What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I took my first real vacation in about 3 years. A full week on a beautiful lake with my wife of 20 years and my two teenage kids. We spent a lot of time swimming and hiking.

Everything seemed just about perfect until my 15 year old son and I decided to take a short hike up a small mountain. The trail was less than 2 miles long but steep. I had done it in the past without any problem. This year things would be different. About 10 minutes into the hike I knew I was in trouble. Sweating heavily, taking small steps, very labored breathing? What the hell was going on! Chest pains? Heart attack? No more than 15 minutes into it I had to stop. Yes STOP! I sat down on the edge of the trail. What was happening?

I knew that at 47 years old my pace had slowed but I had never had fatigue hit me so fast and so hard. Once the heart rate came down we continued on but my pace at some points made me feel like I was climbing Mt. Everest! I felt old and I didn’t like it!

When we got back from the climb I was upset at the poor performance but didn’t think too much else of it. It wasn’t until we returned home from vacation that it hit me. My wife took a number of digital pictures this trip. She happened to take some pictures of me without me knowing. Many of them I’m wearing a bathing suit. When she showed me the slide show it really hit me. I HAVE BECOME A FAT SLOB! There was no denying it. The photos didn’t lie. I honestly didn’t even recognize myself when I first saw the shots. My gut was extended over my waistline and I had tits! When the hell did this happen?!

I’m not sure if I can tell exactly when but I can tell you when I think it started. We all know that we become de-conditioned to this extent over a relatively long period of time. I’m guessing that it started for me about 5 years ago.

I had been into training since my teenage years. I had a long history of participation in sports and although I was never the most talented on the field, I always tried to be in the best condition possible. This attitude carried over into my adult life. I had kept training logs that went for years without having missed more than 4-5 training days a year. (usually due to work schedule or illness).

Sometime in my early 40’s things seemed to change. I suspect that some of this will ring true to some of the other “Over 35 Lifter” readers.

I had received promotions that meant more money but the work had no appeal. It involved more stress and involved aspects of my job that I had never really signed on for.

My children were getting to fascinating ages. They were at that point in their lives that they looked to their parents as the all knowing being that could explain life to them. I didn’t want to miss any of it and spending time with them was always a priority The lives of my children also took on a more social aspect that in addition to school involved all the extras of sports, lessons, school dances etc.

My house was starting to show it’s age and free time was relegated to home improvement and maintenance.

Little by little that hour I had always put aside for myself to train became less and less important. I knew I was starting on a downward slide but I always rationalized that a month of hard training could get me back.

The only problem is that 5 years went by and that month never came. There would be a week here and there that would start out with the best of intentions but something always would push “my hour” off the priority list.

I also noticed that my body wasn’t reacting the way it always had. In my mind I was still a 27 year old fitness fanatic but my body said otherwise. Delayed onset of muscles soreness took on a new meaning. What I thought was a light work out would have me limping into work the next day. But I still was kidding myself that I wasn’t that out of shape.

I saw a cartoon once that explained it well. It shows the difference between a man’s and woman’s self image. In the cartoon the woman is beautifully conditioned but she looks in the mirror and sees nothing but fat. The man on the other hand is an overweight mess but he sees his image in the mirror as fit and muscular.
It took the photographs and the hike to show me the real truth. Now I have to ask myself “What are you going to do about it?”.

It’ll be hard to get back into it, but your never too old.

You’ve faced up to it and made the stand. As you have experience from your past you can quickly get to work in a beginners program slowly but surely - it wont eat your time up, something less than an hour 2-3 times a week.

mentally you need to accept you are now quite weak and become breathless compared to the 27 year old you, but you can enjoy the improvements that will come. I’d think your son will think it cool that you’re doing this too.

Your natural testosterone levels will come back as you become healthier - remember to focus on the good foods not the easy ones! However as bushy said, you could check into it and should visit a doctor for a full check anyway just to be sure of the base you are starting from.

First, while you had a warning, you should not attribute one incident of not being able to perform the way you wanted to some magical age-related change. It very likely is a loss of conditioning combined with the effects of age and increased stress. You can have similar reactions to things like having a temporary blood deficiency of a key electrolyte (calcium, magnesium, potassium), or a drop in blood sugar. If you were on vacation, being more active than usual, eating differently, drinking more, etc. these might have been at least partial culprits.

