Our bodies change with age and in most cases, so should your workouts. This especially applies to those in their 40’s, 50’s or beyond as they compare to those 20 something younger versions of themselves. Let’s be brutally honest; our bodies are in fact aging with time, our joints aren’t as youthful as they once were and many of us have some wear and tear, here and there.
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Within the first 3 months of 2018 at the age of 40, I had to have a root canal done and shortly after the whites of my eyes started turning bloodshot red which literally left me looking like a drug addict to anyone looking at me. It was a little embarrassing to be honest. Over years of time, my tooth had deteriorated. After being forewarned through my younger years that around the age of 40, my eyes could change shape; they did.
Given I had worn contact lenses that comfortably contoured to the shape of my eyes for almost 30 years, they eventually no longer did due to the change of my eye's spherical shape. In short, the contact lenses I had been wearing were rubbing very tightly on the newly changed shape of my now older eyes, creating a lot of inflammation and redness. Some adjustments and changes were needed to address and now “fit” my aging body that was changing. Father time is a SOB sometimes…
Training A Younger vs. Older Body
In just about every one of my 18 years of working in the health and fitness industry, I have witnessed one or five stories annually of some naive person foolishly hurting themselves exercising. Some of the time, this applies to an aging man (albeit with good intentions) trying to incorrectly move way too much weight in the gym without checking his ego at the door.
When we are young, we can often recover quicker from our workouts. Much of this of course is due to having more optimized hormones at that younger age. But even more, we can be much more ballistic with movements and with less risk of injury. Having young and strong tendons, ligaments, and joints with healthy amounts of cartilage enables us to be more successful with very heavy lifts, plyometrics or playing competitively in sports that involve a lot of explosive and powerful movements.
However, with an aging body comes changes in the degree of ability to respond or how it can work for us. The amount of “torque” we put on our bodies with explosive movements may not be tolerated like it once used to. Our goals most likely should have changed in comparison to the 23 year old athlete we used to be a decade or two ago. Let’s be honest; we just don’t see too many professional athletes that are 50+ years of age. However, we can still be the best athletic, sexy looking and healthiest versions of ourselves at any age though - if we train intelligently!
Moving forward, let’s jump into some smart and effective tips.
Tips On Training A (Gracefully) Aging Body
1. Warm up for 5-10 minutes: A brisk walk to where you almost are ready to break a sweat followed by a couple of light to mediocre weighted sets warming up the muscles you’re about to workout is a great way to start.
2. Practice good technique: This includes correct plane of motion, tempo & time under tension. Work the targeted muscle vs. just "moving weight". In short, there are 3 easy parts to remember with most exercises; 1.) The “positive” (concentric) phase. 2.) Peak contraction (or “squeeze”). 3.) The “negative” (eccentric) phase.
Of all three phases, emphasizing the peak contraction and even more important - controlling the tempo with good controlled resistance on the negative (eccentric) phase is most important. If need be, lifting less weight with a bigger emphasis on really engaging & working the hell out of the targeted muscle on this negative phase will benefit most older folks in the gym and, with more results while minimizing risk of injury.
3. Train smart if considering explosive/plyometric/power lifting... There is a higher risk of injury here vs. younger folks. However, this is not to say you can’t engage here - just be smart and listen to your body. Speaking of that...
4. Listen to your body: Do not train through pain, work around it - be smart & listen. If your elbow hurts, take it easy on the heavy upper body lifts or any repetitive planes of motion that cause it pain. Work other areas of your body instead and, around the area that is bothering you to allow your body to heal itself.
5. Rotate exercise selection: Get some structure incorporated into your workout plans each month. Switch things up every couple weeks with your approach. Instead of always doing classic hypertrophy training with 10 reps at 3-4 sets every single week, month after month - throw in some super setting once in a while with 15 reps, 5 sets and less than 30 seconds of rest. Or, randomly toss in some Tabata training on occasion to mix things up and give your muscles a little shock.
6. Be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations: You are not 23 years old anymore. Those big PR’s that you’re proud of once accomplishing in your heyday, may not be in the cards for your aged body now.
7. Practice correct nutrition: Prioritize great eating habits, learn basics of nutrient timing and "eat the rainbow". Remember; If it grows out of the ground, off a tree, vine or lives off the land or in the water - it is probably good for you. If it comes in a box, bag or bottle and is made in a factory - It may not be a good choice.
8. Get blood work and check your hormones: Incorporate smart supplementation if & when necessary here. Just like everything else with an aging body, our glands are going to continue aging. This means that hormone output and balance is going to slowly deteriorate.
Having optimized hormones can make the difference between living a life of aging old with mediocrity or, aging gracefully in an energetic, healthy functioning body with high cognitive abilities, confidence and a higher level of both physical and mental health.
We Must Grind To Shine
All this being said let’s NOT forget that in order to acquire any significant results from our workouts, we MUST provide a sufficient amount of resistance and challenge to our muscles and body on a consistent basis. This typically includes us expressing our teeth gritting "ugly" or "O" faces :)
I have found that a good mindset to have when in comes to weight/resistance training is going to failure, PLUS 3 MORE reps. Now, you may not get 2 or 3 more reps but you should damn well give it your all in attempt to do so. Often, our bodies are stronger than our minds telling us we’re done, are.
Every so often, myself along with other coaches & consultants in the health and fitness industry come across an aging individual who seems to be doing everything right. But, their results are very much less than ideal. And, this is surely not from a lack of smart effort; they have good a diet, consistent workouts and cardio, etc.
In a majority of these cases, there is a hormonal issue going on. Addressing and correcting any imbalances is often the game changer that enables an older body to "communicate" and start working in a much more effective manor. This is not only healthy both physically and mentally, but also a rewarding compliment to the hard work one is putting forth in the gym and kitchen! It is just as important to work smart as it is hard :)
Three things are essential to look and feel your best: Proper diet, training and optimized hormones. You can't just do one or two of them to be your best, you have to have all three. You can have the best plan in town, but if your hormones are out of balance you will be running forever like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere fast.
As always, the team at YOUTH-RX is sincerely here to provide tools where we can for all those we are fortunate to be able to assist in looking and feeling their best. If you would like to explore a program with YOUTH-Rx, simply fill out a medical history form and one of our consultants can set up a time to discuss where you're at, where you want to be and how YOUTH-RX may be able to help you get there.
Cheers to a fit & healthy 2019,
Roger & the YOUTH-Rx team