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How To Feel Better About Your Birthday

My son’s 5th birthday was last month.

I’ll try to avoid the cliches about “how fast the time as flown” and “how quickly kids grow up”.

It seems like a long time ago when I spent those 42 hours in labour and pushed out 7 pounds and 3 ounces of slimy human being.

And in some ways it feels like yesterday.

Another cliche, right?

Sorry.

I’ll get to the point.

My son’s birthday got me thinking about birthdays and how we feel about them.

I love my birthday because it’s a celebration of ME. Lol.

I dress up in a pretty dress and eat delicious treats with people that I care about.

It reminds me that I’m winning at this thing called LIFE (because if you have food to eat, a roof over your head, and people who love you then you are winning).

Your birthday is the perfect time to contemplate the previous year, check your progress, and make a plan for the upcoming year. 

Some people do this at New Year’s, but I like to do it at least twice a year.

Not everyone has positive feelings about their next birthday.

We all have ideas about where we should be at a certain age.

There are certain times when we’re frustrated that we’ve not where we want to be…and birthdays can remind us of that.

I remember for my 30th birthday I didn’t tell any of my friends (most of whom were too polite to ask!) that it was my 30th.

At the time, I was pursuing an acting/modelling career (in addition to coaching) and was told not to mention my actual age but to say that I can portray 25-30.

Ridiculous, right?

But people do make certain assumptions about us based on our age.

They want you to fit into a certain image based on that age.

And 35 and over doesn’t sound good to some people.

You start to decline by then, right?

You’re getting unfit, weak, overweight, and tired.

So it’s just a long slow crawl for the next fifty years or so, right?

The Reality Is…

Although there are certainly some physical limitations that start to affect us in our late 30s and 40s, the majority of them are lifestyle-related and controllable.

Do you have to put on fat as you get in your 30s and 40s?

Of course not!

Does it happen to many people?

Unfortunately, yes.

The pressures of the 30s and 40s can get to us.

Some of us feel like we have to spend every moment at our jobs, building a future for ourselves and our families.

Others feel weighed down by caring for others, whether that’s children, partners, pets, and/or aging parents.

My mission is to prove that you can be fit, healthy, and strong…at any age.

And yes, it’s possible if you’re willing to make some changes.

The Big 40

I’ve had several coaching clients come to me at 39, hoping to prepare themselves for that upcoming milestone birthday.

While there’s nothing wrong with having a goal with a deadline, I wonder why you should worry about 30 or 40 or 50 specifically?

Sure, it’s a nice round number, and you’re more likely to find birthday cards with those digits on them, but do they really matter?

You’re only a day older than you were the day before.

Did you somehow feel amazing at 39 and then you feel terrible and everything “heads South” the next day?

Not very likely.

How You Can Do It

The majority of my clients are in the 35-45 range.

Most, but not all, are married with a kid or two (or three or four).

They want to achieve more than most people ever do.

Usually more than they have personally achieved before, even in their 20s.

Because feeling strong, lean, energetic, and fit isn’t the norm at any age anymore.

So don’t think that emulating 20-somethings is the way to go.

Work at changing your lifestyle so that you feel like the best version of yourself.

You can be a shining example of your particular age…or you can be average.

It’s your choice.

Don’t wait for another birthday to make the change that you want to make.

I want everyone to look at their birthday as a time to celebrate how far they’re come and to be grateful for what they have.

Because you only have this life to live.

Make it the one you really want.

Ivana Chapman

 

ivana-chapman-woman-gym-weights-lean-muscle

How To Get Leaner And Fitter With Age

Just because you’ve hit a certain age doesn’t mean that you don’t care about getting lean and fit anymore. We all want to look  and feel great, right? And there’s no reason why being a certain age should slow you down.

People have very defined ideas about what people should be like at various ages.

What they should look like.

How they should behave.

Getting those silly notions out of your head is the first step to your physical and emotional freedom.

