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  • Al Painter BA, NASM-CPT, PES, CES, TRX Qualified


I've got a shocker to share with you the faithful peruser of my fitness prose. Chances are, you're going to turn 40.

I know right??? It happened to me four years ago, and oddly enough, the number after the "4" keeps getting bigger every 365 days. Rest assured, Father Time, much like the house, always wins.

However, just because there is a four in front of another number in your age, it doesn't mean its game, set and match for your fitness levels or inner athlete. In fact, with the right approach, that person can still come out and play.

Maybe not at the same intensity or frequency as before, and you may need to modify what you're doing a bit, but you can still enjoy being active.

Good Morning, You're 40!

Things are a little different now. My goals in the gym are a lot different. To me fitness now means being able to play with my kids, have energy throughout my day, minimizing aches and pains and still being able to perform at a level that pacifies both my body and my ego. Basically, if I play soccer, ultimate frisbee or softball on a Saturday, training the right way during the week keeps me feeling good (not too mention ambulatory) on Sunday.

This includes, sometimes, wait for it... wait for it...

Not even lifting weights when I workout. Yes, not one piece of iron picked up in a workout. An exercise like the TRX Single Arm Row is something I'll use because it is a great way to go to regaining your inner athlete.

Now, before you get all "WHAT?????? RED ALERT!! BRO SCIENCE CODE VIOLATION!!!" on me, here's why: 44-year-old joints need a different approach. When I play by this rule, life is good, when I don't, well, not so much.

With that being said, here are the most effective ways I've found to fine tune your fitness after the age of 40.

Get. A. Trainer.

This one is critical because one of the more common things I see is people training in their 40s like they are still in their 20s. Getting a trainer can help you save yourself from, well, you.

Being taken through a program that eliminates having to figure out the right exercises, at the right times, done the right way with the right loads is imperative to exercising safely. I've found that training movements in my workouts is just as important as training my muscles. Meaning dialing in your basic primal movement patterns helps you train your muscles that much better.

Especially if you've got a history of injuries, aches and pains (which most of us on the right side of 40 do!), it is even more important to work with someone who knows how the body is supposed to move, how it breaks and how to keep it from breaking. You need to know exercise modifications to regress a movement when necessary. If you train to keep your muscles as balanced as possible, your movement quality can go up quite a bit.

You should also learn the most joint friendly exericses that are easier to recover from so you can move as frequently as you'd like. A trainer can also help you create your workout based on where you like to exercise (at home, outdoors, gym, etc) in addition to maximizing the equipment you have access to.

Train With a Heart Rate Monitor and Heart Rate Variability

If you can't get to a trainer, using a heart rate monitor and meassuring heart rate variability (HRV) can help quite a bit. It won't replace directly working with someone, but the two combined can give you a better idea of how to pick the right training intensity.

HRV gives you an indication of how hard to train and a heart rate monitor (HRM) will let you know how hard you are training. Based on your HRV score, you can use your HRM to make sure you are using the appropriate intensity levels in your workouts.

Your score may also tell you need to take a rest day, and that alone right there is reason enough to use the two together. I like using the Mio Fuse for my HRM readings paired with the BioForce HRV system from Precision Performance for HRV measurements.

See Physical Therapists and Chiropractors before you have to

This is a pretty big one. I'm a firm believer you should prevent aches and pains before they happen. An ounce of prevention being better than a pound of cure is what I'm getting at.

Especially if you've got an injury history or have aches and pains that don't seem to go away. A good PT can evaluate the way you're moving, identify areas of dysfunction and give you some strategies on how to get on top of them.

A good chiropractor will help you keep your joints aligned and provide deep tissue work to help keep your muscles and connective tissues supple and as mobile as possible.

"Our bodies are not the same in our 40’s as they were in our 30’s or 20’s. Our history catches up to us," says Dr Lucy Osgood from the Chiropractic Performance Center. "The insults and injuries of years past are cumulative and can have a huge impact on our performance today. Scar tissue and fibrosis set in to muscles and joints and slowly restrict movement over time."

This includes our postural alignment. This is critical because once that begins to go, you open yourself up to a whole host of aches and pains.

"As we age, muscle mass and strength decline, with a loss of 3-5% of muscle mass per decade after age 30, if inactive. Thus, strength training can be a protective factor and improve stamina, reduce arthritis-related pain, and improve bone density," Says Dr Jamie Wong, DPT from Revolutions in Fitness. "It’s a great way to improve posture and movement patterns, and boost confidence that you can carry everywhere you go."

In part II we'll get into the best ways to eat to control inflammation, the best joint friendly exercises and why rest and recovery days are critical to optimizing your fitness levels.

If you live in the Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos or Menlo Park area and would like some help fine tuning fitness after 40, drop me a line and let's set up a time to create program.

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