Expert Tip: Advice for the 40+ body transformer


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40-plusers face a paradox. If we’ve been lifelong exercisers, our experience lets us train hard and intensely, using advanced movements. But because of this, we also risk burnout and injury. How can we balance the focus, skill, and recovery needs of middle age?

Here’s a little advice coming from a career personal trainer, mentor, and friend: our very own Coach Mike. Not only is Coach Mike a very experienced trainer who has helped people transform their bodies for over 20 years, he has also recently made a significant transformation himself, losing 30 lbs and 9″ off his waist.

Both of these things make him the right guy to discuss physique transformation and bodybuilding for the 40-plus crowd.

We 40+ folks have the ultimate paradox going on. If we’ve been lifelong exercisers, in our favour is our training age – that’s right, as a result of our experience, we’re able to generate an intensity in the gym far beyond what the new trainee can come up with.

However, this training age thing can also work to our detriment. Because we train harder and sooner, we also burn out and injure more easily.

So, that said, here are 10 hints and tips of advice for all of my sisters and brothers 40ish and beyond.

Tip #1: We don’t always digest our food as well as we did in the early years

The majority of my clients 40+ benefit from using a digestive enzyme complex prior to one or two meals/ day (use a vegetable source muti-zyme; it has a better pH range), rotating our foods to avoid intolerances or even allergy testing.

Note to self: water retention and distended tummies don’t look so good.

Tip #2: Yes we train HARD but we don’t recuperate as fast

The following aids to recuperation have all helped the cause:

  • contrast showers
  • power naps
  • massage
  • foam rolling
  • Traumeel
  • Wobenzyme
  • scheduled A.R.T as a prehab rather than rehab
  • meditation
  • sleeping in an ultra-dark room

Tip #3: Nike Frees

I can’t say enough good about these. They’ve helped every client who has switched to them from regular shoes. The flat footed, near-barefoot stance recruits the posterior chain and heals overworked ankles/shins that have been sending “flame up” messages to the knees.

Tip #4: By 40, we all have “good parts” — the ones that show best even with little work

Comic book artists have mastered heroic proportions via over-representation. If you want to stand out amongst the transformations, purposely overdevelop your best part. Judges remember the guy with incredible arms or the gal with the great glutes. Few recall the really symmetrical entry.

Tip #5: What worked for you at 20 will not work for you now

I used to run 5 miles and I was lean. Sometimes we made it despite our methods back then, not because of them. Consider it.

Tip #6: Don’t try to calorie count

I had a PN client, a real numbers guy, typical of an engineer, and he really wanted to take into account the training (exact calories spent on top of BMR ), his bodyfat % and LBM, and so on in order to have success down to the exact calorie.

Folks, there’s so much that’s unknown. We know there is an afterburn from your anaerobic intensity and HIIT training… but how much metabolic elevation? For how many hours? How about the thermic effect of food? Stressed out or underslept? There goes the metabolism along with cortisol levels. Using a scale? Hell, I can crap 5 pounds (to paraphrase John Wayne).

If you haven’t been gaining or losing, by all means audit your current number of calories. There’s a starting point. Now reapportion the balance of protein, veggies, starches and good fats and plan your starches around your workout time.

That’s about as close as you’ll get. Count on your increased muscle mass, training volume and intensity as you train for this transition to all give you a “G-flux” effect.

Tape measurements will aid your choices, as will calipers if they’re worked properly. But you know what? We’re judging you by what you see in the mirror.

So the lesson: no matter how much control you think you can exert, it’s not enough. You can only control your behaviors. So focus on them.

Tip #7: Fix your sleep

If you’re 40+ and fatigued, do you fall asleep easily and quickly? If not, read up on melatonin.

If you fall asleep easily but wake up in the middle of the night with a busy brain, read up on adrenal health and everything from cortisone to licorice cream to phosphatidylserine.

But before you proceed, chat with your family doctor. Get some good bloodwork that includes:

  • thyroid: TSH , T3, T4, rT3
  • adrenal health related DHEA, cortisol and pregnenolone

This may paint the picture you need.

Tip #8: Don’t assume your painful sites are the true cause

Joint problems? Right shoulder is almost always tied into left hip, which can be affected by the right leg’s gait.

Don’t assume the site of pain or misfiring is the site of “cause”.

I like the schools of Muscle Testing by an A.R.T. practitioner as well as checking for inhibition or constant tension by a Muscle Activation Practitioner (Greg Roskopf’s school).

Tip #9: Don’t zap yourself

Years back Dr. Ken Kinakin, of S.W.I.S. fame and the fantastic book/ DVD Optimum Muscle Training, showed me the direct effects of electromagnetic pollution and misfiring of the body (as well as chronic fatigue).

A powerlifter who had been carrying his cell phone on his right hip had completely lost his deadlift. When Ken put an acupuncture needle in the hip and removed the cell phone, the symptoms all went away.

I’ve reproduced this in my own clients and make my wife and kid wear one when in front of the computer. If you ain’t functioning, you ain’t training and metabolizing. E-M pollution is just as valid as air and water pollutants.

Tip #10: Feed your cells

Also from Dr. Ken: Cell Food. Don’t take it near bedtime, though. You’ll never sleep. It’s not a stimulant but it brings mental alertness, clarity and function. This stuff has much merit in your arsenal as well.

Ok, that’s all for now. Hopefully these tips help in your transformation.

Best of luck everyone!

 Swimmer Dara Torres, who made headlines when she competed at age 41
Swimmer Dara Torres, who made headlines when she competed at age 41

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