When you’re a busy 40-something with two kids, sometimes weight sneaks up on you. Even when you’re an active firefighter EMT, the daily grind and demands of looking after a family makes exercise and smart eating lapse. So it went for Adam Hurford, a 41 year old firefighter EMT from Avon, Indiana. Despite being a peer fitness trainer for his fire department, Hurford was never armed with nutritional training that keeps you sated and energized to the job, without putting on excess weight. “If I’m doing the correct functional movements without good nutritional habits, well, then you just have a fat guy working out,” he says. “And there’s always so much food in the firehouse. If you put a bag of chips out, it’s gone in an hour.” At 6’1”, Hurford’s weight had peaked at 275 pounds, while still taking on 6,000 emergency calls a year.
Add to the challenge that in your 40s, sarcopenia–the natural loss of muscle due to aging– begins to work. That means not only trying to shed fat, but up your muscle gain. To make a plan that fit with his schedule and fitness goals, he started a weight-loss-oriented program with a trainer and nutritionist at Life Time North Meridian.
The first two months were “extremely slow,” says Hurford, as he underwent blood testing to figure out which foods were causing him internal inflammation, and to fine-tune his diet. But after those early struggles, Hurford settled into a workout routine as best as he possibly could and has since dropped around 25 pounds. The tweaking is proof that every body is different, and finding what works not only with your lifestyle but your physiology, is part of the challenge.
To stay accountable throughout the process, while still keeping to his demanding work and family schedule, Hurford and his trainer, Jack Sorrels checked in virtually. “Through calls, emails, text messages, food journals, blood work, and accountability check ins, we’ve had to roll with the punches through this process,” says Sorrels. “I’ve gone to his fire station to train him before as well. I’ve rewritten his plan three times, changing the structure to be more advanced and move him from a conditioning phase to more hypertrophic and weight-loss focused.”
Now, that Hurford has shed some initially weight, Sorrels says, “We are now able to work safely on large compound movements that will take his physique and performance to the next level.”
THE MID-LIFE ONE-TWO PUNCH
If you’re looking to incorporate a combo of weight loss and muscle gain in your 40s, consider these tips from Hurford’s trainer, Jack Sorrels of Life Time North Meridian.
Develop a Baseline
Hurford needed to build muscle to stave off sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle that hits many men by 40. But before that, he needed consistency, so Sorrels focused on low-volume work. Your first step when training after a long layoff shouldn’t be intense: Aim for light or body-weight exercises with higher rep ranges—12 to 15 for just 2 or 3 sets.
Engage Before Exercise
The key difference between 20-year-olds and the 40-plus crowd: After four decades, your body has bad habits that can lead to injury. Hurford spent 10 to 15 minutes warming up,stretching tight tissues (think hiplexors and pecs if you sit often) and awakening dormant muscles (the rhomboid muscles in your mid-back)with resistance-band drills.
Ramp Up to Muscle Growth
After four weeks of low-volume work,Hurford was ready to accelerate his quest for strength, doing 8 to 12 reps per set, a range that helps build muscle. He also started doing supersets and circuits, pairing, say, bench presses with 30 seconds of cardio rowing to increase his heart rate.
FUEL AT 40
Managing your intake for weight loss and fueling workouts is a fine-tuned combo that takes tweaking. Use this advice from Kristen Cohen, personal trainer and certified nutrition coach, LifeTime North Meridian to start your own nutrition plan:
Choose a Goal a Week
Tackle everything all at once and you’ll easily feel overwhelmed.One week Hurford focused on drinking 120 ounces of water each day; another week he tried to cutback on added sugars in his diet.As the weeks go by, you accumulate the beneficial behaviors with far less stress than if you took on multiple goals.
Visualize Your Meals
Hurford works in a fire hall where high-carb foods are abundant(baked ziti, anyone?). But by envisioning himself choosing a more nutritious option early in the day, he’s more likely to stick with it later. Same goes for family gatherings and weekend parties with friends.
Check In with Yourself
The number on the scale isn’t your only marker of progress. Even if that number hasn’t changed, what else about you has? Are you sleeping better? Feeling more confident? More energized? More motivated?
Adam’s routine now is working through two upper-body days and two lower-body days in each workout. He and Sorrels keep the reps high, around 15 to 20 reps for most exercises, and typically do two sets of each move.
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