Life Transitions & Changing Our Health Priorities

“Change is not a threat. It is an opportunity. Survival is not the goal. Transformative success is. “ – Seth Godin

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career as a fitness professional was projecting successful outcomes onto my clients. Assuming what people were looking for based on my own experience and what I valued often led me to creating unpredictable results for my clients. 

Through experience as a consumer of fitness, professional coach, and gym owner I have learned that the role that fitness plays in our lives changes over time. It has inspired me to adopt a growth mindset about meeting clients where they are at and always asking the question, “where is the biggest opportunity to add value to this person’s life?”

There is not “right” or “wrong” answer to what fitness is meant to serve in your life. It will change overtime and being able to identify where those transitions are starting to happen creates amazing opportunity to reinvent what fitness means in your life.

In our 20s, health and fitness are often associated with more extriniscally motivating factors like aesthetics and performance. The carrot that we are chasing usually revolves around lean bodies with low body fat percentages and 1 rep maxes or personal bests. 

From a coaching standpoint, our main role is focusing on refining movement patterns, progressive overload, and nutrition that fuels performance and “lower” body fat %s. This isn’t meant to say that these are the values of EVERYONE in their 20s, but this tends to be the trend.

Our first major transition in adulthood tends to happen when we are starting families and moving up in our careers. Additional obligations are starting to stack up in our lives which is typically accompanied by additional stress. 

It would be a mistake to assume that this additional level of stress can be managed within the same fitness prescription that we followed in our 20s. Is it possible? Absolutely! But what I tend to notice with clients in this stage of their life is that they are trying to navigate this “new normal” of less sleep, less overall time, and shifting priorities. This creates an amazing opportunity for the client and coach alike where we get to redefine what we want fitness and health too look like in our lives. It is also the time we begin to discover what “intrinsically” motivates us to want to be healthy. We fall in love with the process instead of the outcomes.

We start to trade out personal bests and aesthetics for consistency in our routine and maintaining healthier levels of body composition (not necessarily elite). Nutrition shifts to a more long-term sustainable approach focused on making great decisions consistently over time instead of directly weighing and measuring. It also becomes a “family affair” as our mouth aren’t the only ones we are focused on feeding.

Clients in their 40s tend to be very similar to those in their 30s, but amplified. It also is the first time that our bodies start to change from an actual physiologic standpoint. It isn’t to say that we can’t still chase strength and performance, but we should start to prioritize other areas of our health that create better return on investment and return on time. This includes things like mobility, flexibility, strength imbalances, and opportunity to recover. 

That last item is huge. 

We must become more diligent about creating greater capacity to recover which includes sleep, stress management, and proper nutrition. This will allow us to enjoy and maintain our fitness throughout our lifetime.

This is also a great time to start reassessing how much time we are spending in the gym and how much we are enjoying other low intensity activities like running, hiking, bike riding, swimming etc. This decade is all about finding a sustainable balance between all areas of our lives. More intensity doesn’t necessarily lend itself well if we can’t recover from that intensity. Balanced intensity is typically a good recipe.

We are celebrating consistency, mental clarity, and stress release for these clients as these can become some of the major roadblocks to long term sustainable health.

Life in our 50s become another big transition point in our lives as our children are leaving the house and we all of sudden have a little more time to think about ourselves and this next stage in life. This is also the time where both men and women are experiencing major hormonal changes that create a whole new environment for us to navigate. Menopause for women typically leads to insomnia, bouts of depression, hot flashes, low libido, and lower than normal energy levels. Men are experiencing andropause where lower testosterone levels are creating similar obstacles for them to face as women. 

This is where our focus needs to completely shift from “more” to “better.” There is no real need to be strength training every single day for people in these populations, but 2-3x per week is generally a reasonable goal.

Within that strength training, the priority should be mobility and strength imbalances. Maintaining proper range of motion allows you to stay independent throughout your life and removing strength imbalances keeps your joints incredibly healthy overtime. Imbalances could include left to right asymmetry (thank you Bulgarian split squats) or anterior and posterior imbalance around a joint. For example, maintaining equally strong quadriceps and hamstrings will help maintain healthy hips and knees as the load associated with movement can be equally distributed.

From a coaching standpoint, this is where I can start to be incredibly creative with clients to come up with a weekly routine that allows them to have some sort of dedicated movement practice and a nutrition prescription that is intuitive and allows them to enjoy life. We are trying to remove any unnecessary stress that inhibits their ability to recover.

From our 60s on, fitness should be all about longevity, battling degeneration, and pure joy! This will still include strength training to help maintain lean tissue on our body, but will also emphasize lower intensity aerobic training throughout the week to also maintain maximal mitochondrial density in our bodies (if you want to learn more about this topic, follow Dr. Peter Attia). In other words, we are maximizing our body’s ability to uptake oxygen in our muscles to produce energy. The longer we can do that, the more likely we will continue to live a longer, healthier life. Other areas like balance, power output, proprioception also allows these clients to maintain independence and autonomy in their later years. 

From a nutrition standpoint, we want to make sure we are fueling our bodies to support activity and eating enough protein to maintain the lean tissue we have. 

We all have different reasons for coming to District H and wanting to be healthy. The more exciting piece is that this reason is likely to change overtime as our own priorities change over time. While we may be the place where somewhere in their 20s comes 5-6 times per week, it is more likely the place where someone in their 50s and 60s can get good strength training in while exploring other areas of their health outside of our gym. 

Our goal as professionals is to meet clients where they are at so we can continue to address their needs at any stage of their life. 

If you are currently going through a life transition of your own and are wanting to figure out how to best navigate it, we are always here to support you. Just reach out to us and we can discuss. 

Cheers, 

Tommy

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