by Robert Maxwell
When it comes to aging, I’m often surprised just how widely the process can vary. For some, 80 years old might as well be a death sentence. Others this age still look and move like someone decades younger. Why the difference? Obviously, genetics play a large role, but is this all there is to it? I don’t think so. Recently I met a gentleman who told me a little of his life story. During the first few minutes of our conversation, if you’d asked me his age, I would’ve guessed around 65. His hair was white, but his eyes and speech were perfectly clear, and he carried obvious strength in his limbs. A few minutes later, when he told me he had just celebrated his 80th birthday, I was visibly surprised. So much so, that he laughed and explained that his workout routine had doubtless kept aging from ravaging him too harshly. Later I saw his home gym setup. It wasn’t anything fancy – just a few dumbbells, some resistance bands, and a treadmill. If you understand the benefits of resistance training, but feel you’re too old to get started, here are three truths that might help you.
If You Can Move, You Can Train
Many older guys I’ve known feel that because of hip replacements, bad knees from rugby accidents 40 years ago, or any number of other maladies, it’s too late for them to pick up a barbell, dumbbells, or use training machines. This is wrong. Obviously each case is individual, and it would be foolish to start weight training with gusto without talking to your doctor first. I make no claims to be a medical professional, nor do I know your particular situation. That said, I do know that everyone can benefit from some form of resistance training. I’ve gone over the facts and figures regarding this in many of the articles on this website, so I won’t be doing that again here. Truth is, if you have muscles that serve you by allowing you to move your bones, and thus your body, those muscles need stimulation to function optimally. Your daily 10 minute walk doesn’t count. Unused muscles are weak muscles. If you’re concerned about aches, pains, and permanent damage from weight training, and these fears keep you from entering a gym, you’re misguided. The reality is that by refusing to train, you’re putting yourself at far greater risk for all of the above than a proper training routine ever would. If your old, weak, and refuse to say yes to training, you’re saying yes to feeling older, weaker, and possibly premature death.
You Don’t have to Hate Training
Let’s suppose you’ve gone ahead and talked to your doctor about the possibility of resistance training, and gotten the go ahead. When physical obstacles stop being an issue, mental blocks take over. You’re probably dreading your training routine, believing it will be filled with nothing but sweat, pain, and possibly more aches and pains than you’re already dealing with. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’ve been following this website for a while, you’re probably aware of the fact that I sometimes discuss fairly hard core training routines. That doesn’t mean your personal strength training routine has to be hellish. If you’ve never trained for strength before, even a very mild routine is an improvement over what you’re doing now – nothing. If you’re seriously dreading picking up weights or even stepping into a gym, do yourself a favour and start easy. If you’re completely untrained, you’ll likely start to notice benefits quite quickly.
Training doesn’t have to take tons of time
For older guys with lots going on, one common objection to training is that it’ll probably take too long. It doesn’t have to. Sure, if you follow any old one-size-fits-all training regime you looked up on the internet, it might involve more time then you want to invest. But that’s where a customized regime can help. Simple, circuit-style training routines can shave many minutes off a typical one hour gym session. If you arrange your exercises optimally, even 15 or 20 minutes is enough to get a decent workout in. If you don’t feel you have time even for this, it’s time to reevaluate. Your health, strength, and vitality matter. If you keep acting like they don’t, it’ll catch up with you. I know what it’s like to be very busy. Despite all the preaching I do on this website, even I sometimes skip workouts in favour of other things that simply must be done. But I never make a habit of it, because I’ve made strength training a permanent priority. In my experience, no matter how busy a person is, they always make time for the things they believe truly matter. Strength should be one of those things.