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Fitness: Hanging with the Younger Crowd

Stew Smith, CSCS

This week’s email strikes home on a daily basis as we all age and try to do the things we did in our teens and early twenties. Here is an Eight Step explanation of what to do and what NOT to do to keep on going strong.

Stew – I am 41 years old and still try to hang with the younger soldiers and athletes. Can you give me an estimate on what percentage you believe you have lost in your aging process. Strength, speed agility things like that. If when you were in the SEAL Teams you were 100%, what are you now and if you tried hard enough could you accomplish what you did then. I am really struggling with this, I am working hard and I am still not able to achieve what I used to.

I know your pain. Everyday, when asked how I am doing, I joke and say “if I were 20 years old and felt this way I would be concerned.” Needless to say, years of hard work in the military or law enforcement can and does take its toll on joints, lower back, strength and speed / agility. The GOOD news of being alive longer is that the years of learning HOW to train properly (smarter not harder) can help you with your training longevity.

Personally, to answer your question, yes I am at 39 right now, BUT feel really good. HOWEVER, I need to train smarter now even though I train still very hard.

Here is a list of things I do (and do not do) now to stay healthy and how I fared twenty years ago:

1. Strength. Weight lifting heavy weight after 35 increases injury – most weight lifters who injure themselves are over 35. So, I do not try for my heavy lifts anymore. Heavy for me is defined as anything not much more than my body weight. I do not try to get two times my bodyweight like I used to do at 25 years old. Instead for instance, I shoot for how many times I can bench press my bodyweight (195 lbs.) or bench 225 lbs. which is used by the NFL Combine and has great comparisons of today’s best college aged football players lifts. So you can see how you fare against players in any position in the NFL.

2. Running. After every running injury you can think of (stress fracture, shin splints, tendonitis in knee, hips, ankles, torn ligaments in the past 20 years) I am not running over 30 miles a week anymore. I change shoes every three months and wear prescription inserts too. I am not as fast as I used to be in sprints or maintaining 6:00 mile pace. I can do 7 / mile easy but 6:00 / mile hurts more than it used to. I do not care to run more than 10k races anymore either. Sprinting and agility is off slightly, though I have noticed some loss in short explosive speed compared to athletes 20 years younger. My stamina makes up for it and I can usually use the first 5-10 sprints to hang back and warm up and then win the final five sprints with the younger guys. I think it just could take me longer to get warmed up to run faster now. Overall, I run less and swim more as running at 195-200 lbs is challenging when doing distances greater than 10k personally.

3. Stretching like a mad man daily. Check out the lower back plan download.

4. Numbers on PT test – nearly as good as when I was 22 – still beat 95% of the kids around here going to BUDS / SF. Mainly, this is due to never having stopped the pushups, situps, pull-ups, and other exercises using the bodyweight. This has been a staple to my training for decades now and has proven to me that calisthenics work well for longevity. Now, after months of training the students can beat their teacher, but I can still push them. I do lift weights for about 12 weeks a year to break up the monotony of high repetition PT to give the joints a time to rest for 3-4 months.

5. Swimming. I am still improving each year. The non impact helps with not slowing me down. My cardio is as good as ever and it seems my technique gets better as I swim more often than I run. My best season is the winter, as I do not run as much and tend to replace running with more swimming.

6. RECOVERY. That is the biggest area I see the age. It takes me a few days to recover from a long / hard workout as my young guys can bounce back the next day even if I worked the group hard and exhausted them. I always give myself 48 hours before working the same muscle groups and try to limit hard workouts on back to back days.

7. Eating well and resting. This is the Food Plan that I use. I eat mostly fruits, fresh vegetables, drink 100+ oz of water a day, and lean meats of fish, chicken and steak. Whole wheat pasta, breads and nuts have replaced white bread and chips.

8. The Importance of SLEEP. I cannot stress it enough. The human body needs sleep. 7-8 hours a night is optimal to aid with recovery from stress, training, and work. See the Importance of Sleep Article.

For me now, gone are the days, that you can workout everyday, eat anywhere / anything you want and stay up all night long out on the town. So there are not only training changes you have to make but major lifestyle changes as well. I do think I could hang with the Stew Smith of 20 years ago in most events, but I would not like myself very much the following day when the pain sets in. Sometimes there is just not enough Motrin to make working out that hard worth it.

Hope some of these ideas help you with your training and beyond. Email me at stew@stewsmith.com if you have any questions.

Want to improve your workouts? Visit Stew Smith’s PoliceLink Fitness Store for customized, downloadable ebooks written specifically for law enforcers.


