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Fitness Training For Middle Age And Beyond – Part Three

In this third and final post of my mini-series on fitness training tips for the middle age and older adult, I’m going to briefly cover some of the more efficient and effective ways to exercise.

This is a subject that I’ll be going into extensive detail on in my upcoming book, “The Lean Code Method – Body Transformation For The Middle Age Adult.”

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to create a fitness routine that matches up with individual needs and goals. While all types of exercise in general can be beneficial from a health standpoint, some routines will be more effective and appropriate than others depending on a person’s age. A FitnessTrainer is really good at making sure you are doing the right motions for your level of fitness, over training is dangerous but even just a little training done improperly can also be dangerous.

In short, what you did in your twenties and early thirties for exercise and fitness may not be a good fit when you get older. Things change, your body has changed, therefore your fitness routines should be changing with it.

Let me preface this discussion by saying that the most efficient form of exercise will first and foremost always be an activity that’s not only safe, but also one that you’re willing and able to do on a consistent basis.

After all if you don’t enjoy a particular type of fitness training, you won’t be sticking with it very long.

Just know there are lots of options regarding the various types of activities you can do to accomplish the same fitness or weight loss goals. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, time, convenience, availability to equipment, and other factors.

For example, you don’t have to be a runner in order to get in cardio, lift weights in order to work the muscle, or do Yoga in order to improve flexibility. As the old saying goes “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” and this is certainly true with fitness training.

Everyone is going to be a little different with what they like to do, what they’re able to do, and what best fits into their lifestyle.

Having said that, there’s still one very important factor you’ll want to consider.

Will the activities I’ve chosen help me reach my desired objectives?

This is perhaps where I see the majority of mistakes being made. Individuals doing various routines that aren’t necessarily the most efficient or effective means of reaching their goals.

The reality is this is usually the result of misinformation or a faulty belief system based on what may have worked in the past or what worked for someone else.

Let me provide you with just a couple of examples…

It’s the middle age woman who mistakenly assumes that the best way to get her body back after having kids is to go back and use some routine she did in her twenties…

A lot of times this is cutting calories and doing lots of cardio. When this doesn’t work so hot anymore, she’s left confused and frustrated. What she’s failed to realize is that her body has changed, and it has changed in ways that go deeper than what she sees in the mirror.

What she can’t see is how her metabolism, hormonal balances, and amount of lean muscle have all been altered. Drastically cutting calories and doing lots of cardio now triggers fat storage instead of fat burning.

Her exercise should now focus on a concern for lean muscle (resistance training) first and cardio second. Severe calorie restriction needs to be replaced with supportive nutrition. Duration of exercise in general should be shorter, but of higher intensity. All of the reasons for which I’ll get into detail on in the book.

The skinny of the matter (no pun intended) is that exercise and nutrition need to shift to align up with the metabolic and hormonal changes which have happened with age.

It’s the middle age man who goes back to the weight lifting routine he did in college in an attempt to drop some inches from his waist and add some lean muscle. Using the male waist trainer he was able to tighten his abs and start to see results faster.

Sure, that old school bodybuilding routine that took an hour or more to complete with a dozen or more exercises may have worked just fine back in the day, but you’re not in your twenties anymore.

Your metabolism isn’t the same, testosterone levels have changed, cortisol levels have changed, your muscles have likely become more tonic from years sitting behind a desk, and the list goes on.

And unlike the days of your youth you probably don’t have a ton of time to spend in the gym. Now while there’s nothing wrong with lifting weights, you’re going to need to be smart about working your way back. And once you’re back under the iron, you may want to structure your workouts a little different.

Doing things like incorporating burst training principals and using more functional movements for mobility work along with the weight training

As you can see there’s a trend here. It’s following the “what used to work” method of exercise and fitness training. That’s a big pitfall that keeps a lot of middle age and older adults stuck not seeing the results they want, getting burned out, or worse yet injured.

