Adapting to Changes and using Recovery as you Age

Adapting to Changes and using Recovery as you Age

As I get closer to 40, I've become more aware of the physical changes that come with ageing. I've noticed that it’s harder to build muscle and recovery usually takes longer. While these changes are tough to swallow, there’s a lot you can do with a focused, smart approach - it's possible to maintain and even improve fitness as you age. 

Recently, I competed in my first Olympic Lifting competition - I like to define the Olympic lifting community as a small group of fitness fanatics that like to lift very heavy weights over their head.  In this sport, injuries are common and so you have to be very in tune with your body and its limits.    It was a good way to test my resilience with training while balancing rest/recovery.  Over the span of 1 year of training 5 days/week and sometimes up to 2 hours in my sessions, I was able to improve my lifts by 5%.  That’s right, 1 whole year of dedicated training to improve by 5 kilograms in my lift. 
To some, that may sound like a  waste of time… but to me, it was a huge victory.   

These were the two common obstacles I found myself running into:  

1) Getting older
2) The fitter you are, the harder it is to get stronger 

As we get older, recovery takes longer so we can’t always train as often or as hard as we used to.  We have to be in tune with how our bodies are recovering from day to day and be kinder to our bodies.  As far as recovery goes, there’s a golden rule I preach which is spend 10 minutes on stretching/rolling for every hour of moderate to intense physical activity that you do.  Further, if your routine involves a lot of high intensity training, make sure to implement some low intensity work from time to time… this can include a 30 minute yoga session, walking or even a massage. 
Second, as we get fitter, our body adapts to the training quicker, making further gains that much harder.  As an extreme example, just think of 100M sprinters that train 4 years to take .1 of a second off their times.  Oftentimes, because of this (for you type A people) our response is to train harder or more often - and I can tell you more than not that this is not the answer.  As we age, overtraining is a more common issue so instead of piling in more workouts, think about your recovery game… are you sleeping enough,  staying hydrated,  reducing stress etc. 

This is where being SMART with your training is VERY important.  If you’re someone that likes to push yourself hard more than 3x/week, then I would plan your recovery in the same way… are you taking time to think about rest or lighter weeks of intensity?

At first, the physical changes of aging felt like a setback, but I've come to accept and embrace them as a natural part of the aging process. I've learned that it's important to focus on what I can control, rather than dwelling on what I can't.  For most people, what you can control simply involves having a consistent fitness routine, a healthy/balanced diet and getting enough rest.  If you check out on these boxes then I can guarantee you’re already doing better than most.  

On the other hand, if you're a real go-getter and train most days of the week, then it is even more important to plan those recovery days as you get older.

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