I once saw an article saying that after age 40, you should lie down and face the facts: You’re fragile and ancient and you won’t see GAINZ again. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you don’t disintegrate into a little mound of dust.
That’s bullsheet, friends.
Listen, you will notice differences – your body just doesn’t respond the same way it did. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle and strength and be a complete badass in the weight room. I’ve had many training clients over the age of 40 and 50 who continue to enjoy the hell out of strength training and all it has to offer.
Not only that, but I feel more energetic, strong, and SMOKIN’ hot now than I did in my 20’s or 30’s.
So there, “I’m-too-old-to-change” sistas.
(And you there, moaning and groaning about turning 30: Unless you want us to burn up your Youth Card, go with it. You’re young, dammit. And if you’re under 40 writing about being over 40, well that’s just stoopid.)
Personally, I don’t need help staying young mentally; I’ll never grow up. But this idea from physiologist Bill Evans sticks with me:
In other words, take care of yourself and keep on lifting, you badass.
So in honor of my turning 50 in a few days (wait – WTF? I’m still 32), I’ve put together a list of how YOU can crush it after 40, 50, and beyond. Keep in mind that everyone will have a different experience depending on their genetics, fitness level, injuries, and lifestyle, so consult with your doctor if you feel it’s warranted, old timer (heh).
Get Yer Rest!
No, I’m not saying you should integrate naps and a 7 pm bedtime. But you will find, after a certain age, that you need more time to recover between your workouts. I only noticed this in the last year, but most likely my body was needing it before then.
Words of wisdom:
Poor recovery can happen to anyone! But your recovery is definitely affected as you age.
- Look for these signs:
- Chronic fatigue
- Not feeling ready for your next workout
- Stalled strength gains
- Chronic injuries
- Try a lower volume (more below)
- Leave yourself an extra day for recovery or more time between workouts.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Do not underestimate the huge role sleep plays in recovery and getting results!
Fight the Fluff
It’s true: As we age our muscle mass naturally decreases and our metabolism slows down. We also tend to get busier and more sedentary. So your mission is to prevent that middle flab from forming. And believe me, it wants to take over – you’re fighting against the tide here.
- Eat clean in the right amounts to help you maintain a healthy weight and build muscle. You also need to understand that as you age, you need to eat less than you used to. Now, this may not be true for athletes who are very active – endurance runners and such. But for the reasons I listed above – decreasing muscle mass and a sedentary lifestyle – we typically need to eat less than we did when we were younger to avoid gaining weight. Track your food to find out how much.
- Keep lifting. “But wait,” you might say, “I lift weights – am I still losing muscle mass?”
Are you lifting consistently, following a smart program, and eating appropriately? If not, you most likely you are losing muscle. It’s a fine line to train hard enough to warrant extra calories and thus build muscle. Which brings me to my next point.
- Monitor your body composition! Listen up: you must estimate your body fat or at least take your waist circumference to know if you’re gaining fat or losing muscle. The scale will tell you only the total gain or loss. I recommend you estimate your body comp once a month minimum or even twice a month. But do it NOW to get a baseline.
- If you notice an uptick in fat, ACT.
- If you’re already fairly lean, add more cardio or increase the intensity of your cardio.
- If you’ve become lax with your diet, clean it up and start tracking your calories.
- If your activity level has decreased, then recalculate and reduce your calories.
Train Smart, Not Insane
You can’t keep training insane and expect to be a boss in the weight room. The ole’ joints can’t take a pounding forever, and by the time we reach our 40’s and 50’s they’ve already been pounded quite a bit. So you’ve got to rethink your volume.
Two cents’ worth:
- Think of warm ups as foreplay (lifting is like sex!). It should be long, comfortable, and make you feel nice and warm. Take your time and do it right. Do 5 or 6 dynamic movements that put your muscles and joints through full range of motion. Never skip it! Never!
- Train less for more results. This applies to anyone. One of the most common mistakes I see is overdoing it – too many exercises, too many reps and sets, and too many training days.
- Deload every 3-4 weeks. In my Fierce Definition online training group, I teach women lifters how to back off the weights for MO’ muscle. Schedule these in or they will not happen. Period.
And finally, I share this awesome breakingmuscle.com article about training after age 35. Yes, you should probably start using this advice for weightlifting at 50 a bit earlier than 50.
We don’t stay chronologically young forever. But we can continue to be lifting badasses forever, provided we acknowledge and respect our bodies’ needs.
Now get after it!
This article originally appeared on workoutnirvana.com.