An older engine can run just as nicely with the right attention
At the time of writing I am a few weeks away from being a 50 year old. So, the question is when is a good time for me to start winding down from all this hard training and start to kick back, maybe add in a bit more ‘luxury foods’ and add a little ‘cushioning’ to my frame.
I look at this a different way to many people. I actually believe that people as they age need MORE exercise. The body naturally starts to lose strength and flexibility as we age. That does happen, but need it happen at the same rate for everybody? If I workout and train flexibility daily would a carbon copy of me age more rapidly than me, if they just sat on the couch and ate junk all day? I think they would, not only that but research actually backs this up[i]. So, if exercise is good, what changes as we age?
Warm-ups and exercise change
washed up meat(less)-head?
Warm-ups need to become more extensive. You need a longer, more comprehensive warm-up. My system is foam rolling, then dynamic warm-up - I include every type of movement I can think of: squats, reaching over head, a hip hinge, bending over, lean laterally, go from floor to standing in some form. If you want to keep a range of motion do the range of motion, at least some of the time. Secondly, I moved away from just weights. A lot of us are pure gym bunnies, we waddle from the squat rack to the bench and back. I think as you get older bodyweight movements become more important. Things like basic push-ups, but also more advanced things like handstand push-ups, dragon flags, standing roll-outs....things that are hard to achieve and maintain, but get your body used to moving through space in different ways. You should still include the old faithful like pull-ups, squats and deadlifts, those will never be misplaced in any programme, but more things that work your body through space might just help maintain your abilities as you reach mid-life and beyond?
Less of this?
Foods become more important as we age. We do not just slow down metabolically we also lose the ability to assimilate as well as when we were younger. So not only do our calories need drop but we also need ‘higher quality’ calories. So, we need to actually knuckle-down on our eating as we age, include more nutrient dense foods, and focus on our eating with extra vigilance. That does not mean never eating 'fun food', but it does mean thinking a little more about the diet than you did as a younger person.
Less chance of needing a bump start?
Recovery will take more time. Let that sink in for a while, you will not recover as quickly as a younger person. Your hormones are not quite as optimal, your assimilation is not quite as good, your cardiovascular system not quite as robust. All this adds up to a slower recovery, just accept that you will not recover as well and your body will not forgive ‘gym stupidity’ like it did when you were a younger person.
Tying things up
All in all I expect to spend as long, or even longer in the ‘training environment’ as I age. I may not go quite as heavy, I may take more time warming up and doing mobility stuff, I will have to be more on point with my diet, but you’ll still see more there. I take heart from the strict vegetarian Joe Rollino (The Great Rollino)[ii]. Who was still training many days a week and died at 104 by being hit by a van (doing his morning cardio training). The man was still training and doing feats of strength, in fantastic physical shape with no hint of slowing down...even all that training could not protect him from a reckless driver, but we shall never know how long he would have continued had he avoided that accident. So, see you in 50 years time, I’ll be by the squat rack...warming up :-)
[i] [i] https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity/introduction
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