Everything You Need to Know About Staying Fit While Adulting

She swears she’s no angel. And he played a character who went by the name of Angel. Those clues are probably dead giveaways, but just in case, I’m talking about Cher and David Boreanaz.

But here’s something I bet you didn’t know that they have in common.

If you’re a fan of either, you’ve probably suspected this, but I’m here to let you in on the truth: Cher and David are both Time Lords.

Seriously. It’s like the aging process went, “Oh, you’re too pretty. I’m gonna skip over you and leave you looking young and vibrant while I age the rest of the world.”

While Cher and David look like they’re not a day older, age pounced on you and I like a cat on a mouse. One day you’re feeling vibrant and young, and the next your hips ache, you discover lines under your eyes, and your knees snap, crackle, and pop like they’re made of Rice Krispies.

Ugh. Getting old sucks.

“Hold on, Robbie. I’ve trained with you or at least saw you around MFF during your time as a Trainer-in-Residence, and if there’s one thing you’re not, it’s ‘old.’ You can’t be more than 26 (nope, 31). Oh my God, 31? That’s not old. God, 31 is still young.”

You’re right, 31 is (kinda) young. But, at 31, I feel my age more than I did a couple of years ago. And as much as we all try and run from it, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all getting older.

Staying healthy and fit (and hot) as you age doesn’t require you to become a Time Lord. And sadly, none of us can turn back time (except for Cher). Science has shown us repeatedly that exercise helps you live longer and goes a long way in preventing issues like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and injury.

But there are a few tweaks and modifications you need to make in order to feel your best as you age.

Sleep Well

First, I apologize for using this word; I loathe the very utterance and usage of this jargon. But, adulting sucks. (“Adulting” is a vapid term millennials use to complain about having responsibilities.)

Yes, growing up means you take on more responsibilities. And sometimes they can feel a bit cumbersome: building a career, having/raising a family, buying a home, traveling, and all the other stuff that happens as adults can suck at times.

But (by now) you’ve already said goodbye to the days where you could survive on coffee, slurpees from Seven Eleven, and a half a pack of cigarettes. You have serious commitments and responsibilities. And those commitments/responsibilities bring their own unique stressors that consume more of your dwindling time on this Earth.

So what do most Americans do?

We sleep less, drink more coffee, and push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion. Sure, you can do that in the short term. But over time, that will derail and screw up your health worse than anything else.

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control found that nearly 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Depriving yourself of sleep raises your risk of hypertension and weight gain, weakens your immune system, and can turn you into a raving lunatic who has no friends because none of them want to be around your irritable ass.

Your body does most of its rebuilding and recovery while you slumber. Plus, sufficient sleep keeps you mentally strong and alert, and helps in regulate and maintain your hormonal health. It’s during the deeper parts of sleep that your body releases growth hormones to rebuild your body’s tissues.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults over the age of 26 should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. And though exercise is one of the suggested activities that experts recommend to improve your sleep, there are other things you can do to get more shut eye.

Just remember the acronym SLEEP.

  1. Sleep in a cold room
  2. Leave yourself 30 minutes of no screen time before bed
  3. End any caffeine consumption before 3 PM
  4. Establish a relaxation ritual to wind down your mind before bed
  5. Pursue the Robbie Farlow rule: the bedroom is for sex and sleep. Keep all electronics — phone, computer, tablets — out of your bedroom. It is a sacred space that should never be breached by attention demanding electronics.

Sleep is important for all aspects of health: mental, physical, and emotional. And as you age, it becomes even more vital to operating at your highest level. Don’t skip sleep.

Have Fun

Before I wanted to be the next Ben Foster or star in a yet-to-be written Sam Shepard (RIP) play, and after a brief stint of aspiring to chase tornadoes thanks to the movie Twister, I wanted to play college basketball at North Carolina, and then the NBA.

There was one problem with that dream: I was a lazy “husky” kid who fell in love with video games and Star Wars.

Needless to say, my days in the NBA never happened, but I never fell out of love playing basketball. And if there were one way I could stay active outside of lifting heavy, it would be playing basketball.

