Does age matter when competing?
The topic of age is on the forefront lately with some federations changing their rules on age minimums and defining what age quantifies as “masters” divisions. I started competing at 20 years old all the way through my 30s and now into my 40s. On this episode I’m going to talk about the differences I’ve noticed with competing at 20, 30, and 40+ years of age. I’m going to walk through seven different topics like training intensity, aesthetics, metabolism, recovery, emotional, belief, and reasons for competing.
Let me know what resonates with you in our Facebook group called “The ‘Everything Else’ in Bodybuilding Podcast Insiders!”
Training Intensity and Recovery (4:23)
Pain Tolerance (5:51)
Metabolism, NEAT, and Sleep (8:41)
Reasons for competing and level of belief (15:42)
If you are ready to do something awesome for yourself then go to www.posingwinsshows.com (19:17)
Welcome back guys! Wow the last episode sparked a lot of conversation which I really love. I hope you do join us in the everything else in bodybuilding podcast insiders group on Facebook to chat about the episodes, contest prep, and the industry as a whole. There are men and women from all federations and divisions there.
One question that has come up a few times in the feedback on the shows I’ve been doing and the conversations we are having in the Facebook group for listeners of this podcast is the subject of AGE in bodybuilding. In fact the topic of age is coming up more and more. 20+ year olds in the NPC/IFBB are breaking records as youngest pro card winners of divisions with the amount of muscularity not typically seen in the youth.
Just this year, the NPC announced they are restricting the age of contestants to a minimum of 18 years of age. On the flip side federations are continuing to add more opportunities for competitors over 35. You can get a pro card at 35 and 40 and not have to stand next to a 20 year old to do it. Jake Wood, the owner of the Olympia contest in the IFBB federation just announced that he plans to bring back the Master’s Olympia by 2023. It has yet to be determined if the Master’s Olympia age requirement will start at 40 or 45.
The debate over the starting age of the Master’s divisions is found across all federations. The WBFF starts at 35 and as of 2022 the OCB just dropped the age from 40 to 35, while currently the WNBF master’s age category starts at 40.
Why does age matter when competing? Does it?
Well I can tell you from experience that preparing for shows at 20 is much different than preparing at 40. Some of it has to do with experience alone. You figure out your body and what works for you and what doesn’t. No matter how many studies there are out there, there are always people in the studies that are outliers.
I remember listening to an analysis of study that tested different levels of carbs and weight loss. Calories were kept the same. Some people with less carbs lost weight and some poor soul gained weight. Over time as you continue to do shows you will build an intimate relationship with your body and learn how it responds to different nutrition and training strategies so you don’t have to waste time and effort on things that don’t work for you. This is an advantage of age.
But I want to talk about some other differences competing at 20 versus 30 versus 40 for you to consider. I came up with about 7 of them. And again these are all my thoughts and opinions.
Let’s talk about training intensity and recovery.
I’m going to lump these two concepts together. I hired my first trainer at 20 years old when preparing for that fitness modeling contest. This experience was both good and bad. The good part is I learned proper form quickly and didn’t have to waste time ping ponging around the gym trying to figure out what to do all day. My energy levels where really good and I could handle whatever was thrown at me. More was more with this trainer, and I didn’t know any better, so the weights I was pushing was super heavy. About six months in I had to visit a chiropractor and have a rib adjusted after it slipped out of place. I bounced back pretty quickly and didn’t think much of it.
By the time I hit my 30s I had enough time and experience under my belt to realize that consistency was key but was still training 6 days a week with a lot of volume. The amount of output was very taxing and I found my recovery from this was not the same as it was in my 20s. In my 20s I could hang, but in my 30s it was getting to be too much. Aches and pains were starting to pile up. There is only so long you can push the gas peddle full throttle before the car has had enough. Am I right?
Now at 40 I train a lot smarter and wish I knew then what I know now. Now I have de-load weeks where I drop the volume and then over the next few weeks I slowly bring it back up. So my intensity is cycled and not full throttle 7 days a week anymore.
Which leads me to pain tolerance.
At 40+ I respect my recovery and listen to my body, but I’m not lolly gagging around the gym. I don’t just grab heavy weights to do them or have a training partner that forces a ton of reps out of me. Instead, I methodically build up my strength with both weights and reps. I can be on a leg press and gauge the level of suck pretty good. I have been at 15 reps and know that I have been able to withstand a greater level of pain, good pain that is, so I know I can handle more, so I push out another 5 reps.
These are quality reps by the way, I don’t just toss the weight up for ego. I breathe through the pain and keep going. Knowing your pain tolerance is also something that comes with time. I can tell you that if you haven’t been training long, whatever age that is, you probably don’t know your threshold and most likely can handle a lot more than you think.
