Training in Your Late Thirties
This year I turned 37. While 37 isn’t old, I’m closer to forty than I am to thirty, and the percentage of people my age who are in good shape, or who still train consistently is very low. I have had to make some small changes to my training and nutrition compared to when I was in my twenties. My training hasn't changed much, and I still train hard, I just have to train smarter in and out of the gym if I want to make progress and stay injury-free.
All these are things people should do anyway regardless of age, but they become more important when you’re out of your twenties.
Heart Health: As you get older you need to think about your heart, blood pressure, and general well-being more. I could get away without doing much cardio in my early twenties, my blood pressure and cholesterol wasn’t something I ever had to worry about to as they were always low no matter what I did. A couple of years ago I became a bit lazy with doing cardio. My blood pressure slowly crept up until it was around 138/80. I started doing 20-30 minutes of cardio, 3 times a week, and within a few weeks, it was consistently down to below 110/65.
Using Good Form Becomes Even More Important: You tend to get more niggles as you get older. Using bad form greatly increases the chances of getting little niggles and injuries. Just like cardio, using good form is something you should be doing no matter what your age is, but while you might get away with bouncing the bar off your chest when bench pressing, or neglecting the muscles you can't see in the mirror during your twenties without too many consensuses, you’re not likely to get away with it when you’re older. I look back at my training when I was younger when I didn’t know any better, and I wouldn’t last a week training like that now before something started hurting.
Most peoples form on the lifts is awful. It's a good idea to get a coach to have a look at your lifts to ensure you're lifting safely.
Programs and Recovery: Not all programs on the internet are designed for someone who is closer to 40. A lot of them have more volume, intensity or frequency than I can recover from. My joints would quickly start aching and I would have to back off. I now find I progress better on slightly lower volume. Getting in touch with a personal trainer who can plan a program specifically for you, taking into account your injury history, work, and family demands, and probably goals would be better than following a random cookie-cutter plan you found on the internet. I also have to make more effort with my recovery out of the gym. Training after not having much sleep affects my recovery from training much more now. When I was 18-20, I could train after a couple of hours sleep and it wasn't a problem and it not being a problem. The same with hydration and dealing with stress. I need to make these more of a priority than I did when I as in my teens and twenties.
Nutrition: When I was 18-25, I could go out drinking every weekend, eat takeaways regularly and in general not really pay much attention to my diet, and I would remain lean without any digestive issues. I now have to be much more careful with what I eat. You might have found that your digestive system will have become much more sensitive now you’re older. In my case, I don’t digest bread, pasta, beer or junk food as well as when I was younger, so they are limited or completely cut out. Keeping a food log and monitoring when you have digestive issues is useful to work out what foods are causing you problems. You’ll find you’ll have to be much more careful with your diet and how many calories you consume in order to keep your body fat low. You won’t be able to get away with regular binge drinking, takeaways, and junk food and stay in shape like you could when you were younger.
Mobility Work: Doing mobility work Is now essential for me. I wish I did more when I was younger, but I could get away without doing any and still have good mobility. However, once I was in my thirties, I started paying the price for not doing it often enough. I became very tight and had poor flexibility. I would start getting back pain because of how tight my hips were. 5-10 minutes a day is all I need to do, and makes a massive difference to how I feel in my everyday life, and my training.
Dealing with Old Injuries: The older you are, the more wear and tear and old injuries you’re going to have. I've not had any injuries from lifting weights, I fractured my knee while playing with my nephew in a pub garden, My knee sometimes aches a bit, but isn’t too bad, but every so often I’ll have to back off on squats when it hurts. You might need to adjust your exercise selection and program because of old injuries.
Get in touch if you want help with your training from someone who has experience training people who are older (over 70 years old)