Weightlifting And Ego In Your 30’s And 40’s
© Doug Champigny, http://flirtingwithfitness.com
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
When it comes to lifting weights in your thirties and forties there’s an interesting change between the sexes. In their teens and twenties boys and men tend to be in great shape, yet on every beach you see them with girls and women who are out of shape with thicker waists and saggy bottoms. But check out couples in their 30’s and 40’s and that has reversed – the guys have beer bellies and scrawny legs while the women have obviously been hitting the gym and getting back in shape by lifting weights and doing cardio.
But you also see a lot of people in this age group who stay covered up at the pool or beach, or simply avoid times when friends are wearing less and showing more. For them, the teenage and twenty-something days of skinny-dipping in the river with friends is a distant memory, the thought of which today makes them cringe. The pressures of work, debt load and children leave them drained by the end of each day and once the children are in bed they just want to flop in front of the TV til bedtime. Poor time management skills leave them constantly stressed out, and often defaulting to fast-food drivethroughs as their family dinner preparation. Not all singles and couples in their 30’s and 40’s obviously, but definitely the majority.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this time period is when most people lose their focus on fitness and healthy nutrition and start their downhill journey health-wise. They’re no longer playing the sports from high school and college, and pick-up games of football, tennis and the like go by the wayside. Their health recedes an unmeasurable bit each day, often accompanied by extra calories that are starting to increase your bodyfat levels. Your Bowflex, stationary bike and treadmill have become clothes racks or garage fillers and there’s just no time to get to the gym – especially if you have young children that can’t be left alone. Your energy expenditure has plummeted while your caloric intake stayed level, and you don’t even like admitting to yourself that you’ve gotten fat. But it’s right there in the mirror and the shop window every time you pass one…
That’s the first place that ego is a problem for most people in their thirties and forties – it keeps you from accepting that you’re getting fat. You attribute that newly-increased waist size to ‘aging’ and tell yourself that it’s normal – and that you still look great! Sure, there’s things you could do about it, but who has the time or energy? Besides, you’re already in your perfect relationship, so why should vanity be an issue now? After all, your career is blossoming, you’re making more money and look at all this cool stuff you’ve bought!
Great – except working out, lifting weights, doing Zumba or Yoga, staying in shape and eating a sensible, nutritious diet AREN’T about looking good and feeling sexy – those are just the by-products. Your health should be your number one priority in life – without it all that money and all those toys mean nothing. You’re at an age now where many people do irreparable harm to their health, creating conditions that they’ll have to fight the rest of their lives. Type 2 diabetes and angina are becoming more prevalent amongst your friends, and by now you may have lost family or friends to heart attacks, strokes and other diseases and illnesses that might have been prevented if they’d stayed in shape starting at the age you are right now.
So unless you’re one of the few who have kept lifting weights, exercising 3 times a week or more and eating a nutritional diet, your first step is to rein in your ego and go see your doctor for a full physical. Talk to her about your current lifestyle and any concerns already rearing their ugly heads, any aches and pains, and LISTEN to your results from the checkup – in the early stages, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many other conditions often show no outward signs, so simply ‘feeling good’ isn’t enough. Discuss your plans for getting back in shape and see if there’s anything you specifically need to watch out for.
The next battles with your ego come up quickly… Don’t believe you can eat anything you want and still stay healthy – those days disappeared along with the higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone you benefited from in decades gone by. Accept that you need to take a more ‘adult’ view of nutrition and be at least a little more strict about the fuel you put into your body.
Park that ego at the door as you enter the gym, too, whether it’s your own home gym or a commercial gym. For men in their 30’s & 40’s, gone are the days where big bulky arms are the goal, and for women at this age it’s time to leave behind the hours on the treadmill – but you can salve your ego a bit and go back to the ponytail and booty shorts once you start getting back in shape.