Are you staying active with activities you love? Do you:

  • Take hikes
  • Bike
  • Dance in your underwear (or naked)
  • Play ultimate frisbee or disc golf (or actual golf, golf)
  • Swim

Lifting weights can help you live longer, the science is clear on that. But exercise doesn’t have to be a punishment that you’re required to perform in order to pay for your malfeasance(s). You don’t need science to tell you that if you hate something, you’re more likely to stop doing said activity (read: calculus).

One of the best ways to stay active as you age is to do stuff you love. Do physical things that make you happy. All exercise should improve your quality of life—period. And if it’s not making your life better, why the hell are you doing it?

Show Up

“Walking into the gym is half the battle. Once you’re there, you just do the work.”

That’s what a 63-year-old man said to me the other night at the gym I work at in Georgia. But showing up doesn’t mean you need to go into a blind rage and attempt to lift heavy every time you’re in the gym.

You won’t always feel at the top of your game. Life—no matter how much you love your job, family, or friends—will throw stress at you when you least expect it. And those stressors all affect us in different ways. Sometimes it affects us and we don’t even know it. So listen to your body.

Showing up is important. But how you show up, and what that means to you that day, is the most important thing to think about as you age.

“The biggest thing I find is that we need to find ways to challenge intensity/progressive overload in ways other than simply pushing heavier loads. We need to really weigh out  the risk versus reward on, say, a heavy ass deadlift when it comes to quality of life for the long haul.” – Coach Fury

Maintain (or Build) Strength

Have you ever helped an older family member who needed assistance to get out of a chair? Or have you known someone who has had hip or knee replacement?

According to The National Osteoporosis Foundation, 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Strength training, however, can help your body maintain – and build – stronger bones as you age, preventing or blunting the effects of osteoporosis.

In fact, a review of dozens of studies found that heavy resistance training is better than the traditional pharmaceutical or nutritional approaches for improving bone density, strength, balance, and muscle mass.

Eat Right

It was the most important medicine according to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who’s considered the father of modern medicine.

“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.”

Hippocrates believed that lifestyle modifications, like diet and exercise, were the best ways to treat most diseases. As you age, your nutrition becomes even more paramount to helping you operate at your highest levels.

You know how you feel the next day after eating an entire pizza – lethargic, bloated and, if you do make it to the gym to work up a sweat, your entire body reeks of pizza grease. And no, the sweat doesn’t taste like grease. It tastes like sad life choices. Which tastes kind of like what it feels like to wake up and realize you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas.

If you’ve taken Snatched in Six Weeks or are a part of Nutrition for Ninjas, you know how vital good nutrition is to fat loss and living your best life. But if you’ve never taken Snatched or didn’t sign up for Nutrition for Ninjas, here are some good tips to follow no matter your age.

Feast on More Fiber: Your body requires more fiber as you age. But you don’t need to chug down pints of Metamucil or bowls of Fiber One every day. Add in a few servings of berries, replace that quick morning breakfast sandwich with oats, or make sure you’re eating at least 3-5 servings of green leafy veggies a day.

Keep Protein High: As a Ninja, you know that protein is important to recovery, muscle building, and keeping hunger at bay. But protein remains important for all of those reasons as you age. Protein also helps prevent muscle loss. And after the age of 30, if you’re inactive, you can lose anywhere from 3-5% of your muscle mass each decade. After 50 it can even be 0.5-1% of muscle mass lost per year. Resistance training can keep this at bay, but adequate protein intake will help you continue to build and retain muscle as you age and exercise.

Monitor Alcohol Consumption: You mentally (or literally) just gave me the middle finger with this one, didn’t you? I love booze, and I know you do too. But, if you’ve ever had a hangover after 30, you know that they last for 2 days.

Eat a Wider Variety of Foods: You need to give your body more micronutrients as you age. As I tell my online clients—taste the rainbow. Make sure you’re eating a wide array of veggies, fruits, and even different grains. This way you get all the vitamins and minerals you need without popping pills.

Gut Bacteria: Okay, so your gut biome is the newest craze in the health industry these days. And there’s a ton of research being done on why it might be one of the most important parts of our overall health. Healthy gut bacteria makes digestion easier, especially as you age. It also helps your body absorb nutrients better, and that will keep you performing at higher levels. So add some greek yogurt to your shake, or make sauerkraut to go with dinner, or give Kombucha a try.

