I seek a sustainable plan for fitness after 40: physical health and feeling “whole” for the 2nd half of my life. I want to feel great, look my best, keep getting happier, and live long.
Of course. But how to really do it? We all face—and can powerfully answer—the same questions…
1. Exercise: what do I need more (and less) of?
We need to purposefully mix endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Obvious? Many “fit” guys don’t do this – I’ve been one of them (I was “lucky” to have some injuries over time push me toward more variety). Some of us never had a consistent regimen, and now need one. Wherever you start, the goal is a healthy mix.
⇒ Runners: That 3rd or 4th run this week serving you as well as a strength session or a swim? (reverse question for swimmers)
⇒ Weights guys: Skip a set or two (or a day) and do some maintenance on the heart and lungs?
⇒ Cyclists: What can you do for non-cycling muscles and skeletal benefits of weight-bearing exercise?
⇒ All-around gym / boot camp guys: Question for you in “Serenity & Joy” below.
Brothers, with your thriving in mind, I urge you to get more balanced. Try living each week with (minimum) two cardio workouts, one strength session, one trip to the pool or onto the yoga mat (yoga?!! more on that here), and something outdoors (some of these can be combined – that’s beautiful). For concrete weekly suggestions, check out this post.
2. Nutrition: what simple, non-“diet” approach can I live with?
If you’re reading this, you know exercise alone isn’t enough anymore. We need the right quantity of food, and a high batting average on quality. Most of us benefit from a smart mix of vitamins and supplements.
In future posts, I’ll explore many questions we have in this realm. But to begin with, please start:
⇒ Reducing refined sugars and flours (bonus: virtually eliminate these, other than on pig day)
⇒ Upping your protein (some at every meal – lean is better, but occasional bacon won’t kill you)
⇒ Eating fruits and vegetables (duh)…focus on low-sugar cold-weather fruits like apples and berries
⇒ Eating good fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil) – welcome back to the world of peanut butter
⇒ Eating just a little less at each meal – OK if it means you need a snack at some other time
⇒ Avoiding empty calories in drinks (includes cutting down on the booze a little, dude)
Combining some of the above, it is a beautiful thing if you can enjoy a “manly salad” with a protein added and a reasonable amount of some healthy dressing, 3-5 times per week (and skip the bread).
3. Serenity & Joy: How can I get more as I get older?
Why this question here? In the end, this is what it’s all about – the killer benefit all others are in service of. And our physicality should be a huge source.
When you finish a run, get out of the pool, conclude a yoga practice, complete a hike with your dog, paddle across the lake – you feel it not just physically, but also emotionally, and somewhere deep where those two things are one. There are physiological mind/body explanations, but also the explicit comfort of knowing you’re taking care of yourself, and doing something primal that your ancestor might have done a thousand years ago. There’s destiny and poetry here, man.
Which brings us back to a choice facing the all-around-gym/boot camp guy: can you evolve your routine to get space to breathe, some solitude, some more serenity and joy?
And for all of us, I suggest consciously planning physical fitness to include places and experiences—and occasionally, adventures—that deepen these emotional components of being active. This is a major source of gasoline for us to keep going, when the world barrages us with reasons not to.
4. Implications for Fitness After 40
So if you craft and follow the right plan, you won’t get fat…you won’t lose too much muscle and become a skinny old guy…you may not have a six-pack, but people will know you take care of yourself (and more important, you’ll know)…you’ll keep your heart and lungs as strong as they can be…and you’ll greatly enhance peace of mind and joyfulness as you keep climbing life’s mountain. That’s OlderBeast.
“After all, when the truth is told, you can get you want, or you can just get old.” (Billy Joel, Vienna)