You often have the expectation of what you can do or what you cannot do at a certain age in your lifetime. One of the things that you are not expecting that you can do in your middle age is that you can start training with weight because going to the gym to lift weight seems like a hobby for young people to build muscles. There could also be many other unfounded reasons to stop you from weight training in the gym. The following are just a few common ones.
You might avoid training with weight because you are afraid that you will injure yourself. Fortunately, weight training is a very safe approach to improve your fitness when it is done with precaution.
You do not want to do training with weights because you don’t think you are either good enough or strong enough. The truth is you don’t have to be fit or strong to start lifting weight but you can definitely start to train with weight now to become fitter and stronger. After all, you must start somewhere in everything that you do and you had done it many times before. With consistent effort, you will eventually be much better than you are now.
You worry that you will be judged in the gym by other gym members. This is how every beginner feels when they are starting out in the gym. After a while, you will get used to the environment and you will realize that you focus on your own workout and progress most of the time. The other gym members are most likely doing the same. They are just focusing on their own workouts.
Nevertheless, the starting point can often be very challenging regardless of your fitness level. This is where you have to be open-minded to making changes and putting up with slow progress. So where do we begin with your weight training now that you are not young anymore? It is simple. Just like everyone else. Regardless of age, everyone starts the same way. Everyone starts by focusing mainly on their training and diet. In addition to that, the focus will also extend to other parts of your life such as stress level, sleep, work commitment, and family time, etc.
Why training with weight is good for you?
Your body is an amazing machine. If you put effort into improving your health, your body would respond to it by rewarding you with many health benefits. The health benefits of putting your effort into weight training include:
- Increased strength,
- Increased energy level,
- Decreased risk of many diseases including Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Obesity-related disease and certain types of Cancer,
- Decreased body fat,
- Increase muscle mass,
- Increase bone density, which can help prevent osteoporosis in older female population,
- Improve posture,
- Improve mental toughness,
- Increase confidence,
- Improved sleep,
- Reduce stress,
- Aesthetically pleasing physique,
- And many more.
It really does not matter if you are over 40s, unfit, overweight and uncoordinated at the start. All you need is consistency, patience and willingness to take ownership of your actions. The progress is not an easy process and could be very frustrating at times because your progress will be small for months or even years. At a certain point in your progress, you will most likely hit a plateau where you will not see any positive changes. The urge to call it quit will be high at this point. I can assure you that this happens to everyone in anything that they are trying to achieve. According to the book “Atomic Habit” written by James Clear, this is called “valleys of disappointment”. Once you get over these “valleys of disappointment”, you will start to see a burst of positive changes as well. You just need to be patient when you are making slow progress. There is a reason why we call “patience” a virtue.
Besides, you will have many opportunities to learn how to work with your own body over a substantial period of time if you pay attention to the process. This knowledge can help you to develop a system of habits that fits your lifestyle to help you maintain your health for many years to come. This knowledge is not something that you can acquire from making unsustainable drastic changes to achieve results over a short period of time. Many people who achieved results in 12 weeks cannot maintain their success for long because they took unsustainable drastic measures to reach their goals. Therefore, you should make sustainable progress instead of rushing the process.
Let’s talk about training
Being at an older age, you may not be able to train with weights like your younger counterparts in their 20s or their early 30s. Even though your training volume per session may be similar to them, your recovery between sessions will most likely be longer than those of your younger counterparts. Training twice a day or training more than 5 days a week will be out of the question for many of you in your middle age. Despite you cannot train as often, one thing for sure if you start training with weight now is that you will eventually be stronger than your younger self.
Sounds exciting! So what do you do at the beginning of your journey into the world of lifting?
Since you’re a beginner, you will start with lighter weight to build your strength up. Using lighter weight in the gym is a great opportunity to learn the correct technique to execute exercises correctly before you increase your weight to make further progress in your training. Spending time on fine-tuning your technique for different exercises allows you to establish a good muscle mind connection to execute the exercises correctly. When you are doing an exercise with correct execution, you can activate the right muscle groups for the exercise to maximize your training effects. Executing exercises with the right technique can also greatly reduce your risk of injury, especially when you train with heavier weight.
Since you are lifting with lighter weight at the beginning, you can train with a higher number of repetitions per set. For example, the 3 sets of 8 and the 3 sets of 12. This number of repetitions is known to effectively give your muscles enough training volume to stimulate muscle growth or strength gain without causing too much fatigue during the set. If you are a female, the idea of “muscle growth” from weight training may be an intimidating one. Fortunately, you are going to grow muscles at the rate of your male counterpart. Besides, the health benefits of weight training outweigh your concern of looking too masculine. Please do not let the keyboard warriors, who know nothing about weight training, stop you from training with weight. You decide if training weight is beneficial for your health, not other people.
