Get Fighting Fit at 40!
April 2012; that’s when I noticed the change. Barely 40 and I started to feel that I was struggling to maintain muscle mass, and that I was starting to get a little “squidgy” round the mid-section. I’ve never been the type of person too concerned about the numbers on the scale; it was always about how I felt, how I looked and the fit of my clothes however now I wasn’t feeling at ease anymore. I was still training at the same intensity for the same amount of time, I was eating as I usually did which was 70% clean, with a slightly more relaxed attitude towards the weekends. Having slightly overindulged during Easter, I’d assumed I would just get back on track and everything would return to normal in a few weeks. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. I was officially getting older and things were changing whether I liked it or not. I’d pretty much cruised throughout my 30’s. I had trained hard and I ate pretty well, (but also indulged) but overall, my goals were easily achieved.
Surfing the web for answers I was overwhelmed by all the information streaming from hundreds of different web pages offering numerous different options and ideas, when it suddenly dawned on me that there won’t be a specific answer just for me. I can certainly take ideas and advice from others in similar situations, but will it necessarily be the right thing for me? Looking at the bigger picture of aging and training these are some of the conclusions that in the most general terms, we can expect to deal with:
Metabolism and diet
As we age our metabolism slows down, and therefore we need to adjust our caloric intake and basically eat less, but now it’s even more important where we get our calories from. Proteins from lean meats and fish, select carbohydrates from whole grains and green vegetables, and fats from olive oil or nuts etc. Whilst I continue to train with heavy weights, I use supplements such as L-Carnitine and CLA that help improve the metabolism of fat and production of muscle. (please ensure you seek the correct professional advice before taking any supplements).
As part of the aging process our bones become less dense (which can lead to osteoporosis) and the joints get affected in this process by loosened cartilage and the depletion of lubricating fluid. Strength training is critical to maintaining muscle mass as we age, and can help to prevent bone loss. A calcium supplement can also aid towards maintaining strong bones.
Regular stretching activates fluids in the joints, thereby reducing wear-and-tear caused by friction. We lose some of our range of motion over time, however, regular stretching can prevent our muscles becoming too tight and a good range of motion in the joints helps with balance, stability and mobility.
Stress can be a major contributor to the fat gain around your waist as you age. It can be known as stress fat, since it’s the main source of fat that gives you energy to fight or take flight in stressful situations. It’s this abdominal fat that can be linked to a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. Be aware of the cause of stress and try at solve the issue. Practicing yoga and meditation can help alleviate stress.
Supplements are a must as we grow old. Women get the raw deal, as we pass 40 we are just a corner away from perimenopause and menopause, and the body naturally demands an increase in certain vitamins to remain healthy and active. There are plenty of multi-vitamins to be found on the market nowadays, usually clearly marked as multi-vitamins for women 40+.
Ultimately, it’s taken me the past year to figure out what works for me. I have to eat less as its apparent my metabolism has slowed down already. Regardless of the training demands that I continue to put on my body, I just don’t burn those extra calories. My eating plan has now changed to 90% clean eating with only a small window for cheats. I eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates, and I choose those carbohydrates wisely. My recovery time between training has increased as my body needs more time to recover and rebuild.
Dubai has changed since I arrived on its soil some 30 plus years ago, and this fast-paced city has just sprung up around me. Since I turned 40 the hormones have started to flood my body which leaves me, at times, with uncontrollable mood swings and intense food cravings. Add all that on top of trying to raise a child while managing a career and only now I feel like I’ve reached a sensible balance, stemmed from a more gentle approach that I have added to my exercising regime; body balance. It says it all really. Combining the arts of yoga, tai chi and pilates, body balance is a workout that builds flexibility and strength and leaves me feeling centered and calm. It also incorporates controlled breathing, concentration and a carefully structured series of stretches, moves and poses to music that creates a holistic workout, and brings the body into a state of harmony and balance. A perfect training to balance out from my usual style of quite aggressive training, and more importantly a necessary part of training that I’d neglected to do in previous years, but have now embraced and embodied to help continue the fight against aging!
You need to be looking at a schedule of strength training 2-3 times a week, with a couple of good cardiovascular work outs, and always a good stretching regime 1-2 times a week. Tidy up your nutrition and try to avoid any form of processed foods. Drink plenty of water and green tea. Enjoy a good massage to help soothe tired muscles and ease away stresses. Laugh! Recent research has listed numerous health benefits linked to laughter, including lowered blood pressure, strengthened immune system and reduced stress.
Don’t let the numbers age you, exercise to stay young! In short, we can age gracefully. With age comes wisdom, and I now feel very much more in control of my life and use every experience to date to help make the right decisions for my life tomorrow.
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