Helping to keep clients healthy and fit as they grow older

As we age, things change.

“Duh,” you may be saying. But allow me to explain how it changes for your clients and their bodies, as most people recognize and acknowledge that things do indeed change, yet their strategies do not change at all.

When we were younger – with less stress, more sleep and faster metabolisms – staying “in-shape” seemed to be pretty easy. Do a little cardio, occasionally pick up some little weights, and BOOM! We stayed moderately to mostly in shape.

Fast-forward to your 30′s and you probably found you needed to do a little more exercising just to stay the same or – as is the case with most people – you did a little more exercise and still didn’t see the results you were hoping for.

Once you approach and pass 40, the unfortunate truth is that things become even harder. Most people’s strategy is to just do more of the same stuff they always have (or give up), but, unfortunately, the stuff they were doing isn’t going to get the job done. Even if you do MORE and MORE, or work HARDER and HARDER, inferior choices are inferior choices and all that is going to happen is you’ll feel tired and beat up.

This is where the clichés “smarter not harder” and “less is more” are absolutely true.

Before we explain how your life and body are different now, what you might be doing that is wasting time and effort, and what you can do to improve your results, it’s also important to note that as we age it’s likely our training goals and our ‘why’ will change quite a bit. (Clients want to be healthy for their kids; they want to not be tired, sore, beat up or injured; they’d would like to be able to get in and out of our cars without pain; and – this one is a constant – they still want to feel fit and attractive). If you can identify the client’s most important ‘why,’ they will be more likely to stick to your plan and get the results they want.

How Your Life Changes As You Age

  • The number of responsibilities obviously increases, and so do total stress levels. These extra stressors require more energy for a person to recover from them. Some exercise will help you cope, too much exercise will hinder your ability to deal with stress.
  • With more responsibilities and stress, most people tend to sleep less and rush their meals more often, resulting in less nutrition. Both of these factors mean you cannot recover as much as you used to when you could sleep in and eat more food.
  • Clients accumulate little (or big) injuries and aches and pains over the course of their life, and it makes training intimidating, because they don’t know how to train around existing injuries. So they avoid strength training due to fear…and what we see is that as people get older, they get weaker and more frail because they have avoided strength training.
  • Clients forget or put aside your own exercise routine to take care of work, family and other responsibilities.
  • Clients physically do not recover from exercise as fast as they used to. The ability to physically “bounce back” isn’t what it was.
  • As we age, we lose muscle mass and strength. The average human has the potential to lose up to .5 lbs of muscle mass each year starting at age 25. Muscle mass is a big part of what lets us eat food and not get fat. Generally speaking, the more muscle mass you have, the more food and diet options you can have and still be lean. Losing strength makes you more likely to get injured and it’s also less helpful in general because you can’t physically do things in life.

What You May Be Doing That Is Wasting Client’s Time And Effort

  • Longer cardio efforts
    • This is treadmill running, longer running, spin.
    • WHY? People believe they should do cardio for the calorie burning effects. Unfortunately, this is an ineffective strategy. The way to create a calorie deficit and lose weight is MUCH MORE effective by reducing calories consumed vs. trying to burn more.
      • Side note: You are very likely burning far fewer calories than you think you are. Most calorie estimates are overblown and used as marketing gimmicks. In fact, at Fitwall we don’t even give calories burned numbers.
    • WHY? Part 2: Long cardio efforts time and time again are shown to increase hunger, making it potentially harder to stick to a diet.
    • WHY? Part 3: It takes the time you have for exercise and has you doing something that doesn’t keep muscle on you. Sure it may help burn a little bit of fat, but the key is keeping your muscle.
  • Kinda-Sorta-But-Not-Quite-Strength Training
    • This is Sculpt classes at yoga studios, most group classes, many bootcamps, classes that combine treadmills with light weights and fast paced circuits, and what people usually do on their own.
    • WHY? These “high intensity” training centers are really good at one thing: making you tired. Although we tend to attribute feeling tired and beat up with good exercise, that wrong-headed notion is patently false. Tired just empties your physical reserves, and makes it harder and harder to recover. Progress happens during recovery.
      • At Fitwall we will often hear “I could do more,” and that means we are doing it right, because you got an appropriate stimulus that will force your body to adapt and improve, but won’t be so much that you just remain tired and beat up.
    • WHY? Part 2: To get stronger you have to lift heavier weights or perform more challenging exercises over time. Just lifting little weights faster and without rest simply makes you tired, not stronger, and certainly not more resilient, since it just beats you down.
    • WHY? Part 3: The best cardio effects come from focusing on cardio, and the best strength effects come from focusing on strength. These classes try to do both at the expense of the other. This is called the “interference effect in exercise. This is why we have strength-focused days, and cardio-focused days, so that we get max results from each.
  • Changing it up too much
    • This is doing a different type of exercise randomly throughout the week.
    • WHY? This can work for a while, but it will never be as good as following a plan that is put together to deliver better results. The best athletes and physiques on earth were built on a program designed to deliver results, not left to random chance of “switching it up.” If you’ve been switching it up constantly, you’ve been getting sweaty, but that you haven’t been improving as much or quickly as you could.
    • WHY? Part 2: There is no organization in random exercise. You may be doing too much of similar things or none of something else.
  • Training hard too frequently
    • This is working out hard multiple times per day and/or 7 days per week.
    • WHY? Simple: You get better by recovering. If you don’t allow your body the ability to recover you will simply feel beat up and tired and unhappy with your lack of progress despite trying very hard.

What Actually Works

  • Strength Training

This is performing harder and heavier exercise over time, which forces the body to get stronger and more resilient. Oh, and it also is the best way to keep or add muscle mass as you age, which is the most important thing you can do to remain leaner, healthier, and feel better.

  • Movement Training

This is moving your body in as many ways and angles as possible. This is not stretching (flexibility is pretty useless without strength in those ranges). Most of the standard group classes stick to the same types of movements done hard and fast, but never challenge your coordination. You should be carefully and as part of a program introducing and learning new physical skills, which not only will it keep your body more resilient and mobile, but actually help keep your brain healthy.

  • Sticking to a Program

This is putting clients in the best position to improve their physique and health because they have a cohesive plan. A plan that addresses all their needs and doesn’t overdo any particular part.

  • Training hard, in an appropriate amount

This is focusing hard efforts on what gives the biggest payout. Then you still train other days as part of the program in order to improve recovery and results.

  • Fun activity as cardio

Cardio is not bad, some places will try and say that it is useless. Above we said it was a misallocation of time when maximum physical improvements are desired. However, performing easy cardio like bike rides, hikes, fun easy jogs, or playing sports with your clients are invaluable to their emotional and therefor physical health and happiness.

Getting older is not a sentence for clients to get fatter, feel weaker, and lose their health and feeling of vigor. It just means you need to have a better plan to help them combat the effects of aging. Fitwall specializes in these things, and that is why we feel we are changing so many lives and physiques.


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