As you grow stronger, you can start to train with the lower rep range because the weight that you will be lifting is more taxing on your nervous system. You will also need longer rest between sets to let you recover enough to continue with the training set.
A training plan for you as a beginner should incorporate compound exercises to help you build your strength foundation. What are compound exercises? Compound exercises are the exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. The main 6 compound exercises for building foundation strength are squat, deadlift, chest press, pull up, shoulder press, and dip. Spend a good amount of time on these 6 exercises will definitely make you stronger. Apart from compound exercises, you can also add isolation exercises to your training plan. Isolation exercises are the exercises that only work a single muscle group. These isolation exercises are usually used for aesthetical purposes (look good naked) but they can also help you to strengthen your weaker muscles as well. The ratio of the number of compound exercises to the number of isolation exercises for your training plan is depending on what is your goal and which muscle requires more of your effort to help you develop a more comprehensive strength.
As an older trainee, another thing that requires more attention from you than your younger counterparts is your range of motion. At the beginner stage of your training, you may not be able to do certain exercises properly because your muscles are too tight to execute the exercise in the full range of motion. Hence, it is important to incorporate a warm-up routine to get you ready for exercising and a cool-down routine to help you recover better from training. Both of these routines should be consists of stretching exercises to increase your flexibility and mobility drills to improve your range of motion. Your training will be more effective and your risk of injury will be greatly reduced with better flexibility and improved range of motion.
Therefore, your training plan cannot be taken easily. It has to be smart enough to
- have you train with both compound exercises and isolation exercises with appropriate compound exercises to isolation exercises ratio depends on your goal and your training progress,
- help you learn the lifting technique for different exercises so you can work your muscles properly,
- have enough training volume to stimulate both muscle growth and strength gain,
- have adequate recovery between sessions,
- incorporate warm-up routine and cool-down routine to improve your movement and reduce the risk of injury.
You need a plan for your nutrition too
In order to optimize your training effects, you cannot just solely rely on your training to do the job. You will need a good nutrition plan that you can follow with high compliance to facilitate your training and your recovery as well. Without a nutrition plan that you can follow, even the best training plan will not do its wonder to help you make good progress. You might end up taking three steps forward two steps back.
So what can you do with your nutrition to ensure you get the best result you can from your training?
While you should put more focus on good quality foods such as lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, you are best not to make a drastic change on your diet to make it overly restrictive. This is because it can be very overwhelming to cut out too many foods that have an emotional connection with you. The unsustainability of such a diet can cause you to fall off the wagon after a while. In addition to that, you can develop a bad relationship with foods if you adopted a diet with an overly restrictive nature.
Therefore, making small changes will be a better solution to set you up for success. You can start by adding good quality food into your diet without drastically remove the foods from your current diet. Once you are consistently complying with the initial change, you can add more good quality foods into your diet and start working with calories or portion control to determine how much food is adequate to help you reach your fitness goal.
As an older adult, it is also important to make sure you consume sufficient protein to optimize your recovery. This is because your body is less efficient in processing protein, hence, an adequate amount of protein can help you to better maintain muscle mass and bone health. An adequate amount of protein in your diet also necessary for muscle repair from the exercise-induced muscle damages, which occur to improve muscle size and strength, on your trained muscles.
Besides, you should adopt a mindful eating approach so that you can have some flexibility to enjoy eating out, take away foods and junk foods. Mindful eating can prevent you from overconsumption of junk foods while maintaining focus on good quality foods.
Adopting mindful eating can be a slow process. Fortunately, this process will help you understand how your body works with foods. By understanding how your body works with food, you will be able to manipulate your diet to fit your goal and lifestyle. Although this understanding is not something you can achieve over 12 weeks, it is something that can help you maintain a healthy weight for years after you reach your initial fitness goal.
Your recovery goes beyond your nutrition plan
In order to make good progress, a good recovery protocol is essential. Recovery protocol is consist of your diet, sleeping routine and relaxation routine. Therefore, your recovery will go beyond the aforementioned nutrition plan.
At an older age, you are more in need of good quality restful sleep nightly to recover from your training than your younger self. The first step to improve your sleep is to put your sleep on your top priority list of things to do on a daily basis. You must put sleep before other unproductive late-night activities. A good rule of thumb for getting enough sleep is to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep will not only be optimal for helping you recover well before your next training session but also be optimal for maintaining your general health.
Besides that, getting good quality sleep nightly is more than just sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. It is very important to make sure that your sleeping hygiene is in check as well. The following is a list of things you can do to practice good sleeping hygiene:
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool
- Go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day
- Do not do anything or eat anything that stimulates your brain before bedtime
- Avoid long daytime nap (no more than 30 minutes)
Apart from sleep, a relaxation routine is also an essential part of your recovery. You, in your middle age, will be more benefited than your younger counterparts from having a relaxation routine because the stress from health, work, finances, and family you experiencing is most likely peaking in this stage of your life.
