Funny, because I have asked exactly the same question every five years since I turned age 30. At age 30 I was convinced that my physique was maxed out because my twenties were behind me and the hormone levels started their natural downward slide. I just kept working out hard and didnt give any more thought to being over the hill.
|1990 – age 29||2001 – age 40||2007 – age 45||2010 – age 49|
On my 40th birthday, I looked back at photos from age 35 and, WOW! Age 35 wasnt over the hill physically after all! I had added strength and size to my lagging bodyparts (legs) while maintaining the mass in the bodyparts I considered my strong points! I had also gotten much better with my coordination and speed which wasnt hard to do considering how clutzy I was earlier but my volleyball ability improved accordingly. Now I was truly convinced that I was at my physical peak because everyone knows the 40’s is when ‘muscle turns to flab’ and people fall apart. I did a photo shoot to capture me at my ‘peak’. In my early 40’s I knew that adding muscle mass would be increasing difficult if it were at all possible so I used all the training tricks I could think of. I worked out with amazing intensity, spent a lot of time creating new workout plans. I also paid a lot more attention to nutrition. Since adding size was unlikely at this point, I focused harder on getting leaner.
On my 45th birthday, I looked back at the photos and saw once again that I was wrong. Age 40 was not my physical peak. At age 45 I was in better shape than at age 40. I was leaner, looked better, and was in better cardiovascular because of all my biking and volleyball. I had worked out just as hard as in my earlier years, harder actually. I hadnt gained any muscle but I hadnt lost any either. At some point you start considering success being a year where you dont backslide :) Again I did a photo shoot ‘knowing’ this was my physical apex. After my 45th birthday, I had a realistic but optimistic view. I knew that adding any muscle mass at this point was plain impossible but I wanted to do my best to hold on to what muscle I had. After age 45, again, I worked out even harder and smarter than before. I also played volleyball, a lot of volleyball. I also started focusing even more on cycling and decided to start making that a more major part of my fitness. You can only lift heavy weights so long but you can run/swim/bike into your 90’s so I decided that my new fitness goal would be triathlons. I worked hard in building up my running and swimming ability and made progress in every triathlon I entered. I also realized that since I wasnt going to be able to add any muscle mass and might very possibly lose mass, my only option was to make it *appear* like I was more massive. How? By getting leaner, its the best bodybuilding illusion in the book! Lose 10lbs fat and you look 20lbs more massive. So I used carb cycling and got the most ripped I had ever been in my life.
On the cusp of my 50th birthday, I looked at myself and compared myself to my photo back at the age of 45 and saw that although I had lost muscle mass, I looked even *more* massive because I was leaner! Incredible. It never, never occurred to me that I might look better at age 50 than I did at age 30 but I have indeed made progress every year! I wont lie to you though, it gets tougher every year! I’m just looking thru the photos from the birthday photoshoot I did and thinking, wow, I will never be in that good of shape ever again. Sound familiar? Yep, I have said that every birthday since I was 30 and been wrong every single time. Every year the obstacles get higher and more difficult but I just take them one day at a time, one workout at a time. I now have a very significant obstacle, I havent been able to do any upper body exercise for 6 weeks because of my shoulder. The pain is so bad that to type this blog posting, I had to lift my left arm to the keyboard with my right arm and set my left hand on the keyboard. I have exhausted the non-invasive options like physical therapy and anti-inflamitories leaving surgery as my only option. I have surgery scheduled for mid september and hopefully that will let me regain use of my arm. I havent worked out for 6 weeks and it will probably be another 4 months at least before I can do hardcore lifting again. It truly looks like I might be at my physical peak now and the downward slide is about to begin, but then again, I have said this before and I have had more serious operations than this one in the past and recovered from them great.
The secret to success? Having the right goals! Always have appropriate, realistic, and aggressive goals and have a plan how to achieve them. For example, if I made it my goal to win the gold metal in powerlifting at the next olympics that would be aggressive goal but not remotely appropriate or realistic. Think smart and adapt. I have some serious challenges in front of me here with my shoulder. So here are my fitness goals for the next 12 months:
- recover shoulder strength and range of motion
- work with therapist to come up with new shoulder friendly workout plan given my limitations
- keep bodyfat under 7%
- do daily cardio, real outdoor cardio if permitted and stationary bikes if not
- keep focus on triathlon improvement, esp running. I may not be able to swim for a long while but I can work on my weakest skill which is running.
- focus hard on weightlifting that I *can* do, legs!
You will notice I didnt list maintaining muscle mass as a goal, its not realistic. Without being able to work out my upper body for 4 months, I’m going to lose some mass and strength. If all goes well though, I will be able to gain a lot of it back after that with ultra-hard and safe workouts. Its not realistic though to think that I will have it all back 12 months from now, I would settle for 90% of it back. The one thing I *can* do is take steps to make sure I still *appear* massive even though I’ve lost muscle and thats why goal #3 is there. If I can keep ripped, I will continue to appear massive.