Fitness Rules After 40 Years Old

Tech Sgt. Matt B. Halstead, 94th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, performs pushups during a TRX Suspension Training program held March 7, 2015 at Dobbins’ Human Performance Center. TRX is a workout system developed by a U.S. Navy Seal and uses suspension straps and different movements to create a full-body workout . (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew J. Park)

You know you are getting older when some of the first military students you taught back in the 90’s are now getting ready for or past the age of military retirement. Here is an email from one of my Special Ops candidates who went onto become a Navy SEAL and now feeling some of the aches and pains from many years of working hard and playing hard.

“Stew, I am glad to see you are still going strong with coaching and writing about it. It is hard to believe that 21 years ago, I started on this journey and getting ready to retire.  Now at 44 years old, I am feeling the knees, lower back, and shoulders more than any other decade.  I know you are about 5-6 years older than me so what did you find you had to do as you hit 40-50 years old? I am not looking at stopping, just know I need to be smarter with training in the future – starting now.”  J.J.

J.J. – Good to hear from you too!  First, congrats on a successful military career and thank you for your commitment for 20+ years! I hear you also, however, I do have a few new rules to go by for general health and maintenance especially after turning 40 years old. You can still do advanced level workouts with these rules, just make sure you actively pursue recovery methods like eating well, sleeping, hydrating, breathing deeply, taking rest days, as well as the following NEW RULES:

The following rules are part of the programming used in the 52 week – four part training series: Tactical Fitness 40+.  From Rebuilding the Foundation to getting Ready to Compete, this series uses the following four rules religiously:

Regardless of your goals, the mobility day added to mid to late week will enhance the later workouts of the week or weekend and help you walk out of the gym feeling no pain!

  1. You can no longer out-work your diet – Focus on smaller portions, avoid junk food, sugar, even decreasing / eliminating sugar, do not avoid fruits /vegetables as these are good carbs that are high in nutrients you need for energy and recovery, and drink more water. This one takes discipline as the old habits of eating like we were highly active 20-year olds is a tough one to break, even if you are still highly active after 40 years old.
  2. Run every OTHER day – Unless you are still competing in races or under 200 lbs. of bodyweight, consider running every OTHER day instead of daily or 5-6 times a week.  Instead, do non-impact cardio options (bike, row, elliptical, swim) on the days in between running days.  You can build up distance or speed as you prefer on your running days to help you maintain abilities in many tactical professions, keep weight down, especially if still taking military fitness tests.
  3. Add a mobility day each week – You can either replace a typical challenging workout with this mobility or add it to a day off each week. It is simple but effective.  See routine options below:
  4. Learn how to foam roll, stretch daily, car buffer – That is right!  A car buffer (small hand car buffer made by Ryobi for $30 at Home Depot) is what I use to get a deep vibration that is soothing to the muscles.  This must be an orbital / vibrating car buffer not a rotary (spinning) car buffer. Apply to joints, muscles, lower back for near immediate soothing effects.  But stretching and a foam roller should be the mandatory parts of this rule – DAILY.

In conclusion, my final piece of advice is to get lighter – try not to gain too much weight, even during heavy lifting cycles. It is easy to gain a pound or two a year and in 5-10 years “suddenly” be 10-20 pounds overweight. Being lighter is just easier to move, less pressure on your joints, and typically means you have a healthy fat to body mass ratio. I have found that the heavier I am the worse my blood screening numbers are and it hurts more to run.

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