If you are reading this, you are probably over or approaching 40. You may be in shape and looking to stay that way. You may be looking to get back in shape. Or you may be trying to get in shape "before it's too late." I am writing this in the hopes that it will make you think, take action, and make it a lifestyle choice to stay fit.
I was sitting here the other day realizing a couple of things about getting older.
- It is going to happen, regardless of how much we refuse to deny it.
- It is possible to fight it tooth and nail.
Many of you who follow my articles know that I didn't start competing until I was over 40, but you may not know all the setbacks I've had. Let me share with you a little more about myself and my journey on the road to being fit over 40.
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Author, Ctgblue: 'I Am Writing This In The Hopes That It Will Make You
Think, Take Action, And Make It A Lifestyle Choice To Stay Fit.'
A Little About Myself
I started lifting in the 70's for middle school football. I lifted on and off in high school and college. I fenced, taught and fought martial arts for my college teams, and basically exercised in some form for a minimum of an hour a day at the park. I was always "in shape" but never "big." I was the tall, slim cut guy. I usually had abs, a decent chest and lats (developed as a swimmer when young) but never had arm or leg size.
- Between my junior and senior years in college I injured my lower back seriously, so seriously that I could not partake in any strenuous physical activity for 6 months. The food intake I could handle while being extremely active for an average of 16 hours a week created a problem for me when I could only sit on my butt most of the time. Somehow I managed to put on 40 lbs easily. "When's the baby due?" Not a good look for me.
When I graduated and started working, I joined a gym and started exercising regularly. It took me 2 years to drop the 40 lbs and put on a good amount of muscle. I was back to my college fighting form.
10 years later and numerous sporadic periods of lifting heavy for a few years then spending the next few undoing all the hard work, I had a car accident that really changed the way I had to take care of myself. It did damage to the pituitary gland that shut my testosterone levels down.
Fat went on; muscle came off, along with all the fun side effects associated with basement level testosterone. Going on HRT helped, but not a lot, it just put me back into low normal levels. But at least I could begin to turn it back around.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a testosterone replacement in males with low levels due to disease or aging.
- Starting to seriously lift again and now getting results, I had yet another setback. A broken collarbone not only hurts like h#ll, but it makes any upper body lifting impossible for a long time. So, still having bird legs, that was the time to change them.
Leg press, hack squat, leg extensions, lying leg curls, and some calf work became my routine. Over the next 6-8 months, I put almost 4-5" on my legs and gained about 15 lbs while dropping the fat gained after the injury.
At this point I was now doing moderate upper body work, but the collarbone was too weak to be able to squat, which I knew was the key to real, full leg development and the overall 'look' of good legs. So I got involved in powerlifting training, started deadlifting to strengthen the collarbone, and I set my sights on competing.
- Then, after a couple of years, as you probably anticipated, a new injury occurred. During a heavy chest day I managed to not only tear a ligament in my wrist, but also to separate the cartilage from the bone.
Abs, legs and the side lateral machine for the underdeveloped delts were now the routine. Powerlifting was now out of the question, the wrist could never do heavy flat bench gain.
But, during this time, I met my wife and married her. I never would have met her if not for our shared love of bodybuilding. Things are looking up for me at this point. Then, yes again, I got injured very seriously.
- Somehow I managed to not see a tractor trailer coming on that dark morning, and driving my wife's sub compact 2 door, the truck punched me 50-100 yards down the road. I woke up to sunlight and 3 guys trying to figure out, "How are we gonna get this guy outta here?"
The police told my wife, "The only reason he's alive is because he's so big and strong. That would have killed most people." That afternoon, after 3 CAT scans on my back (they just could not believe my back was not broken), I walked out of the ER, got in the car and went home with my wife and kids.
I want to drive this point home to all of you, as I firmly believe that this lifestyle saved my life! No doubt in my mind, or the mind of my doctor. I had no broken bones, but something else was lurking. My doctor was amazed at the rapid regeneration.
He told me that, because of my regular regimen of lifting, eating, resting, repeating, I had trained my body to efficiently repair itself. So it treated the injuries as just more 'micro traumas' and went about repairing itself very quickly, about half the normal time.
