As we get older, improving and maintaining our fitness becomes more of a challenge. The good news is, for most of us, we can still peak in our forties.
Exercising in a meaningful way while avoiding injury and long layoffs requires us to pay more attention to our diet, sleep patterns, flexibility, warming up and cooling down. To be successful we have to exercise smarter and recover smarter. We must learn the signals our body is giving us; learn when we need to back off and when it’s ok to push on.
We have to balance two conflicting dilemmas. We have to avoid overdoing it while at the same time recognising we are in a “use it or lose it” situation. We have to play the long game by managing both the training load and type of training, so that we can still include some of that activity for as long as possible.
To train smarter we should introduce more diversity to our exercise and vary the intensity.
An ideal weekly regimen might include:
High-intensity cardio, e.g., indoor cycle class, running intervals
Strength and flexibility training, e.g. yoga.
To recover smarter we need a strategy that includes:
Rehydration — There is a maximum rate at which our bodies can absorb liquid, so keep sipping water in the hours after your workout.
A proper cool-down routine — We wouldn’t go from static to flat-out without a warm-up and our transition back to static needs to be a similar gradual transition. Keeping the working muscles moving at low intensity allows the blood to flush away any debris left in muscles and reduces soreness the following day.
Prompt refuelling after our workout — You might opt for a sports drink or a recovery bar that boasts the perfect combination of carbs and protein for optimum recovery or you might just have a tuna sandwich. Either way a small snack within 20 minutes of the end of your workout will speed up muscle recovery.
Recovery stretches and joint mobilisation — These need to be short in duration and not too deep. It should be a nice feeling as tight muscles relax.
Rest days — We may need more than one a week, but try not to make them consecutive days.
Fitness in our forties is the foundation of our future well-being in our fifties and beyond. Becoming as fit as possible before we hit that next decade is a great challenge
to set. Great challenges bring great rewards!
Tony Watts is a 50-something-year-old fitness fan who teaches cardiovascular and weight/resistance training classes at gyms on Grand Cayman.