Look, things happen when we age. Muscle mass decreases, flexibility decrease, hormones decreaseNo one is going to defeat the passage of time but we don’t have to go down without a fight.
Lifting weights and staying active as we age is one of the best way to slow down the aging process. It will help increase or keep muscle mass, it will help slow osteoporosis (really important for me with Addison’s), and the more muscle you make, the more testosterone levels may come up. Not a bad return on investment for a few hours of gym time each week.
But as you age you also need to change the way you lift. Here are 7 simple steps that can help you be more effective in the gym after age 40.
Don’t neglect technique
When you were younger maybe you were able to get away with less than ideal technique or slacking off a bit on form when the lifts got difficult. Don’t do that anymore. It will come back to haunt you in so many ways. If you’re not sure, ask a trainer. Even if you think you’ve got an exercise nailed it’s worth it to have someone (a trainer, a lifting budding) periodically check-in on your form.
Take more time to warmup
Gotta admit this might be the hardest one for me. Life is busy and sometimes finding the time for a workout is tough and the warmup seems like the easiest piece to trim. Don’t fall for this temptation. As you get older, you need to allow your body ample time to warm up. My rule of thumb now is if there is no time to warm up (or cool down) then there is no time to workout.
Never train through pain
This really applies to any age, not just those of us over 40, but the ramifications for ignoring the body’s warning signs and trying to train through pain are amplified as you get older. What once might take a few days to heal up might now take a week or more.
Don’t redline it all the time
A certain portion of your workouts should be high intensity but a larger portion should be lower intensity. The intensity should be almost low enough that it feels like you could repeat the workout after you are done. You want to be able to really push yourself on hard days, probably more than you are currently, and that means recovering completely and going easy on easy days.
Find some variation
Don’t ignore or drop the big exercises (deadlifts, lunges, etc) but find other exercises to rotate into a workout and maybe other sports to try. This is to prevent overuse injuries and ensure more balanced development.
Don’t overlook cardio
Many older athletes use aching joints as an excuse to give up running or biking or other cardio. You don’t need to, but keep it reasonable and balanced with the rest of your workouts. Steady state cardio is an great recovery tool. It burns fat, boosts your mood, and increases cardiovascular health—all good things for those of us over 40.
Watch your diet and hydration
I’m not a huge fan of all the different diets out there. If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, stay away from the processed foods and limit your sugar to reasonable levels, I think you’ll be okay. Fat sticks a little more easily as we age so it’s important to pay attention to your broad macro diet but you can do it without going crazy. Almost as important as diet is hydration. Drink a lot of water. Just do it.
Get more sleep
Finally, the single best investment you can make in yourself is getting more sleep. Sleep may be the great equalizer and the closest thing we’ve found to the fountain of youth. You will not be able to continue to skate by on 5 hours of sleep into your 40s and 50s. Do what it takes to get 7 or 8 hours and your body will thank you.
As we age, we can combat muscle loss and other potential age-related problems by lifting safely and increasing weights. It’s important to lift smarter however and not just go harder or more intense. These 8 tips should offer some good guardrails on how best to keep lifting into your 40s and beyond.