Regardless, you got a warning that scared you a bit before anything serious happened. One of the stimuli for my re-dedicating myself to being fit was that my wife & I are now trying to have a child and I realized that if I continued my current habits (or lack thereof), I’d not be able to do certain activities with them or even not be there to see them grow up. Your teenage kids getting to a “fascinating age” can be a similar motivator: not wanting to miss out on that either through not being fit enough to do things with them or worse.

Enlist your families help in making your fitness a priority. They may need to join you in changing dietary habits or encouraging you to get your workouts in. They may even get interested in joining you for aspects of this. Also, enlist your wife in a little positive reinforcement as you make progress. That can be a good help in reinforcing your commitment to continue.

While I’m a couple years behind you, I was amazed at how well I could turn things around. Yes, I needed to be a bit more careful about getting enough rest to allow my body time to recover that I didn’t need to think about much when I was in my twenties. I needed to spend a bit more time learning how to do my lifts correctly to avoid injuries, and I needed to be more careful about my diet. A few additional supplements (e.g., condroitin & fish oil) might be called for, and I have to ice my one knee without fail to keep an old overuse injury from flairing up.

That said, I’ve found I’m smarter than I was, and my need to be more thoughtful and enducated to prevent injury has lead to my improving my conditioning program compared to what I was doing as a teen & twenty-something. I’m seeing good progress, can still go heavy into strength training, and am not seeing cardio or endurance declines from age. I am incorporating some pre-hab & balancing exercises into my program to help counter the increased injury potential. I feel that if anything, I could hold my own or even outdo the kid I was twenty years ago. You just need to be smarter than he was- which looking back is embarassingly easy in ways.

Obviously, getting a thorough check up from a doctor that understands metabolic health is important to uncover any problems that you need to be careful of or address (esp. cardiac conditions from a pure health/life stand point).

Good luck

Thank you to everyone that replied. I was pleased to see that the response was mature advice from others that had some insight into the situation, possibly from personal experience.
I have received a recent check up to help rule out any possible medical issue aside from my obvious poor conditioning.

I am unfamiliar with testosterone therapy. My libido has been what I would consider good for my age but sleep has been another issue. I had always concluded that my constant lethargy was a result of eratic an long work hours.

I am always tired even after a full 8 hours and have a tendancy to doze off if I remain seated for any period of time after 5 pm. This has been a contributing factor to my lack of consistant training.

Most of my training was taking place at home and I always had been able to get up for a work out even when tired, as I had always considered that to be one of the best parts of my day. I consider this to be personality weakness that I had never dealt with before and was always quick to question others about their sincerity in wanting to be healthy and strong when they used the “too tired” excuse.

The rest of the family is active with both children participating in several sports and my wife an active athlete. Family support has always been good. I know that they would like to see me return to what had always been my normal self.

I particularly agree with the older is smarter statement. I had always trained aggressively and had been blessed to have avoided any major injuries. I have been having a problem with making a mental transition from the 20 something I am in my mind to the 40 something I am in body.

I have resolved to starting at a level that I had previously not been able to admit I actually was at. It is possible that may have been some of the contributing factor to the intermittant training. Facing up to where you really are, especially when you remember the levels you had achieved in the past, isn’t so easy. I am approaching things in this manner.

  1. Realize that I am once again a beginner.

  2. Make consistancy a priority over all else.

  3. Understand that there has to be progression, but that the progression for a person in my situation should be long and slow.

  4. Forget about what I had accomplished in the past and look towards goals that are appropriate for me now.

Once again thanks to all for the input.

I think that the hypogonadism/estrogen/syndrome-X thing needs to be considered. If you cannot get your doc to do hormone testing, then you can pay out of pocket and have the tests done via LEF.org

When you get the results, guys here can help you understand the implications and you can then deal with your doctor with data in-hand and research competed if any issues are found.

Things to test for (minimal):

total testosterone
free testosterone
serum estradiol (E2)
CBC (complete blood count)
Might also test thyroid levels.

We see lots of younger guys with hormone problems, so it does not make sense to assume that this situation is simply one of diet and training.

[quote]KSman wrote:
We see lots of younger guys with hormone problems, so it does not make sense to assume that this situation is simply one of diet and training.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get tested. just don’t lose focus. The direction you are going is right on. 99% chance that building strength and endurance in a progressive manner will solve your problems. Good luck to you.

