Q: I’m writing you because I need a serious kick in the butt! I’m fairly close to your age, and I really admire that you’ve continued to maintain tremendous muscularity, even into your 50s. I’ve trained off and on ever since I was a teenager. I got really motivated a few years ago when I saw you on the January ’10 IRON MAN cover and read David Young’s story on you. I followed your three-day and four-day training programs and your diet that year and actually got into the best shape of my life at age 45. Unfortunately, I encountered some major medical problems (not at all related to training) and had to undergo a series of surgeries. As a result I was unable to exercise for an extended period of time, and I ended up losing a great deal of muscle and gaining a considerable amount of fat during my recovery. I’m able to exercise again now, but I just can’t seem to get back on track. I want my muscular body back, and I know what I need to do, but I keep having false starts. Do you think I can possibly get back into top shape at almost 48? Do you have any words of wisdom to help me get back in the groove?
A: Thanks for following me in IRON MAN and for all the kind words! I’m very happy to know that my training programs and diet plan worked for you in the past. Sorry to hear about your medical issues. Trust me, everybody has setbacks—some more serious than others. Last summer at an NPC show in Laredo I had a nice visit with Branch Warren as we compared tendon-rupture stories and scars.
So I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that—assuming you are fully recovered from your medical issues and don’t have residual damage—even at 48 you can get back into the best shape of your life. At 48, I bounced back from a hamstring-tendon rupture and won the open overall title at the NPC John Sherman Classic, the first show I did, less than a year later. Others have overcome much worse medical problems at middle age and have come back better than ever.
The bad news is that—as we say in the South—you have a long, hard row to hoe! It’s going to take consistency, determination and perseverance. There are times you will ask yourself why you are even trying to do this. There are times you’ll think that it would be so much easier just to give up and be the average middle-aged couch potato. I’ll tell you one thing though: I’ve never wanted to settle for being average. And, based on the fact that you have written to me about this, I don’t think you want to settle for average or a couch potato lifestyle either.
One of the first things to do is identify what is holding you back. Do you fear failure? Or do you fear success? My girlfriend, Diana, recently had a similar issue. She was unable to exercise for an extended period of time after undergoing chemotherapy. After several unsuccessful attempts at starting back on a fitness program, she analyzed what was going on in the back of her mind. She realized that she feared trying to get back into top shape and not being able to do it again. So we discussed the worst-case scenario—what if she trained and dieted and wasn’t able to get back into top shape? She realized that she would still be in better condition than if she did nothing.
It seems like a no-brainer, but that’s what she was struggling with. I’ve coached others who feared success. Again, that sounds crazy, but some people fear that if they achieve a high level of muscularity, others will expect them to maintain it. Really, is that so bad? The alternative is to do nothing and never be lean or muscular. Go all out and get into fantastic condition. Then you can either decide whether to maintain it. If you don’t, at least you’ll know that you can do it if you want to. Plus, you’ll have photos to prove that you were at one time very muscular. The down side isn’t too bad when you look at it like that.
So, first come to terms with the fact that whether you fear failure or success, doing something is much much better than doing nothing. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain! Think about when you were in the best shape of your life previously and how incredible that felt.
When you got there before, it didn’t happen overnight, and the journey was every bit as rewarding and empowering as the end result. This time place more importance on the journey than on the destination, and you will be making the lifestyle changes the goal. Even if you don’t achieve the absolute best shape of your life, you will be back on the road to being in good shape for the rest of your life.
Next, you should plan time for weight training, cardiovascular exercise and meal preparation. Plan to get back into hard training and clean eating gradually. It’s going to take time and dedication, and it definitely won’t happen overnight. Don’t jump back into my three- or four-day split-routines. Start with a very basic full-body workout, two or three days per week and gradually increase the volume and intensity. Here’s the plan.
Start with 15 to 20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio on the days that you aren’t weight training. Add time and intensity in small increments as your body adjusts. Work your way back into a solid cutting diet. Start by cutting out the stuff you know that you’re not supposed to be eating—fried foods, pizza, chips and desserts. You can fine-tune your diet as you hit plateaus.
Here’s a sample full-body training program to get you started:
Crunches 4 x max
(Flex your abs hard on each rep)
Back extensions 4 x max
(Smoothly, no swinging)
Bench presses 4 x 10-12
Seated cable rows 4 x 10-12
Overhead dumbbell presses
(seated or standing) 3 x 10-12
EZ-curl-bar curls 3 x 10-12
Pushdowns 3 x 10-12
Leg presses 4 x 10-12
Squats 4 x 10-12
(Squat until the tops of your
thighs are parallel to the floor)
Leg curls 3 x 10-12
Standing calf raises 3 x 10-12
• Rest 1 1/2 to two minutes between sets.
• Do only two sets for each exercise the first week, three sets the second week, and then on the third week do the routine as listed.
• The first set should be light; add weight so the remaining sets are a challenge to get the rep count listed. When you can easily get the reps, add weight to that exercise.
• If you need more recovery time, start by doing this program on Tuesday and Thursday. As your level of conditioning improves, add another day and perform it Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
• Do 15 to 20 minutes of cardio on the days that you don’t weight train.
Shoot for a diet that is high in protein, moderate in carbs and relatively low in fat, but don’t starve yourself! You are in this for the long haul!
If you need a refresher on my training programs, diet and supplements as you progress, you should check out my e-book Texas Shredder Mass Workout at www.X-Workouts.com.
Take photos every so often for motivation and to chronicle your progress, and please write to me so I can see how you’re doing.
Train hard, and eat clean!
Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. Check out his new Web site at Shredderbuilt.com. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected] IM