You don’t have to be tired, weak, and out-of-shape as you get older.

My mission is to help people over 35 get extraordinary results…and feel better than ever.

Over 2/3 of people in North America are overweight or obese.

80% of people don’t exercise even the minimum recommended 2.5hrs a week.

It’s pretty easy to stand out.

If you do the right things, it’s possible to build muscle and be in the best shape of your life at any age.

With some small adaptations, the best way of getting lean and fit as you get older isn’t all that different from your 20s and early 3os.

Do you want to optimize your health and well-being?

Here’s How To Get Leaner And Fitter With Age:

1) Weight Train 3-5X per week

The National Association of Sports Medicine says that after 35, you lose from 0.5% to 1% of your muscle mass per year.

What’s usually left out of that stat is the endnote, which says “if we don’t do anything to prevent it”.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle tissue, strength, and function, that is generally associated with aging.

There’s evidence to indicate that lack of activity is a major factor in how sarcopenia occurs.

Any form of exercise can reduce muscle mass loss, but weight training is the best choice because it optimizes muscle growth.

Remember if you were able to maintain your muscle mass in your 20s with only a couple of weight training sessions a week, you may now need 3 or 4 days of weight training to maintain and build muscle.

Moderately-heavy, moderate-rep (6-12) training is where most muscle hypertrophy happens.

Normally 30-90 seconds of rest is ideal for muscle growth.

Some trainees, especially older ones, may benefit from longer periods of rest to maximize strength and mechanical tension (provided by the load of the weight you’re using).

Occasionally using a 2 or 3 minute rest period may help you build your muscular potential.

Muscle Building Evidence

We’re not sure how much muscle mass loss over time is due to aging and how much is due to a reduction in frequency and intensity of physical activity.

Research with masters athletes in their 60s showed that their motor units (skeletal muscle plus the motor neuron innervating it) were comparable to active adults in their mid-20s.

Another study by the University of Oklahoma, compared 24 college-aged men with 25 middle-aged (35-50) men during an 8-week split-routine, linear periodized training program.

Strength increases occurred in both groups, but the older men actually lost significantly more fat mass and decreased body fat mass more (through building more muscle) than the college men.

2) Rest More

As we get older, we usually need more rest and recovery from training sessions.

The harder your sessions are, the more rest you’ll need.

Training with weights seven days a week – hard – isn’t beneficial for any natural trainee (steroids allow more frequent training because they enhance recovery).

Your muscles need rest in order to recover and grow.

You want to stimulate your muscles, not annihilate them.

Men tend to need more rest, since they generally have more muscle mass than women.

An older man particularly might need to take longer breaks between weights sessions.

Two days of lifting, followed by a day off, and then another couple of days, is probably better than trying to do 3 or 4 days in a row.

The other important aspect of rest is sleep.

Additional responsibilities (work, family, kids, aging parents, a mortgage) that many of us over 35 have, can limit recovery ability.

Less sleep and poorer quality of sleep can impact how you respond to workouts.

Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night so you can optimize your hormone levels, particularly growth hormone.

This gives your muscles a chance to repair and grow.

3) Eat More Protein

Maximum muscle anabolism (growth) happens only when the body’s protein requirements are met.

Research suggests that a minimum of 30g of protein per meal can help ideally maintain muscle and control body fat levels.

My recommendation is generally 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight per day.

So a 170 pound person should eat 136-170 grams of protein per day.

Protein is especially important in older trainees, because the need for protein for muscle repair and recovery increases as we age.

If you feel like you struggle to digest protein, it may be because your levels of the stomach acid HCL are low. This tends to happen with age, as levels of HCL may decline.

That may be why you don’t have the iron-clad stomach of your 20s anymore!

You can try supplementing with digestive enzymes containing HCL. Be cautious if you suffer from acid reflux though, as HCL may make the problem worse.

In some cases, however, acid reflux can be exacerbated by LOW stomach acid.

