The Right Question - keys of progress to lifting after 40.

In the fitness world most people seem overly focused on one thing:

What the exercise plan consists of.

Nearly every single question I see comes down to sets/ reps/ exercises. It’s a shame that those elements make the least difference in changing someone’s health and fitness, especially for those of us past 40.

The number of click bait articles I see aimed at a crowd who should know better is ridiculous. “Top six ab exercises for over 40s”, “The 4 best leg exercises for older athletes”, and “The 4 best tabata workouts for over 40s” are all horrible ideas.

The trap of the fitness industry is this – we want to sell you exercises because we have entire gyms filled with expensive equipment. If we make you believe that this weird contraption over here does something you can’t replicate at home then we have you halfway signed up. If we make you believe that you can’t get in shape without this battery of expensive cardio machines then we’ve got you.

Not only do we want you to believe in the need for our fancy equipment we need you to believe that we have a secret workout plan that will melt your fat away in 3 x 30min sessions you can at home (and then fold away the equipment under your bed). We’re going to lie and swindle you out of your money because this thing right here in my hand is the secret, the magic beans, the answer to all that ails you. No one else could provide you with this because no one else has my magic beans. And only someone new who no one has ever heard of could have those magic beans because if the experienced ones had the magic beans they’d have worked for me by now.

But it’s all a lie. And you, dear consumer, have not only been duped for decades but you’ve allowed it to happen. Instead of searching for people with a proven history of success you’ve held onto your hope that this time, finally, you’ve found the secret. Except we all know that there are no secrets. Most people’s fitness hopes are the equivalent of buying a Powerball ticket every week. Yes, it is possible to hit the jackpot. People certainly do. Except the odds of winning Powerball in Australia work out to be about 1 winning ticket every 7500 years (provided you buy 50 games weekly, 50 weeks a year). So you have a chance to win once every 1000 lifetimes.

And that’s how it is with fitness. People making desperate plays in the hopes of somehow getting that winning ticket this time.

So let’s fix that.

I don’t like to make assumptions based on feelings or fads. I make my plans based off numbers. Cold, hard, undeniable fact. So let’s look at some facts:

1) Most First World countries share an alarming trait – roughly 70% of the adult population is overweight or obese. It’s 1-2% different from country to country but the UK, Australia, Canada, and the USA all share a figure that is roughly the same. That means that the single most important thing anyone should be focused on is diet, not training.

Believe it or not the reason for this is simple – it has nothing to do with aesthetics. It has to do with heart attacks and the other 3 leading causes of death. The first 4 of the leading causes of death can all be controlled via diet and exercise, with diet being more important as being overweight is a major factor in poor health.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise to all the mature readers but you can’t get away with the poor habits from your 20s and 30s. No more weekend long binges. No more junk food daily. It just doesn’t work anymore if you want to stay at a healthy bodyweight. How many of you reading this have felt like you were working hard in the gym but it’s not even obvious? You catch up with a friend and they don’t even say, “you look great, are you working out?”  Perhaps it’s time to start working just as hard in the kitchen and getting rid of your childish poor habits?

For a mature trainee, let me ask – if you are what you eat, why would you choose to be cheap, fatty, and unhealthy?

2) Given most people, even ones who work hard at their fitness, won’t train for much more than an hour a day 6 days a week, is it really the exercise that has the most impact on health or is it the rest of your lifestyle that makes up the remaining 162 hours?

If you want to be fit and healthy then you need to adopt the habits of people who are healthy and fit. Those habits do not include daily junk food, daily alcohol, or late nights. They include water, lean proteins, salads, early bed times, limited screen time, and ample quiet time to destress. These are not once a day things. These are every day things.

Like the Powerball ticket idea when it comes to training we can apply the same here – those who binge drink (classified as more than 5 drinks for men and 4 for women), eat junk daily, and rarely perform exercise are the ones you will find going on sudden “detox diets” in the hopes of magically fixing in a few days damage caused over months or years. Contrast that to the lifelong healthy lifestyle of someone gave up all their self-destructive childish habits and figure out which one do you think will live a longer, healthier life?

3) Before we worry about sets, reps, and how much weight to lift in the gym the first and most important muscle to work is the heart. Again, heart attack is the number one cause of death in over 44s for both genders not having a weak deadlift. While strength training is important for a variety of reasons it comes in a very distant second place to training that makes the heart strong and healthy.

Any trainer who isn’t targeting your heart in this three-pronged manner of diet, healthy lifestyle, and cardio training is doing you a great disservice.

So instead of asking your trainer about whether he uses kettlebells or barbells ask him what kind of diet he wants you to follow. Ask his recommendations to clean up your lifestyle. Ask him about his understanding of cardiovascular training and health. Only once you have those nailed down should you even worry about the magic beans of the actual training program.

For anyone wanting to fix these issues once and for all – to finally not just feel good but look good too – you should consider the entry programs available on this site. For men, the 28 Day Challenge is unmatched for the results it gives. For women the 12 Week Challenge is the only women’s training plan that doesn’t just address the above issues but honours the fact that your hormone levels and body composition are very different to men’s and require a different approach (which is why the Women’s Challenge is 12 weeks and not 4). Don’t be fooled by the term “entry programs”. It has taken me nearly 30 years of experience to be able to create and deliver these programs in such a concise and actionable format. Many very experienced mature aged trainees make incredible progress on these plans because they actually address the most important factors and don’t allow people to try to fake their way to health and fitness.