Staying fit (and even getting there in the first place) when you're over 35 becomes an even bigger challenge. However, avoiding the beer gut, flabby skin or whatever your concern might be, is more than doable. All it takes is the right plan, the right execution and the right habits to fall back on when times get hard.
Why is it hard to stay fit the older you get?
Yes, getting and staying fit and losing weight the right way gets harder as you age, but this mainly comes down to lifestyle rather than physiology. Our priorities change and for the majority, this results in us becoming more sedentary, eating more kcals, sleeping less, moving less and leading a more stressful existence. These variables are the perfect storm for becoming unfit, overweight and generally less healthy than we previously were. It can also seem unattractive to train and work out hard as we get older because there's a lot more exercise recovery to be done.
Exercise can be a chore for many, but if your overall goal is to get fit and be healthy you are going to have to adopt a regular plan. The trick is finding something that you either enjoy or at worst don’t mind doing. If you fall into the latter camp then setting up some form of accountability trial like hiring a coach, training with a buddy or exercising with a group is a good idea. Accountability is worth its weight in gold when it comes to fitness.
Best workout routines for men and women over 30
The first factor you need to get set up is your training and activity. Exercise is often a catalyst habit which then leads to greater adherence elsewhere, so get this right and you might be on to a winner!
As a Personal Trainer, I recommend the following for anyone wanting to get fit and lean. Should you have any injuries or other physical issues, consult your trainer or physician for personal advice:
• 2-3 x 30-60 minute resistance sessions per week (in the gym, at home or in the park).
• 1-2 x 20 minute HIIT sessions (in the gym, at home or in the park).
• 1 x holistic style session (yoga, pilates, non-contact martial arts) – super important to balance out your training and help with recovery.
• 7-10k steps if you are lean, 10-15k steps if overweight.
• Play as often as you can, this will be different for everybody, but think about how active you were when you were a kid and try to replicate this as best you can.
Best nutrition program to help you stay fit
Next, consider your nutrition. This tends to get better in terms of quality and diversity, but worse in terms of energy balance as you get into your thirties and beyond. To avoid the pitfalls that many of us fall into I recommend the following:
• Eat veggies with each meal, including breakfast – don’t eat dessert for breakfast like so many of us do each day.
• If you digest and absorb more of your food you will need less to feel full. As such, good gut health is paramount. A good way to help this is to eat in a relaxed state.
• Eat a palm-sized piece of protein with each meal, including breakfast. Think about this in terms of a chicken breast or eggs.
• Match carbohydrate/kcal intake to your activity levels. If you do less, eat less (starch and overall kcals). On the days you train and are more active then you can have more starch and overall kcals.
• Track your progress: monitor your blood glucose, your kcal intake, your veggie consumption. Tracking is especially key if weight loss is a goal.
Other than these two key considerations (training/activity and nutrition) there are several other important factors that restrict those over 35 achieving their fitness goals. These are real issues that unless tackled will 9 times out of 10 halt progress being made.
How to make time for exercise with a busy schedule
The biggest issue is nearly always the feeling that there is a just a lack of time available to dedicate towards fitness goals. A lot of people at this time in their life are progressing in their careers and the ties to this become ever more increasing. Couple this with possibly a young family and you can see why most people in this scenario just don’t think there is time to dedicate to their fitness.
So, one of the most important tips to staying fit and healthy is to carve out time, maybe early in the morning 2-3 times per week when your partner or family is still in bed. This can be daunting yes, but consider the long-term benefits – more energy and it can boost your happiness! This can be difficult for those who are used to training in the evening or afternoon and this transition can take some time to adjust to – just go easy on yourself and create the habit.
If the thought of training early is too much for you to stomach then perhaps you could train at lunchtimes. If you only have an hour then you could use this to your advantage by making sure you spend only 30 minutes training but make those minutes count. Keep the rest minimal and set a timer for when you need to leave. This will encourage you to work more intensely when you see it counting down.
In addition to changing your training window, you can also change your routine to training at home. If you have a garage this can easily be converted into a small gym with the minimum of equipment. In this scenario I recommend investing in a rower or assault bike, some DB's and/or KB’s, a TRX, a tyre and maybe even a squat rack if you are like me and love to squat. This can all cost the equivalent of yearly gym membership and once you have it you will not need to buy it again.
Lastly, and especially if you have a young family, I encourage people to go along and take part in their local park run. These are great events to help get your cardio in and there is always as many people on the sidelines as there is taking part. Overall it is a win-win – you get your time with the family and you get your training in.
