A few months ago, I officially migrated from the mid 30s age bracket and joined the ranks of those poor souls in their late 30s. It sounds trivial, but the next big age milestone is creeping up on me like a mugger in a dark alleyway.
Every so often, reminders that I’m rapidly moving through the gears of my lifespan smack me in the face like a Mike Tyson left hook. Luxuriating in the bath and spotting that first grey pubic hair was one such moment, but, as a sporty, competitive man, the most frightening part of the aging process is the thought of no longer being able to compete on the football pitch, the tennis court or in the gym. Yes, we can still stay fit, but at what age do we stop being competitive – other than when we enter the retirement home for sporting activity; the dreaded veterans’ leagues? Are there physiological reasons why we can no longer take on younger guys, or are our problems more psychological than physical?
I needed answers, so I decided to do two things: go toe-to-toe in the gym with a young, fit, athletic lad who is comfortably young enough to be my son, and to enlist the help of a health and fitness expert to answer the myriad of questions buzzing around my aging brain.
Name: Max Kadarusman
Fitness Regime: Rugby, basketball, gym work
Name: Richard Lenton
Fitness Regime: Football, weight training
|10-MINUTE GYM CHALLENGE|
|PRESS UPS||1 Minute|
|CHIN UPS||1 Minute|
|TRICEP DIPS||1 Minute|
|WINNER: PERSON WITH THE MOST REPETITIONS IN TOTAL|
10 QUESTIONS FOR THE EXPERT
Owner of Ultimate Fitness Performance Studio
Gavin is one of the most renowned trainers in Singapore. With over 15 years’ experience, his clients have included Olympic athletes and captains of industry. He is the author of the detoxification self-help book, Reboot your Bod, and the accelerated fat loss book, Ripped In 28 Days. He gives us the lowdown on staving off the aging process
EX: Is it possible to have the same cardiovascular fitness in your 30s and 40s as you had in your 20s?
GAVIN: As one gets older the capabilities of improving (or sustaining) fitness are really no different than in your younger years. In fact, the body’s ability to perform aerobic type activities increases with age. But bear in mind it’s the frequency, regularity and intensity you put into your training that are key to maintaining or improving fitness.
What if you are a first-time trainer in your 30s, 40s or even older?
The golden rule is to take it easy, enjoy it and build up your preferred forms of cardio gradually. Don’t do too much too soon or you WILL regret it and chances are you’ll give up before you really get going.
How should a fitness programme change as you hit your late 30s and 40s?
If you are already exercising, then you will probably feel a little bit more achy or have a few more niggles after your workouts than when you were younger. You’re not the ‘superman’ you were in your early twenties! Find a good fitness balance or try mixing up through cross-training (combining several different modes of training), or look into getting a specifically individualized workout programme from a credible trainer. Personally, I do not trust 99% of trainers out there. Ask for testimonials and success stories as just having the qualifications is simply not a good enough indicator they will guarantee the results you’re paying for.
A one-size fits all approach doesn’t work then?
Of course not, we’re all individuals. For example if you’re an office worker, do you have muscular, skeletal or postural issues, tension or any kind of pain? Consider the huge benefits you would gain through a corrective exercise programme. This would be done to ease, address, help and prevent muscular imbalances or back pain for instance. Honestly, these issues are relatively easy to fix. Just imagine saving thousands of dollars on unnecessary surgery or repeated visits to the physiotherapist or chiropractor if you just trained correctly.
So should a fitness programme become more about maintenance when you get to a certain age?
At some point, you need to stop trying to push your body to its absolute limits. Just trying to maintain what you have without exerting too much physical stimulus on the body should be one of your key requirements. Definitely.
Can you still make gains when it comes to bodybuilding as you hit your late 30s and into your 40s?
Absolutely! First and foremost, nutrition is critical to how you look and feel. You build muscles at home by taking the time to go shopping to prepare, cook and eat the right kinds of foods to fuel the body correctly. This makes the difference. If it’s too much trouble for you to go shopping or eat the right foods then you are at an immediate disadvantage. Everyone should be aware of how detrimental it is to eat poorly. The right diet fuels your body and cells, so it’s in your hands to enjoy the amount of time you spend in the vessel you call your body. You can build muscle at any age if you add the right nutrients to the right exercises. The right exercises include specificity, intensity, rest periods (in-between both sets and workouts), frequency, limitations, load, reps and sets. And of course you have to have the right mindset to achieve your goals.”
What advantages does a guy who is 20 have over a guy who is 40?
I think the 20-year-old would be more eager to push himself and be a little hungrier to do well to prove something – this is called ‘ego’. I recall as a youngster training twice a day five days a week. Every time I went to the gym I had to do one more rep or more weight on a particular exercise, continually pushing my body to its limits. The raging hormones surging through the body of a youngster helps with aggression, faster recovery in-between workouts and this allows them to push their limits to the max without as much risk of injury as an older person who has to train more intelligently, with more rest periods. The 20-year old will definitely have less scar tissue in muscles from previous injuries such as fractures, tears, ligament or tendon strains and significantly less degeneration or wear and tear of joints and cartilage. The youngster will not have acquired certain postural or musculoskeletal imbalances from incorrect ergonomics of let’s say a typical office worker, or have the additional 20 years of punishment to the body to contend with.
Let’s turn it on its head; what advantages does a 40-year-old have over a 20-year old?
The older guy knows his limits – period. At this age you will know what you can and cannot do and you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. This guy knows he doesn’t have to be breaking records every time he runs or steps into a gym and can still look good, while still being able to be incredibly fit, strong and healthy. A 40-year old has 20 years of experience of training to be able to train smart. He knows how to warm up properly and knows the value of a properly structured training programme with the benefits of corrective exercises to help with any niggles he may need to address. An older man has what is called muscle maturity, which is a more defined, chiseled and denser look to the muscularity due to a much longer time training.
Could a guy who’s been largely sedentary up until the age of 40, reach the same level of fitness as a guy who has been sedentary up until the age of 20?
Yes! I believe it is never too late to start. Although remember you’re fit for what you do. If you run long distances you will be a good runner, if you swim you will be a good swimmer, if you push heavy weights you will be strong. However, the long distance runner will have great cardio-vascular fitness but lack strength and explosiveness; the swimmer will have great muscular endurance and high lactate threshold but will lack strength and power; the weight trainer will be strong and powerful but lack cardiovascular fitness. Although a younger guy beginning a new training programme will probably reach a higher level of fitness more quickly, there is no reason why, in time, an older guy who progressively pushes his limits in training could not be as fit as the youngster as far as cardiovascular fit. Train to your strengths but also try to enhance your weaknesses. Know that different body types have differing traits and capabilities to do well at certain sports.
Finally, what’s the biggest barrier to achieving your fitness goals?
The biggest factor is your mental/emotional state as this controls everything you say or do whether conscious or sub-conscious.