4) Use Heavy Weights & Do Compound Exercises

Those little plastic weights (most annoyingly in pink) that people use for women’s exercise classes (and prescribed by some misinformed fitness “gurus”) are useful for rehab exercises for small muscle groups or for very elderly, inactive people.

Relatively-heavy weights are the best way of building muscle.

There’s no such thing as “toning”.

You either have muscle or you don’t, surrounded by fat or not.

Less fat surrounding the muscle makes it appear “toned”.

Doing heavy weights, primarily compound exercises (those that use multiple joints, like squats, lunges, shoulder presses, rows, dips, deadlifts), is the most effective way to build muscle.

That doesn’t mean you need to deadlift for 1-3 reps, like powerlifters do.

Stick to the 6-12 rep range most of the time to optimize your muscle building.

But Won’t I Get Too BIG?

Trying to get people to stop worrying about building huge muscles from weight training is one of my missions!

It’s not nearly as easy as you think to build muscle, particularly in people over 35.

And for women over 35…it’s extremely hard.

If you’re still concerned about getting “bulky” from weight training, READ THIS.

5) Eat Plenty Of Veggies And Some Fruit

There aren’t many areas where nearly all nutrition experts agree so the belief in vegetables is unique.

Veggies contain a mix of phytonutrients, substances found in plants that are beneficial to human health.

Phytochemicals act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals.

Free radicals are byproducts of oxygen metabolism in a process called oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress contributes to aging, inflammatory conditions, anthersclerosis, and certain cancers.

This type of stress is thought to contribute to all inflammatory (arthritis, lupus, etc.), ischemic (CVD, stroke) diseases, and hypertension, ulcers, and neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Muscular dystrophy)

Try to eat a variety of vegetables and some fruit (particularly berries, which are high in fibre).

While we don’t know the exact contribution that antioxidants make to each of these diseases, it’s probably useful to eat a mix of antioxidants from different sources.

6) Take Care of Injuries

While this is important at any age, older weight lifters need to pay closer attention to signals their body is giving them.

If you feel a twinge in your knee or your shoulder when you’re training, make sure to make adjustments or even stop the exercise you’re doing altogether.

Injuries tend to take longer to heal as you get older, so prevention is key.

Although you might have “gotten away” with wrecking your body with training in your 20s, listening to what your body’s telling you pays big dividends when you get older.

Fewer injuries, and injuries treated quickly, means more time spent back training and working towards that coveted muscle.

7) Warm Up Thoroughly and Stretch as Necessary

A warm-up, preferably with a progressive dynamic one, is a good start to any workout.

As you get older, a longer and more thorough warm-up may be beneficial for getting the most from your strength workout, and for preventing injuries.

Stretching after your workout is also useful for preventing tightness in the areas you’ve worked and preventing muscle imbalances.

That’s not to say that you should do a yoga class (unless you really want to) or spend 45 minutes stretching at the end of a weights session.

Most people have tight hamstrings and hip flexors from sitting all day, and can benefit from stretching those muscles after a lower body session.

The chest and neck muscles can also become tight from exercise and poor sitting posture, and benefit from stretching at the end of a session when muscles are pliable.

8) Change Your Attitude

I consider this last point the most important of all.

Stop using your age as an excuse.

If you’re tired or feeling weak, try to find out the actual cause of the issue (there generally is one!) rather than just blaming your age.

Never explain away how you feel by saying, “I’m OLD!”.

It’s sad.

There’s nothing you can do about your age so it’s better to focus on being your best.

Part of the wisdom of age is that you learn to listen to your body more.

Remember that you’re human, that you’ll often slip and fall, and that you don’t need to live up to some ridiculous standard of Photoshopped perfection.

Don’t get caught up when people start using their age as an excuse for not performing the way that they want to.

The best knowledge that comes from age is the management of expectations (set them high, but don’t beat yourself up for failures), and balancing your priorities.

