The 40 Year Old (Gym) Virgin

We’ve all heard it said “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and the sad thing is most of us believe it.


How many times have you said “I’m too old for that”, “It’s too late to start now” or “If only I did that years ago”.

That was me a few years ago. Every time I’d pass a mirror or buy something new to wear it was always the same annoying voice in my head screaming out “look at the state of you – if you had gotten off that sofa and joined a gym years ago you wouldn’t have that gut”. Even when I did get the nerve to do something about it and actually joined a gym, it was always the same excuse “Ah, I’m too old to lift this or do that”. That was until my own trainer gave me a menacing look and simply said “Bullshit!!!!” (I’m aiming at a mature audience here so a little colourful language is ok)

The fact is age doesn’t stop you from achieving new goals it just makes it more challenging, and, the bigger the challenge the greater the reward. Four years ago at the age of 40, I set foot in a gym for the first time ever. Four years later I’m now a personal trainer myself.

I am not saying that age doesn’t matter or affect our lifestyles, and I don’t agree that 40 is the new 30. Anyone over the age of 40 who has spent two decades building a career or raising a family will agree 40 is 40 and 50 is 50!!! Building a career or raising a family or just getting by day to day takes its toll. We are so busy with everything else we usually neglect ourselves.

It is no secret that as we age the tummy starts to expand, the hips spread, muscle loses its firmness and joints begin to ache. There is also the added risk of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease for some of us. The good news, however, is that all this can be delayed or reversed just by becoming more physically active.

So, where do you start? What are your options?


The first thing you need to do is decide what it is you want and set a goal. If you have been hearing that nagging voice in your head like I used to, you have a fair idea of what it is you want. It may be shedding a few pounds or even gaining a few. You may want to work on your posture after a lifetime of slouching over a desk. Or, maybe you just want to feel better in yourself – fresher and more energised.

Cardio/Boot camp

You could join your local gym and follow the masses doing a few hours of cardio a week, running the road to nowhere, but while this may have its benefits it can be boring and slow to show results. It is also worth remembering that cardio such as running on a treadmill is considered high impact and me not be the best form of exercise if you have any joint, back or hip problems.

Joining a boot camp is another option that will give you a varied and fast-paced work out that does show results in both fat loss and physical ability. There is also the social element and the support of a group.

However, it is important that you join a group that caters for both beginners and the more advanced, with an instructor who understands that their clients all have varying abilities. Being thrown in the deep end and being expected to keep up won’t work. You’ll feel out of place, your self-confidence will take a hammering and you’ll most likely quit. Do your research. Most gyms/classes will have websites or Facebook pages where you can read comments or reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Resistance/Weight training

Resistance training – “oh I can’t do weights – too old the start all that”. As it was not so politely put to me – bullshit!!


Adding a 2.5 kg dumbbell to an exercise is resistance training just as much as someone benching 100kg. It’s all relative to the individual and their goal.

A lot of people have the notion that resistance training is age restricted, that it is something only done by younger men and women to perfect the body beautiful. However, resistance training is, in fact, one of the best ways to combat many of the physical the side effects of getting older.

For a lot of people as they age, just like the number of candles on your birthday cake increases so does the waistline, the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, joints become stiffer, energy levels decrease, we lose bone density leading to osteoporosis, blood pressure and cholesterol rise, as does the risk of serious illness like heart disease and stroke.

Effects of Ageing

Benefits of Resistance Training

Loss of muscle mass Increases muscle mass
Loss of strength Increases strength
Loss of bone density leading to osteoporosis Increases bone density
Abdominal fat build up Increases fat loss
Higher blood pressure/cholesterol Helps reduce blood pressure/cholesterol
Higher risk of heart disease/stroke Reduces risk of heart disease/stroke

Getting the connection yet??

Eat Right


All of the above are great ways to get stronger, leaner, fitter, but none of them will work unless you eat right and adjusting your diet will probably be the hardest thing you have to do.

You may have spent a number of years reducing your calorie intake to avoid that middle age spread or to reduce your cholesterol, but becoming more active means ‘increasing’ your calories. You are more active now and your body needs extra nutrients to give it the energy it needs and improve recovery time.

Diets can be tricky, so get the advice of a good nutritionist, or a good trainer will be able to provide you with a tailor-made plan suitable for your goal.

Take it easy

So you’ve made the decision to get out there and get active, but regardless of whether you are a complete beginner or someone taking it up again after a few years break, you need to take it slowly and give your body time to adjust.

All the above activities can be intense and at our age (lol) it does take that little bit longer to recover, especially if you have any underlying problems.

As you begin to physically and mentally adjust to your new lifestyle you can start to push yourself that little bit harder.

Conclusion……Get a good trainer

If you are a beginner it is a good idea to seek the assistance of a good personal trainer, even if it is just to learn the basics and ensure that you are doing things right. After all, although being over 40 is not a disability your initial approach to resistance training needs more consideration – a lifetime of bad habits need the right attention to correct.

It is also easier to stick with it if you feel comfortable in your surroundings. If you have any self-doubt at all, training in a commercial gym full of twenty-somethings in their prime can be a little intimidating.

As we age it is important that we become more physically active for the good of our health and well being as much as for our appearance. There are plenty of options out there and with a bit of research, you’ll find something that works for you.

While we may be slower to recover than our kids and have a bit more of a challenge ahead, turning 40 or 50 is not an excuse to park your backside in a chair in front of the TV.

Get up, get out and be active………

Give us a shout here in the ABS Gym and we will get you looked after with a personalised program or at the very least set you in the right direction with your training and nutrition. Just sign up for a no obligation consultation on the right-hand side of this page.



Ronan Tutty CPT



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