Fit after thirty

Seriously, you have no excuse not to be fit after thirty. Your hormones have not yet declined significantly and you are still young.  I am now 54 but in my thirties I was probably at the highest level of fitness I ever achieved as a special-forces commando. Still at 54 I am fitter than most.

But you don’t have to be in special-forces to be fit.  That level of fitness is extreme and probably not so healthy in the long run.  Let’s face it, to be fit means to look good, to feel good and to have your body be able to cope with any of the demands you place upon it. 

It is possible that by thirty you may have gained weight, whether it be from a sedentary lifestyle, the aftermath of having kids, being too busy to eat properly, or even just plain stress.

After we turn 30, we lose an average of about half a pound (227 grams) of lean body tissue a year, but gain a pound of fat (454 grams). In our early to mid 20's hormone production peaks and then slowly declines. We don’t usually feel the effects of this hormone decline until we are into our 40's or 50'. 

The good news is that if you are in your thirties you can do a lot to slow this process down. The human body is remarkably resilient and will bounce back to a state of fitness if you give it the opportunity.

There are really only three requirements for being fit after thirty:

1) Muscular fitness

2) Aerobic fitness

3) Flexibility

Muscular fitness will allow you to cope with any demands placed on your body and increased muscle mass will mean that your body burns more calories at rest which will help you stay slim while those around you gradually gain weight.

Aerobic fitness will mean that you will cope easily with sudden demands such as having to run for a bus.  It also means you will be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on your next trip to Africa without being flown off the mountain because you collapsed in a heap

Flexibility will keep your body supple throughout life so now is a good time to start.  Whether it be yoga, Tai chi, pilates or something else begin it now.

You also don’t want to be spending hours of your day to keep fit after thirty.  Your fitness programme should not take more than half an hour every second day for combined muscular and aerobic fitness and 15 minutes for flexibility every day.  So that equates to say:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday  - 45 minutes (20 minutes bodyweight exercises, 10 minutes aerobics/HIIT and 15 minutes stretching). 

Tuesday, Thursday - 15 minutes stretching/yoga

Saturday, Sunday - rest

You could alternatively do the Tabata or HIIT only twice a week on tuesdays and thursdays along with your stretching.  With Tanata and HIIT less is more.

If your are afraid being fit after thirty will take up too much time realise that this programme is a total of only 2 hours and 45 minutes per week and most of it can be done while you are watching tv. 

Tip:  Don’t do stretching before muscular/aerobic training.  Do it after.  Research has shown that stretching before exercise is not the best option, contrary to popular opinion.

OK so how do you do it?

Firstly, do bodyweight training as follows:

Muscular fit after thirty

Pushups – do 1 set of 15 to start.  You don’t have to do 15 straight away.  Do as many as you can and gradually build up.  When you can do 15 take a 20 second rest and do another set of 15.  Take a two minute break.

Tricep dips – place two chairs 2 feet (30cm) apart and place a hand on each chair, put your feet up on another chair or coffee table and lower yourself between the two chairs.  Aim to eventually do two sets of 15 and build up gradually. Take a two minute break.

Dips – find a corner of a verandah or balcony where the railing meets at 90 degrees.  Place one hand on one railing and the other hand on the other, support your weight on your hands. Lower your body as far as you can comfortably and come back up.  Aim to eventually do two sets of 15 and build up gradually (you can do this as an alternative to the tricep dip above). Take a two minute break.

One legged squats – use the back of a chair, a bench or a railing to hold on to for balance (at least initially) and lower yourself on one leg as far as you can go, then come back up.  Aim for two sets of 15. Take a two minute break.

Situps/crunches – lie on the floor.  Bend one leg with your foot on the floor.  Act as if you are trying to bring your head to your knee but only come up far enough to get your shoulders off the floor.  Hold for 2 seconds. Lie flat again.  Repeat.  Aim for two sets of 15.  Keeping one leg bent keeps your lower back flat on the floor and minimises back injuries. Take a two minute break.

Pullups – use a local park pullup bar, a house rafter or buy an inexpensive pullup bar  (about $30) that fits in a doorway.  Grasp the bar with each hand on each end of the bar with palms facing forward.  Pull your bodyweight up till your chin touches the bar.  Aim to eventually do two sets of ten. Take a two minute break.

Chinups – as for pullups but palms will be facing back towards you.  Arms will be about 8 inches (20 cm) apart.  Pull your bodyweight up till your chin touches the bar.  If you develop elbow pain change your grip so your palms are facing each other.  The better home pullup bars allow for this so it is worth buying the best bar you can get. Take a two minute break.

Note:  with chin-ups and pullups you may not be able to do even one to start with but please persevere.  In a short while you will surprise yourself.  I could do only three chin-ups when I started.  Now I can do ten sets of ten with a ten second break between each set.  That is one hundred chin-ups and I am 54.  If you can do that you will certainly be fit after thirty.

Aerobic fit after thirty

Although distance running has its place there is no need to do it for fitness.  It is much more aerobically effective to do Tabata or HIIT training and it takes a fraction of the time.  You can do this type of training in 9-12 minutes two or three times per week and it is pretty simple. 

Take any aerobic type exercise, e.g. running, swimming, cycling, skipping rope, then warm up by doing the activity for three minutes at a gentle pace, next, sprint, swim fast, cycle madly or skip like a maniac for 30 seconds; go back to a gentle pace for 30 seconds and repeat this sprint, gentle, sprint, gentle, sprint, gentle pattern 6 times, then go back to gentle for 3 minutes as a warm down. 

That works out to a minimum of 9 minutes.  It has an aerobic as well as anaerobic (muscular) effect and will burn calories for an extended time.  The results are fairly dramatic in a short while and it is the equivalent of much longer distance running.  But just start with two minutes of jogging on the spot to get started and then gradually work up to the full Tabata or HIIT programme.   For more information check out my best aerobic exercise page.

Flexibility fit after thirty

People as they age will often complain about their loss of flexibility.  If you want to fit after thirty and beyond now is the time to develop a lifelong patter that will carry you into old age.  You can do flexibility exercise and it is called stretching or you can do various postures and it is called yoga; Tai Chi is also an option, but all you need to do is set aside 15 minutes per day and yes you could do it while watching your favourite tv show. 

With yoga there is an exercise series called 'salute to the sun' that will stretch most of your body and leave you feeling good. You can learn salute to the sun here or you can go to a yoga or tai chi class to learn their methods.  But start now.  It may be your best investment.

Aim to do this programme of muscular, aerobic and flexibility conditioning for one month aiming to achieve the number of sets and repetitions that I have listed.  Keep at it till you achieve the required number.  If you manage to achieve your goal then add another set of 10 or 15 to each exercise. 

AND set yourself what you feel are unrealistic goals, like 100 pushups or 200 situps or 30 chinups.  Whatever at this point seems unreachable to you.  Having a goal like that will keep you motivated but do it in steps.  Aim for 20 pushups then aim for 30, then 50, then 75 and finally 100.  You really can do it because your body is magnificent.

Once the habit of exercise is ingrained you can start looking at harder exercises like one armed pushups, one-armed pullups/chin-ups, front levers, pistols, muscle-ups, planches, flags, and handstand pushups.  You can find plenty of tutorials on these and other bodyweight exercises on the net (especially on youtube).

Keep challenging yourself otherwise you will get bored.  And don’t be afraid to take a few days off every 6 weeks or so to allow for better recovery. Your path to being fit after thirty begins now.

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