By Fitness Editor Paula Jager, CSCS
“Youth is wasted on the young.” I first heard that expression my freshman year of college.
I didn’t pay much attention to the meaning. In retrospect, the meaning is now quite clear. . .
When you are young you have the potential to be at your physical peak, the best health you will ever have and your mind is sharp and clear. On the other hand, you may lack patience, understanding and wisdom which results in a lot of wasted efforts and mistakes.
Someone who’s lived and learned knows what to do with all that experience but the body doesn’t have quite the same capabilities as in decades past.
Not optimal for sure, but that’s the way it’s been for centuries and the way it will remain. Our best bet is to age intelligently with the right training and nutrition which will allow us the best functionality, health and performance as we reach our mature years.
Are there any advantages to aging when it comes to fitness? A few, thank goodness!
Seasoned adults have survived and dealt with challenges and adversities that would cripple a younger person. This develops a mental toughness and discipline over many years of life and makes up (to a degree) for the physical decrements that this same longevity brings about. This will enable us to better bring on the “pain” of training.
Does that mean we need to alter our training as we age?
Yes and no.
An overweight, deconditioned 20 year old would need to start out at a similar level or program as an overweight, deconditioned 50 year old. The younger one would most likely have less orthopedic/health concerns and would improve more quickly because of youth and the lack of years of cumulative self destructive habits and wear patterns.
But training modalities and intensities of the mature athlete are basically the same as the youthful athlete, believe it or not. The only difference is in the recovery; you can train as hard and as long just not as often.
Getting to the basics of the training some things are across the board. Young or mature if you haven’t exercised in awhile, develop a base level of conditioning with bodyweight exercises such as squats, push ups, pull-ups and dips through a full range of motion along with some type of cardiovascular activity such as running, biking, swimming or rowing.
Once that has been established you begin adding external weight.
Become well acquainted with the form and technique of the basic exercises such as squats (back, front, overhead), oh lifts (press, push press and push jerk), bench presses, deadlifts, bent over rows and high pulls. After at least 6 months of consistent training and proficiency in these lifts add in the Olympic lifts–the clean & jerk and the snatch. If unfamiliar with them hire a qualified strength & conditioning coach for instruction, they are technically complex in nature. The benefits are well worth the efforts if done correctly but a potential for injury if not. Perform these functional movements, vary the combinations and perform them with intensity in a progressively designed program. Add in some interval based cardio aka metabolic conditioning, make sure to spend time on
flexibility/mobility and you’re set.
How often? Good question; and that will depend upon your recovery. Listen to your body and take what you need. It’s not the same as it was in your 20’s and you must respect that.
Generally speaking 2-3 non consecutive days a week should be spent on strength training. This is both beneficial and taxing for an individual especially a mature individual. You need it now more than ever; you’re going to lose muscle mass, your hormone levels are going to decline and everything will go south without a sound strength program and even then you will only be able to control it to a degree.
Ladies: this is especially important for us; you will not grow large muscles and a beard if you lift more than 10 lbs. Keep your cardio brief and intense; more is not always better.
Put the brakes on aging: if at 40 or 50 something plus years of age you find yourself overweight, sedentary and pre-diabetic it’s time to lay off the doughnuts, get off the couch and do something or you’re going to get sicker, fatter and have a very poor quality of life.
It’s not going to get better until you make a change. On the other hand if you’ve worked out correctly and intensely with some degree of consistency and maintained decent nutritional habits then my advice is to keep on lifting heavy, throw in some occasional wind sprints every 7 to 10 days, enjoy your good health and live life to the fullest. Just make sure to take time for recovery which is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us more time to enjoy other leisure activities in our well balanced lives.
“Youth is wasted on the young” but our efforts in fitness and nutrition can slow the aging process and lead to a far superior quality of life in our mature years topped off with the wisdom we’ve acquired. And in our minds we will remain–“Forever Young”.
About the Author
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.
Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results