5 weeks after the accident, I found out I had the "largest subdural hematoma they had ever seen in anyone who was even conscious." The only reason I did not have a deadly stroke 3 days before then was because I was in pretty good shape and my cardiovascular system had been able to push blood past the blockage. So for the second time this lifestyle saved my life! God must have obviously had other plans for me.
I was back in the gym 6 weeks later and back in better shape than before within 90 days.
Bodybuilding Can Save Your Life
Why the long monologue you ask? Because I want you to know that this lifestyle can save your life. Hopefully not from extreme situations like mine, but getting in shape and staying in shape can make your quality of life better, all around.
You can pick up that box, open that jar, climb up that ladder, easily walk from the "heart healthy" parking spots, throw your kids or even grandkids around in the pool, and even take those stairs two at a time if necessary. And it is a great stress reliever.
Why am I in better shape at 45 than at 35? Because I never gave up. If you give up, you're giving in to age, so don't let it get you. It's never too late to get in shape, get back in shape, or just get motivated again to stay in shape.
If you are already in shape, but maybe losing some motivation to stay consistent, go to the mall and just look around! You are now a minority in most parts of the country. Look over there. Do you really want to look and feel like the people who have to wait for the elevator because they cannot take the stairs? I didn't think so.
Are you out of the shape you were once in? Don't let it go too far, get back in it, then stay in it. Are you out of shape altogether? Are you happy about the way you look and feel? If the answer is no, then do something about it now!
Before you get the wrong idea, I don't care how you look. If you are happy with it, so be it. But, if it is starting to cause health problems, then I have a problem with it. Being very overweight is a major factor in the rise of many illnesses.
Other people are paying more for their health insurance because you may be way out of shape. Not only is it costing others, but you are more at risk of dying young and leaving behind spouses and children who depend on you. I do have a problem with that.
7 Factors To Stay Fit
Get it in gear, especially if you have people who love you and depend on you. If you cannot do it for yourself, do it for them. Since there are many factors, I plan to cover the following main points in this article:
- Dietary considerations
- Strength training
- Cardiovascular health
- Flexibility training
- Dealing with stresses
- Getting enough rest
- Building a support system
Why do I list this section first? Well, the reason is that, in my opinion, this is the most important factor on the road to long term fitness. We can exercise all we want, but if our diet is poor then our long term health will be poor.
As we get older and have increasing demands on our time, our diet tends to suffer. We spend less time cooking healthy food and opt for the more "convenient" option of eating out or grabbing something quick. Unfortunately, quick is not always healthy. We always seem to have an excuse like one of the following:
"I Work In An Office All Day." Well, here is the answer for you - Trapped In a Cubicle? You Can Still Eat Like A Bodybuilder!
"I'm On The Road." We've got you covered there too - Staying Healthy While Traveling: Maintain Your Fitness Goals & Win! It's not that we don't know what to do; it's that we don't do it!
"Eat your meat and vegetables first and save your bread and sweets for later." Remember that one? Grandma was right, eat the healthy food first and have the fun stuff on special occasions. If we make that the rule rather than the exception, we'll all be better off.
Bodybuilding is the best proving ground for the saying, "You are what you eat." If you eat healthy and hearty, you will make progress, look and feel good. If you eat junk, drink consistently, and/or do recreational drugs, you will look and feel like cr@p.
But what is healthy and hearty? Well grandma was right about this too. Protein and complex carbs including fibrous veggies should be your base. Whole grains and green veggies should be your primary carb sources with the addition of essential fatty acids in the forms of omega 3-6-9 forms.
Simple sugars should be kept to a minimum (preferably around the time of strength training). You should stay hydrated with plenty of fluids, attempting to make the majority of your fluid intake pure water. If you drink alcohol, then keep it as an exception rather than as a rule. The majority of people are never going to get in excellent condition if alcohol is in their everyday diet.
So it's not difficult to figure out what to do, but the challenge is figuring out how to make it fit into your busy life.
I can tell you this, you will never get into shape with the mindset of "I know I need to do it." You will only make the changes you desire when your mindset switches to, "Now I want to do it."
Some of you may need help with this part. The main thing you need to remember is: do not "go on a diet." Instead, you should learn to change you eating habits. Healthy eating habits can be maintained for life, a diet cannot.
Most diets call for restriction of some key nutritional component. Healthy eating habits only call for you to make smart choices and control your portion sizes, those things you should already be doing.
