Journey of Fitness
What are your fitness goals?
Some may have specific goals such as “I want to get a pull-up or 400lb deadlift”. Some might answer “want to get toned” or “lose weight”. Whether you want to get the 400lb deadlift or get toned, those are relatively short term goals compare to the ones 20 years or 30 years from now.
Have you thought about what you want to do or to be able to do when you are 70 years old? You can’t think that far ahead? Fair enough. What about “What you DON’T want to become”?
In our gym, majority of our members are 35-60 years old. It’s fair to say they past their prime time of fitness. (Wait, don’t get upset! There are many members who are fitter than when they were in their 20’s. I’m not insulting their abilities or achievements.) Also, often times, working out is not their absolute top priority. They have a career to pursue and family to take care of. Their goals are not to compete or to prove something. Their goal is to “stay healthy”.
“Stay healthy”. That’s very ambiguous, don’t you think? What does that mean?
As I’m in the 35-60 year old age category, if I understand that correctly, that means they want to operate their day-to-day activities and physical activities with ease. Meaning, without any pain or a lung coming out of your chest when you chase a bus. You want to be able to go for a 5km run or pick up a sport on a whim without worrying about your knees or questioning whether you can complete the distance. Or you simply want to play with your kids for more than 5 minutes at a time.
Even though you may not know what you want to be able to do at 70, I’m sure we can all agree that you want to be able to walk, go upstairs, and go to a bathroom by yourself. You want to be able to take care of yourself, right?
So how do we get there?
People see life as a journey. We all know that the journey of life is not always unicorns and rainbows. It’s more like this picture. It is made of failure after failure, frustration, disappointment and many, many mistakes with some sprinkles of hopes and happiness here and there just to keep things interesting. This sounds just like training, don’t you think? So why not look at fitness also as a journey? Not a journey that ends when you achieve a goal and start a new one to chase another goal. But a much larger one; journey that never ends as long as you exist on the planet.
If your ultimate goal is to “stay healthy” and to “enjoy life” when you are at 70, the journey has already began. You are already on it right now. What you do now has impact on how you feel when you are at 70.
So let’s talk about physical and mental aspect that is related to training. Because these play a big role in your overall training, not just a training program itself.
When you hit mid-30’s to 40’s, did you start feeling something is off? Do you feel like you are not progressing as much as you used to? Did you notice you don’t recover from a workout as quickly as you used to? You feel like you gain weight by just looking at a muffin?
Do you feel something unsettled about these new changes that is hitting your body?
What is or was your reaction to the new changes?
The training you are doing is “not working” so you decide to add more weight, volume, mileage, etc because more is better.
You start working out 7 days a week because more must be better.
You start pushing yourself harder and harder in every single workout because you feel like you won’t progress otherwise.
You try to keep up with your gym buddies who are 20 years younger just because.
You start eating way less because less is better when it comes to food.
You notice soreness in your body isn’t going away but you can’t afford a rest day because you have to train more to get better…
You feel… rushed.
Because I used to be able to do XXX. I should be able to do XXX now.
What you need to realise is that you have a 40+ year old body and need to accept the reality of how your 40 year old body reacts to training. Also, let’s not forget that you now have a different life. You have a family to take care of, career to pursue, not enough time to sleep, etc.
I’m not saying to forget about having goals or not to keep your hopes up. That’s not at all what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you need to have an appropriate training plan according to your age. What worked 20 years ago does no longer work for you. To be honest, more training without rest days and pushing yourself to the limit in every training session is not doing you any favours.
It is good to expect more from yourself. But at the same time, (I think) it is human’s nature to think that “I’m not good enough”. So you start punishing yourself for not being able to do things you think you should be able to do by demanding more physically and psychologically. When you become that, you are no longer in healthy relationship with yourself.
Why is what you are right now never good enough for you? Take a step back and start treating yourself like your training partner; be understanding. Give yourself some slack.
Aging is not something you fight against. It’s something you should do with grace.
Your body is changing. It is changing just like when you hit your puberty. When you were in puberty, you had to accept what was happening. You had to come to peace with it whether you liked the changes or not. Now, you may be experiencing that again.
Don’t fight against it. Adapt to it and embrace it.
If you can’t get out of the bad cycle (i.e. “more is better”), you may want to check out this TED Talk by Judson Brewer. He talks about a simple way to break a bad habit.
I’m not saying that training is a bad habit. You need to train regularly. But HOW is my point.
Are you in this cycle?
Trigger: “I should be able to do this” or “I used to be able to do XXX 10 years ago and now I’m nowhere close to it!”
Behaviour: I must train more and harder to get better.
If so, let’s rebuild your bad habit with a good one. Let’s take a step back and see what really is going on.
How do you feel after a week of training?
How do you feel when you “push through” some pain and keep working?
What is your body telling you?
Listen and take action. Action that your body needs, not what you want.
You don’t have to prove anything to anyone about what you are capable of. You may be able to reach your goals after many months of beating your body. You may be very proud of it at the moment. Then what? Are you going to find another goal and keep beating up your body? For how long? At what cost?
Like I mentioned earlier, what you do now has impact on how you feel when you are at 70. Train smart with peace in your mind. You are aging. You have many years of experience in training by now. Use the wisdom in your training. Don’t get controlled by your emotional rush.
Once you are at peace with your body, you can truly start enjoying your training.
Remember, this journey of fitness never ends. No need to rush, just enjoy it.