How to work out on a budget
The next biggest obstacle to progress for many in this scenario is money, or lack of it. At this time in your life even though your income tends to go up it also coincides with an even bigger expenditure list. You might have a mortgage, a car, holidays to pay for and not to mention the expense of having 1, 2 or even 3 children. It is safe to say that expenses, compared to income are very high at this stage in your life.
These are real concerns and it is easy to understand why this may seem an insurmountable problem when it comes to training, especially if you want to hire a coach. However, there are always ways around this problem and with careful planning, you will likely be able to still maintain some expenditure towards your fitness goals.
The first thing to realise is that it is not selfish or self-centered to spend some of the money you earn on yourself. This is especially true when it comes to maintaining your health and fitness. The stronger and fitter you are the better you can serve the people you love and want to spend time with. Try to see this as an essential investment for you and them.
If money is tight and you know the value a coach brings to you then perhaps you have a skill that they could benefit from? If you can do something for them on a professional level then they may be interested in swapping their skill for your skill.
Alternatively, you could look at training with a friend or a client of your coach that has similar goals. This can not only help you share the cost of your coaching, but also provides you with another source of accountability and motivation. Another idea is to train outside – head to your local park and enjoy a run or jog in nature, it can do wonders for a clear mind.
Importance of rest sleep and exercise
The last piece to the puzzle in staying fit comes down to habits. Whether we like it or not, we are all creatures of habit and what we do habitually determines so much of how we look and feel.
Most of you reading this may be feeling sleep deprived. You may have increasing work stress, long working hours and likely a young family that doesn’t allow you to get the magic 8 hours that you used to once get.
The key to getting as much sleep as you can at this time of your life is simply getting to bed as early as you can. I ask clients to set a bedtime that allows them to get at least 7 hours sleep per night if everything goes to plan. Now if your youngest child wakes up in the middle of the night or you can’t sleep because you are wired from the day then so be it. You have then done everything in your power to get the required sleep in and over time this routine will ensure you get at least 7 hours each night. Ideally, this rises to 8 hours over time.
Why is sleep so important? Sleep is your master regulator! It is your body's chance to repair the damage and chaos that has occurred throughout the day. It regulates your blood sugar (mood, fat burn, energy levels), your hormonal output, your metabolism, your immune system, your cognitive ability, your hunger/satiety hormones and your sex drive.
If you are to do only one thing after reading this blog post it is aiming to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis daily.
The effects of alcohol on fitness
The next habit to look to re-engineer is your alcohol consumption. At this stage in your life, you may not be going out on the town as much, but it is likely your alcohol consumption at the weekends at home or during the week with friends/colleagues may be creeping up without even realising it. Perhaps this is not an issue for you, but why not track your consumption for the next 2 weeks to see how much alcohol you are consuming.
One of the reasons I place such an emphasis on reducing alcoholic drink consumption is the relative high kcals they have. A pint of lager, for example, has roughly 200kcals. If you drink 10 drinks per week then this is an extra 2000 kcals in the week that you likely have not accounted for. To give you some context that is about 3 hours work of cardio at a pretty decent intensity.
The drawbacks to alcohol consumption don’t stop there. Decisions under the influence are often detrimental to your fitness and the choices made in the aftermath often follow a similar pattern. We can all remember eating foods we would not normally eat when tipsy and then doing the doing the same the following day or even days as our body processes the alcohol out of our system. We also can become reluctant to exercise and be active when we feel the effects of alcohol in our body. Alcohol also inhibits muscle growth and your sex hormone production.
The final major habit to look at is your intake of processed or takeaway style food. I see the consumption of this style of food increase in many at this time of life. Most of the time it comes from being overtired and/or being affected by alcohol. Either way, it is fairly damaging to your health and fitness goals if done to regularly. I recommend no more than 1 non-cooked meal per week and if this is not possible then ensuring you choose your takeaway option very carefully. Thankfully in this day and age, this is easier than ever with apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
Also, takeaway meals take a long time to digest (the fry-up, heavy-laden kinds) and the chances are you will not feel much like exercising the next morning, especially if you wash it down with a few beers.
So, fear not. It is entirely possible to look and feel fit and healthy for any person post 35. However, it will take more effort than it did in your teens and twenties and you will need to be prepared to get organised and take a very honest look at your current habits. With these tips to help you get fit and healthy you can begin to develop a routine that works best for you and feel better in no time. You can do it.
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