Ian started working out at age 40 and has since learned a lot about motivation, success, and developing a fitness routine.
When I turned 40, I knew I should visit a doctor. I hadn't had a checkup for years; I felt fine, had no symptoms of any health problems, and could do everything I needed to do in my daily life without difficulty. But 40 is an important milestone, and I knew I should be responsible.
I learned a lot about myself at my first checkup, and one of the most important lessons was the need to get some exercise.
Talk to a Doctor Before You Start
This is the most important point of the whole article. A lot of health risks are much higher when you turn 40. One of the most dangerous risks is high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can be present without any signs, and if you're over 40, then you have an increased risk. If you have high blood pressure and it's not under control (through medication, for example), then starting up a workout routine is extremely risky.
Bottom line: Get checked out by a doctor first. Don't go into a workout routine until you've done it.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Get yourself into the right mindset first. If you set yourself up for success, you have a much better chance of succeeding. Here's why it's important.
When you first start to exercise, you'll probably feel sore or tired. That's natural, and people expect it. But if you don't have a clear motivation, it makes it harder to keep going. Lots of people start with good intentions, but they don't have a clear vision for why they're starting a workout routine.
Working out is also something you need to plan to fit into your day. If you start by visiting the gym in the morning but find that you're constantly late getting to the office, you won't keep it up. Some people like to work out at the end of the day. I knew this wouldn't work for me, because I want to get home to spend time with my family, and it'd be too easy for me to skip the gym.
Set yourself up for success, and make it as easy as you can to keep going past the first few weeks.
- Find your motivation. My motivation is I want to see my child graduate from college. That's a few years away yet!
- Plan your schedule. I go to bed a little earlier so I can get up early, and hit the gym first thing. It works for me. Find what works for you.
What to Look for When Choosing a Gym
It's easy to find a gym, but it's worth spending the time to find the right gym. Again, it's about setting yourself up for success. If there's something that turns you off of going to your gym, then you're more likely to give it up after a few weeks.
My office has a small gym on-site. This is ideal for me; I have no excuse to avoid it. If your office provides a gym, put it on your list to check out.
If not, then look for a gym that makes it easy for you to visit. That means one that's:
- close to home,
- close to work, or
- on your regular daily commute.
Know what your budget is, and stick to it. The easiest way is to sign up for a basic membership. Many gyms have optional privileges that sound appealing, but you often won't use them.
A basic membership is good enough for most people, and that's particularly true for someone just starting out. You can always upgrade later.
Don't get hung up on a gym having the biggest range of modern machines and equipment. As someone who's starting to exercise when you're over 40, many of those fancy machines are just not going to give you a lot of bang for your buck. Worse, using a machine that targets specific muscle groups can make it more likely you'll actually hurt yourself.
When you're starting out, you will do just fine with access to this equipment.
- Treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. That'll take care of your cardio workout.
- Weights. Including weights in your workout is a great idea. Getting some variety makes it a lot easier to keep up with your exercise goals, and weights are a fantastic supplement to the cardio machines.
What about specialized weight machines? The truth is they're just not necessary. Machines are designed to target specific muscle groups so a bodybuilder can build up every part of his or her body. But you're aiming for full-body fitness, and machines aren't an efficient way to get there.
If a gym has them, then it's a nice way to incorporate some variety into your workout. But if your goal is to maintain your fitness and not become a professional bodybuilder, then you can do everything you need to do with a standard set of weights and a bench.
I have a saying: even though my gym is small, there's more than enough there for me to hurt myself! I go to the gym because it's an important part of my overall health self-care; I'm not trying to get a killer set of abs or impressive biceps.
Hours of Operation
You've planned for when you'll visit the gym, whether it be early morning, evening, or during the day. Most gyms have extended hours so they can get as many customers as possible, but you want to make sure your intended gym will work for your schedule.
Get Your Workout Gear
Just as you don't need the fanciest machines to start, you also can do just fine with some basic clothes. But there are some important things to look for.
- Comfort. Look for breathable clothes that fit, but also aren't too tight.
- Shoes. You don't need $300 basketball shoes, but spend a little extra to get some quality cross-trainers from a name brand.
- Water bottle. You'll need to keep hydrated. Get a large one that has a flip cap so you can take a drink quickly without breaking your rhythm.
- Gym Bag. Keep those sweaty clothes somewhere they won't stink up your car!
- Towel. It's good gym etiquette to wipe down equipment after you use it. Check with your gym about this. They may have wet wipe stations for this purpose. Otherwise, take a small towel and use that. You can also use it to wipe excess sweat off your face and neck.
- Soap, deodorant, shampoo. If you plan on showering after your workout, find out what facilities your gym provides. They usually provide soap in the showers and might have towels, but everything else is probably up to you.
- Music. This can be an MP3 player or your phone, along with earbuds (preferably wireless). Make sure the earbuds are secure and won't fall out when you're on the treadmill.
You're Ready to Work Out!
If you follow these steps, you'll be ready to get started exercising and taking care of your physical health. Set yourself up for success, and you're much more likely to keep it up.
Remember to start out slow and listen to your body. If something hurts, ease off. Don't be afraid to ask someone how to perform an exercise properly. Stay healthy!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 19, 2019:
I'm a fan of the "at home" gym. No commute, and you never have to worry about somebody waiting to use the equipment.
You are absolutely right - you need to check with a doctor when you turn 40 (or at least by 50) for things like high blood pressure, which has no symptoms.
Good article. Thanks!