As a mature-minded (we hope!) person over 35, you can decide for yourself what’s important to you.

Your health, your family, your career, and looking and feeling great…not just for your age.

Looking and feeling great.

Period.

Use the confidence and personal strength that comes from “getting through a bunch of crap over the years” to focus on the results you want.

We don’t know the limits of human potential at each age, simply because no one really optimizes their workout and nutrition to the point where they ever achieve 100% of what they are capable of.

So if you get close to your potential with the right workout program and nutrition at 35 or 45 then you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of people in their 20s.

You’ll also likely be ahead of where YOU were in your 20s.

And that’s really what counts.

YOU getting better with age.

Your best days are still ahead of you.

Ivana Chapman

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The Life You Want…Lessons From My Birthday

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Monday was my birthday, one of my favourite days of the year.

I look forward to the celebrations, the cheesecake, and the time spent with family and friends.

I also enjoy having a moment to reflect on where I’m at and where I want to be.

Some things are great, while other areas could use some improvement.

So, as I do a few times a year, I renewed my commitment to work on what’s not going as well as I’d like in my life.

Generally it means trying to be a better person.

Kinder, more helpful, and more focused on important things.

People have a lot of different feelings about the impending arrival of their birthdays.

Sometimes it’s the day itself.

Some people enjoy getting fussed over (ME!) and other people just want to be left alone.

In some cases, the passing of another year just makes you feel like older.

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You’re tired.

You don’t feel as confident about your body as you would like.

Maybe you realize that you haven’t made the progress that you would have liked since last year.

Perhaps your bank balance isn’t what you want or you don’t have the time to spend with your family that you crave.

Birthdays present an opportunity to reflect on where you’re at and where you want to be.

They can make you think about the past or motivate you to plan your future.

A milestone birthday – like 30, 40, or 50 – can make you feel a certain way too.

Are you where you want to be at this particular milestone?

I’ve had many people come to me for Coaching several months in anticipation of a milestone birthday.

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“I want to be in the best shape of my life at 40!” is something I’ve heard a few times.

“I haven’t been making my health a priority and now that I’m going to be 35 I want to make more of a commitment.”

It’s ok to use these signposts along the road to assess whether you’re travelling in the right direction.

Taking the time to reflect and be mindful about your needs and wants is something you should be doing regularly.

Many of us just race through life, going to our routines, without a focused plan to achieve our goals.

Without a clear vision for where you want to be, you won’t make progress.

You need to know where you want to be so that you can determine the right steps to get there.

Birthdays give us a chance to hit the pause button and check in on ourselves.

Are you happy with the life you’re living?

Are you proud of what you’re achieving?

Sometimes it takes just a moment to have a realization that can change your life.

I always find that surrounding myself with family and friends is a good reminder of what matters.

The best life is filled with love, connection, good food, physical activity, and being comfortable in your skin… no matter what your age.

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So the next time you hit your birthday, remember that you have control over the direction you’re heading.

Age is just a number that tells you how many years you should be grateful to have been living so far.

Do the best you can at each stage and you’ll have a life of meaning, year after year.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Stay Fit As You Age

We’re all getting older. How do we keep getting fitter?

There’s no particular age at which the question first appears. Some people start getting concerned about the affects of aging when they approach 40, and some when they’re staring down at 30.

I’ve actually heard a 27-year-old complain about getting old!

Come on…seriously?!

With the current life expectancy at about 82 in Canada, where I live, and about 78 in the US, it seems a bit ridiculous to me that people panic about things “going downhill”, often before they’re halfway through their estimated lives.

And let’s not forget that these ideas can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You start to think you’re too old to ride roller coasters or play a pick-up game of basketball or bungee jump or still have a 6-pack and you stop trying to do those things.

People stop being active after college and start eating out regularly and travelling for their stressful job and then blame the extra fat around their midsections on getting older.

