40+ Men’s Biggest Fitness Secret: Harnessing the Power of our Minds

If you let yourself, you can feel melancholy and “wallow” in the fact that, as 40+ guys, our maximum physical potential is in the rear-view mirror.

BUT how close did you come to actually fulfilling that potential? In the practical world, achieving 95-100% of today’s and tomorrow’s potential can result in a fitter, stronger You than ever before. And a happier one (in the broadest sense of fitness – Wellness – happiness is a key ingredient, man).

With this in mind, here’s good news: one part of us is stronger than ever. Our MINDS. So, let’s take a look at all the ways our strongest body part – our brain – can help us.

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If you let yourself, you can feel melancholy and “wallow” in the fact that, as 40+ guys, our maximum physical potential is in the rear-view mirror.

BUT how close did you come to actually fulfilling that potential? In the practical world, achieving 95-100% of today’s and tomorrow’s potential can result in a fitter, stronger You than ever before. And a happier one. In the broadest sense of fitness – Wellness – happiness is a key ingredient, man.

With this in mind, here’s good news: one part of us is stronger than ever. Our MINDS. The OlderBeast mind is a source of will, smart strategies, perseverance…and wisdom to enjoy and honor the journey we’re on, not just the immediate results.

You think this isn’t connected to physical achievement? I have a friend who does ultra-marathons. Not “just” 30 to 50 miles, but super-long ones like 100+ miles. He points out the guys who fill the leader board of these things are older than you’d imagine…because a physical feat like that requires real mental mastery of what your body can do.

How long before we have a 40+ All-Pro quarterback in the NFL, tennis Grand Slam champ, etc.?

So, let’s take a look at all the ways our strongest body part – our brain – can help us.

Six Ways Our More-Mature Minds Help with Fitness & Wellness

Since “potential” doesn’t matter (it’s what we do with it), our mental edge can help us be better than ever. For many, there’s the opportunity to get into the best shape we’ve ever been…or at least, be in “better and better shape relative to our age” as we go.

Consider all the ways the mental edge makes a critical difference:

Motivation. This isn’t a gimme at any age, but 40+ guys are extra motivated to “double down” on fitness. As in: “I’m not ‘old’ but I am ‘oldER’…I’m going to confront that head-on, and get/stay in shape!” We’re also much more likely than our younger selves to be motivated for smart nutrition, that plays such a big role in our health.

Curiosity. Rekindling a sense of wonder – including desire to be active in nature and learn about new practices and experiences – helps build and sustain a diverse physical fitness and wellness routine. Example: ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been writing about getting outside the gym for workouts, doing yoga or exploring meditation.

Many people say the latter 40s or 50s, often when the “young children” phase ends or the “empty nest” one starts, brings a second youth. This is where curiosity reawakens (and we have a little more time to do something about it!).

Appreciation. We can savor the joys of physicality more (it’s more precious), rather than taking it for granted. This adds into the positive feedback loop of motivation. Youth may be “wasted on the young” as the saying goes, but preserving a feeling of youthfulness is definitely NOT wasted on the active guy in his 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond!

Resilience. Life brings periodic setbacks to fitness: injuries, illness, super-busy crunch times. Our life experience and maturity keep us steadier and readier to return to the fray after such periods…and less likely to enter protracted poor-fitness-habits periods. We’re also more resourceful: If I can’t do X for a while because of an injury, I’ll do Y.

Tactics and techniques. Some things that are great exercise (e.g. swimming) are highly dependent on technique to do them “well enough” to keep doing them, and thus get their benefits. OlderBeasts are more likely to motivate to learn about techniques, and then have patience to work on them. Also, we’re more likely to pay attention to finer points of training tactics (like blending endurance, strength, flexibility and balance via a diverse regimen, or intelligently thinking about rest days).

Humility. I mean this in the best sense of the word: the idea that we don’t let ego or pride become an obstacle. If we’re not good at something (yet), we’ll keep trying. Or find a different thing that’s a better fit for us, rather than just being discouraged. There’s a yoga pose called “humble warrior,” and I love the image that suggests…the two go together.

Does this sound a bit like stuff the old blind “master” told Grasshopper on Kung Fu episodes? Yeah, I guess it does.

Putting our mental Advantages to Work

OK, if even half of the above list resonated with you, you see a few mentally-driven strengths you can exploit.

Here are things to do with them:

⇒ Try new fitness activities mixed into your routine

⇒ Embrace the imperfect – be OK with doing something for its own rewards and benefits, not just for the “I’m good at this!” sensation

⇒ Take a more holistic view of fitness, including nutrition, stress management, and actively seeking out the things that make you happy

⇒ Undertake challenges or adventures that blend the need for physical preparation with learning new skills (kayaking, backpacking, rock climbing, scuba diving, longer-distance cycling are things that come to mind)

Above all, think of yourself as a package of your raw physical potential and your mind/spirit that lets you maximize that potential

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Being an OlderBeast is about making, and powerfully following, a game plan to maximize the second half of life.

Yeah, during our first half we had a little bit of physical potential we don’t have quite as much anymore. But by “using our head,” we can make the most of what we’ve got – more effectively than ever before – and open up awesome possibilities for the future.

That’s my vision…I hope it’s yours too, brother.

“I do believe I’m feelin’ stronger every day. Yeah, yeah, yeah.” (Chicago, Feelin’ Stronger Every Day – click to listen)

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Fitness Setbacks: You WILL Overcome! (Here are Suggestions to Help)

As 40+ guys living in the real world of work, family, and our own not-bulletproof anatomy, setbacks to fitness and nutrition plans are inevitable.

In the last decade, mine included plantar fasciitis (foot/heal pain), a strained rotator cuff, and sporadic right knee pain…not to mention crunch times at work that constrained exercise as effectively as any injury.

With “experience being the best teacher,” the OlderBeast tenets of fitness variety, workout/recovery sequencing, and personal time prioritization help minimize such setbacks. But still, they’ll happen – so here are a few suggestions for dealing with injuries and fitness interruptions in a way that minimizes impact, and even gets longer-term benefits from them.

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I Experimentally Reduced Cardio in My Fitness Mix – Here’s What Happened

There are good reasons for cardio-intensive guys to move to a better mix of endurance/strength/flexibility in the fitness mix.

Overtraining on cardio – especially without super-disciplined rest and nutrition regimes – can wear down your body, contribute to muscle loss, and allow development of imbalances that make you more prone to injury.

Also, in our time-challenged lives, too much cardio usually implies too little strength and flexibility training. And maintaining muscle tone and staying limber are huge parts of looking and feeling our best, and maximizing longevity, as we move through life’s second half.

And one big concern about reducing cardio – gaining weight/fat – may be misplaced. Evidence is emerging that strength training (with at least a somewhat-intense cadence) burns fat as well as, or better than, cardio.

With these things in mind (but still needing to overcome a “cardio reduction paranoia” mental hurdle), here’s what I changed and what I learned.

2 Comments
  1. […] Engagement of our minds – our creativity, resilience, will power – to overcome the increased challenges of physical […]

  2. […] Engagement of our minds — our creativity, resilience, will power — to overcome the increased challenges of physical fitness (compared to when we were 20- or 30-something). […]

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