Strength training is a critical element for fitness as we age. Strength training helps retain muscle mass, which keeps metabolism high. Strength training also supports healthy bone structure, promote healthy growth hormone and testosterone levels, and just makes us feel good.
Some of us train to gain muscle, some to maintain it, and some of us are just trying to fight off the effects of aging. I see many people in the gym. They come in, hit the cardio machines for 30-45 minutes, and they either leave or sloppily throw in a few sets of super fast machine reps before leaving.
Over the course of the last 4 years in the same gym, these people have made absolutely no progress. Now, if they are just trying to "not get fat" that is one thing, but if I am getting my @ss up at 4:30am to hit the gym, I want to see some results.
And, because this group does no strength training and gains no muscle, they must constantly do cardio to not get fatter. They are not helping their metabolism in any significant way, except for the short amount of time it is elevated after they leave.
If you want to permanently increase your metabolic rate, you must add muscle to your frame. Then you must keep it there. But putting it on and keeping it on, without overdoing it, can be a challenge.
I will be covering some ways to help add and keep muscle, for those of us over 40, in my next article.3. Cardiovascular Health:
Cardiovascular fitness is important to promote healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and arterial plaque levels down. It also maintains a 'tuned' body for optimum performance in many areas of life. We work better, sleep better, and are able to do more things easily when our cardiovascular health is kept high.
Want to get the most benefit from your cardio work, especially in relation to fat loss? Do your actual cardio workout after your strength training. Let the strength training burn off the muscle glycogen during a time it provides fuel for lifting. Not only will you have a better strength training workout, but you will be much closer to your fat burning mode when you do hit the treadmill.
Cardiovascular health is a key to longevity. I know that when I neglect it, as I do too often it seems, I just don't feel as good as usual.
Remember, cardio training does not have to be "sweat drenched sessions on the treadmill." Sometimes just getting your butt moving can help tremendously. Active cardio can be a tremendous help with increasing your metabolism during the day.
What do I mean by "active cardio?" I mean walking the dog, washing the car, mowing the lawn, mopping the floor, taking out the trash, playing in the pool with your kids, throwing the football around, playing Frisbee, etc.
Anything that gets you up and moving can be considered active cardio. But getting up to go to the pantry to get another bag of chips while watching the game is not active cardio!
One of the most neglected factors in the fitness equation is flexibility training. We all hate stretching (okay I hate stretching and most people I know do also), but it is critical in maintaining long term mobility as we age.
Despite what you often see in the gym, you should not stretch before you exercise. Cold muscles tear more easily. Do a 5 minute warm-up on the treadmill or elliptical and then do some light stretching before you lift.
Contrary to popular belief, yoga classes are not just for skinny vegan women. They are good for everybody. I am a 6'2" full on carnivore, and I have participated in several yoga classes. Now, if you are, like I am, not the most balanced person, wear muted colors and stand in the back of the class.
Don't be the big guy in the yellow tank top flailing around trying to stay balanced and distracting everyone in the mirror. Not that I have been that guy, but just saying. Anyway, take it easy in the yoga class until you build the flexibility to be more aggressive with it. Don't be stupid, you'll just hurt yourself.
When joining a yoga class for the first few times, be sure to let the instructor know you've never done this before. The instructor can always show you a beginner version of the more difficult poses until you become more balanced and flexible.
After you get used to it, you'll definitely benefit from the added flexibility. You may sleep better and be more at ease. Hey, it won't work if you don't try.
Pilates is another great way to not only increase flexibility, but to strengthen your core too. Now I am referring to mat Pilates, not crazy machines. I am a big believer in strengthening the core with all your limbs planted firmly on the ground, especially if you are a beginner.
As with yoga, when joining a Pilates class for the first few times, be sure to let the instructor know you've never done this before. The instructor can always show you a beginner version of the more difficult moves until you become more flexible and stronger.
We are in the age bracket now where our responsibility level can easily exceed our ability to manage it. Kids, careers, marriages, extended family issues, the economy, our "201k", and many other day to day stresses can bend our mental and emotional limits close to the breaking point. We must find a way to decompress. But how?
