general health

How does muscle building change as we age - guest post

Here's the funny thing about the interwebz.

Samantha Oliver, a personal trainer who lives across the pond in Britain, was riding the bus home one day and casually searching the hashtag #catsofinstagram on her phone. 

For those of you who read my site regularly, you're first thought here is "wait a second. You have cats?"

Yes. Sadly, as of yesterday, only one cat, as our 15 year-old yowly, curmudgeonly cat Cosmo passed away. 

Yes, there is a cat in my household. She tries to smother me in my sleep. 

Yes, there is a cat in my household. She tries to smother me in my sleep. 

I've posted about cats exactly twice in my intsagram career, but out of that post came a collaboration with Sam. 

Some people fight wholeheartedly to retain their youth, strength, and aesthetic beauty, and others welcome their old(er) age with positivity, serenity, and grace. However, no matter the category you occupy, one thing is for certain: your muscle-building potential changes drastically as you age, and no, it’s not okay to allow yourself to lose muscle mass.

We aren’t necessarily talking about aesthetics here so much as we are talking pure functionality, health, virility, and quality of life. Muscle is crucial in keeping you fit, able, strong, and healthy, especially as you approach your silver years. Here is how muscle-building changes as you age and what you can do to keep making gains and stay healthy.

The muscle building potential through the decades

And then, puberty struck. Your body began to change, your bones and muscles grew, and your muscle-building potential was through the roof. Fortunately, this continues well into your twenties and even into your thirties if you are genetically gifted.

However, for most people, once you hit that thirty threshold, things begin to change. As you move through your thirties and into your forties, the testosterone levels imperative for muscle growth (among numerous other bodily processes) gradually begin to decrease, making it increasingly difficult to build muscle and preserve a toned physique. This is why at this point proper nutrition and rigorous training becomes essential.

Have you heard of Sarcopenia?

So who, or rather what, is the main culprit orchestrating the demise of your hard-earned physique? Much like arthritis affects your cartilage and osteoporosis affects your bone density, a condition called sarcopenia affects your muscle mass and your muscle-building potential.

This degenerative condition associated with aging increases with time, and there isn’t much you can do about it except work hard at subduing its effects and work even harder towards building new muscle tissue despite its presence. And yes, it is doable.

Building or maintaining muscle mass

Needless to say, losing muscle mass should never be an option, especially as you approach senior status. While preserving an aesthetic physique is always a good way to nurture your confidence and self-esteem, you should mainly focus on building muscle and strength for the purpose of leading a healthy, vibrant, and energetic lifestyle.

Losing muscle mass can lead to numerous conditions down the road, and even injury, especially in the lower region. Hips, knees, shins, and your lower back all need adequate support, which is the primary role of your muscles. Lifting weights and maintaining cardiovascular endurance will also help keep your bones and connective tissue strong and healthy.

Staying safe and tailoring your routine

However, you can’t expect to run the same training program as you did twenty years ago. Not only will you gain less, but you will also risk injuring yourself, perhaps indefinitely. You need to learn to listen to your body and tailor your training routine to fit your goals and your current capabilities. And then go ahead and build up from there.

One of the most important things to remember is to stay safe no matter what. Safety should be your number one priority, so make sure you maintain proper form and wear protective gear and durable weightlifting clothes for support, comfort, and mobility. Remember to up your flexibility and mobility routines as you age as well, in order to decrease the risk of injury.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Finally, you want to use these insights to tailor a healthy lifestyle routine entailing proper sleep, nutrition, and training. These are the essential constituents that form a foundation of a healthy future. Your goal should be to remain strong, vibrant, and most importantly, able to live out your entire life to the fullest. Sticking to regular exercise will help you do just that.

There are some things we can’t change in life no matter how hard we try, such as time itself catching up as we age. However, we can influence the way old age treats us, whether it will be kind or cruel. Be sure to use these powerful insights to pave the road to a lifetime of strength, vibrancy, and health.

Samantha Oliver

Samantha Oliver

Knowledge bomb dropped. Boom.

Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop.

Do you "work out" your emotions? I do.

The other day, in a fit of rage, I hopped on the treadmill, put on Disturbed, and ran like I was being chased by an angry rooster.

Roosters scare me ok? 

This is the best angry album out there. By far. 

This is the best angry album out there. By far. 

I worked up a healthy sweat, zoned completely out for a few minutes, and ran my fastest mile of the year. Boom. Nailed it right? Working out is a healthy way to deal with your emotions right?

Yes and no.

Sometimes I have to draw a line when it comes to using fitness to process my feelings, and I’m terrible at it.  

I got on that treadmill with zero schtups* left to give. I’ve had pain in my achilles, my lower back, and in my neck. (Some days I feel every day of my 40 plus years). After working out three days in a row, I was scheduled for a day off.

But I didn’t care. I just wanted to blow off some steam. 

That's the danger zone. 

I didn't care what my body needed - I didn't care. End of story. 

The moments when we give in to the not caring are what place a level red threat on our goals and progress. 

I don’t care anymore, so I’ll eat what I want.

I don’t care anymore, I’ll drink a bottle of wine.

I don’t care anymore, I’m going to lift until my lips are paralyzed because you only live once, right?

Throughout my life, I’ve used exercise as a way to feel better when I’m depressed, or to work through anger, or generally distract myself from whatever it is I’m unwilling to feel. Sometimes the exercise itself makes me feel better, and I’m grateful for that. But that high is temporary. The relief is short-lived.  

Inevitably I have to come back to that question that Buddhist teacher Tara Brach asks frequently in her teachings.

What am I unwilling to feel? 

I don't know about anyone else, but that's a loaded question for me. Fitness helps me, and I believe helps many people, feel better. But there's a balance. And there's also a price to pay with a reality that sets in physically. 

In my twenties and thirties, I could get away with beating myself up physically while ignoring my emotions. I thought a 10 mile run or a 90 minute workout could exhaust the feelings right out of me.

In fact, as many of you who read my blog know, it was my inability to push my way through a run that helped me understand my depression.

My challenge for you today, (and for myself, let's be honest), is to take inventory of our intentions. To pay attention. To be aware and to recognize that soft and tender place where we hold our emotions. To be kind to ourselves for having feelings. To be patient with ourselves as we learn how to handle those feelings.

Yes, work out. But work out from a place of care. Not from a place of suffering. 

*Another word for cares. Zero cares left to give.