When reality strikes

When we are younger, we seem invincible, we seem to bounce back from injuries quickly and we seem to recover from intense training sessions harder.

You can train 4-6 days a week with ease, push the volume, max out more often and have more leeway with your eating.

I can remember deadlifting 3 times a week in the early 2000’s.

I used to train on little sleep after doing homework all night for college.

I partially tore a hamstring and was back lifting heavy in weeks.

I can recall the old-timers in the gym saying “wait until you are my age” and I would brush them off.

Now, I am that guy saying “wait until you are my age”.

With age comes experience and more often than not, you learn to train smarter. You learn to build strength rather than test it, you learn the value of prehab work, stretching, mobility and sacrificing the days of binge eating for a better diet. Not all of us are able to learn by watching, a lot of us learn the hard way; I know for sure I had to.

The problem lies in the fact that our heads and hearts want to believe we are the same person we always were physically, when we may not be.

You may be stronger at 35 than you were at 25, but you may not be able to handle the same volume you did before.

What can we do to ensure we have a healthy body into our old age?

A few steps work:

1.  Re-analyze your training program and get balance in it. Balance doesn’t necessarily mean stop your goals, it means organize it in a way where you are not only hitting strength work but also cardio and hypertrophy to keep you stronger and healthier as you age.

2.  Organize your diet. This is the hard one for many of us, me included. This takes more sacrifice than lifting because for many of us lifting is second nature. This requires dedication, discipline, time for prep and enough willpower to eat for a goal rather than eat for just pleasure alone. Food IS fuel, you should enjoy it but if you give in to the pleasure principle at all times, you will be eating like hell daily. We all know the effects of a bad diet, some of us live those effects. Make the decision to stick to a sensible eating plan and see it out.

3.  Go to a doctor for a physical and hormonal screening. Get your blood pressure checked, lipids, ask for a testosterone screening, women can ask for their hormone panels as well. Part of growing old and being healthy as we age can be directly attributed to having a healthy hormonal profile. There isn’t any shame in asking this, as we age, critical hormones are depleted which cause a host of issues. Having these checked out to ensure you are falling within healthy ranges isn’t “cheating” its adding to your quality of life.

4.  Learn how to be mobile. This is something I neglected for a very long time and now that I am starting to do more of it, I see how board-like I really am. It affects progress, it causes injury and if just affects basic movement. Look at resources to become a more mobile person.

5.  Don’t train more than 4 days a week with weights. Sometimes you have to do 3. I know lifters personally who train 2 days per week and still are seeing progress. This is up to the individual. 4 seems to be that magic number for strength work that most people follow, adding another day can be the difference between progress and regress. We like to think that if we are not in the gym often, we will lose size or strength; however, if we are in the gym TOO much it could cause overtraining. Contrary to what some people say, overtraining does exist. Sometimes you cannot eat enough to compensate for training. If you are going too hard for too long, your body will let you know and no amount of food will make up for that.

6.  Max out less. Build strength with submaximal work and trust your work pays off rather than trying to hit PR’s in the gym where they don’t matter. As many have said, save it for when it counts.

You can do other things to help, such as getting more sleep, reducing stress in your life (as much as possible) and I am sure there are other ideas you may have.

Lifting is a lifelong pursuit, its a way of life and we can name numerous lifters/bodybuilders who have honed their craft into their 60’s and beyond. We are all capable of the same thing as long as we learn we aren’t 21 anymore.

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