Just because a man is over 40 doesn’t mean he’s close to being finished.

The warnings were many. Older gentlemen would say, “You just wait till you hit 40–then things shift. Father time will teach you a lesson or two.”

You may be in great shape for 40, or you might be a train wreck.

All of us young gym rats would laugh, knowing full well that nothing would diminish our strength and hormone levels. Unfortunately, those old guys were right! Now that I am one of them (52), some adjustments have been made. Here are seven essentials for getting and staying in shape after 40.

#1 Reality. You have to be honest with yourself about your current physical state. You may be in great shape for 40, or you might be a train wreck. Your hormone levels may still have spark, or they might be lower than a Dallas Cowboys fan. 

Hold tight, I’m going to use the D-Word. Visit your doctor for a complete physical. Determine your current reality and go from there.

#2 Drive. Just because you face the facts about the differences between your 20’s and now that’s no reason not to get after it. We’re men. We like to push ourselves. Take your mind to level ten then dial back to seven or eight for your actual training. I know, it just sounds unmanlike! But it will protect you long term and prevent injury.

#3 Workout. If you want to keep it simple, workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Do cardio training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Make Wednesday your heaviest and most intense training day.

If you want to get more advanced, then decide on a specific result such as build 10 pounds of muscle while losing 20 pounds of fat. Consult a personal trainer and nutritionist for a training and nutrition plan for that goal.

#4 Nutrition. At our age, we burn fat slower and store fat quicker. I know, that sucks, but we’ve already faced reality. At the base level, eat 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 20% healthy fats. Don’t plan “cheats days,” just eat right. Consider your meals fuel for your performance machine and consume what fits the image you want to achieve. 

#5 Supplements. At a minimum take a multivitamin and mineral supplement each day. If you are training at higher levels then consider a protein powder, but do not use the bulk or carb loaded ones. Also, a pre and post workout drink will boost your focus and replace needed nutrients. Again, talk you your trainer about what will fit you best according to the results you want.

#6 Recuperation. We might be able to fool ourselves in other areas, but soreness and fatigue are real. The reason I recommended Wednesday as your heavy day is because it can literally take a full week to recover from intense training. In your 20’s it might have taken two days. That not true anymore.

Just because we are over 40, it doesn’t mean we are close to being finished.

If you can get eight plus hours of sleep a night, do it. If you can take a short nap during the day, grab it. Yes, this makes you feel old. Yes, it’s cool to say things like, “I’ll sleep when I die.” Unfortunately, you’ll die sooner if you don’t rest more.

#7 Journal and Adjust. Keep a record of your workouts. How much you lift. How far you run. How you felt emotionally and physically. After four weeks you’ll notice patterns in performance. You’ll begin to predict how certain foods make you feel and how fast you heal. Ultimately you’ll become your best personal trainer.

Just because we are over 40, it doesn’t mean we are close to being finished. We just need to work smarter, maximize our new limits, and focus more on designing our training to fit our personal needs.