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.
Reduce the Presence of Pain in Your Life
You will reach all of your fitness goals much sooner if your brain is receiving fewer signals of pain. Your muscles and joints are slaves to the orders from the central nervous system. The presence of pain alters movement patterns and blunts the benefits of training. Do not accept pain as part of your life. In my work as a physical therapist, I have heard many euphemisms for pain. Physical therapy patients and fitness clients are not limping because of pain– they have a “discomfort,” “ache,” “spasm,” or “numbness”. When asked about pain, any answer other than a “no” is a “yes”. Resolving pain problems goes a long way toward restoring function and improving quality of life.
Many fitness clients habitually perform exercise activities that activate and reinforce signals of pain. I hear this all the time: “I just plow through it.” “Everyone my age has pain.” “I take three Motrin before my workout.” Pain researchers tell us that the more often you send a pain signal the easier it becomes to make that signal happen again and again. The “no pain, no gain” fitness dogma is still fairly common. A proper exercise program should decrease pain, improve mobility, and leave you feeling better.
Proper training should make things better and not broken. For many people, the first step in the fitness journey should be a visit to a physical therapist. Your fitness training should reduce the risk of injury, improve mobility, and make you strong for a lifetime. Turning off those pain signals may require some special attention, but for the forty plus fitness client, it will make all other fitness goals easier to achieve.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS