Don’t skip the warm-up: As we age, our muscles and tendons become less flexible and more subject to injury. A solid 10- to 15-minute warmup of light motion (not static stretching, which can actually cause damage when done cold) helps counteract that unavoidable truth. It’s time to start thinking of the warmup not as a thing you do before the workout, but rather the first part of the workout.
Prioritize your movement: Middle age is a demanding time. Kids, a spouse, a job, your community, and maybe a minute for a hobby conspire to leave very few hours in the day for you to spend on fitness. But you have to make it happen. Here are a couple of strong options:
- Exercise early in the morning, before things go wrong with your day that could impinge on your workout time.
- Make exercise a necessary part of your daily routine. For example, bicycle to work.
- Exercise with your family (I do jiujitsu with my son) to combine quality time with exercise.
- Find a workout buddy who will harass you into showing up even when it’s hard.
Focus on flexibility: Flexible muscles and resilient joints will prevent you from sustaining a sidelining injury you may not fully recover from. The best way to insure them is to build in a cool down stretching routine lasting 10 to 20 minutes at the end of your workout. Stretching while muscles are warm is a flexibility-force multiplier. Take advantage of it.
Your body’s “check engine” light: Two advantages of being a grown adult are (often) having decent health insurance and being old enough that your doctor will listen to you. If you experience pain, go get it checked out. The days of “walking it off” or “no pain, no gain” are behind us, gents. Pain is instead a warning that we’re about to get broken.
Mix it up: Those manly, crazy workouts of our 20s are no good anymore. One-rep maxes, rounds in the right, lifting tractor tires like Rocky are still within our capacity, but we pay for them with soreness and injuries. Instead, focus on medium-weight, medium-rep exercises with large ranges of motion. Good calls include:
- barbell exercises
- certain martial arts