If you’ve hit the big 4-0 (or 4-5 or 5-0+) then you know your body feels and acts differently than it used to. You can’t get away with eating the garbage you used to toss back without instantly seeing belly flab. You can’t drink more than a couple of beers or glasses of wine without instantly regretting it. And you can’t skip going to the gym for an entire week without physically noticing reduced muscle mass.
With the wisdom of age comes some frustrations, mainly, your body no longer wants to cooperate with you. The good news is, if you’re willing to put in some extra effort and follow some golden rules, you can keep your body hard and fit well into your golden years.
Rule 1: Eat to Build Muscle
Once you hit 40 you’ve really got to cut back on the junk food. Gone are the days of gorging on nachos and tubs of ice cream on the weekend if you want to stay lean and reduce inflammation.
But beyond this, your goal really should be to build muscle. Once we hit the age of 40, we lose muscle mass. Health experts agree that between the ages of 30 and 80, we lose roughly 40% of our muscle mass. So it’s important to build muscle. To do this, you’ve got to eat more protein at each meal. This could be adding an extra egg for breakfast, adding another chicken breast at lunch and snacking on a handful of almonds before dinner.
Rule 2: Focus on Recovery
Weight lifting is important at this stage of your life, but so is allowing your body to recover. This means a couple of things. It means not lifting 5 or 6 days a week, but instead going hard 2-3 times a week.
It also means making sure to include a cool-down period after each of your workouts. This could include stretching, using a foam-roller, doing some yoga, etc. Let the younger guys immediately leave to gym to go enjoy happy hour. You need to take some time to make sure you recover properly.
Rule 3: Work Harder and Smarter
As I just mentioned, you may have been used to going hard at the gym 5 -6 times a week. But trying to keep up with that intensity is just asking for an injury. A smarter idea is to make your workouts shorter, less often, but harder.
Rule 4: Challenge Yourself
Doing the same old exercises day in and day out is not only boring, it’s also a good way to wear out your joints. Working your body in different ways is how you can keep yourself strong, agile and flexible.
For instance, on warmer days, if you live near a lake or ocean, try paddle boarding to work out your arms, legs, abs and butt all at the same time. Try martial arts or rock climbing or tennis. Anything that will help you use your joints and muscles in novel ways will help you stay absolutely fit.
Rule 5: Listen to Your Body
The phrase, “No pain, no gain” no longer applies to you. It can’t. While you may have pushed through pains in your 20s and 30s, doing so now is actually not very smart. You’ve got to listen to your body. Better to stop when you feel pain than to suffer an injury that keeps you out of the gym for weeks or months.
If you follow these golden rules, you will be able to stay in shape for years to come. And that is what aging well is all about.
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