Especially given your sleep statement, I’d look at finding ways to lower your stress levels. Even if tests identify some of the conditions others have mentioned, I’d have to suspect stress, diet, and lack of exercise as contributing to them and an important part of the solution to them.

Exercise will help all if not overdone, as will cleaning up the diet. Obviously, some of this can be a catch-22. It’s harder to do the exercise when you are tired, stressed, or have one of the metabolic conditions others have raised, but these all can be improved if you just break the deadlock and get to the exercise.

Again, enlist your family to help here. Get a cheap pda (used palm on e-bay) or your cell phone, and set an appointment for your exercises with an alarm that goes off to remind you. If your family knows what the alarm is for, you are going to have a harder time turning it off and sitting back down in front of the TV.

Also for stress and sleep, here are a couple suggestions. First, don’t work out too close to bed time. Second, don’t watch TV within an hour of bed time. Read a book, listen to music, swap “back rubs” with your wife, or anything else that relaxes you.

Third, don’t drink too much coffee or any caffeinated drinks in the afternoon or evening, and limit your coffee consumption in general. Fourth, take a short walk (even 5-15 minutes) after lunch to break up the day, and don’t try to work during lunch: take a true break (you’ll be more productive overall even with the time not working).

Fifth, watch your sugar/simple carb intake, as the boom/bust blood sugar swings can exacerbate high stress levels. Sixth, if you aren’t uncomfortable with the seeming new-aginess (?) of it, there are a number of good relaxation programs and how-tos on meditation.

Sometimes they can seem to be stressful themselves in the beginning, as it is hard to learn to self-consciously relax yourself and hard things are stressful when first learning.

Now if I could just listen to my own advice on some of these, especially the taking a break. My favorite is still the “say honey, I’m really tense, if I rub your back will you rub mine?” he, he. A relaxed wife is a very happy, relaxed husband.

Again, good luck.

This advice has been excellent. I have a regular blood test taken due to cholesterol controlling medication that I currently take. I do not believe I would have any problem also requesting the additional tests suggested. (I have never heard of some of them.)

The next test is in a few months, so if there hasn’t been any significant change due to increased training, I would be curious to see if these levels are where they are supposed to be.
The simple sugar/carb intake is something I have never taken into account. The more I think about it, the more it could coincide with the fatigue.

I would like to make lunch more of planned event than it currently is but my work situation often does not allow it. I do eat at my desk often. If I can get it off, I often try to squeeze in the work out at this time - believing that it is better than no work out at all.

In order to build up momentum in the area of consistancy with respect to the actual workout, I have committed to start with what should be a very doable 30 minutes a day. 20 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of basic strength training. I have been mixing up the cardio, keeping my heart rate in the 70-75% of maximum heart rate.

The strength exercises entail 4 basic exercises done to 1 rep short of failure in the 8-15 rep range. The exercises are a pull, push, direct core and either knee or hip dominant. I have included exercises such as the over head squat, rollouts on either the stability ball or the evil wheel, horizontal rows. I look for exercises that have a full range of motion and a built in stretching of the body parts being used. The weights are baby weights at this point and do not need much of a warmup.

The pace is fast and results in a good sweat. On any day that I am off from work, I keep the exercise as enjoyable as possible. I like pulling the sled and mountain biking and occasionally jogging.

I am trying hard to listen to my body and think consistancy above all else. I am hoping that things will start to turn around and the enthusiasm will come back and I can return to the type of training I had been involved in before. I know that past performance probably isn’t a good marker of success but I would like to get back to an aggressive and intense level of training at least occasionally.

I know that the “Over 35” forum had disappeared for awhile but I hope it is here to stay. It is a great resource for us older lifters and a very good source of inspiration.

You describe your situation very well and have gotten a lot of great feedback. I would just like to add a few things. I found myself in a very similar situation as you, just a little older and more injured. I also worked very hard for many years and work overtook all other priorities.

 I also got the "picture while on vacation to Costa Rica" shock, that unknown fat man who looks a little like me. OUCH! I vowed to make a comeback. I got the supplements, some new gym clothes, new gym membership, and got going. But after a few weeks, DOMS, low energy, and pathetic strength really slowed me down. I persisted for another month, got impatient, forced myself into more intense workouts...and POOF! I quit. 

