If you've been training since your teens or 20s and you're now over 40, you know, of course, you're hooked. You can't let go. But then conventional wisdom slaps you in the face and tells you you're in for a change in your training and expectations.
Being well past my 40s, I've discovered that the most intimidating enemy in the process of advancing years is conventional wisdom. Constantly we're told that we must hold back, that training, regardless of age, stresses our muscles, which leaves slight tears, which in turn leaves scars, eventually resulting in injuries, and that the older we get and the longer we train, the more injuries accumulate. Caution must be the order of our days as we pass 40.
Decreasing muscle response and increasing skin elasticity also take their toll, we're told, so look for other benefits. Don't expect to make gains. Give it up. Settle for maintenance.
For a few years in my 40s, I submitted to conventional wisdom. I did hold back, feeling the accumulated injuries of more than 30 years of bodybuilding, especially in my shoulders, elbows and lower back.
The injuries were real, and their persistence convinced me that I could no longer train as fast as I had in my youth, that I required longer recovery periods, that my durability wasn't what it used to be and that, where I once went for that last rep, I must hold back or else possibly suffer another injury that might halt my training for good.
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I persuaded myself I should simply be glad I'm alive, that, along with cumulative injuries, age brings compensatory gains in wisdom and that I should put that wisdom to use by accepting age gracefully. Now I see that just as the mere awareness of age can affect your ego and attitude, so can a more confident and determined attitude awaken you to the fact that the other side of 40 holds a valid promise for improving your physique.
A hint of that has always been with me, even in my more timid years. There's not much difference in my training now vs. when I was in my 20s. I'm still doing some of the same things—old-fashioned stuff I was doing years ago—and I do them now with as much vigor and enjoyment as I did then. In fact with more enjoyment than I had then.
No longer do I have the apprehension when approaching my workouts that was there when I was younger. I also notice I'm reluctant to hold back, that I love to push to the limit. That's when I'm happiest, and age has not at all been able to quell those feelings.
For the complete story, get the February 2008 issue of Iron Man or visit www.ironmanmagazine.com.