Accept the fact that your body has changed in far deeper ways than what you see on the scale or in the mirror.  Don’t fight it, don’t ignore it, adjust to it!

Yes, that will mean doing things differently with how you eat, how you train, what you do for your workouts and how much. The strategies will change, the priorities will change.

Now I understand that everyone is going to have different goals. It’s impractical for me to try and get into all the different scenarios (like training for your first marathon, etc) so I’m going to stick with the following basic assumption regarding what the objectives are.

You are (or your training) a middle age or older adult who desires the following:

  • To have more flexibility and mobility
  • To lose excess body fat and lean up
  • To have a more defined and muscular physique
  • To have more energy and stamina

What’s going to be the most efficient and effective forms of exercise?

I figured the best way to explain this would be to share with you something I’ve developed called the “Hierarchy Of Fitness For The Middle Age Adult.” It’s basically a pyramid of priorities in order of importance and effectiveness to help achieve the above objectives.

Level One: Flexibility and Mobility Training

This is far and away the most important level for middle age and older adults. It’s in essence the foundation for which all other levels will be laid upon. After all if you can’t move very well the rest of your fitness related or recreational activities will be limited to some degree.

It’s no secret that when you get older you need to spend more time doing stretching, flexibility, and mobility work. You simply can’t jump right into workouts without a warm-up like you did when you were younger. Spending 10-15 minutes doing stretches, getting on a foam roller, and doing a dynamic warm-up becomes increasingly more valuable.

Of course Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility, but it’s not a necessity. If you enjoy it and it fits into your weekly training routine, by all means do it. If not you can always do stretching and mobility work on your own with things like resistance bands, stability balls, a foam roller, etc.

Level Two: Burst Training – Strength Training

As we get older there’s increased importance with having a “concern for muscle.” With age and hormonal shifts comes a progressive loss of lean muscle…that is unless you do some form of resistance training.

Maintaining and building lean muscle is essential for fat loss as we age because it’s directly tied to hormonal balances and metabolism. In short, this is why the calorie cutting and lots of cardio approach doesn’t work so hot in the middle age years and beyond.

To cut to the chase you want to put a priority on strength training. While there are certainly numerous ways to apply resistance (bodyweight, suspension straps, free weights, machines, etc), you just want to be applying a workload to your muscles several times a week.

From my experience, the most time efficient and effective way to do this is by employing burst training principals. This is where you do strength training with short bursts of high intensity effort, followed by brief recovery periods.

I won’t get into a lot of detail about burst training here (you can follow the link for more information), but again the benefits go back to hormonal responses that come from short bursts of high intensity exercise.

Level Three: Aerobic Training

While some will assume this means doing “cardio,” aerobic training covers a broad base of activities and exercise that work to condition the cardio-respiratory system. This could be walking, jogging, swimming, riding a bike, you name it. The duration for these activities will vary, but it’s typically going to be of low to moderate intensity.

Just know that you don’t need to be doing hour long sessions on the treadmill, elliptical, etc, in order to lose weight. The priority from an exercise standpoint for fat loss goes first to higher intensity strength training, and then to aerobic exercise second. It is important that if you do use a treadmill that you are taking the necessary steps for avoiding injuries.

A lot of times people assume aerobic exercise will be more beneficial for weight loss, but I’ve found the opposite to be true with middle age adults.

Level Four: Interval Training

Next up we have the “get yourself really out of breath” type of exercise. Interval training is often associated with a series of short sprints done outside or on a treadmill, each one followed by a 1-2 minute recovery period. While this is a very effective form of interval training, it’s far from being the only way.

The idea is to work your cardio-respiratory system with short bursts of high intensity exercise, recover, and repeat. In essence you do a vigorous cardiovascular activity using larger muscle groups that gets you really out of breath for 20-30 seconds and then recover until your heart rate goes back down, then repeat.

