Aging

19.1 Aging will not be the bugbear for you that it is for most people, if you know how to respond to its impact. While there are age-based variations in goals, poundages and bodyweight, and food intake, this book was written to be useful for all adult trainees. ^roughout this book the stress is on modifying training according to individual needs and limitations. ^e age factor is a big player here.

19.2 No one should ever feel too old to get into serious exercise. Keep Satchel Paige's words in mind: "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

19.3 Some inactive people have the attitude that, once past 40 or so, humanity is almost ready for the knacker's yard. With the right attitude, someone starting exercise in middle age or later can, if trained properly, hugely increase strength, physique and fitness. But someone who has been exercising seriously since he was a teenager cannot expect to be in the same condition at 65 as he was at 35. He can, however, expect to maintain a degree of condition that will make him a phenomenon for his age.

19.4 Weight training is no longer the domain of the young. Nowadays people are starting training late in life, and many others, though they started when they were very young, are continuing into their middle and later years. It is not a case of applying the cliché, "Use it or lose it." Much better is, "Use it or lose it, but don't abuse it'.' Of course this applies to all ages, but it especially applies as you go into middle age and beyond.

19.5 Older trainees, when compared on age alone, cannot be considered equally. Someone aged fifty who has been training consistently for thirty years cannot be compared to a fifty-year-old who is starting training. A forty-year-old weight-training beginner who has kept himself relatively fit from other activities cannot be compared to someone of the same age who has neglected his health and fitness for decades. Each individual is a unique case.

19.6 Regardless of how old or out of condition you are it is never too late to take up exercise. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, so live for now and add years to your life, and life to your years.

19.7 ^e benefits of exercise, even just moderate exercise, are huge, especially for older people. ^e older you get, the more important it is that you exercise.

19.8 Younger trainees are usually mostly, if not totally appearance and strength orientated. Many older trainees feel much the same way. But once beyond thirty-five years old, internal health and well-being from cardiorespiratory work should play an important part of a total exercise program. ^en much later in life it should become even more important. But while strength training becomes less important as one ages, relatively speaking, it should always remain very important. Having strong and well-developed muscles does not merely have aesthetic benefits. Being strong produces critical health benefits and contributes greatly to reducing the ravages of Father Time. Exercise truly helps you to stay young for your years.

19.9 Especially if you are in middle age or older, you must get a physician's clearance before starting an exercise program. Even minimal exercise can be extremely stressful for someone in poor condition.

19.10 While progress in strength, muscular development, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness can be made at any age, the possible negative side of exercise (aches and pains, and injuries) is greater as you age. But without care being given to an appropriate, careful and progressive exercise program, the negative side will dominate and lead to terminating the exercise program. Remember, "Use it or lose it, but don't abuse it."

19.11 ^e older you get, the more careful you need to be with making changes in your training load, and in your program as a whole. ^e room for error for the young person is much greater than for the older person.

19.12 ^e ability to recover from injury, at least at a physiological level, is usually greater for younger people. But an experienced and wise trainee should be more knowledgeable about how to hasten recovery than is a much younger but lesser experienced person. (Consider my experiences described in Chapter 18.) So an older but savvy person may be able to recover faster from injury than a much younger but naive trainee. What a shame it is that wisdom and youth rarely coincide.

19.13 With age you must be even more sure to perform adequate warmup work prior to doing work sets. ^is is just one example of the "less room for error" maxim that applies to older trainees. Never skimp on warmup work, and never make poundage jumps of more than 50 pounds between sets of a big barbell exercise as you work up to your top set(s) for the day. Whenever you feel that an extra warmup set seems like a good idea, always do it. Never be in such a rush to finish a workout that you take shortcuts. Take your time, and get it right, always. If the first rep or two of a set feel(s) wrong, stop the set, discover what was amiss, correct it, rest a few minutes, and then do the set properly. And always keep yourself warm while you train.

19.14 It is not just warmup work specific to a given exercise that you need to give more attention to as you age. ^ere is the general warmup work prior to touching a weight. ^is becomes increasingly important as you age. Take 5-10 minutes to gradually raise your temperature and heart rate, and break into a sweat. Do not skip this important period in order to reduce your total workout time.

19.15 With age usually comes a reduced ability to sustain full-bore training for long stretches, and possibly an increased need for intensity cycling.

19.16 You may find an increasing preference for medium and high reps as you move into your late thirties and older, rather than lower reps. Especially in the barbell squat, for example, you may move away from both low- and medium-rep work, and elect to use very high reps with a fixed weight. Rep progression would become your primary focus, not weight progression. Whether or not this move could apply to you will, at least in part, depend on your structural individuality, overall training experience and expertise, and whether or not, in your youth, you abused your body through overtraining, excessive use of singles and very low reps, and poor exercise technique.