 Then, after burying myself in work the rest of the year, I thought I'd try it again. But this time, I followed the advice you have been given-saw a doctor (hard for us doctors to do). All my critical hormones were low, and I had a growing case of what is now being called "Metabolic Syndrome". Google it, you may find many of your symptoms there. In a nutshell, it is a pre-diabetic condition which growing numbers of Americans in particular are getting which involves multi-organ dysfunction (pituitary, thyroid, liver, adrenals, reproductive organs). It robs people of the ability to make a good, CONTINUOUS effort at physical health and fitness.

 To be honest, I was skeptical about both metabolic syndrome, and also about hormone replacement therapy until recently. Having both of these medical issues dealt with, my first three months of renewed training have been like a rebirth for me. A glorious return to the passions of my younger days. You don't have to accept a limiting belief about "slow progress." You can regain lost muscle quickly. And I'm not just touting the testosterone part, I'm talking about "muscle memory." 

If you train right, eat right, supplement right and think right, your body will respond within a few weeks and start making rapid progress, regaining lost muscle and cardio fitness. Slow gaining is what happens after you regain most of what you have lost. Then you will need patience.

Maybe not everyone will agree with the things I have said. I don't pretend to have all the answers, that's why I just joined the site! But one of the better things about being older is you don't worry about pleasing everybody. Good luck and I hope to stay in touch.

Excellent post, Dr.PowerClean. That picture of the fat guy who looks kinda like you can be a real motivator!

At 43, I am three years past seeing the picture of the fat guy and realizing that I was out breath from climbing stairs. Never felt or looked better in my life, as I do now! My teenage sons were teasing me last night that I weigh ten pounds more now than I did at my fattest and “how can it really be muscle?”

I am not one to pimp TRT, but if indicated through tests, usage will completely change your quality of life.

OP- you are way ahead of most folks in your self-awareness. Good luck. Change won’t happen overnight, but amazing results are attainable with hard work and consistency, even when you are old like us!

I notice that there is a lot of emphasis in other posts and apparently very good results from TRT. I will do more research on this but I am curious if there is a particular age that the medical profession has identified as the typical period in which replacement is appropriate? I am really curious why this isn’t something that is more mainstream?

Other than some of the posts in the “Over 35” I have never heard much about it. Is this a treatment that the medical community is reluctant to prescribe? If results are lacking with what I hope to be a progressive increase in fitness levels, am I going to meet resistance from the medical community when I mention TRT?

By the way the responses to my intitial post has been a very good motivator to remain constant in my training. I have not missed a day since the original post. This may not seem like much but it has been a long time since I have put in three training days in a row!

The practice of HRT is a fast growing phenomenon in medicine which started out being called “Anti-Aging Medicine” and has now been renamed “Age Management Medicine.” It is spearheaded by a few big organizations of doctors, including Cenagenics and A4M. There are now thousands of doctors doing HRT, and the guidelines for use are constantaly being clarified and redefined.

For now, it is supposed to be only for people at least 40 years old who have a substantially low hormone level combined with clear and distinct symptoms of that deficiency. For instance, with testosterone, symptoms present could include loss of physical vitality, severley decreased sexual interest and performance, apathy and depression, and signifcant loss of lean body mass.

In cases where both very low levels and multiple symptoms are present, before treatment should begin causes should be looked for. If there is no specific external cause, such as another endocrine illness, brain tumor, and other rare conditions, then testosterone replacement is usually effective, safe and not considered controversial by the general medical community.

 However, like so many things in life these days, the situation is complicated. What about patients who have levels just in the lower range of normal and have no significant symptoms? Some Age Management doctors will still prescribe T to these clients. Same situation with growth hormone and thyroid. So guess what...can you see the potential for corrupt doctors and lazy, greedy patients looking for a "pill fix" to make them more buff and younger feeling. 

There is a lot of this going on, unfortunately. We had the same situation in the nineties with Prozac, with many people taking it to feel “better than well.” The same thing is going on now with stimulants.

 I am right in the middle of this weird situation, finding great relief with the treatment. But I really needed it. At the risk of more TMI, my jewels arent doing the job anymore due to big varices-look it up if anyone cares. I am actually looking into becoming an Age Management doc, because I am really worried about bad docs and bad culture taking a good thing and screwing it up.

 Anyway, I think older men (and women) deserve to know where their hormone levels are at. But if they are not too bad, and you aren't really symptomatic, I would STRONGLY recommend staying drug-free and trying the various supplements which can help your body boost your natural testosterone production. This path is not foolproof, but its getting better every year from what I can tell.