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Work/Rest Ratio - The Key To Results After 40!

March 2, 2018


In Kenya there is a running ‘Mecca’ area called the Rift Valley. Here elite runners from all over Africa gather to live and train at the world’s most successful running training camps. Runners literally wake up, run hard for 2 hrs, eat, rest, eat, sleep, train hard for another 2 hrs, eat & sleep. 7 days per week for periods of 4-6 months. 80% of the world’s top performing runners come from these camps or ones like them! This is the ultimate example of what the body can achieve under optimum work/rest conditions. (Yes genetics, BMI, daily life and altitude play a large part too but these camps maximise these other traits). By this I mean the human body’s ability to perform at optimum function is dependent on the balance between the necessary hard work required and the essential food, rest & sleep that allows the body to recover, replenish, rebuild and realise the gains from those efforts!


Unfortunately for the rest of us, the real world does not make this type of work/rest ratio possible. We have the demands of work, looking after the kids, running a household, having some degree of social life and then trying to fit in some exercise and look after ourselves! Getting enough rest and sleep to complement the day to day stresses is difficult let alone recovering from hard physical exercise.


Like everything in life if you want to improve your exercise or sports performance or you want to train enough to lose those extra kilos it comes down to balance.  A balance between work & exercise, home life & eating well, social life & sleep or stress & relaxation. Your body can only do so much for so long before it breaks down and the returns start diminishing, performance drops and the weight stops coming off.


And then you turn 40!

When you are in your 20’s or even early 30’s it seems you can do it all. Work hard, party hard, train hard and still looks good, perform well and do it again tomorrow. My experience with myself and hundreds of other clients is that once you get to about 40 or early 40’s you can’t do that anymore. Something has to give! You can’t expect to work long hours, have a great social life, manage home life and still offset it with training hard enough to perform at your peak and look the goods!



You find it takes longer to warm up each day during training and you cant back up hard sessions day after day without injury, fatigue, waning performance & heaven forbid a body revolt which starts to hold onto weight. There is a price to pay if you don’t let your body recover. It is about this time you need to be smarter with your work/rest ratio.


But there is hope!

I have found that people simply have to ‘tweak’ their work/rest ratio. You have to start listening to your body more and make smart choices about what the body is telling you. You have to mix in more easy days, warm up and cool down more effectively and most importantly have more rest days. The surprising result is that you can arrest the serious decline in performance (even possibly continue to improve) and keep the body looking fantastic. In other words it is really good news. You can work less and get similar or the same results! You still have to put in the quality training and you do have to be more diligent with your eating but it is very doable!


I was a classic example of this. My whole life I had trained 2-3 hours a day believing more was better. When performance dropped or I noticed the slightest ‘love handle’ I simply tried to out train the drop off! Until finally after about 300 races I decided that I had had enough. Done enough, achieved enough and now I was simply going to train less, have a couple of days off per week, listen to my body and just not put the pressure on myself to always train so hard or much!

And a funny thing happened! At age 42 I ran my fastest ever marathon, came top 20 in several obstacle courses races (top 100 was standard), starting cycling PB’s and posted my best times for well trodden gym circuits!


I realised not only had I been over training for years but my body loved rest! It allowed me to get the benefits from the training on previous days. My body fat percentage even returned to sub 30 yrs numbers!


After 40 most people are not too interested in what numbers we are posting on runs, cycles or gym circuits but we all care about that expanding butt or bulging belly which doesn’t seem to disappear like it use to when we committed ourselves to good training routines. Our bodies are changing with effect of age and hormones. (I won’t go into the science here but needless to say it gets harder to look the way you want).

And like Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. It is time to change your routine. It is time to play with your work/rest ratio.


I can’t outline the specifics of what an exact training and rest routine would look like for you because the reality is we are all different and will respond in different ways. I can however tell you that you need to keep your intense sessions still intense but maybe shorter, ensure you have a good balance across all training modalities including circuits, strength, cardio & flexibility and schedule 1-2 days off per week which might be active recovery like yoga or swimming or complete rest (listen to your body).

TIP – I have had great fatloss success with post 40 year old clients that do 2 session in one day (weights in the morning & cardio at night) once per week and then have the next day completely off.


Now obviously father time catches up with us all but if you schedule your training smarter and ensure you do focus on getting enough genuine sleep/rest you might just get a lot more years out of your optimal performance and continue to look amazing for your age!


If you need any help I am always happy to sit down (or exchange emails) with members and clients and look at your weekly training  schedule (work, home life included) and suggest a plan that might get you going again!

Contact me at 


There is life and leanness after 40 so good luck!

Matt Crowe

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