- Al Painter, NASM-CPT, CES, PES
FUNCTIONAL AT 40: TRAIN WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS, NOT WHAT YOUR EGO WANTS
At some point, I turned 40. Well some point six year ago, but it happened. When I was a kid I thought 40 was one foot in the grave and life was game, set and match.
You traded in baseball pants for really comfortably polyester pants with a "forgiving" comfortable waist band with an elastic belt. The cool multicolored ones with the gold buckle, none of this solid color silver buckle nonsense.
If it had a little stretch to it all the better. Your best days athletically were behind you and the band was warming up to play you off stage for the last time.
See, I stopped aging at 29 as far as I was concerned. Although my wife would say that's a pretty generous estimation. Hey, my kids toot, daddy laughs.
I didn't really stop at the pace I was going at the gym, on the bike or in the rec sports I played. Being a lifelong athlete, the throttle was used to being flown wide open, play accordingly.
Get an injury? Give me a few days and I'll be good. Bike crash? Once the road rash heals up, back in the saddle to grip it and rip it!
Then, suddenly, while the injuries may have been quick to happen, recovering started to take a lot longer. Uninvited aches and pains popped up more frequently and stayed past what I thought was an acceptable layover. Which to a lifelong athlete, proper etiquette was for most injuries to get the hell out of dodge (see, over 40) 15-20 minutes after they happened.
When I was younger, I played through pain that eventually went away without rest. I trained on my bike when my low back was screaming at me to get off it. Few reasons 1) Testosterone and 2) See number one and again add in lifelong athlete who didn't have time to get hurt.
Funny how all of this plays out. We never really expect it. At least I didn't.
Oh, I knew it was coming, but to me it was something that only happened to other people. I mean come on, at 39 I was still kicking glutes in sprint workouts on the bike. I could outrun weak ground balls for infield hits playing softball.
Then my daughter was born and the age of sleep deprivation arrived. When that passed, all of the stress that goes along with being a parent showed up as well further draining my tank.
Luckily, with, well, a lot of luck, I was still me athletically, until I hit 40. That's when things began to change.
While I could still perform at a level that met the expectations of performances past placating my ego, it took a lot more to get there. I had to, GASP! WRETCH! COUGH! take rest days (MIND...BLOWN).
Rest days to people who are used to regularly moving at warp factor six are agonizing. Rest days to people who are used to moving at warp factor six who love coffee are even worse.
Then another really cool thing started to happen. My body would tell me "HEY! How about we stop deficit spending on the energy levels and rest for a few minutes?? What do you think smart guy? I mean adrenal fatigue is cool and all, but let's take an off day."
To which my canned response was:
"All circuits are busy right now, please try your call again later."
To which my body responded:
"Really tough guy? Not going to listen? Then how about we introduce you to a triple digit fever? Don't like that? How about we tie your low back muscles into a pretzel for a week so you HAVE TO REST? HOW DO LIKE THEM APPLES???"
See, much like the house, you're body will always win. Play accordingly, life is good. If you don't, well, not so much.
It Ain't All Gloom And Doom
The good news is, once the train rolls out of the station the day you meet your landlord for the last nine months, you begin getting older and the time on your warranty starts ticking away.
I know, I know. I'd be thinking "thanks for the reminder Sunny Jim" too if I was you. Just stay with me for a few more sentences, I'll bring the horses back to the barn (see, over 40).
The key to navigating this whole thing is to be nice to your body. If you are, you can still do a ton of the things you like. Find out what that looks like, then put your damn ego aside and do it.
I now hike more than I ride. Why? I feel good after I do and I can still workout the next day.
(Puts index finger to lips...)
Shhhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone, I actually really like the way it slows me down and helps me get centered. I still love a steep pitch to blast my heart rate and make my legs protest, but it is a lot less labor intensive than a hard interval based MTB ride.
After I'm on the bike, I can still recover, but there's a little more robbing Peter to pay Paul involved post ride. Again, paint on the canvas you're given.
That's pretty much it. The plan is simple, the implementation is anything but.
Mostly, because those of us born in the early 70's who aren't in this industry know "how we always used to do it" when it comes to working out. We tend to not be very familiar with how things should be done now.
It Is All About Joint Friendly Fitness After 40
Here's a common for instance. You can't do this or that in the gym because of "insert old high school sports injury here." Well, what can you do?
Can you do pushups at the right angle? No? What about pushup position planks? Yes, great, we've got something to play with.
Can you press or pull with cable pulleys or bands standing in a split stance? Yes? Awesome, we now work on the diagonal loading patterns that are critical to keeping our backs happy.
How about isometrics? Can you stand still, contract your muscles and build your movement foundation that way? You can? Great, let me introduce you to one of the most challenging ways to exercise. And it might just drive your heart rate through the roof.
See, options, plenty of them. You just need to find the one that works for you. Especially if you've got "energetic kids" who want you to be their indoor jungle gym, play catch with them, run around with them and essentially never rest until they are fast asleep.
Since my kids mean the world to me, I'm committed to that, 100%. Plus, I'll be damned if I'm not dancing ALL NIGHT LONG with them at their respective wedding receptions.
To be able to hit that training goal, my workouts now look like 80+% bodyweight training (Stick Mobility, isometrics, suspension training) and 20% exercise bands. My joints tolerate those two methods well, and I can go at a good clip in terms of getting my heart rate up.
Not too mention I absolutely LOVE the ego crushing challenge bodyweight/calisthenics training provides. Since I hate losing more than I like winning, this allows me to go at a level that placates the ego while allowing me to strengthen my body all while keeping my joints happy.
Will this strategy have to change to an even more forgiving way to exercise at some point? Maybe, maybe not. If that day comes, then I'll go back to define my "perfect fitness avatar" and I'll plan accordingly.
For now, until it does... ITS WARP FACTOR 6 BABY!!!!
Ok, Maybe its WARP FACTOR 1.56 BABY! Take a rest day or two, then wash rinse and repeat!