This does NOT need to incorporate running. You could do interval training with a rower, hitting a heavy bag, swimming, on a spin bike, etc. The options are numerous and activities can be selected according to your needs and preferences. The common denominator here is your working hard and really pushing yourself with short bursts of all-out effort.

While interval training routines can be completed up to (3) times per week for performance or fat loss goals, doing some variation 1-2 week is sufficient for most individuals. This type of exercise doesn’t take a long time to complete. In fact, you want to keep these short. Anywhere from 10-30 minutes is enough, anything more than that can be counterproductive.

Level Five: Leisure and Recreation

Just like it sounds, this is doing physical activity with things you enjoy. Could be walking during a round of golf, gardening, riding a bicycle, working outside, you name it. Simply getting outside and being active doing whatever floats your boat. Exercise need not be confined to just doing traditional types of workouts.

The Key Take-A-Way’s

As we age there’s increased importance on flexibility and mobility work…

This should be the foundation of your fitness routines. Look to do at least a few minutes of this on a daily basis.

Strength training becomes increasingly more beneficial as we age, for several reasons…

You may have been able to get away with not doing strength training in your younger years and still maintain body weight and muscle definition, but both become more difficult over the years due to hormonal shifts. Bottom line, put a priority on strength training and use burst principals for optimal results.

Aerobic exercise is still important, but it won’t be the gateway to weight loss like it once may have been…

Putting in countless hours on the treadmill, etc, is not only inefficient, but it can be counterproductive due to cortisol increases. Bottom line, perform aerobic exercise that doesn’t put a lot of stress on the joints and avoid excessive durations. Joint pain can keep you from doing certain exercises, visit www.healthyone.org/ for natural joint supplements.

Get yourself really out of breath every now and then…

Incorporate some variation of interval type work to stimulate hormones like growth hormone, adrenaline, and nor-adrenaline which help to promote fat loss, increase metabolism, and improve cellular health.

Burst training (for strength exercises) and interval training (for cardiovascular exercise) when incorporated into fitness routines can pay big dividends for middle age and older adults.

Cut back on the duration of workouts…

Now unless you’ve got pretty low stress levels and really good sleep, recovery, and nutrition, you’re going to want to avoid excessively long workouts. Don’t get caught up with trying to see how many calories you can burn with a workout. Keep your higher intensity workouts on the shorter side, like 30 minutes or so. Additional low-moderate intensity cardio is fine, just don’t overdo it.

Allow more recovery and learn to listen to your body…

When I was in my twenties and early thirties I could do 4-5 days a week of high intensity weight training with no problems. As I’ve gotten older this has become more like 3-4 days. Simply put, I’ve found that I need longer recovery periods. I don’t stress out about trying to have a stellar workout every time I walk in the gym.

When I feel really good I go for it, when I don’t, I scale things back and just listen to my body. You’re going to have good days and bad days when stress levels are higher, you’re tired, under the weather, etc. Be smart with knowing when to mash the pedal to the floor and when to let off a bit.

Finally, when your fitness training isn’t working so hot change it up…

I can’t emphasize this point nearly enough. Don’t get married to any one particular style of training, the frequency or duration. When something’s not working for you, step back and assess the situation.

Are you doing enough training needed to reach your goals or the right type of training?

When pounding the treadmill for hours each week isn’t getting the weight off, maybe it’s time to look at some weight training. When that CrossFit class is leaving you feeling overly sore, fatigued, or in pain, maybe it’s time to scale things back. You get the point.

The bottom line is find what best fits for you to give you the results you want. Sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people stick with exercise routines that don’t align up with their unique wants and needs.

Just remember you’re not in your twenties anymore. Learn to be flexible, adapt, and roll with the changes. There’s no reason you can’t have the body you want in your middle age years and beyond, you just may find that your routines and habits look a little different.

As always feel free to leave any questions or comments. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and found some helpful tips. Here’s some quick links to part one and part two of this series.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. Sign up today for a no obligations consultation.

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Category: Fitness Training.