Just like you I too wake up in the morning with a bit more aches, pains, creaking and popping than I used to. Sometimes my warm up takes longer than the meat of the workout. Apparently, this is 40. I’d like to do the things the younger guys do in the gym but after eight surgeries I know something might break if I tried. Here’s the thing; our goals have shifted. Now we just need to stay ahead of our kids, be strong enough to help at home, and fend off old age with the grace of “The People’s Elbow!” Here are 3 important elements to staying ahead of Father Time, being fit, strong and healthy at our age.
1. Get some rest! Seriously people, slow down. Sleep is important. We live in a society that applauds you for smashing your foot down on the gas pedal and being nonstop busy. Knock it off. Even the bible stresses the importance of rest and giving your stresses to God. We need as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible, it helps our battery recharge, our hormones balance out, and our tissues repair themselves. Sleep deprivation increases your cortisol level which accelerates fat storage and throws off your food cravings. Do yourself a favor and put the phone down after 8pm, whatever it is… it can wait! So, after the kids are in bed, turn on the fan in your room, grab a hold of your wife, tell her you love her, and calmly drift off to sleep.
2. Pay more attention to joint mobility. FMS founder Gray Cook says a healthy person should be able to comfortably squat below parallel with their arms extended overhead. If you can’t physically do this you need to spend some time working on cleaning up your movement quality. I don’t know everyone’s personal movement issues or pains but if I could suggest a few areas you need to spend some time on stretching out; I’d say the ankles, hips, shoulder complex and neck. I’m not going to tell you to spend an hour on this every day, but 10 minutes before and after your workout is a great start. Let’s take a look; ankles- find a step and stretch out your Achilles. If your ankles can move appropriately then chances are your knees will move and feel better. For the hip complex, I’d strongly suggest the pigeon for your glutes and the RKC half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Healthy hip mobility will allow the body to stabilize itself and let your hamstrings and low back relax. As for the shoulder complex, I like to use a stretchy band hanging from a pull-up bar. Hinge yourself forward and let the band pull your arm forward stretching through the lats, then turn around and let it pull your arm back to open up the chest. Healthy shoulder movement will also help the body stabilize and improve your posture. Finally some simple head nods and slow rolls will go a long way to ease tension. Again, this is very elementary but just making time for this will be a great start.
Can you squat like this?
3. Consistency trumps intensity in the gym. Strength Training guru, Dan John says if you were to track five workouts, one will be amazing, one will be horrible and three will be punch the clock type sessions. There’s nothing wrong with punching the clock! I would argue those workouts are where you make your most progress. By punching the clock you get in your basic movement practice, maintain strength, ease stress, and stay on course for another personal record next time you’re in the gym. Think about it, you’re not going to be excited and fired up for every work meeting you have, that would just be weird. Sometimes you need to grind through them so you can keep laying the groundwork for a bigger goal. So, enjoy a light(er) session once or twice a week. Your body will thank you for it.
*BONUS* Go for a walk! Get outside as many times per week as possible and go for a walk. Take the dog, one of your children, or your spouse. This could be a great time to simply talk and enjoy a family member. A good 40 minute brisk walk will do wonders for your stress, brain activity, and even get the heart rate up and burn some fat.
Do you remember the classic Joe Walsh song, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far”? Great song! “My Maserati does one-eighty-five, I lost my license, now I don’t drive. I have a limo, ride in the back, I lock the doors in case I’m attacked.” I’d like to think we’re smarter then Joe Walsh now… not that 185 wouldn’t be fun. It’s just that now we need to pay more attention to the little things so we can be strong, healthy husbands and fathers. Get some rest. Devote more time to some joint mobility. Finally, just be consistent with your workouts and accept that you’re not going to be a hero every day.