07 Feb Add Candles to the Cake and Kilos to the Bar

I am a 37-year old Masters weightlifter. My brain still says I’m in my twenties but my body begs to differ. The hardest lesson for me to learn was that my volume, intensity, and frequency of training had to change with age.

When I was in my late twenties I would train every day for over two-hours, and three times during the week I was training twice a day. My body hurt. In fact, at weeks end I was hammered. The sadist in me loved the abuse; it gave me a sense of pride to have such a work ethic, to be able to train despite my body telling me to do otherwise. That was, until I crept into my 30’s.

I refused to admit I was over-trained or getting “old” – that was not an option for my ego. In spite of my hard work I soon faced diminishing returns. There were times that I physically couldn’t train; no energy, desire, or motivation. The worst part was starting and stopping my lifting programs due my constant re-evaluation of what the problem was; we often assume that when we aren’t getting better that it’s the “program’s fault”; rarely do we address the real cause – which is us.

It took hours of research, study, and deep self-evaluation until I had to accept the fact that we age and I needed to train smarter, that you couldn’t out train stupidity. I knew the science and research on effective training (this is after all my profession) but somehow refused to apply those principles myself. I reverted back to the basics, I took a hard long look at my training and found three things in my personal programming that needed to be addressed in order to continue making progress: volume, intensity, frequency.

Volume: the total amount of training; how many sets and reps are performed; how many exercises will be completed?

Intensity: the physical difficulty of training. How much will be lifted, how long to recover between sets and reps, what is the max capacity or percentage based work that will be completed?

Frequency: the time between training sessions. How many days a week for training, how many rest days will be necessary, how quickly can I recover between them?

After I adjusted my training volume, intensity, and frequency I found a new energy and progress in my training. At 37 years old, I am stronger than I have ever been. I feel like I’ve found a good balance at this stage in my life, and my performance reflects the benefits from listening to my body and adjusting training accordingly.

If your training is preventing recovery and progress maybe it’s time you evaluate your volume, intensity, and frequency. Sometimes changing one of those three things can make a world of difference, often we need to consider all of them; in my case it was all three.

Don’t quit what you love because you think you’re too old; don’t let age determine what activities you can participate in, just how you participate in them. In ten years I know I won’t be lifting the same weights as I am now, but I will be feeling the same sense of accomplishment of pushing myself to get better, regardless of the calendar.

-Coach Josh Cook

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