Find yourself a decent trainer. I was originally inspired to get into shape during the May 2020 lockdown after seeing my girlfriend go through an amazing transformation. I started out at 77kg with 20% body fat and struggled with stress, poor sleep, digestion issues and a niggling shoulder injury. My girlfriend introduced me to Chris Gentile at UP Kensington and he set me a programme of six months of pure resistance training to recalibrate my body. Chris is an incredible trainer and has been instrumental in my fitness journey. I would endorse finding a good trainer if you’re looking to make real changes – they’ll help with goal setting, focus and so much more. Since training with Chris, I’ve lost 8kg.
Swap cardio for strength training. Once I hit 50, I noticed my strength and speed had slowed – whether it was a slower sprint finish on a Park Run or feeling less punchy when racing with friends on a bike hill climb. I’d always been fairly fit, but little by little my shape was changing – too many business lunches and work commitments which made it harder to get to the gym, and over the space of two years from the age of 54 to 56 I gained 7kg and developed a ‘skinny fat’ body. I did some reading and all the credible sources of advice pointed towards resistance training with HIIT cardio, rather than my staple training of endurance-based cardio.
Lifting weights is about more than building muscle. Resistance training has been a revelation – it allowed me to get leaner than I had been since my early 30s; aches and pains from old sports injuries have improved, as has my posture; I sleep better; and it’s helped with my focus and concentration at work. Weights now form the bulk of my training – I do three or four sessions per week of around 50-60 minutes as well as one to two cardio sessions, usually a run with interval or a HIIT class. If I’m short on time, I’ll drop the cardio. On top of this, I try to do at least 10k steps every day.
Planning is important. One of the biggest challenges I’ve noticed about training later in life is that recovery from hard training takes longer, meaning the weeks need planning and balancing. Business travel and work commitments mean that training has to be scheduled at least a week in advance.
Choose quality over quantity. I used to be very goal-oriented when it came to fitness – whether it was training for a run, bike ride or Ironman triathlon. I used to train for these events obsessively, only to burn out and fall off the training programme, slip into poor diet and nutrition habits, and yo-yo back and forth between feeling virtuous and guilty. I now base my plans around longer-term goals that allow for a more sustainable approach – for example, if I know I’m in the middle of a major work transaction, I’ll adjust my training volumes and goals. It’s all about finding balance.
Be consistent. Keep it simple and the results will follow. There will always be a busy time, a bad week or an important social event, but roll with it and get back to your targets and training. Keep chipping away at the iceberg. Staying on track when I travel is also important – I travel two to three times a month and it comes down to being organised. Plan your trip and meetings in good time, find a hotel with a decent gym or close to a park. Make good diet choices at client dinners, avoid or restrict alcohol and, if your agenda is tight, do a 30-minute HIIT session instead of writing off that day.
Don’t forget about diet. When strength training, it’s important to also prioritise good quality nutrition, not relying on supplements and having a healthy relationship with your diet. One meal, or a day with less than optimum food choices and alcohol isn’t the end of the world, but don’t let an indulgent weekend ruin an entire week.
The right supplements can help. I take vitamins and herbal remedies daily, primarily aimed at boosting immunity – a multivitamin, zinc, vitamin D, fish oil and magnesium. I also take ashwagandha, an adaptogen that can help naturally boost testosterone, which is helpful for older men; and turmeric, which can help reduce inflammation.
Set goals. My weight is still around 4kg over my target, so I intend to work on that in the new year and further my strength gains. I’m going to be 60 in 18 months, and the goal is to bench press 75kg and deadlift 150kg before 2022 is out. My son has also challenged me to run a half marathon with him this year, with a target time of 90 minutes, so I’ll need to work more cardio into the programme and dust off my running shoes.