So you want to be in shape at 40?

The fitness industry is designed around a few big myths:

  • You need supplements to do anything – both fat loss or muscle gain.
  • A six pack is the defining criteria for fitness.
  • Once you’re no longer young and beautiful there’s nothing for you to do but wait to die.

It may seem harsh but if you look through any fitness magazine or website that’s what you’ll see perpetuated over and over again. From the covers sporting airbrushed, starved and dehydrated, trainaholics to the ads inside the message is loud and clear – get buff, buy our stuff, and we care about the young and beautiful. Too bad if you don’t fit that mold, as we have nothing for you

But life isn’t like that. And to be honest being in shape in your twenties is actually relatively easy. Not so much when you’re in your forties or beyond. You’ve got more job stress. You’ve probably got kids who need a fair bit of attention too. And time isn’t so kind in terms of how easy it is to get back in shape after even a short layoff.

And with the way the fitness industry presents itself the workforce is filled with relatively young trainers tying to tell you how to live your lives. I know this because I was one of them. I used to believe that when I was in my twenties I did a good job with my more mature clients, that I was empathetic, and understood how hard it was for them to balance life and training. Looking back I probably did reasonably well because my client retention rate has always been high, but I also will admit that as a now forty-year old I sucked pretty badly at quite a few things.

I had no idea how hard some days would be for an older athlete. There are days where I can crush it in the gym and look super impressive. For an hour or two. What people don’t see, but what older athletes go through, is that behind closed doors they spend the next two days hobbling around paying the price for that session. Muscles recover slower, joints hurt a little bit more, and it can be easy to accidentally skip a nourishing meal in the rush for work to get done slowing recovery further. And then there’s that younger trainer expecting them to bring 100% to the gym for the next session. It’s unrealistic.

And that’s why my own training isn’t shaped like that anymore. No more two hard days in a row. No more two hard sessions in a single day. It just doesn’t work anymore. Most athletes and trainers understand this, yet when it comes to passing on this knowledge to their clients this seems to go out the window. As if the training that is good enough for them needs to be somehow modified for their clients. None of the training at RPT is like that and the sessions vary individually flowing from easier sessions to harder ones to allow the body a chance to recover and adapt. This is what has allowed me to keep up with kids heading off to BUDS, or to train with others half my age in BJJ classes and keep up.

This doesn’t mean the end of hard sessions. Because that’s the other side of this – trainers who seemingly refuse to actually make anyone sweaty or even the slightest bit sore. Those are necessary side effects of the transformation process from unfit to fit. Yet I see plenty of trainers who baby their clients and then wonder why those same clients never seem to actually get in shape. I’ve had people say to me after their first session at RPT that they’ve never worked so hard in their life, despite having been a member of a gym and having had personal training for over four years. Our bar is set high to help you become the best that you can be. But it ain’t going to be easy.

And then there’s what happens in most group training now – everything is a competition. As much as we like to think that we can be as good at forty as we are at twenty that isn’t realistic. There’s a very real reason why the average age of a medal winner at the Olympics is twenty-eight and that there are masters’ competitions – because age related declines in performance are very real. And yet there these classes are, denying this fact, and expecting that the older clients mix it in a competitive workout with the younger ones. Sooner or later what usually happens is the older clients either get hurt trying to keep up or burn out and give up, walking away from their fitness goals. The alternative is to follow a program that fits where you are and have goals that are realistic for you, not for the other ten people in class.

There’s no BS at our place. Just an expectation that when you come you’ll work hard to accomplish the challenges we set out for you. But that is balanced by the reality of understanding the stresses and realities of no longer being a twenty-year old. We don’t promise to cure cancer or regrow cartilage – we’ll leave that to the snake oil salesmen in our industry – but we will get the best out of your body that is possible.