One thing to consider is that stress is compounded by chaos. While some people thrive in chaos, most of us cannot. The more chaotic our life is, the more stress we feel. And if, like I do, we internalize this stress, it can compound itself and cause all sorts of health problems.
Therefore we need to make our lives more orderly. I don't mean that we need to schedule every minute, but if we have a basic outline of how our days should go, it is much easier to deal with the emergencies that may pop up.
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." We've all heard it, and by this age, we know it's the truth. If you have something you are procrastinating getting done, and it is stressing you out, then just do it and get it over with. Stress is gone. Now you don't have that little voice in your head nagging you to do something.
Another way to lessen stress is through hobbies. Sure, exercise is a great hobby to relieve stress, but it cannot be the only one if you wish to maintain long term peace of mind.
What are some examples of hobbies? How about reading, drawing, learning and playing a musical instrument, walking the dog, repairing the house, working on the car, learning something - anything new. These are just some of the hobbies that we can do at different times of the day and different times of the year.
There are also many herbal stress relief supplements. Some work, some do not. I will cover some of these that do work in my 3rd article. But ultimately, one of the best ways to help cope with stress is to get enough rest.
Our bodies don't grow while we are in the gym. We cannot deal with stress when we are tired, and some of us are downright cranky if we don't get enough sleep. Sometimes we get to the point of making the lives of those around us miserable.
Hopefully by this time in our lives we have found some sort of outlet to help us manage some of our stress. But getting enough quality rest can give us the energy to fight off the stress, if we can just get it.
One of the biggest obstacles in the way of getting quality rest in today's world is electronic overload. Too much TV, too much internet, too many images and colors and sounds are overloading our systems and not allowing us to get to sleep.
What can we do to overcome this problem? One of the best things we have found, in our family, is to shut down all electronics 30-60 minutes before bed. We turn off the TV, turn off the computers, and pick up a good book. 30-45 minutes of light reading can significantly calm you down.
Another big thing that people do that hinders proper sleep is that they exercise too close to bedtime. This can amp the metabolism for a few hours, so naturally it can cause difficulties with falling and staying asleep.
What other silly things do people do? They eat or drink too much, too close to bedtime. This can not only cause heartburn, but just having a full stomach can cause enough discomfort to stop someone from sleeping well.
I will cover some sleep aid supplements that work well in my 3rd article, but the best way to get good quality sleep is always to not sabotage a good nights rest ahead of time. Again, the old "fail to plan" idea is hard at work here.
So now we're moving towards a healthy, fit lifestyle. How are we going to keep up the momentum? Many people need some sort of a support system.
Most of us can get some of this through our family and friends, but some people have families who "don't get it" and are no support at all. Sometimes family can be a hindrance to our goals. (Guys, bringing home sweets when your wife is trying to trim down is a bad thing)
If you are in this situation what can you do? Well, there are more sources for support than you may think.
Online Exercise And Diet Logs: For instance the one in the Over 35 section of the forum on Bodybuilding.com. This allows you to log and track your routine, with feedback and support from others, without having to go anywhere. Once you get in the habit of doing well and get encouragement for your efforts, it becomes increasingly easier to stick with it.
Weight Watchers: For those who really need some one on one help, this is a great plan. They help establish eating habits and have a great support system. They even have online meetings and support if you don't want to go to each meeting. While this is not geared towards exercise, the overall support can help you get going and stick with it. Plus, it's a non-restrictive eating plan that focuses on smart choices and portion control. This is one of the only plans that you can modify and follow for life.
Work Programs: Many companies now have health benefits that cover weight loss and or cardiovascular health counseling. Check to see if your company has something like this in place. Many times it is a team concept, which means an instant support system.
Gym Buddies: Some of the best support can be found by getting a workout partner or just developing a group of friends at the gym that will hold you accountable. Sometimes just knowing that there will be questions raised if you miss workouts can make the difference in going or not.
Whatever support system you choose, it is still your responsibility to do the work, keep track of the food, and do what is needed. Nobody else can do it for you. Hopefully a little support can help you keep with it if and when the results seem to stall.
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Good luck with it. I am joining a team at work to help keep me going this spring, what are you going to do? Let me know. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I attempt to respond to everyone if possible.
Please keep an eye out for the rest of the series coming out over the next month or two. Let me know if there's a certain topic you would like to see me address.