Fitness As You Age – Staying healthy at any age
We got our great friend of the site Michael Spitzer to do a quick interview for us – this guy is a huge fountain of information and I’m just glad he wants to even be on the site! He is one knowledgeable man when it comes to a fitness program as you age. Check out Part I of our interview and make sure you come back next week as we discuss his book and how to control your hormones!
Sound advice for any age
How did you get your start in the fitness industry?
Like many guys my age (52 currently), the movie Pumping Iron and the television show The Incredible Hulk in the 1970’s first sparked my interest in lifting weights and building muscle.
Of course when you are that young, your focus is 100% on what you look like and not so much on other aspects of fitness. So I started buying the Joe Weider magazines and products of the time.
When I entered college I originally wanted to go into medicine, but as I was working my own way through college I quickly realized I was not going to be able to afford medical school, so I switched to Chemistry.
So starting in 1985, Environmental Chemistry was my career – while training and fitness and medicine became a personal hobby and interest.
In the 90s I co-founded an Environmental laboratory that eventually grew to be one of the most successful in Florida, however the long hours of a business start-up meant I went for a decade without taking care of my health.
6-7 day weeks, 14 hour days and eating on the run had me looking like Fred Flintstone. One day in my 40’s, I was looking bad and feeling bad and told myself …
“Okay Mike, you need to get back on the stick!”
That decision got me not only getting myself back into shape at a later age, but started my path of helping others.
How important is it for us as we age to continue to strength train?
As many of your readers may know, the human body tends to peak physically around age 30-33 years. After that, the skeletal muscle begins to atrophy at a rate of about 1-2 % per year in an otherwise normal sedentary person.
Muscle fiber is not only important for the way we look, but also has a direct bearing on the Basal Metabolic Rate.
Much of the classic “gaining weight as we age” phenomenon is not so much inevitable as it is linked to this loss of lean muscle fiber which in turns causes the age related slowing of the metabolism.
Of course preventing weight gain is not the only issue with aging. Regular strength training helps maintain flexibility, mobility and functionality.
What does your daily workout look like?
I learned long ago that the classic “old school” training regimens from the pre-steroid era of Steve Reeves. John Grimek and others works best for natural non-enhanced individuals.
I have worked with hundreds of people now over the years and I see many not making great results from their training considering the number of days and long hours they spend in the gym.
They are trying to copy some routine they read in a magazine interview with a Mr. Olympia winner thinking it will work for them. Usually it means too many sets, reps and overtraining. The result ?
These individuals tend to look the same month after month without much improvement. I follow the same 3-day-per-week type of program that I write about in my book and articles. I break the body up into PUSH-LEG-PULL split days. So for example:
- DAY 1 = Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- DAY 2 = Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
- DAY 3 = Backs, Biceps, Traps, Forearms
- 30 minutes Cardio (inside Target Heart Rate Zone) each day
- Abs each day – but always alternate 3 different exercises
I believe in doing 1-2 warm up sets not just for each body part, but for each actual exercise motion as you go through your routine. Nothing warms the joints, muscles and connective tissue quite like warming up on the exact motion you will be doing.
Then it’s 3 exercises per body part — 3 working sets each for a total of 9 intense working sets per bodypart. Always starting with a compound power move. So for example CHEST might look like:
- Incline Dumbbell Press (warm up sets) 12-10-8
- Flat Barbell Press (warm up sets) 12-10-8
- Decline Press (warm up sets) 12-10-8
- I take last sets to failure
These are the rep ranges I normally advise for people over age 40 – because building muscle while protecting joints is a primary focus. But for those who want to be a bit more hardcore — bumping up the weight and working in the 8-6-4 range has advantages.
But as a rule, older folks are not advised to be pushing such heavy poundages that they can only get 4 reps. Then the next time chest is worked, swap out at least one exercise like perhaps do flyes instead of the decline press — but ALWAYS keep the incline press work since upper chest is a weak spot for almost everybody
What about nutrition – what are a few keys to nutrition as we age (or in general)?
The most important thing is a patented phrase of mine . “Eat for the body you want, not the body you have”.
When estimating your daily macronutrients, base the protein, fats and carbs on the desired lean bodyweight you are aiming for — not what you are now, especially if overweight.
The basis of the diet should be Lean Protein & Complex Carbs with cheat days every 7 or 14 days.
The media has scared people about protein, but as with so much stuff in the news these days, they have the facts wrong. They reference Atkins for example as a “high protein” diet when in fact as it is followed by most people, it is a high fat diet.
Next to water, protein is the most abundant substance in the body. So it needs to be one of the most abundant macronutrients in the daily eating plan.
Then just consume the needed amount of facts for needed functions. Carbs are where the big fluctuation comes in. Carbs are like the gas in a car — you only need as much as you plan to drive.
So each day both protein and fats should be very constant – but the carbs will vary based on activity and the TIMING of the carbs should be such that the largest amounts consumed are in the 3-4 hour digestion window around high activity.
People ask for non-bland examples of “lean protein & complex carb” meals … I tell them for example … “Jamaican Jerk Chicken Breast over tossed salad” … “Thai Tiger Tear” … “Grilled shrimp with Broccoli” and on my Blogs, Facebook page and Forums I have recipes for quick and tasty things like “3 Minute Mexican”.
Make sure you come back for Part II of Fitness as you age next week as we talk about how to control your hormones in order to lose wight and build muscle at any age!
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