By Rob Shaul
I’m my own Lab Rat for the SF45 subscriber sessions under Strong Swift Durable.
SF45 stands for “Strength and Fitness 45” and is intended as general fitness programming for athletes in the 45-55 age range. I’m 46.
I’ve personally completed the Operator Sessions under Military Athlete for the past 8 years, alongside my younger lab rats – and held my own. But this Fall I found while I could hang in the sessions, my recovery was lagging from my younger days. Also, ankle and knee joint stiffness was getting worse. And finally, the intensity of the sessions had become a little too much for me – not in a physical sense, but mentally.
So I peeled away from the Operator Sessions and began experimenting on programming more appropriate for a guy my age. It’s taken me some time to explore and develop the approach and assumptions I have going in. Here are where my thoughts are right now.
Recovery is an issue. This is a common thing from many of the older athletes on the military, LE, Fire Rescue and Mountain side I work with and hear from. We can hang with the young guns during the events or sessions, but need more time to recover.
Less Volume. By volume I mean primarily loaded reps – no more stamina cycles or longish high volume work capacity efforts. My muscles are fine – but my joints scream “enough!” Understand this is less loaded, work, especially squats/lunges, etc. Not necessarily less time training. Indeed, in the first cycle, after the first 4 weeks we move to two-a-days.
Time to Lose Mass. Every extra pound on my body is an extra 6-8 pounds of pressure on my ankle and knee joints. I realized I don’t need to carry as much muscle mass as I am. I’m 5’7” and right around 160#. I’d like to get down to 150-ish pounds, and I understand this means I need to lose some muscle, which brings me to ….
No ego. Getting down in weight means I’m going to lose some upper body mass and overall strength. This idea use to bother me – but doesn’t any more. My knees and ankles have my attention now.
Mental need for fitness, more than physical need. Most guys and gals my age are out of the operational duties, or much more limited than they used to be. I’ve got young guys who can lab rat our most intense programming – so I don’t need to be doing it. At the same time, I find I need to train as much more my head, as for my body. My work-related fitness demands have decreased, but my work related responsibilities and stress has increased …. and training helps with the stress.
Pivot toward endurance. Couple reasons for this – first, it’s a way to cut some muscle mass. Second, I find more and more I enjoy training outside from a mental perspective and I find the long, moderate intensity a nice quiet time for my mind and spirit.
Time and Resources. I’m boss. Most people my age are middle management or higher in their work, and can often make their own schedule. Plus, we’re not starving college kids – all this means we can have more flexibility and time to train, and perhaps more money for training resources.
Strength and Work Capacity are still part of the programming. Strength, especially is important, but I will limit volume somewhat. In other words, heavier loads, less reps, to save joint impact. We will hammer core strength. We’ll also still do intense work capacity efforts, but I’ll keep them short. But I still love the gym.
I’m calling the first Strength and Endurance cycle “Cadillac.” – and will post the sessions ahead. I’m thinking this will be an 8 week cycle designed to increase endurance, cut some mass, and maintain as best as possible, strength.
Finally, on my early morning run today I was reminded of an old fable of two bulls standing on a hillside overlooking a meadow full of young heifers.
“Let’s run down there and screw a couple of those heifers,” the young bull says to the old.
“Instead, let’s walk down and screw them all,” the old bull replies.
SF45 is for us old bulls.
Note: To access the SF45 programming, you’ll need to purchase a monthly athlete subscription. There, under the SSD heading, you’ll be able to access the SF45 daily sessions.