I was talking to an old friend the other day and she asked if I was still doing “crazy weightlifting challenges.” The answer: No. Not really. The conversation got me thinking of just how much my mentality has changed over the years in regards to exercise, the goals I set for myself and how I treat my body. As I close in on 35, my approach to the weight room is not what it once was. For older men who plan on staying active I highly suggest checking out Elliott from the YouTube Strength Camp videos. He puts it perfectly: Stop trying to slay dragons that no longer exist.
From Elliott’s “The Truth about Muscle Building for Older Guys”:
When you’re young and you’re in full warrior mode and you’ve got that sword in your hand and you’re slaying dragons — as you should be — look, if you haven’t slayed your dragons at this point, you’re 40 years old and you haven’t slain the right dragons yet, you’re going to live your life in a constant state of sympathetic overload, stressed out trying to slay dragons that don’t exist.
The only dragons left are the dragons inside us at that point. … What are you going to do? What do you have to prove anymore? There comes a point where if you haven’t proved yourself to yourself — because that’s all that really matters — (young guys, write that one down) the only one you have to prove yourself to is yourself. But I get it. You have to prove yourself to daddy and the world. Okay. I did it. I understand. But you need to get to a point where you’re done proving yourself.
You [need to get to a point where you] can just relax and breath. Just take your time. Enjoy life. You’ve got to become a lot more Yin in your behaviors and attitudes. That place of low stress, high integrity about of the choices you make about your nutrition and the rest that you give your body will … preserve the foundation of vitality that was there when you were young … that allows you to do that you to do a select amount of physical activity that you deem important to you and your self development.
Don’t do things you feel you “have to” do. You don’t have to gain 50 pounds of muscle when you’re 40. Again, you have nothing to prove. And if you still have something to prove at that point then you’ve got deeper issues than building muscle. Engage in things that you enjoy that will support your health.
Boom. Amazing advice. And it doesn’t just apply to the weight room. Living and working in the nation’s capital, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who are searching for dragons that no longer exist. They drive themselves crazy trying to prove themselves to their mom, their dad, their brothers and sisters, fellow industry professionals and God knows who else when the only one you ever need to prove yourself to is you.
“What kind of story are you telling yourself? [T]he most resourceful stories that I tell myself and that I see in the older men that I train tell themselves is: ‘I’m not necessarily getting older and that means I lack vitality. What’s happening is that I’m becoming more sensitive and my body requires requires that much more attention to detail.’ This is what begins happening: When you’re young you can beat the fuck out of yourself. You can eat whatever you want to eat. You can be nasty. You can stay up all night … [When you’re older] you have to make better choices. You can’t eat double-cheeseburgers dipped in gravy after you’re hungover and play football the next day. …
… Structural integrity means more to me than squatting 1,000 pounds. … Structural integrity should be a word that you brand into your brain. … Consider what that means. Consider what it means when [I say] ‘instantaneous access of rotation of all joints.” That basically means that you’ve got balance throughout all of your joints, namely those around your hips and shoulders. You’ve got to stretch.
Forced to pick between brute strength and flexibility, I’d pick flexibility every time.
Look at your friends and family and loved ones who allow themselves to go into a state of disrepair well before it has to be that way. When you lose the ability to squat down and pick up those keys that fell off the dresser … when your can no longer reach that high shelf to grab a good book … when you can no longer bend and twist with those sheers to trim the bushes on a perfect summer afternoon, you lose independence. As humans, we are addicted to freedom and when we lose it — when we really begin to lose it — our spirit starts to yearn for greener pastures.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Elliott when I first ran across his videos, but over time he’s grown on me. He’s got a wealth of information at his disposal and he dispenses it to anyone who wants to listen — for free. He’s always positive and he gives it to his audience straight. If you want to build a better you, Elliott’s videos are worth your time.