Anyone who began recreational or competitive bodybuilding in their youth and continued it well into their adult life will tell you, you don’t really learn how to train until you’re in your 40s. And for those who continue it into their 50s, with an emphasis on right-diet and consistent training, the results are often as good as men and women much younger.
To be clear, I’m talking about bodybuilding without pharmaceutical enhancement. No drugs.
In 2013 I was 52, and coaching a female bodybuilder, among my other clients. Having let myself get out of shape, or what I call emphasizing loosely packed muscle, she remarked to me one morning about my “soft physique” and asked if I had “given up” on it. I assured her that with eight straight weeks of training and proper eating, I could get in the best bodybuilding shape of my life. When she snickered, I asked if she would put her money where her laugh was. A bet was made for $500 and I got to work.
In the coming weeks she saw my progress, and it became clear to her, possibly for the first time, I really knew what I was doing when it came to coaching bodybuilding and fitness. By the end of the eighth week, I was walking everywhere in town with my shirt off. When the day came for her to pay off the bet, her pocketbook was nowhere to be found. Cool. I proved my point.
I maintained that shape for the next couple of years, until early 2015 when I returned from Colorado to California. That’s when I began to emphasize my cycling, loosened my diet, and the weight room became secondary. I still lifted weights 3 to 4 days per week, but not with the intensity I’d been maintaining since my early teens.
A couple months back I was reflecting on that bet I made in 2013, and the shape I got in as a result of it. With little fanfare, and no mention of it to anyone, I began an earnest attempt to get in, not just good shape, but possibly the best bodybuilding shape of my life. I retooled my diet, stepped up my strength training sessions, and began a course of supplementation I haven’t adhered to since I was in my 30s.
The only difference in my day-to-day training between 2013 and now is at that in 2013 my only cardiovascular activity was running 2 to 3 miles 5 days per week. Also, today I eat almost exclusively plant-based protein.
After eight weeks of training — of grinding it out in the gym day after day, of increased supplementation, and a significantly retooled diet, I’m proud to say I have made no progress — none. To look at me, you might not even think I lift weights at all. I have muscle tone, but it’s the kind you might get by living in a Salvadoran prison for 18-years.
So what’s gone wrong…?
First, I’m on a bike for nearly 2-hours every day. It’s just something I’m not willing to sacrifice. The calorie expenditure and the lack of recovery that cycling creates, is completely inconsistent with adding muscle mass. In fact, my weekly photographs to disclose progress suggest my muscle mass might have slightly declined in the last eight weeks.
In 2013, I was sleeping a combined 6 to 7 hours every night. Not great, but adequate for exercise recovery. Today, primarily due to my caregiving responsibilities and my relentless addiction to 4am writing, I get 4 to 5 hours of broken sleep — on a good night.
Also, I’m entering my 60s. Though it varies from person to person, male strength athletes tend to have a noticeable decline in muscle mass and muscular quality over the age of 60. This is largely due to a decline in the production of testosterone. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to maintain some degree of muscle mass and strength, but it’s unrealistic to expect the same results today that I was getting 10-years ago and 10-years before that.
Lastly, I began early — I’ve been in the weight room regularly since I was 12-years old. After 48-years of regular strength training, there’s no place for the body to really go.
So where do I go from here…?
I still enjoy being in the weight room — it’s my sanctuary. I value the physical autonomy that being strong provides me. I also know that strength training, done properly, promotes flexibility, balance, and slows down the inevitable loss of bone density — even if I do look like a Salvadoran prisoner.
I’m just slightly bummed that the guns of old and the quads that once popped with every step are beginning to fizzle. I’ve known though, for a long time, that I would get to this day. For now, I’m going to give it another couple of months and see what happens. After that, I may take my own advice and just strength train a couple days a week. The cycling though, is here to stay.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
Mph Avg: 15.1
Seat Time: 12 hours 41 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Sean Costello. Enjoy…