Since my teenage years I have been training (fitness, gymnastics, dance) and could easily get back in my routine without aching after a break of a month (or more).
Reaching my 40’s, I was suddenly confronted with muscle aches after just a 2 week break!
So now, a month’s break will mean not only experiencing aching, but a slight decline in strength, and to get back in to my routine I need to use lighter weights. (or same weights but less reps). At first, I thought when I noticed this there was something wrong with me but experiencing this still after a year had passed by, even though I was having a good night’s rest and eating clean food, I had to face the glorifying truth that this was part of ageing.
Being a personal trainer, I should have known better having all the knowledge about the human body and its development through its lifetime. The thing is I’m still 20 in my mind and spirit (sometimes even 12!) but my body had obviously moved along.
The facts summarized in fitness books are facts that concerns ‘older’ people, they refer to the 40+ category as ‘older’ people (!). I don’t see myself as an older person! The studies summarized in the books are for me to know to coach people effectively, to understand how the human body works, not to be a part of it, to undergo the symptoms of ageing.
I had to sit down there for a moment and reflect.
Let’s face the music
Ok, my body is changing, noticeably and irreversibly. Training isn’t about just having fun anymore but it’s essential now. I must exercise regularly because that’s the only way to minimise aching and to feel supple and light on my feet. Stretching always has been a part of my daily training repertoire and thank God that I’ve been doing this nearly all my life which gave me this flexible body, but now I really need to keep on continuing doing this and extended my stretching routine combined with mobilising exercises. I have noticed when skipping my training routine for a couple of weeks my lower back becomes a bit stiff and aches a little.
Another thing I observed is that I used to love training intensely and had no problem using heavy weights, but now I find myself sometimes avoiding training that way because it requires too much of me, as though I can’t handle it anymore. This Depends on my energy level though, because sometimes I have days where I can jump up and down, training heavy and feel endlessly strong and energised like a 20-year-old. I cherish those days because I’m back being the good ‘old’ me.
My energy levels, physical and mental strength depends on my hormonal balance which differs every day. I had a very stable hormonal balance until I reached 34, my energy was always the same, never had mood swings, cravings or any other annoying nonsense.
When the hormonal changes kicked in, I was frustrated about it for some time because all this hormonal bullshit was holding me back from my training, teaching my dance workouts, being creative and productive etc. etc.
The energy and strength aren’t stable anymore and I can’t cling on stubbornly to a planned training. Being 47 now, I learned to acknowledge and accept the changes. I go with the flow, adjusting my training to my level of energy.
Aging, a slow process
It’s remarkable and yet ingenious how the human body is designed. Slowly your body starts to decline from the age of approximately 30-35 years. You might notice then that you need more time to recover after a night out or that you gain a bit extra weight around the waist, nothing significant yet. Mother nature isn’t that cruel and make you age overnight.
The process is slowly, slightly noticeable until you reach the big 40 and then there’s an inner switch which is turned fully on, suddenly you find yourself struggling reading the ingredients of that pot of multi vitamins you want to buy. Your skin isn’t that firm anymore, waving goodbye means moving more arm then you’ve had in mind…
Hitting 40 is a wake-up call, nothing lasts forever. Your body is more vulnerable, it seems not to cooperate the way it used to. All those years your body took care of you, it recovered easily, it seemed it was made to last. Now you need to take care of your body.
Let me enlighten you with some of the facts derived from studies of the physiological changes of the human body through aging. Keep up the good spirits while gaining some knowledge! (if you already didn’t know about it)
Approximately from 30-35th year the physical performance will start to decrease:
- muscle mass decreases
- flexibility of muscles & joints decreases
- endurance decreases (cardiovascular capacity, VO2-max) by a 30%
- bone density decreases, women 30%, men 15-20%
- basic metabolism decreases 8-12%, the body uses less energy which might result in being overweight
(based on numerous studies, source: Fitness trainer A book)
The risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes etc increases with age (knowing above mentioned facts makes you understand why).
Stay calm and let’s age well.
Let’s not get over excited now and close on a funeral insurance! Ageing is a slow process and even though it’s irreversible you still can slow it down even more, minimise or avoid pain, discomforts, diseases and frustration.
Weight training for example, using weights or your own body weight, is important to keep those bones and muscles strong and healthy. Bones are designed to reinforce themselves when enduring pressure, therefore weight training is ideal to keep them strong (along with sufficient calcium/ vitamin D intake). This is especially important for women because after the menopause, due to lower levels of oestrogen, bone loss increases. Knowing that muscle mass decreases you can slow this process down through strength training and hold on to what you’ve got. If you don’t use it, you lose it!
Cardio training will increase your lung capacity, increase your endurance and keep the heart healthy. There are so many benefits derived from exercising and altogether it improves overall health.
Adding supplements to your healthy diet
Another fact concluded from medical research is that as we get older the body becomes less efficient at absorbing key nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, vitamin D etc.
It would be a clever idea to add good quality multi-vitamins and supplements to your healthy diet to maintain or improve overall health.
Accept & Adjust
The fraction of facts and information mentioned above is just to create awareness of our changing bodies and how we can move along with that change to maintain health and quality of life. Like me, there are quite a lot of you guys out there having the mindset of a 20-year old, and please let’s keep that youth within us, but be aware that the body has grown older and needs a different approach. Sleeping just a few hours frequently, eating whatever you want like you did 20 years ago will affect you now since your metabolism slowed down and you need more time to recover. Continuing living the life since you did as a youngster will add a spare tire around the waist, make your skin look dull (not the mention adding more wrinkles) feeling fatigue, experiencing aches and so on.
You need to adjust your lifestyle to your body requirements, eat healthy (more greens, less sugar, less alcohol etc) exercise more often and get plenty of sleep. It’s about finding the right balance in what you eat & drink, relaxation and exercising.
Be conscious of the changes in your body, acknowledge and accept it. As well for those who live actively ever since, to avoid frustration and injuries you might need to alter your training, implement flexibility and mobility exercises perhaps. Changes require adjustments, let go of old habits and routines and move on to a new chapter in life.
A small note:
We are all unique and how my body is expressing ageing differs from any other woman (or man) of my age. The experience I have been sharing with you (apart from the facts based on studies) is how my body is growing older.