Perfect example is my husband. He was doing prescribed workouts on his own and would ask me questions here or there. He wasn’t making as much progress as he liked so he asked for my help. So for a couple weeks I was with him as he did his prescribed workouts. And here is the difference. He let me dictate the amount of weight he used. After those couple of weeks he realized he was capable of a lot more and learned how to progress up in weight safely and effectively.
Another example was back when I owned my gym one of my favorite posing clients asked if I would help her with her HIIT cardio for fun one day. After the session she turned to me and said, “I have never felt like this when doing HIIT cardio before. I clearly have not been doing HIIT.” In both examples, they learned that they were capable of more than what they thought. If you are wondering if you are capable of doing more, hire someone with a lot of experience to train with you for a week or two to help you determine your thresholds. Don’t start a new program with them. Literally do the program you have been doing and have then take a look at the weight you are using, watch you do the exercises, and give you feedback. You’ll likely be very surprised!
Pain tolerance also comes with time. The earlier you start training the more time you have to learn this. My husband is learning this in his 30s and this posing client I was talking about was in her 40s. Both were relatively new to structured training. So pain tolerance is a time thing, not an age thing. Just because you are 40+ doesn’t mean you need to baby yourself because you don’t think you will recover or don’t want an injury. I’m not saying you need to train like an idiot, what I’m saying is you are probably capable of more than you think.
Let’s talk about the controversial topic of metabolism.
When I trained for shows in my 20s the weight fell off of me pretty easily. Today in my 40s there is a big difference. Want to know what it is? NEAT. Non exercise activity thermogenesis. Think about it for a second. What activities outside of the gym are you doing? If you are in your 20s, are you working two jobs, chasing children all day, and barely have enough time to eat a snack? If you are in your 30s are you working a desk job for 8 hours and the only movement you have in your day is getting up to use the restroom or the walk to the car? And in your 40s are you achy and not motivated to move around a lot?
I think a lot of people say their metabolism is crap but don’t realize that they might just move a heck of a lot less than they used to. I know I do. I started paying attention to my step count to see how much movement I was doing during the day. On days that I am on the computer all day, if I didn’t go to the gym, I was maybe 3,000 steps. Yikes. I remember when I was in college I probably moved 3,000 steps before 10am just going to classes. Track your steps for a few days and see how much you are moving and then let’s talk about your metabolism. If you are less than 5,000 steps a day don’t even try to tell me you have metabolic damage. Please. I can’t.
And how about sleep?
There is a recent sleep study where 15 subjects of average body fat (approximately 21%) were locked up in a Chamber for 2 days. During one day they were allowed to sleep normally. Sleep was measured by an EEG. On the other stay, they were only allowed to sleep 1 hour at a time, yet for the same duration as they did on day 1. They were woken up 8 times in one night by an alarm. What the study found was the night of fragmented sleep resulted in direct impair of fat oxidation thus decreasing their fat loss results. Literally two times as much of a reduction. Two times.
So the idea of metabolism isn’t as straightforward as saying I’m just old and my metabolism has slowed down. You might have either slowed down, literally, with less NEAT or perhaps you are slowing it down yourself with poor sleep habits.
Another big difference in 20 versus 30 versus 40 is your actual aesthetics.
I think there are divisions where youth is on your side and I think there are divisions where age is on your side. In the divisions like bikini where they are looking for a foundation of muscle but not the density of the other divisions, you can start competing at 20 and do great. In fact that youthful look will be an advantage. Same with men’s physique. That fresh look will be an advantage.
When you start getting into the divisions like classic physique, bodybuilding, and figure, muscle density and maturity are the advantage. People in their 20s have thicker and fuller skin; as we age our skin gets thinner. Thinner skin can be an advantage to the more muscular divisions by making the muscle tissue more visible.
One thing to note is regardless of age, you have to put in the time to build muscle. If you are 40 or 50 and you started training a few years ago, you might have a foundation of muscle but not the density to be competitive yet. I often see competitors think they just need to get leaner to see their muscle. This is a major misconception because if the muscle isn’t developed, I don’t care how lean you get, you won’t see it.
Many competitors get the feedback from the judges that they need to build muscle. So they take a couple months to build muscle and then pick a new show and start dialing in for it. Such a big mistake. Muscle takes time. If building muscle is the goal, the last thing you need to do is spend most of the year in a caloric deficit dialing in for a show. My best body composition changes happened with a year of work. No one wants to hear that though. If your show pictures look the same then you need to take time off and train. This goes for 20, 30, and 40+.