The truth is that many of the side effects we normally associate with aging are more the result of a change in lifestyle than they are of the passing years. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll keep your 21-year-old line-free face without a boatload of botox. Or that your skin won’t be a little looser and more wrinkly as the years pass.

But why the hell does that matter when you can squat your bodyweight, do 20 full push-ups, feel great (and not broken!) after a day running around with your kids, or have 10% body fat?

When you focus on what matters you’ll feel proud of what you’re achieving as you get older.

So what’s the most important way to maintain fitness as you get older?

As you might have guessed, it’s the same thing I recommend for my clients in their 20s:

Prioritize building and maintaining muscle mass.

While people in their 20s can more easily maintain muscle mass because of higher natural levels of testosterone and growth hormone, muscle hypertrophy becomes slightly harder to achieve and maintain as you enter your mid-30s and 40s.

The more muscle mass you’re able to attain, the more you can afford to lose when the slight and (somewhat) inevitable decline that comes with the passing decades.

So weight-training, 3-5 times per week is the key to healthy aging.

And jumping around doing different exercises every day isn’t going to cut it.

Progressive weight training, where you increase your weights on foundational exercises as your neuromuscular coordination and strength improves, builds muscle predictably and keeps your injury rate down.

In order to make the most of all that training, you need to fuel yourself with the right quantity and quality of food. Make sure you’re eating enough calories so that you have something to build muscle with. Prioritize protein, at about 1g per pound of bodyweight, and try it get it from to a variety of sources (chicken & other poultry, fish, lean red meat, some dairy, nuts, beans, legumes) so that you’re also getting plenty of micronutrients.

Without protein, your body won’t be able to repair and build muscle…and we’ve already established that’s what you want.

So whether you’re 29 or 49, more muscle mass will keep you healthy, young, and fit.

So it’s time to hit the gym!

Ivana Chapman

How to Build Muscle Naturally After 35

man lifting barbell in gym

Building muscle mass and strength is possible after the age of 35

Before we get started, check out my FREE e-Book on “How to get lean after 35” and BONUS 6 Week Workout Program. My program lays out the exact steps and strategy to build muscle and get lean – fast!

You might have heard that it becomes harder to put on muscle as you get older. That may be true, but we don’t know at what age that begins and we can’t be sure the degree to which it occurs. These types of things are very individual anyway, so it’s hard to figure out how it might relate to you. If you do the right things, it’s possible to build muscle and be in the best shape of your life after 35.

Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue, strength, and function, is generally associated with aging, but there’s evidence to indicate that lack of activity could be a greater factor in the way this occurs.

As a natural physique athlete over 35, and a coach to many lean and muscular people who are 35 and better, I have a vested interest in the ideal way of building muscle in the middle years.

With some small adaptations, the best way of building muscle after 35 isn’t really that different from muscle growth in the 20s and early 30s.

Here Are Some Guidelines To Build Muscle Naturally In The Post-35 years:

1) Weight Train 3-5X per week

The National Association of Sports Medicine says that after 35, you lose from 0.5% to 1% of your muscle mass per year. That may sound scary, but the catch is that you’ll lose muscle at that rate if you DON’T exercise. Any form of exercise can reduce muscle mass loss, but it seems likely – since weight training builds more muscle than jogging or tennis, for instance – that weight training is the best choice because it optimizes muscle growth. Keep in mind that if you were able to maintain your muscle mass in your 20s with only a couple of weight training sessions a week, you may now need 3 or 4 days of weight training to maintain and build muscle.

Very heavy, low-rep (1-5) training has a place if you enjoy powerlifting, but moderately-heavy, moderate-rep (6-12) training is where the most muscle hypertrophy happens. Normally 30-90secs rest is ideal for muscle growth, but some athletes, especially older ones, may benefit from longer periods of rest to maximize strength and mechanical tension (provided by the load of the weight you’re using). Occasionally using a 2 minute rest period may help you build your muscular potential.

