Guys in your 40s and 50s…
We all know that as we get older, our bodies change. We begin to lose free testosterone in our late 30s to early 40s, as much as 1% per year. Age-related sarcopenia can also responsible for us losing up to 5% of our muscle mass per decade. This also makes it harder to recover from intense exercise…and especially injury. Add all of this on top of the normal (high) day-to-day stress of career, family, and bad diets, and it’s no wonder you feel like a wreck.
If you’re not getting the results you used to get in the gym, it’s not the end of the world. We can make some simple adjustments to your routine to start getting a better outcome from your gym time.
Mode and Frequency
Because of all the physiological changes that your body goes through in your 40s and 50s it’s really important that you change the way you exercise to reflect them. It’s like the old saying goes, “You bend with the breeze…or you break.” But, don’t worry…there are simple changes you can make to your fitness routines to keep that from happening. Simply altering the Mode and Frequency by which you exercise can reap huge dividends in achieving the results you want while limiting injury and overtraining.
Mode, or the Type of Exercise you choose to do is going to have a huge impact on your results in the gym and the way you feel as you get older. The relationship between Cortisol and Testosterone in your body is something you need to pay close attention to. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is manufactured in the body by the cortex of the adrenal glands. It regulates many body functions including metabolism and immune response. During moments of stress (exercise is stress, by the way) our body releases more cortisol to aid in the necessary adaptation for coping and surviving danger. Too much cortisol in your body long term can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a host of other maladies that are completely contradictory to what your goals in the gym should be. Cortisol is also the sworn nemesis of Testosterone.
A quote from an article written by the National Federation of Professional Trainers states that, “In an average individual, cortisol breaks down about 1% of muscle proteins daily, which are then replaced as induced by growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor. With training, cortisol breaks down an average of 3-5% of muscle proteins daily. Overtraining releases excessive amounts of cortisol, eventually catabolizing a dangerous excess of proteins.” More on overtraining later, but needless to say we don’t want to speed up the process of sarcopenia up any more than we have to.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine shows a correlation between long-moderate intensity exercise (60-90 minutes) and a decrease of total testosterone in the body. “This finding would seem to support the notion that the observed testosterone reductions following certain forms of physical exercise could be related to cortisol elevations in response to that exercise.”
So what does all that mean for a guy in his 40s and 50s? Well…there’s a balancing act we need to be aware of. We need to find a mode of training that allows us to exercise intensely enough to see gains while limiting excessive cortisol production, while also avoiding overtraining and injury. Based on the research I have been doing for this article and my own personal fitness journey, I’d recommend that you drop the long bodybuilding and slow cardio workouts switching to a more Metabolic Conditioning based program.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a mode of exercise that utilizes moments of intense complex movements (multi joint exercises) and short rest periods to create maximal health benefits in minimal time. Typically a HIIT workout would last around 20 to 30 minutes in length, and that’s all. These short but intense workouts get us out of the gym faster. This helps keep cortisol production lower than the long and grinding “Mirror Workouts”.
HIIT has been shown to:
- Increase Metabolism Post Exercise
- Reduce Body Fat
- Burn More Calories
- Increase Muscle Mass
- Reduce Blood Pressure
Another factor to consider when making changes to your workout routine in your 40s and 50s is frequency, or the amount of times you exercise during the week. As we get older we are much more susceptible to Overtraining. Overtraining is a state of fatigue or physiological malfunctioning where it may take weeks, months, or even years to return to a normal physiological state and be able to progress and improve significantly. When someone is overtrained, they may show signs of excessive fatigue, disinterest in exercise, failure to progress/improve, and may be more susceptible to injury and disease.
Instead of being chronically overtrained, we want to strive for a state of Overreaching. I like to refer to overreaching as a state where a few days of rest or light exercise enables the body to recover and return to a normal physiological state.
When I wore a younger man’s clothes I owned an MMA gym, where I taught classes 6 days per week, sparred, and lifted weights. If I were to attempt that at now, at 45 years of age, I’d be bedridden. Some guys can…not me, though. I can go pretty hard for a few days, but then I must rest. If I don’t take the time to properly rest in between workouts, I’ll somehow manage to miss a week or more of gym time. Either I’ll get injured, sick, or lose interest. These are all signs of Overtraining. You have got to listen to your body and understand the warning signs of overtraining.
Exercise vs. Physical Activity
If you’re an active person, and love to stay moving 5 days per week. Go for it. But I think it’s important to understand the difference between exercise and physical activity. If you’re working out in the gym 5 days or more per week at the age of 40 or above, I’d suggest moving a few of those away from the gym to a physical activity of some kind. How is physical activity different than exercise? Well, think of a physical activity as a hobby or sport you play. You could go for a hike, train jiu-jitsu, play golf or basketball, anything like that. But, I’ll caution you to choose wisely.
How many guys in the over 40 crowd do you know that always seem to be hurt? You see them in the gym 4 days per week, and they look like they are in great shape. Then they are gone for a week, because they rolled their ankle playing basketball or hurt their neck grappling. Classic signs of being overtrained! Overtraining doesn’t hit everyone the same. You may feel great, but be susceptible to injury. Or you might feel great…right up to the point that you are frequently catching colds. It happens.
If you are exercising in the gym intensely, keep that in mind for your physical activity time. Training MMA is quite a bit more intense than golfing. Choose your modes and frequencies wisely, and you’ll be feeling like a warrior. Choose wrong…and you’ll be feeling like an old man.
AND YOU ARE NOT AN OLD MAN….YET.
*If you liked this article you may enjoy this post written about the best supplements for men over 40.
If you don’t know where to start, I’m here for you. Each and every week I set aside times for what I call Success Strategy Sessions. These short (and FREE!) coaching calls are designed to get you moving toward your goals and reaching them at lightening speed. During the call we’ll talk about where you currently are, where you’d like to be, and come up with some quick actionable steps you can take right away.
These calls are FREE, but I only have a limited amount of time to do them each and every week. They are “first-come-first-serve”. If you’d like to schedule a free Success Strategy Session CLICK HERE!