Performance coach shares tips for men on training after 40
Milo Bryant is a performance coach as well as an experienced journalist. He is also in his fifties and his book Unstoppable after 40 years gives you the roadmap to do more than just stay active as you “mature”. Milo trains hard and recovers even better so he can do what he wants, when he wants. Get ready to use his methods to become unstoppable. It’s not your father’s middle age.
The following is an excerpt from Unstoppable After 40.
You are no longer the same person at 40 as you were at 20. Be grateful! For the vast majority of us, that’s a good thing.
Sure, after 40 you might be in a little more pain, and you might never be benched as much as you were two decades ago, but you’ve also gained half a lifetime of knowledge and of memories.
In my opinion, the biggest impact of turning 40 is mental. It forces us to take a long look at ourselves and ask ourselves: Am I the person I always wanted to be? Did I accomplish everything I set out to do?
These questions can be complicated, of course. So here’s a simpler one. Ask yourself, “Am I running out of time or is this the best time?” Your answer says a lot about your state of mind. Why is your mindset important? Because turning 40 affects us all differently. And before we talk about how to develop physical strength, we have to talk about how to develop mental strength.
Having a positive attitude will help you deal with obstacles as you age and will benefit your overall health. Research shows that, compared to pessimists, optimists live 11-15% longer, sleep better, and are more likely to have better cardiovascular health.
Just like building muscle, meaning tearing muscle fibers, repairing them, and building them back stronger, building a truly strong mindset only comes after setbacks. And people, I’ve had a lot of them.
There was a time when I outright lied to myself. I thought I had everything under control. I worked too much and slept too little. I had just divorced. There was child support, alimony, school fees. I had rent to pay, in San Diego and Los Angeles. My social life was practically non-existent. But I was doing it, and so I thought everything was cool.
For years, I told myself that I was fine. But the cracks were starting to show, although I was slow to notice them. I’ve gained weight. I had a shingles attack. I started having panic attacks when I got on planes – and I was a world traveler! it wasn’t until a good friend made me aware of my real problem – I didn’t know how to handle stress – that I finally began to cultivate a stronger, more resilient mindset.
This mindset helped me when, in December 2020, I had a bad fall on my mountain bike. I had just accelerated down a dirt road and was going around a fence (okay, maybe I was going faster than I should have) when suddenly my handlebars and pedal clipped the fence post. The bike stopped, but I flew over my handlebars and landed on my chest. The backpack I was carrying flew off my back and into the air. At first I thought my gear had taken the worst of the fall (I broke my heart rate monitor and later found out I had plugged in my computer and a hard drive) so I stood up and I returned home.
Later, I realized that my injuries were more extensive than I thought. Sure, I could still exercise (squats, deadlifts, plyometrics), but even nine months later, I still couldn’t do the thing I loved the most: sprint.
Despite my limitations, I focused on activities I could enjoy and focused on my recovery plan. Yes, I was frustrated because I couldn’t sprint, but I never got depressed or depressed.
Look, I know my body doesn’t make my mind strong. It is my spirit that makes my body strong. And I know that mentality is what got me through this setback.
It’s the same for everyone.
If you want to exercise but can’t get motivated, you need to work on your mental game. If you give up on your back lift, you need to remain optimistic if you want to return to the gym.
It might sound weird coming from a fitness trainer, but it’s the truth: the strongest part of your body isn’t your muscle, it’s your mind. But don’t distort it. Some of you may see the word “mindset” or “mental approach” and instantly think “sanity.”
Taking care of your mental health is a good thing. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the mindset and approach you need to take to fitness as a man over 40. If you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to approach the next half of your life, you’ll be in for some tough times. Throughout this book, I’ll give you the tools you need to deal with it easily.
Your body after 40
▲How much muscle strength and size you lose each decade (starting around age 50).
▲The rate at which your cardiovascular endurance decreases each year.
▲The rate at which your metabolism slows down each decade after 40.
Let’s talk about what 40 really is. Because we’re not just 40 and suddenly have a bunch of problems that we didn’t have yesterday. Let’s break down aging into two categories: chronological age and biological age.
Our chronological age is the number of years, months, days, hours and seconds that we have lived. Unless we activate the flux capacitor on our DeLorean and get those 1.21 gigawatts, it’s impossible to change our chronological age, no matter how active and healthy we are.
We can, however, slow down our biological age, the measure of our aging that is largely influenced by our lifestyle habits. There’s no simple formula for calculating your biological age, but you can start by asking yourself a few questions: Do you exercise? Are you eating healthy? Are you getting enough sleep? If so, you might be biologically younger than someone who shares the same birthday as you but doesn’t have the same healthy lifestyle.
This book will help you go back in time to your biological age. In other words, it’s about getting old, but staying young.
If you want to avoid injury, boost your energy, and never slow down, you’ll need to focus on more than just building muscle. Don’t get me wrong, strength is important. But before you can properly build strength, you’ll need to refine two things you’re probably neglecting: mobility and stability.
Our physical condition declines with age
There’s no getting around the problem: we will all lose muscle as we age. But not as much as you might think. Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, doesn’t really start for most people until around age 50. Even then, we tend to only lose about 1% of our muscle mass and 3% of our strength each year, according to a study by researchers at McMaster University.
In my opinion, the main thing that prevents men over 40 from staying in shape is their lifestyle. Specifically, their sedentary lifestyle. I put a lot of blame on computers and smartphones. Don’t get me wrong: electronic media is great. But it also gave us the hunched, kyphotic posture of a Neanderthal. It’s as if we evolved to walk upright only to descend back to our hunched ancestors.
Of course, life gets involved too. When we were younger, maybe we had more time to play sports or go to the gym. Now too many of us juggle one (or two, or three) jobs and family responsibilities, as well as cooking, cleaning and other chores. But that doesn’t mean your health should be last on your priority list, which I see all too often.
When your car makes a clicking noise, what do you do? Take it to a mechanic. When your sink leaks, what do you do? Call a plumber. Now, what do you do when you hurt your lower back? Most people I know either ignore the pain and work around it (trainers call this “compensating,” by the way), or they stop exercising altogether.
I can’t tell you how many times someone called me and said they couldn’t come to practice. They’ll say, “Coach, I sprained my ankle. I can’t exercise today. I tell them, “It’s okay, today is an upper body day.”
People, there is never a reason to stop exercising. And it’s never too late to start. The more muscle you build now, the less you will have to lose. The more you take care of your body today, the more energy you will have tomorrow. The fitter you are now, the healthier you will be in the future.
In other words, you may be over 40, but if you take care of your body, you will feel much younger. And isn’t that the point, really?
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