Over Forty? How and Why Your Fitness Regime Should Change

I read an interesting book over the weekend Olympic Weightlifting for Masters by Matt Foreman. Now I realise that not everyone reading this will be as enthralled by weightlifting as I am, however there were some good takeaway lessons that can be applied to fitness in your forties.

There is something deeply satisfying when you read in print something which you’ve long known to be true from personal experience. And this is the basis for my first point below.

Pain, physical, elbow.

Pain, physical,

1.Recover between your workouts

More important now for older trainers than ever. You must allocate time to recover between workouts. Training beyond your recovery abilities will put a strain on your immune system and you’ll find that you become run down and eventually ill as a result of this overtraining. Enthusiasm for a healthy regime is great but if your goal is to make positive improvements to your overall health and fitness this must be focussed in a manner that ensures you recover.

Telltale signs of overtraining

Elevated resting heart rate upon waking
Prolonged Muscle Soreness – believe it or not
Injury increase
Often sick

There are many more but I’m sure that like me you can find them on google too. But the one I’ve found as an accurate indication is getting ill too frequently. Essentially writing cheques that your body can’t pay. (not sure that anyone writes cheques anymore but you get what I mean).

This really only applies if your goal is overall fitness, wellbeing and longevity (at least productive longevity). If your goal is to smash weightlifting records or marathon times well then all of that comes with a hefty price tag which you pay for with your health. Contrary to what some people might say there isn’t a “healthy” relationship between your general wellbeing and being at the pinnacle of your chosen sport.

The kind of obsession required to rise to the top of almost any sport doesn’t have moderation as part of it’s training vocabulary. But this is not what I want to promote here. I am interested in movements that will pay dividends in years to come a sort of “Age-proof” insurance policy. The kind that imbues your body with the attributes that will sustain you well beyond your forties to a time when your competitive dreams are distant memories.

Back to my point above you need to factor in rest periods now more than ever to give your body time to recover and return stronger (adapted) than it was before the exercise protocol. And remember most of the training routines or nutritional plans that you find online are more than likely not aimed at your age group and don’t take into account your changing body.
2.Use it or lose it – Move your body! Train Movements not Muscles
Learn to do movements that involve your whole body. This can provide a break to the monotony of regular exercises, help you gain new skills and give you strength that carries over into your everyday life. Pull ups, press ups, dips, handstand push ups, skipping, double under – the list goes on. Some of the movements are advanced and most of them can be scaled but it’s important to challenge yourself and keep things new when training.

Boredom leads to diminishing returns if not outright quitting. How do these skills transfer to everyday life? Well you may joke but you won’t always be this young and sprightly and pushing your body off the floor is a useful skill to have when you fall over. Pull ups are a natural movement and anyone who’s short like me will already know what they’re useful for.

How can skipping and double under be of any use? They promote agility, coordination and endurance also a good party trick!

One of the reasons for using my body as a whole comes down to the fact that I always seem to be on a deadline. Using these types of whole body movements is the most efficient use of my time. I’m not going to be stepping on a stage any time soon to challenge for Mr Olympia so why would I need to train like him.

Some basic rules of the thumb. Train movements not muscles, Use basic multi joint exercises that allow you to use your body in movements it was meant to e.g. Squats, Deadlifts Presses. Endless sets of concentration curls are pretty useless to all but the most gifted physique athlete.

Think about the major joints involved in any exercise you perform and ensure that you incorporate a thorough preparation (warm-up) before moving any loads through them.

Once warmed up train explosive movements (olympic lifts) before slower moving strength movements (eg deadlift and squat variations) and finish off with conditioning.

Try to build in time to learn new skills such as double under skipping or anything that promotes agility and co-ordination at the same time as providing you with a conditioning element.

Please remember that you can achieve your fitness goals without having to resort to the treadmill. There are so many alternatives that you can consider. Check out my Youtube channel for further ideas.

3.Training & Testing
Understand the difference between Training and Testing. This is an important lesson especially for those of you who already have personal trainers. Being totally beasted / blasted by a workout on a consistent basis may not necessarily speed up your progress and may in fact stall it.

Intelligent programming that trains you in a progressive manner is different from that which takes you to your limit and beyond on a frequent basis. One thing’s for sure as you age and with heavy workloads and family commitments your recovery ability is not getting any better. I can’t overstate the importance of this point. Exercise is the tool to enable you to feel better, look better and be healthy not something that runs you down to a state of exhaustion so that you pick up every cough and cold that your child brings home from school.

As I’ve mentioned above your training needs to be adapted to your altered state. Your body does not have the same resilience as it did 20 years ago. Joints and limbs may be stiff or may have sustained injuries that you’ve adapted to. Your body does not produce the abundance of healing hormones that it once did.

You may be able to get away with it for a while but sooner or later it catches up in the form of injuries, exhaustion or your immune system falters and you become sick.

Avoid this by taking on board some of the points I’ve made above and adapt your training and make it fit for purpose.

4.Conditioning Treadmill in parkThis should be a part of every workout. Running nowhere on the treadmill for hours on end isn’t my idea of a productive fitness regime. Even as an endurance athlete it has failings, without getting into too much detail treadmills perform part of the running action for you.

Steady state cardio or high intensity interval training? Both have their place and train different energy systems. However they don’t have to be performed in the traditional manner. You can achieve a very productive cardio workout using weight resistance rather than just the traditional treadmill running or rowing.

There is a lot more to conditioning than merely long distances on either the treadmill, bike or rower. Sets and intervals can be employed in much the same way as resistance training depending on the desired outcome.

5.Sensible Workout Structure
Body preparation – Warmup
Strength movement(s)
Cool down

You may also want to incorporate conditioning days which can stimulate your metabolism.

Body preparation – Warmup
Conditioning – Bear in mind Conditioning Ratios but you can use equipment or bodyweight.
Cool down

How you tackle the above will depend on the overall goal of your training regime

How to progress.
Increase level of intensity
Increase the numbers, weights, sets, reps.
Decrease the time but get same work done

Accessible ways to track progress
1. Body mass – how much you weigh.
2. Girth measurements
3. Pictures 

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