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Fitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity are dramatically different. If you need proof, look for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.

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Do the Most Important Thing First and Do It More Often

Older gym goers have a work capacity “gas tank” that is smaller than their younger friends. Their neural and energy pathways give out sooner and take longer to recover. Older fitness clients need to place the most important training activities early in an exercise session before fatigue degrades performance. Make your weakest movement pattern the first one you train. If you lack mobility in a specific movement such as a squat, hip hinge, or lunge, train that first. Activities that demand more neural control, such as balance and power drills, should be placed early in the training session.

The all too common mistake is to perform five minutes of static stretching, twenty minutes on the elliptical, and then attempt to work on glaring deficits in balance, mobility, and strength. It is much more difficult to improve strength or motor control skills when you are already fatigued.

Many older, deconditioned, and overweight training clients will make better progress if they train the most limited aspects of their performance every day. Durability (no injuries) is enhanced with more frequent training on the weakest links in your performance. If you are unable to squat, have poor core stability, shoulder movement limitations, etc, find five minutes and work on resolving that deficit every day. Seven, small, easy to recover from sessions a week will produce better results than the two or three long sessions at the gym.

All of this is predicated on the fitness client being aware of his limitations and weaknesses. You will never make it to “Point B” if you have no idea of your “Point A.” Read next week’s tip for some help.

-Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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