Hitting the big 4-0 can be a daunting milestone. While the spirit stays young, the body enters middle age—you’re not as agile as you once were, and you’re not as quick to recover either. However, make the right choices and staying on your A game may be easier than you think.
There’s a new generation proving age is just a number. Research from Sport England clocked a huge surge in the number of over 40s staying active, with a keen focus of physical health. Now, we’ve teamed up with prolific marathon runner, Lowri Morgan, to get the lowdown on training, diet and recovery…
FIND YOUR BALANCE
Life often forces you to make compromises. Juggling work, family responsibilities and a social life is a mighty task, and that’s before you even think about exercising. Lowri strikes a balance between training and looking after her three-year-old. She chooses priorities carefully and plans exercise around her responsibilities as a mum.
“I’ve found the most practical way to fit in my morning run is to break it into two. I get up at half past four to make sure I have enough time to go out before I take my son to school at half 7. I’ll then finish off the run after dropping him off.”
Sacrificing that extra hour in bed is easier said than done. However, Lowri believes you can always find time in your day. “I’m definitely not a morning person, but when you don’t have the time you just have to find a way of fitting it all in. If you’ve got 20 minutes spare at lunchtime, go out and go exercise, those 20 minutes will make a difference. It all adds up.”
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Older bodies won’t bounce back as quickly as they once would have, which is why important to learn your limits and to know when to stop. “I always make sure to listen to my body,” explains Lowri. “If I feel a twinge or anything that feels a bit foreign to me I get it sorted out straightaway, even if it’s a tiny niggle.”
A small injury can escalate if left untreated and turn into something much worse. Make sure you get anything checked out by a doctor and allow yourself plenty of rest time.
“Being older, my recovery is also really important now,” Lowri continues.
Although you may feel like slumping on the sofa on a rest day, in reality, you need to keep active to avoid post-workout soreness. Keep moving to rid the body of Lactic Acid, which causes that dreaded stiffness and pain after a tough workout. “I’m much more aware of the strain that training puts on your body than I used to be,” she says. “I do a lot more stretching; when I was younger I didn’t feel that I needed to do it as much as I should have, but now it’s an integral part of my training.”
Stretching is a big component of active recovery workouts. Incorporate warm up and cool down stretches into your normal workout and use a foam roller to exert lactic acid from your body, loosen up tight knots and improve circulation. And on your off day? Adding a few stretches into your daily routine will improve motion and flexibility.
COMBAT CHANGE THROUGH YOUR DIET
As you get older, your body’s natural metabolism starts to slow down—with some research suggesting deceleration rate is around 5% every decade after 40. Regulating your diet will help to combat this change and reduce the chance of weight gain.
Stabilize your blood sugar levels by avoiding spikes and crashes caused by empty carbs. These dips can have you reaching for sweet and fatty treats. When you can, swap sugary drinks, crisps and syrup coffees for water, protein-rich meals and healthy fats like nuts.
However, Lowri’s advice is don’t completely deprive yourself of the food you love. “I’m not strict about what I eat, but I do feel a difference when I’m out running if I’ve been eating properly.” It comes back to finding your balance. I’m not one of these people who counts calories. I just follow a natural diet, carbohydrates, protein and fats, try to eat as many healthy fats as possible. And yet I still like my odd sweet treat, just in moderation.”
“Always have a plan, it doesn’t matter how simple it is, just have a plan,” says Lowri. “It’s amazing how quickly you can form a habit.” Lifestyle changes can be challenging, but with a game plan in place and the right training routine there’s not much that can stand in your way.
“You will have bad days, but that doesn’t mean you should give up,” she continues.
“Those tough days actually make you stronger. When you’re out in the rain, and the sleet and the snow, and you’re hating every minute of it, and you’re thinking why am I doing this? You’ve got to remind yourself why you want to do it. You’ve got to believe in yourself.”
“I’m running marathons faster now than I was doing 20 years ago, without a doubt. I just feel that I train better. I’m more dedicated, I’m more determined, I’m more focused.”