Your relaxation routine is consists of activities outside of fitness so that you can create a more balanced lifestyle, improve your social circle and improve your mental health.
Everyone’s relaxation routine can be very different. You could be
- Simply sitting in front of your couch and watch TV
- Doing favorite hobby by yourself such as reading, drawing, stargazing, and etc.
- Spending time with your friends and family.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of having an established relaxation routine. This relaxation routine will not only help you to get ready for your next training session with adequate recovery but the routine also going to:
- help increase your mental focus and performance on your work because it is also acting as a mental break from life stressors.
- build better relationships with family and friends because you will have allocated time to do things with them in your relaxation routine.
- allow you to have a mindful approach to enjoy food with your friends and family
Habits for long-lasting health
Now you know that training with weights is more than just exercising if you are seriously looking at improving your health and life quality. However, it is also more than just knowing that you will need a nutrition plan and recovery protocol as well. You will need to establish a system of habits to effectively put your training plan, nutrition plan as well as recovery protocol together for you to follow. By following these habits, you are not going to just see positive results but also be able to maintain the result for the long term.
However, adopting new habits to transform your current lifestyle into a new one with dedicated timeslots for training, some restrictions on food as well as changes on the priority of daily activities can be a daunting task. These habits are going to require some commitments from you over a period of time that last much longer than the typical 12 weeks body transformation.
With the expectation to achieve success over a short period of time such as 12 weeks, most beginners often rush the process by making many drastic changes at one time. Such a mistake is the main reason why they give up before they see any result. For this reason alone, do not be one of them is my advice to you regardless of what is the outcome you expect from training with weight.
In order to achieve your desired outcome from weight training, a better approach is to make small changes. It will be a long process as you will have to make a series of changes, one by one. Fortunately, these small changes will add up after a while. If you aim to be 1% better every day, you will be more than 37 times better than your starting point after a year. Of course, this is an oversimplified scenario and there will be setbacks and plateau. Most importantly, an improvement is still an improvement. Once these habits are formed, you don’t even need any motivation to live a healthier life and you will more likely to get back on track even if you slip occasionally.
It is important for you to understand that a system of habits is the backbone to hold your training plan, nutrition plan, and recovery protocol together to help you transition from a beginner to an advanced trainee. It is also going to set you up for long term success without the frequent needs of motivation.
Your age is not a limitation for you to start training with weight. Neither your fitness level nor other people’s view of you in the gym. You just need to start now and you will improve along the way. Besides, many aspects of your life apart from your body will be benefited from the training as well.
In order to get the most out of your training, you will need a smart training plan designed for your goal, a nutrition plan that optimizes your training and fits your lifestyle, and a recovery protocol with a good sleeping routine and a relaxation routine.
Your training plan as a beginner will focus on training with high repetition and lighter weight. This will help you develop muscle-mind connection to activate the right muscle and learn the correct lifting technique to avoid injury. Your training plan should include compound movement for your strength foundation. Isolation exercises can be included in your training plan for improving the strength of your weaker muscles as well as aesthetical goal. As an older trainee, you should put more effort into reducing your muscle tightness and improving your range of motion so that you can train with a reduced risk of injury. Therefore, your training plan should also include stretching and mobility drills as warm-up and cool-down.
For your nutrition, it is best to make small changes to improve your diet. Small changes are more sustainable compared to drastic change. Besides, small changes are more likely to set you up for long term success. Your eventual nutrition goal is to prioritize good quality foods such as lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds while using a mindful eating approach to maintain some flexibility to treat yourself. Being a trainee at middle age, you will have to make sure that you consume enough protein to help your muscles recover well from training.
In order to optimize your training outcome, you must have a good recovery protocol that includes sleep and relaxation. For your sleep, you should aim for a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly. You should also maintain a good sleeping hygiene to ensure your sleep quality is optimal. For your relaxation, you should have a relaxation routine to spend time on your personal choice of non-exercise activities to help you reduce stress and achieve work-life balance so that you can have a more comprehensive recovery from your training. As a middle-age trainee, you are more in need of a good recovery protocol than younger trainees as you will take longer time to recover from your training.
Most importantly, your training plan, nutrition plan as well as your recovery protocol has to be put together in a system of habits to ensure you have long term success from your training regardless of your goal. This is because a system of habits will keep you putting consistent effort on a daily basis in the pursuit of your fitness goal without the need for motivation. Although this system of habits will take time to build through a series of small changes, these small changes will add up over time to change your life for the better forever.
Are you convinced yet that training with weight is the right choice for you? I hope that you are.