2) Rest More

As we get older, we usually need more rest and recovery from training sessions…and the harder your sessions the more rest you’ll need. Training with weights seven days a week – hard – isn’t beneficial for any natural athlete (steroids allow more frequent training because they enhance recovery). Your muscles need rest in order to recover and grow. You want to stimulate your muscles, not annihilate them.

Men tend to need more rest anyway, since they have more muscle mass than women, so an older man particularly might need to take longer breaks between weights sessions. Two days of lifting, followed by a day off, and then another couple of days, is probably better than trying to do 3 or 4 days in a row.

The other important aspect of rest is sleep.

Additional responsibilities (work, family, kids, aging parents, a mortgage) that the 35+ crowd have, can be a factor is having less sleep and poorer quality of sleep. Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night so you can optimize your growth hormone levels and give your muscles a chance to repair and grow.

3) Eat More Protein

Maximum muscle anabolism (growth) happens only when the body’s protein requirements are met. Current research suggests that meeting a minimum of 30g of protein per meal can help maintain muscle and control body fat levels.

My recommendation is generally 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day (so a 170 pound person should eat around 170g per day). Yup, that’s the standard bodybuilding recommendation, and it’s pretty sensible. Getting more than 1g per pound probably isn’t necessary though.

Protein is especially important in older trainees, because it appears that the need for protein for muscle repair and recovery increases as we age.

If you feel like you struggle to digest protein, it may be because your levels of the stomach acid HCL are low. This also tends to happen with age, as levels of HCL tend to decline.

That may be why you don’t have the iron-clad stomach of your 20s anymore!

4) Take Care of Injuries

While this is important at any age, older weight lifters need to pay closer attention to signals their body is giving them. If you feel a twinge in your knee or your shoulder when you’re training, make sure to make adjustments or even stop the exercise you’re doing altogether. Injuries tend to take longer to heal as you get older so prevention is key. Although you might have “gotten away” with wrecking your body with training in your 20s, listening to what your body’s telling you pays big dividends when you get older. Fewer injuries, and injuries treated quickly, means more time spent back training and working towards that coveted muscle.

5) Warm Up Thoroughly and Stretch as Necessary

A warm-up, preferably with a progressive dynamic one, is a good start to any workout. As you get older, a longer and more thorough warm-up may be beneficial for getting the most from your strength workout, and for preventing injuries.

Stretching after your workout is also useful for preventing tightness in the areas you’ve worked and preventing muscle imbalances. That’s not to say that you should do a yoga class (unless you really want to) or spend 45 minutes stretching at the end of a weights session. Most people have tight hamstrings and hip flexors from sitting all day, and can benefit from stretching those muscles after a lower body session. The chest and neck muscles can also become tight from exercise and poor sitting posture, and benefit from stretching at the end of a session when muscles are pliable.

The Evidence For Building Muscle

We’re not sure how much muscle mass loss over time is due to aging and how much is due to a reduction in frequency and intensity of physical activity.

Research with masters athletes in their 60s showed that their motor units (skeletal muscle plus the motor neuron innervating it) were comparable to active adults in their mid-20s. These athletes were runners. Think about how much more muscle you can gain and maintain if you do weight training, since running doesn’t maximize muscle gain.

A very inspiring study by the University of Oklahoma, compared 24 college-aged men with 25 middle-aged (35-50) men during an 8-week split-routine, linear periodized training program. Strength increases occurred in both groups, but interestingly, the older men actually lost significantly more fat mass and decreased body fat mass (through building more muscle) than the college men.

The Truth About Building Muscle

You may have already found that building muscle after 35 is more challenging than it was in your younger years. Various factors can be part of this, including increased responsibilities, more stress, less sleep, and hormonal changes. Still, it’s starting to look like what was considered inevitable aging may be more to do with a reduction in physical activity. Follow the plan above to build muscle naturally after 35…and keep it as you head into your golden years.

Ivana Chapman