Getting Fit After 40 - Because Sometimes Life Gets in the Way.
My journey from fit to fat to fit again
Fit over 40? I never imagined I’d be anything else. But sometimes life gets in the way.
It’s a beautiful sunny day on the north coast of NSW, in the spring of 1990, I’ve just hopped out of the surf, and I’m hanging around talking the type of nonsense only a 16-year-old male can.
As I listened to a couple of the older guys chatting, I became incensed when they mentioned that they stopped surfing for nearly 20 years because “life” had other plans.
They “claimed,” buying a house, getting married, having kids had gotten in the way. Not only had that stopped them surfing, but it had also left them fat, unfit and complaining about aches and pains, which made it harder to get started again.
I clearly remember thinking “That will never happen to me. I’ll never stop surfing; I’ll never lose my fitness or get fat.”
Or so I thought.
Because Sometimes Life gets in the way.
It’s 2-am in the morning on a day in July of 2009. I’m on a night shift, and after consuming a bag of starburst, I jump on the scale.
I weigh in 94.5kg, the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and none of it is muscle. While disappointing, it was not entirely unexpected. I haven’t surfed regularly in years and rarely exercise.
I’m currently dealing with a severe case of self-inflicted patellar tendinosis in both knees; An unfortunate side-effect of attempting to lose weight using a couch to 5K app and not listening to my body.
The tendinosis makes it difficult for me to get out of chairs, walk stairs or hills without excruciating pain.
A broken wrist sustained falling from a skateboard 20 years earlier has left me with arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. It has become so bad that it keeps me up at night and needs an operation.
To cap all of this off, I’m now a father. My daughter Lili is only three months old, and at the ripe old age of 35, I struggle to get up off the lounge with her in my arms due to the pain in my knees.
Being fit over 40 seemed unlikely. I guess that you could say life had gotten in the way.
Never give up on what's important to you.
That was the motto of my fitness and business mentor, Craig Ballantyne.
Craig had created the Turbulence Training exercise system. A system which changed my life and gave me hope there would be an end to the mediocre existence I was living.
It’s the 6th of August of 2013, I’m 39 years old, and I’ve just completed a 12-week transformation contest.
I have weighed in at 77kg, the last time I weighed in this light would have been that spring day, 33 years before.
I’m surfing regularly again and have fallen in love with exercise. So much so that I’m on my way to becoming a PT.
My tendinosis is a thing of the past, and my carpal tunnel operation was a success. As approached 40 years old, my life was back on track.
A new definition of success
I’m 45 years old now, and although this may sound cliched, I am in the best shape of my life. Before you roll your eyes, let me define what “best shape of my life” means to me.
Firstly, it means that I am strong enough to do everything I want to do in life. Such as doing my job (personal trainer), playing with my daughter, surfing, throwing kettlebells around and doing fun stuff.
It also means that I am free from chronic pain. As a child, teenager and a younger man, I remember constant trips to the chiropractor, way too many pain meds and a body getting old before it’s time. I still have my share of issues, but at this time of my life, they are more under control than they have ever been.
On a different level, it also means that I’m at peace with my body and no longer associate having six-pack abs with health. Sure, I still like the idea of a six-pack, but as time goes by, I’m less and less convinced the social and emotional trade-off is worth it.
I’m in the best shape of my life, and good food and wine are a part of that, and I believe there is room for all of it while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a thing or two about getting and staying in shape over the age of 40.
One could say I’ve made helping people 40 years and older to stay in shape my passion.
Having been on the other side, I understand how confusing and intimidating it can be to get started again.
There is so much conflicting information, and as you and I know, life doesn’t get more comfortable at 40 or 50, it gets busier so where you invest your time is of paramount importance.
It’s also essential to find someone who understands the difference between what’s appropriate for a 40-50-year-old as opposed to a 20-year-old.
Being fit over 40 does not mean you have to wrap yourself up in cotton wool. However, considerations such as recovery time, existing injuries and degeneration all need to be taken into account.
I was lucky to find great mentors that I still consider friends to this day, which is why I’m still able to train harder than many people half my age.
5 Simple Ways to Back in Shape: Even if you haven’t exercised in years.
Getting started is hard, but trust me when I say the basics work and simple is best.
Watch this space. Tomorrow I’ll outline five simple things you can do to start to reclaim your health and fitness; because sometimes life gets in the way.