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.
Why Doing Just Enough Is Not Enough–Moving From Maintenance To Improvement
When I worked in Texas, I had a client named Gail. When we first met, she had recently turned 50 and was comfortable with her appearance. She led an active lifestyle and worked out at the gym two days a week. Overall, she was happy with her fitness level. She just wanted to maintain her routine. Gail had been coming to the same class at the gym twice a week for 4 years. The more I got to know Gail, she admitted to wanting to drop the 5-10 lbs which she said had settled solely in her mid-section. She also mentioned mild knee pain while playing tennis. In all the years she had been participating in her fitness class, her weight gradually increased and her knee pain only got worse, but these subtle changes hadn’t been enough of a red flag. Gail needed to change up her routine, which she eventually did with positive results
I hear this word “maintenance” frequently. Many gym goers are relatively satisfied with their appearance and just want to continue to be active in order to maintain their fitness level. My experience has shown that maintenance is an illusion. You either get better at something or you get worse. Every action and decision you make brings you closer to your goal or takes you further away. There are no neutral actions. This is easily measured in the world of fitness and physical performance. The first time you run a mile or bench press your bodyweight, a relatively high level of energy is used due to the inefficiency of all of the musculature and energy systems being used. Every time that same mile is run or that same weight is lifted, your muscles fire in a more coordinated manner and your energy systems involved become more efficient, so less energy is used for the same task. The hour workout that may have required 300 calories worth of energy to complete the first time you performed it may only require 280 calories after a couple of weeks, and perhaps only 200 calories after several months.
When you approach exercise with a “maintenance” mentality you often end up doing the same exercises, at the same speed, with the same loads, and over time this requires less and less work. If you can no longer do what used to do, this “maintenance” mentality may be the culprit. The only way to improve is to consistently perform more work or complete the same amount of work in a shorter period of time. Do this consistently 2-3x per week for months and years on end and you will actually maintain something. Do it 4-5x per week and you might actually get better.
Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1