What my 50-year-old self is telling me now.

aging workout Jun 10, 2021

“You’re weak. You’re a pussy. You can’t lift that weight anymore. Your glory days are over son. What’s the point, you’re just going to get injured. Again.”

I can already hear a whispering of this in my ear and I’m only 38. As someone who has worked out since the age of 17, I’ve always used the gym as a source of inspiration, motivation, self care, self love, strength, health, wellness, meditation, de-stress, emotional stability, you get the idea the list goes on and on.

Pinning all these life benefits to the act of working out, is not necessarily a bad thing, however I think you’re potentially setting yourself up for a massive crisis if for some reason you can’t workout or you can’t workout the way you’ve always known how to. How do you pivot and still find inspiration, self care or de-stress if you only know one way to do all those things?

People who have been consistent their entire life have usually focused on one type of workout. They have figured out what works for them, particularly once they discovered all the benefits it gives them, they just keep going back again and again.

Long distance runners use running to clear their heads, to meditate and to create structure and routine in their lives. The more time they spend running the further and further they are able run. If you’re a runner, do you remember the first time you were able to run 5 km, or even 10? You felt awesome didn’t you. Once you start setting goals and achieving them, you feel pretty fantastic. I doubt if you started running or lifting weights and you never ran one metre further then the last time, or you never got one ounce stronger you would keep doing it.

Now if I said to a long-distance runner, “Hey you should try weightlifting, it’s great, I do it to clear my head and meditate. It creates structure and routine in my life and every time I hit a personal best, I feel fantastic!” That long distance runner is going to say, “nah I’m good thanks, I have running for all of that, I’m not interested.”

So, what happens when you can’t run anymore, or you keep getting injured trying to life heavy weights?

Or let’s face it, you just get old, and you can’t perform at the level you use to?

I think it is really important when you’re really dedicated to a specific routine or modality to pull yourself up out the ‘weeds’ to see the bigger picture. The big picture is that it’s not the weightlifting or the running that has helped you stay focused/energised/motivated through out your life, it’s the act of discipline, structure and achieving small consistent goals that has benefited you the most. This is super important because this applied for anything in your life, not just working out. Again, it’s the structure/routine and discipline around a habit that we love, not the habit it’s self.

Cool, whatever Jay. That doesn’t help me now. What do I do now that I’m not getting the joy out of lifting weights or running any more? I go to the gym, and I feel like shit, I feel old and I come out feeling worst then before. I go for a run and my knees hurt and I can barely even run 1 km.

Well, if I were a dick, I would simple say ‘Pick a different workout to do.’

Actually, I am going to basically say that but here are some practical tips to help you pivot and regain all those benefits you use to get from working out that you feel like you’ve lost.

  1. Accept the fact you are older, or you have injuries that prevent you from returning to your peak performance.

Yep it sucks but once you let go of this, as hard as it, you will be able to start thinking creativity about alternate options you have where you feel like you can still progress and create some habits around.

  1. Pick a mini physical challenge that you could start working towards.

I get it, if you’ve been working out a certain way for 20 years it’s pretty hard to just take up some completely different modality and start doing it 5 days a week with the gusto you normally have. It’s not going to happen. Pick something small to work towards, maybe you can currently do 10 push ups in a row. Set yourself the challenge of being able to do 15 in a row and then decide how are you going to train for that. Something so simple is still going to get the gears going again for you.

  1. Find some random 8-week workout program that potential interests you (NOT in the same genre of workout you normal would do.)

If weightlifting has been your jam, pick an 8 week yoga program or something totally different. Now that you know it’s not the style of workout that makes you feel good, it’s the act of progression and structure that does, pick something that you can’t compare past performance to, so any improvements over the 8 weeks is going to make you feel good. I use this technique to get me out of a funk all the time. Last time I was injured I decided to do an 8-week flexibility program. Trust me, a ‘flexibility’ workout is the last kind of workout that brings me joy, but I just went in with the mindset that it’s only 8 weeks and my goal was to try and improve as much as possible and to feel like I crushed those 8 weeks to the best of my ability. I hated it at first but after a week or two I became determined to not suck at the workout and eventually I started to enjoy as I saw improvements. Do I still do that workout? Hell no, but it got me through my injury and workout funk.

  1. Find a workout partner who is willing to let you follow their lead.

I’ve used this one as well plenty of times over the years. It’s great to get out of workout funk, even life funk as well. (Both are pretty much the same I think). Find someone who you enjoy hanging out with and say to them. “Mate I’m in a funk right now, can we workout together and you put the program together? I’m happy to do whatever you want to do, as long as we are consistent and pushing each other that’s all I want.”

The key is to make working out fun again, that’s why you aren’t enjoying it. Easiest way to do that is to have some company with you and get out of your own head for an hour.

  1. Pick a physical challenge/event/goal in roughly six months time that seems way out of reach and commit to that.

Even if you are 50 or older for that matter, that doesn’t mean you can’t sign up for some sort of physical event which you can compete against yourself in. Just cos you have some niggling injuries or you’re feeling old doesn’t mean your incapable of completing some level of physical achievement. Trust me, I train a 92-year-old guy with Leukemia 3 times a week who is still trying to improvement his mobility and is constantly asking me to help make his biceps strong, so I can’t really accept any bullshit excuses you might try and run past me on why you can’t sign up for something.

Pick a 5km run if you don’t run and start training for it.

Pick a charity ride from 1 city to another and dedicate yourself to being able to ride that distance.

Pick a physique show and spent the next 6 months training and dieting.

Pick a mini triathlon. Learn to swim.

Pick an Obstacle race like a Spartan and figure out how would you train for that.

Pick a mountain climb that you know right now there is no way you could do.



So Yeh, my 50-year self is telling me I’m a pussy, and Yeh, for sure I won’t be able to squat or deadlift 3 plates anymore. Do I have the choice to listen to my 50-year-old self? I do, and I’m listening to his real message which is:

  • Focus on other forms of physical active now before you ‘have to’
  • Find joy in the process and the improvements that you make in anything you do
  • Be willing to try things you may not initially enjoy
  • Continue to push and challenge yourself, you’re never to old for that!


Jay Quarmby

Personal Revolution - Personal Training and Lifestyle Coaching Toronto

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