular cardiorespiratory exercise (yes, you need cardio) and lots of mobility work (Yoga is great).
Remember we’re looking at longevity and sustainability of your strength and conditioning in the 2nd act of your life. Don’t set yourself up for a shortened training life by making poor decisions here.
Eat like an adult
Okay let’s talk nutrition. On the cellular level you are LITERALLY what you eat. The nutritional nonsense you enjoyed without consequence in your late teens and early twenties are absolutely a no go now… as I’m sure you discovered in your thirties.
The 2am Denny’s trips, the kids cereal for breakfast, the sloppy sandwiches and potato chips at lunch. Come on, let’s grow up here. Eat your vegetables. Stop frying things. Get a decent breakfast. Lose the sugar and processed foods. Come on back home.
The food we eat becomes the building material for new cells. Cells make muscles. Muscles make strength. Strength makes you happy. Being happy… well you get the point. Eat like you know you’re supposed to. No more excuses.
Get some d*mn sleep
Back in the day you could string a couple of late nights together, get about 8 hours of sleep over 4 days. These days, that lifestyle is DISASTROUS for guys our age! We know a prolonged period of poor sleep habits lead to heart disease, cancer, reduced cognitive function and other undesirable nastiness.
On the flipside, getting adequate, restful sleep can maximize testosterone and growth hormone levels, slow aging, increase recovery between workouts and improve protein absorption, among other things you DO want.
How much sleep?
Well common belief is 7-8 hours a night for most people. I find that is too much for me. I feel at my most energetic with about 5-6 hours a night. You may need more, but I wouldn’t go with any less than 5 hours for any stretch of time.
Next time you’re on vacation, track how long you sleep on average when you can wake up naturally WITHOUT an alarm clock. Then use that as a guide for how much sleep to aim for on a regular basis.
Look for new challenges
Find something to revolve your training around rather than just training for the session. Get into some mud runs, start rock climbing, take up Jiu-Jitsu, find something to get better at every year outside of the gym.
Better yet, add some social points and do it with some friends. There is something to be said of training with a group toward a common goal and even making it competitive (within reason).
Your training will never be more focused and productive then when you have a rock solid goal to work towards. Hit one goal, set another, rinse, repeat. Before you know it you have a list of accomplishments ANYONE would be proud of.
***Let’s take it home***
Fitness into your forties can be some of the most productive years of your training life IF you approach it from a balanced perspective. Train smart and you’ll look good, feel good and live well, while building a physique that will have you looking years younger.