19.17 An older body cannot tolerate repetitive stress like a younger body can, all other things being the same. You must become especially attuned to the warning signs of overtraining (see Chapter 14). Be sure to take action before you get worn down by overtraining. Manage your training intelligently. Heed the advice that the older you are the more rigorously you should avoid overtraining, and the more heavily you will feel the aftermath if you do not avoid overtraining.

19.18 ^e older you get, the greater the need for consistency in your training. While a young person can lay off from training for a couple of months and get back to previous best strength and fitness levels quickly, it takes more time for the older person, and the chance of incurring problems along the way is usually much greater. And if you lay off too long, you may never make it back to where you were previously.

19.19 Older people often have parts of their bodies that do not work with the unrestricted range of motion of youth. ^ere may be damage from injuries or accidents of years ago. While ranges of motion can be improved, for some people there will always remain limitations. It is essential that older people do not imitate youngsters, but modify exercises to accommodate their own limitations. Not only do some exercises have to be modified, but some exercises need to be avoided. Anything that hurts should not be done. You must exercise without pain. Exercise-induced discomfort of the good kind is one thing. Training through pain due to a body that cannot co-operate is another. Application of the "no pain, no gain" maxim will kill your training, so forget that cliché.

19.20 Without selling yourself short, keep your goals realistic. Focus on the next 5-10% improvement, and then the next, again and again and again. ^at is the way to go for safe and sure progress, whether in the strength, muscular development, flexibility or cardiovascular component.

19.21 Exceptions to the former point are long-term and very-advanced trainees, as opposed to people starting their training in middle age or later. ^ese already-very-experienced trainees, once over fifty or so years old, may no longer be interested in getting stronger still. ^ey have already achieved very close to their absolute potential, and thus have been super strong. ^ey have accepted that, with the passage of time, their absolute strength has to wane. At this time in their life they may never try to increase their poundages. Instead they might maintain a high level of strength by using taxing but not overly demanding poundages. Alternatively they might pursue different fitness goals altogether.

19.22 Heavy weights are not the privilege of only young people. A well-trained person who has trained most of his life may be able to lift heavier weights in his fifties and sixties than nearly all drug-free gym members of almost any age. Rise to the challenge of training yourself to do more late in life than most people ever do in their youth.

19.23 Your value judgements may change as you age. You will probably strive for different things during different phases of your life. You will not be young forever, but the beauty of exercise is that you will never cease setting new goals. If you set challenging but realistic goals, and set about realizing them in an intelligent way, you will be lined up for a life of achieving goals with all the accompanying excitement and satisfaction.

19.24 If you start training in middle age or later you can achieve a near miracle in improvement of appearance and internal well-being, if you train appropriately, carefully and progressively, and make haste slowly. Over a year you can transform yourself. But try to do it in just the spring to get ready for the summer, and you will be on a road to ruin.

19.25 While you cannot improve indefinitely, if you train well you can continue to improve long after you probably think you can. And even when regression starts, by holding as much strength and conditioning as you can, you will continue to improve relative to your peers who are deteriorating from an already much lower base point.

19.26 ^e older you get, the more that time is pressing and the more urgent it is not to make mistakes. While the young person has plenty of time for mistake making, the older trainee does not have that luxury. ^e older you get, the smarter, more knowledgeable and careful you need to be.

19.27 Choose specific exercises, style of training, and aerobic work that you enjoy. You may, for example, be a power person interested in short cycles, and balancing out your exercise program with some regular walking at a fast clip, and stretching on alternate days. On the other hand you may prefer medium and high reps, and long cycles, and prefer performing your aerobic work on a ski machine while watching tv, and feel better from stretching every day. ^e key is to find something you can do safely and enjoyably over the long haul.

19.28 While attention to exercise is very important, do not neglect the vital role of nutrition. Additional to this are factors that greatly influence your health at any stage of life—job satisfaction, quality of relationships, financial state of affairs, environment you live and work in, whether or not you smoke, alcohol intake, state of mind, etc. While you can shrug off many harmful activities when you are young, and without any apparent harm, they take their toll later in life. Get in charge of your life before it gets in charge of you.

19.29 Being strong and fit does not necessarily mean you are healthy, though of course it is much better to be strong and fit than weak and unfit. Exercise is not a panacea that can compensate for abuses and neglect in other areas. Exercise can only be a part of your overall strategy for external and internal well-being.

Lessons You Can Learn From Fitness Classes

Lessons You Can Learn From Fitness Classes

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