How to avoid exercise mistakes as we age

Health and Fitness

Guy Leech's Fitness Forum

I’m now in my late 40’s and people are often surprised that I still train every day. The key is not trying to do the same training now that I did 20 years ago!

As we age, we take longer to recover from exercise. We’re more prone to injuries, lose overall strength, can’t go as fast as we once did and generally speaking, just can’t do what we used to. But we can hold the aging process at bay a little if we learn to ‘listen to our bodies’ and ‘train smarter’ by applying these basic principles:

1. Train to your age... as you get older, accept that you’re not as strong or fast as you once were. Space your training sessions further apart and allow more recovery time between sessions.

2. Don’t train a tired (or sick) body... we can still become fitter and stronger as we age - it just takes longer. So work on developing your patience.

3. Listen to your body... if you feel tired, a little ‘fluey’ or it’s a real chore to drag yourself out the door to exercise, then you might actually need to back off a little from training. You can always ramp it up again when you’re feeling better.

4. Still push yourself from time to time... if you really want to improve your fitness as you get older, you still have to train hard occasionally. Push yourself with either some intense cardiovascular exercise (for endurance sports), intense resistance training (for speed activities), or a blend of both to ensure all round health and fitness. The key is to allow adequate recovery time from these intense workouts.

5. Do the little things right... you can speed up the recovery process by doing ‘the little things’ right, in and around your training sessions. About 10% of your total training time should be dedicated to stretching, warm up and cool down. Stay hydrated during your exercise sessions and be sure to start the recovery process immediately after training by consuming some carbohydrates. Try ice baths and spas (alternating cold and hot treatment) and wear massage and compression garments to enhance recovery. The best and cheapest form of recovery is 7-8 hrs sleep per night.

6. Stress is stress... as we age, relationships, work, financial issues, etc. all add to our stress levels. Training is just another form of stress and your body can’t differentiate between the different types. At a certain point, when our ability to absorb stress is exceeded by the stresses placed on us, our systems fail and we get sick, lose sleep or our performance at work or in competition suffers. Recognise this and during periods of increased stress, back off the one thing you can immediately control – your exercise load.

7. Train/exercise with a purpose... everyone’s circumstances are different. There is no ‘one size fits all’ exercise program, particularly as we get older. When it comes to your health, fitness, training and nutritional requirements, consider your own specific health situation and determine your specific goals accordingly.

- Guy Leech

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