4 ways to stay fit in your 30s
As the clock strikes 12 on your 30th birthday, it’s easy to feel a sense of nostalgia for what has passed, and dread for what is to come. While your twenties are supposed to be full of things like clubbing, promiscuity and ill-advised outlandish purchases, your thirties are populated only by insurance quotes, estate cars, and slippers by the hearth. Fortunately, the feeling doesn’t last. Every birthday after your 30th may sound like a harbinger of death, but the reality is that your body is still ripe and robust. Sure, it goes through some slight hormonal changes. For example, left unchecked, your body will jettison 6 – 10lbs of muscle over the decade whilst gaining roughly half that in fat. But those changes are nothing compared to what happens during your forties and fifties. Instead, changes to your lifestyle tend to be the culprit for early-onset Middle Aged Spread. We’re talking desk jobs and children, marriage and financial stress – things that ultimately lead you to give up that weekly 5-a-side match, or weekend ride out with the local cycling club.
The good news is that it only takes a few simple lifestyle tweaks to continue feeling just as good as you did in your mid twenties* …
(*With one exception: hangovers. No matter how much time you spend working out and improving the way you spend your time, it’s just an immutable law of life that the hangovers get worse. And worse. And worse. Sorry.)
1. Food for thought
Most people are far less active in their thirties than their twenties, but they don’t change their dietary habits accordingly. In fact, some people even eat more out of boredom at their new-found sedentary lifestyle.
Try thinking of food as fuel for the activity you will carry out that day. If you just aren’t going to be that physically active, you don’t need as much food as you do on a more active day. Simple.
You need not count calories. or restrict yourself on any kind of diet plan. That kind of action belongs to people who have specific fitness goals in mind – we’re just talking about general health here. Instead, all you need to do is eat nutrient rich foods like leafy green vegetables, and get quality sources of protein such as lean meats, nuts and eggs.
Try to keep carbohydrates complex and as close to nature intended as you can – which means quinoa, sweet potatoes, lentils and beans. Oats and stone-ground bread, although technically processed/treated, are also good.
Where possible, avoid simple processed sugars and any ingredients that you can’t easily identify, particularly E-numbers, artificial sweeteners and preservatives.
2. Help your hormones
To counteract the moderate decrease in hormone levels during your thirties, focus on relatively heavy resistance training when down the gym. This sends the signal to your body that you need to maintain your muscle mass as you are still using it on a regular basis.
Make sure you use big compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, and big push/pull movements, which help raise your testosterone levels naturally. As a goal, aim for two total body strength training sessions per week.
You also want to ensure you maintain a good level of Human Growth Hormone, which helps to slow the ageing process and keep you lean. The good news is that getting adequate sleep and rest is the easiest way to do this. Remember: you’ll need more rest to recover from exertion than in years gone by).
The bad news is that some also recommend intermittent fasting (although the merits of that are too complicated to get into here).
3. HIT cardio
In your time-pressed thirties, highly intensive training in the form of quick cardio drills like Tabata are a great way to help maintain your cardio fitness without requiring great chunks of your day. For example, this 20 minute Tabata workout will have almost anyone reeling:
Kettlebell Swing VS Plank VS Mountain Climber VS Skipping drills. Do the first movement for 8 x 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest in between. Once you’ve completed the cycle, rest for one minute and then move on to the next.
The first time you do the drill, you’ll probably notice a slower recovery time than expected. Don’t worry, this is normal and simply a testament to the drill’s effectiveness. Your body will adapt given time.
4. Longevity training
A common mistake that men make in their thirties is focusing obsessively on their body image at the detriment of how things are working on the inside.
As we age, we naturally lose some of our co-ordination, bone density and flexibility, especially if we have sedentary jobs. Rather than just pumping iron in the gym mirror, then, it’s a good idea to incorporate mobility drills, flexibility work, one legged training and proprioception drills into your regime.
You can treat this as a ‘longevity training phase’ and dedicate yourself to it for 6 – 8 weeks every 3 – 4 months. Or, simply build it into your weekly regime. Either way, you don’t want to reach your forties without having given this some thought. Most problems will be a lot harder to reverse by then.
5. Take ailments more seriously
Just like responsibilities, health problems tend to me more serious in your thirties than twenties. This means it’s best to take any potential health threat seriously. Go for routine health checks from time to time and make sure you get anything out of the ordinary looked at before its left too long.
Niggling injuries also take longer to recover from. Always give them plenty of time because you may find you can’t quite walk through walls as easily as you could a few years ago.
That being said, there’s no reason why you can’t get fitter, stronger, and faster in your thirties. You only have to look to the sporting world to see that many professional athletes peak in their early to mid thirties. Just look at Briton’s own Carl Froch, who has stayed at the top of the boxing game late into his thirties.