Remember To Warm Up

Remember the days when you didn’t need foreplay? You were ready to get it on whenever and wherever you wanted. (Foreplay be damned!) Well, warm-ups before you exercise are like foreplay: you need more as you age.

Warming up, though, doesn’t mean stretching. In fact, stretching cold muscles can actually decrease the power of your muscles and prevent you from lifting more weight.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, will help you raise your heart rate while targeting the muscles you’ll be using in a more specific manner to the exercises you’ll be performing.

If you’re bench pressing or deadlifting at MFF, warm up your chest with light dumbbells or crank out some practice reps with the bar and slowly add a few pounds to get your muscles ready for the main portion of your lifting.

If you wanna know more about how to warm up properly before you lift, check out this article from Foreplay Master Tanner Baze. (But please, don’t call him foreplay master. It will increase his ego and it’s nearly the size of Texas already.)

Explore Your Family Medical History

One of my grandfathers dropped dead from a bad heart valve that he’d carried since birth. My other grandfather died of stomach cancer. As a kid, I was told I had been tested and cleared of the heart valve issue. (phew)

But my grandmother didn’t opt to see what kind of cancer my other grandfather had died from. Selfishly, I’ve been a bit miffed at my grandma since. What if it could be genetic? What if I could get said stomach cancer and die from it? Some stomach cancers can grow undetected for years. I need to know if this is something that I need to keep on my radar.

When it comes to your family health history, there are probably things you need to put on your radar as well.

Yes, everything you’re doing in the gym and at home in the kitchen is helping you live longer. But we can’t escape our genetics. And some things still happen. Getting a yearly physical is great.

But if you had a grandma die of breast cancer and you’re a woman, make sure you’re scheduling mammograms and giving yourself a self-examination once a month. Same applies to any other cancer: colon, lung (especially if you smoked at any point), liver, etc.

Men, that goes for you too. Even if you don’t have a history of testicular cancer, check your balls once a month anyways. And then after 40, keep an eye on your prostate health and colon. And take care of your heart – heart disease is the number one killer of men in the US.

And, everyone, please pay attention to what I’m about to say. Because it doesn’t matter whether you identify as male, female, nonbinary, asexual, or transgender. There is one part of health that our society seems to skip over: mental health.

Yes, we know that cancer, heart disease, strokes, and a ton of other diseases kill millions of people every year. But we cannot skip over mental health. This is just as important as any other aspect of health. So please, explore that side of your family history as well: depression, anxiety, dementia, bipolar disorder, etc. And that goes for everyone regardless of your family medical history. Please take your mental health seriously.

With my family history, I’m going to keep an eye on stomach cancer and any heart issues (then again, stress was likely the culprit of at least one of my grandfathers’ deaths, so I gotta get a hang of that one.) But my mom also suffers from depression, and as much as I take pride in being an “emo kid,” I have to keep an eye on that as well.

Point is, even if your grandpa smoked two packs of cigarettes a day until he died at 85, there could still be genetic issues you need to have examined.

Thankfully, science has come a long way in the last few decades. And now there are startups like 23andMe who will send you a test kit that analyzes your DNA and can tell you all kinds of aspects about your health and family history.

Shine in Your Golden Years

Living your best life doesn’t stop once you turn 40 or 50 or 60. You can stay strong, lean, and feel amazing well into your Golden Years.

Remember, the only person that can hold you back is yourself. So don’t let age keep you down. Stay active, stay strong, make diet a priority, and keep an eye on these other important aspects of your health.

And in the end, living a life that affords you the ability to experience more of what you want to as you age is what it’s all about.


WANT A JUMPSTART ON STAYING FIT AT ANY AGE?

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Robbie Farlow is the King of the Gingers, Protector of the North, and an uber nerd who loves all things Star Wars, video games, Marvel, and 90s music. Oh, and tacos and whiskey. He’s an online fitness coach who helps men and women make their 30s better than their 20s. And he writes about all things nerd, lifting weights, emo music, and more at Side Quest Fitness. When he isn’t writing, you’ll find him playing video games, deadlifting, munching on tacos, snuggling on the couch with his wife, and drinking good whiskey.

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