No, in both cases now the goal is health – both current and long-term health & wellness. Your workouts need to be based on building strength – muscle strength AND bone strength (density), and on keeping your heart and lungs healthy. For the latter, you’ll need exercises that build your cardiovascular and aerobic systems, but if you’ve gotten noticeably out of shape you need to start simply and begin taking a walk for an hour a day on the days you don’t lift weights. If you work on your feet each day and run the kids to soccer practice every week, don’t let your ego tell you that’s enough – set aside that hour, or two half-hour periods each day and get out an walk. Your current lifestyle got you where you are now, so your efforts have to be ON TOP OF whatever your current routine is. Once you’ve been walking an hour a day for a month or more, as long as your doctor has OK’ed it you can start picking up the pace and trying to go farther with each walk within the same time frame. Finally, aim to run for 30 seconds, walk for 90 seconds and repeat that pattern throughout your walk. Your final goal is to be able to sprint all-out for 30 seconds, jog for 90 seconds and repeat that pattern non-stop for 20 minutes. That type of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will do you the most good and burn the most fat – moreso than an hour of steady-state cardio on the treadmill.
Your ego will try to interfere in your exercise plans too… If you’re noticeably out of shape or overweight, start with bodyweight exercises – no weightlifting required. If that seems too easy, remember those images of the Shaolin monks, Greek warriors, Roman gladiators and Celtic warrior queens of earlier times? Gyms and weightlifting machines didn’t exist back then, but that didn’t leave them looking like you, did it? Bodyweight exercises can and do work, so start there and THEN graduate to lifting weights.
Your goal is a strong mind in a strong body. Develop the self-discipline to work out 3 times a week on non-consecutive days without fail. Ignore the ‘workouts’ you see in the magazines – remember that the goal of those mags is to sell you their magazine so they can sell more ads, not to get you in great shape. And while they may work great for girls young enough to think a pimple is a major health issue or a young guy filling his veins with steroids, those workouts aren’t what YOU need. Stick with a simple reps & sets scheme like the 5×5 – five sets of five reps per exercise. Leave the machines alone and stick to free weights, using enough weight that you can just finish the last rep of the last set with proper form. Ego is a funny thing – it’ll have guys trying to lift too much weight and women trying to use too little – in either case, use the heaviest you can without cheating your reps, and increase the weight you lift whenever you safely can as your strength grows.
If you feel you don’t have the time or money to join a commercial gym, create your own home gym. If space is tight, just pick up two dumbbell bars and enough weight plates to get you started – you can buy more as your strength grows. You don’t need anything else at this point – you can get in a great workout must using dumbbells for your weightlifting sessions. You can even store your dumbbells and plates under the couch or your bed, but only do that when you’re expecting company – otherwise the temptation to just leave them there might be too strong. The other advantage to a home gym is that it’s a time-saver – no commute necessary. If the kids are young, hit the weights right after you put them to bed at night. And for best results, have your spouse or partner work out with you so you can be each other’s accountability partner.
You don’t have the same hormonal boost you did ten or twenty years ago, so it may take a bit longer to recuperate after each workout – and you’ll definitely need enough sleep and a healthy diet to get the most from your efforts – but you can and will get back into top shape. Give it enough focus, effort and time and you can end up stronger, healthier and in better shape than you’ve ever been before – just visit a local or regional bodybuilding show and watch the athletes in the Masters’ division (over 40) in bodybuilding, physique and bikini divisions. If you talk to them, you’ll find a lot of them weren’t in shape in the twenties, but got into it after the kids were born and they realized they had to do SOMETHING… Most didn’t start out to be competitive athlete but fell in love with the sport and the goals once they were exercising regularly.
But whether you end up a competitive weightlifter or fitness star or just a much healthier and shapelier version of you, it’s worth the effort to get started on the road to your healthy new lifestyle today. And you certainly won’t regret the extra energy, the sounder sleep nor the lack of soreness upon arising each day that come with it. So kick your ego to the door and get fit starting today!