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  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max160_max50

    Sheepdog267

    over 6 years ago

    1530 Comments

    Excellent advice, Stew!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 6 years ago

    After reading this article and agreeing with every bit of it I scanned down and noticed that I had already commented on it 8 months ago. That's proof of a good article, still good info then and now.

  • Dinner_pic_07_max50

    Zun

    over 6 years ago

    940 Comments

    Very good article.

  • 1asteriskshield_ezr_max50

    ajsdaddyBPD

    over 6 years ago

    3152 Comments

    Excellent!

  • My_lapd_badge_max50

    LAPDLEO

    over 7 years ago

    1776 Comments

    Another great article from Smitty!

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    tonyb2215

    over 7 years ago

    16 Comments

    I may be younger than most people posting here, but I am one of three in our 30's in a local Police Academy. Most people in our class are under 25. I can say that I am currently only 80% of what I was when I left the Army eight years ago. With enough training I feel I can be atleast 100% or more. I also know that the on average of six hours of sleep I have been getting is not good, but I work full time and attend the PA at night. As far as my fitness I have found muscle I never thought existed, thanks to our ground fighting and defensive tactics training. I know I am not as flexible as I used to be and I have several new pains. My only problem is that I am very competetive and refuse to be outdone by anyone of any age. When I was a Sergeant I felt that it was necessary to lead bt example and lead from the front. How can I expect anyone to attack or defend a postion if I wouldn't do it myself. I hope that I can find a PD that will not only push me to be better but allow me to be a leader for other officers. I have set my goal to get 100 push-ups and situps and run at 9min at my OPOTA exam in Nov. I have a fellow soldier in class that pushes me and is a competitive rival. Good luck to any and all working to stay fit and healthy at an older age, I am beginning again and looking forward to a healthy long life.

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    Anonymous

    over 7 years ago

    Great advice for the 40+ crowd. I ran my first marathon at 39, I guess that was my mid-life crisis. I try to gear my training for what I have to do on a daily basis in patrol. I started endurance running because I saw a connection to foot pursuits. It's a great feeling to run down a 18 year old wearing nothing but shorts in the middle of summer when we are wearing full uniform, vest and 15 lbs of gear. I love hearing them say things later like, "I kept looking back and you just kept coming". I've cut back to one half marathon a year but I've added other endurance activities like biking, climbing and kayaking. The only reason I do the half marathon is that it gives me something to focus my running on. It kinda makes you go out and run even on the days that you don't feel like it, because you know that if you don't do your training runs, then you're going to stink the place up on race day. My weight lifting routine has also changed since my days in the USMC. Now I shoot to max out after 15 reps instead of 6-8, again going for endurance. I would ecommend a heavy bag. Inbetween reps, punch, kick or use whatever baton you use on duty to strike that thing. I usually go 100 strikes inbetween sets. Again, just trying to connect my workouts to the skills needed in patrol. I remember when I was a rookie, it seemed like the majority of older, senior guys were street smart but in terrible physical shape. It was nice to see a few trend setters back then that took care of themselves. I always thought that as I aged in this job that I wanted to follow that path and hope that I have. I'm sure you've heard the old saying that a team is only as strong as it's weakest link. Well I sure as hell don't want to be that weakest link.

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    leomemorial

    over 7 years ago

    490 Comments

    I'm 38 and would like to start training for triathlons, then the Ironman for the memorial. Right now I do long distance bicycling and running, although it's more speed walking/running (cross training). Even though I can go the distance (ha ha), I need to pick up my pace. Bicycling, I average about 10mph.

    This article was helpful. Future articles would be cool. It would also be nice to see articles about how officers can cope with injuries and disability.

    thanx

  • Patsy_max50

    patsykaye

    over 7 years ago

    32 Comments

    this is a very helpful; I am goin use these steps in my youth group.
    Thanks!

  • Patsy_max50

    patsykaye

    over 7 years ago

    32 Comments

    this is a very helpful; I am goin use these steps in my youth group.
    Thanks!

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    Nikeleye

    over 7 years ago

    22 Comments

    this is a good article and should be on every officers agenda. staying more fit than the criminals is always a good thing. I've worked out all my life and it is a very natural process anymore.

  • Mcgloughlin_01_max50

    glennlump

    over 7 years ago

    588 Comments

    Good article... Thank you.

  • Jr_max50

    stonewalljackson

    over 7 years ago

    2 Comments

    what can i do to treanthen my legs and arms i was in a bad carracciedent ij jan and had to have a rod put in my jeft upper arm and left upper leg i need to get back int shape befor i go back to work

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