From an emotional standpoint I think another differences in 20 versus 30 versus 40+ is level of fucks given.
I don’t know about any of you listening but I can honestly say that where I am emotionally today at 40+ the level of care that I have for what people think of me is zero. I’ve weathered a lot of storms and not much phases me today. Why? Because no matter how bad it got, I got through it and learned what I am capable of. So today if get the comments that I look like a tranny with all my muscle, I just laugh. I think many trans people are gorgeous not for just their outer beauty, but the inner strength it took them to flip the bird to society and be who they are before the world told them who to be.
One of the things that I loved the most when I worked with men and women posing clients was not the outward transformation, but the inward confidence that each and every one of them experienced. Which is why I built the Posing wins Shows curriculum so that I could work with hundreds and hopefully thousands of people instead of being limited by the hours in the day working people one on one. Those of you who are in your 30s, 40s, and even 50s and 60s that have weathered storms and want to do something for YOU, something that makes you feel special, something that lasts far beyond show day, YOU are the reason I built Posing Wins Shows.
Posing Wins Shows isn’t just about making you look like a star, it’s about making you FEEL like one too.
Think about it…when is the last time you ever really did something for yourself? Do you remember what it was like to pull all nighters, fly by the seat of your pants, be daring, and …. Fun? Life has a way of flying right by us. We take care of kids and eventually parents, we work 40+ hour weeks doing a job that is just that, a job, something we do but not who we are.
So many years go by and we forget that part of us that was fun, youthful, effortless, daring, and next thing you know, you are looking in the mirror wondering who you even are anymore. Where did that part of you that made you, you, go? When you tap into that part of you again, you will feel invigorated, and never let it go again. And the added bonus? You don’t have all that care you might have had before about what others think of you. So you are fearless AND do YOU, not what others think you should do. Guys and girls; I’m waiting for you at www.posingwinsshows.com
Two other topics I think are relevant when talking about the differences in competing in your 20s, 30s, and 40s are your reasons for competing and your belief.
I think the reasons for competing are actually quite similar regardless of age. The difference is the level of appreciation we have for the competition journey. When I was competing in my 20s I wanted to see what I was capable of. I believed I could so I did. In my 30s and 40s I had the same mindset of wanting to see what I was capable of and still believed I could. The difference is that seeing that I COULD still do it in my 40s created an added layer of appreciation. Knowing I still got it. Losing friends to cancer, heart attacks, addiction, and even losing family members from illness or old age built a new relationship with time and the reality that it goes fast. Mortality is real and can happen at any time.
I wasn’t thinking of these things at 20. Doing something that makes me feel alive was just a part of life in my 20s. In my 30s the amount of responsibilities I had overshadowed my zest for life. Now in my 40s I have a lot more life to reflect on and it makes me appreciate what I am capable of still doing that much more. It also makes me not want to ever compromise who I am as a person. I will never not incorporate doing things for me that make me me.
It took a while to realize that doing things for me is not selfish. At 20 living life was not selfish, it was being a kid. Responsibilities change us. Too many years I poured out my efforts to the world and never took the time to fill up my cup. Too many years I undervalued my time and capabilities and this didn’t allow me to reach my highest potential. Today I know my worth and am unapologetic about no longer undercharging for my skills and capabilities as an educator. There are plenty of discount stores out there. But there is only one Tiffany.
There are generic posing coaches out there in every federation. But there is only one me. And what people get from working with me they will never find anywhere else. I’m ok with saying that. I no longer work with people that aren’t a part of my Posing Wins Shows program. Why? Because I actually want people to become not good, but great.
Too many people rely on posing sessions for their posing practice and work with generic teachers that are only good for teaching the mechanics of posing. I teach people how to be great. And I educate on things no one else knows how to or has the experience to be able to. Competing in shows in your 30s, 40s, and 50+ you have no choice but to connect with your body and your mind. You might even tap into a level of competitiveness you never knew you had. You realize what you are capable of, and if you have weathered a lot of life lessons, you might even develop a level of appreciation for you and what you are capable of that you took for granted.
You doing something for you breeds life within you.
Competing at 20 you are fearless. Competing later in life allows you to find that fearlessness within you AGAIN.
Guys thanks again for listening/reading! I hope your big takeaway is that bodybuilding is about an evolution of more than just your physique changes. Also that nothing is really black or white and there is always room for growth both literally and figuratively at every age. Your attitude and outlook on yourself will change over time if you continue to push yourself past your comfort zone. If you are ready to do something awesome for yourself then go to www.posingwinsshows.com Also, join the discussion in the Podcast Insiders group if you haven’t already. I’ll see you on the next episode!