“Am I Too Old to Get in Shape?”: The Ultimate Guide for Getting in Shape at Any Age

This LEGO wants to know if she can start her fitness journey. Let's explore.

You are NOT too old to get in shape.

I promise.

I know this because we have members in our community and clients in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program who are starting their fitness journey in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.

If you’re thinking about getting into shape but not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s what we’ll cover in our guide to getting in shape at any age:

If you’ve ever pulled a Danny Glover and said “I’m getting too old for this sh**,” then read on!

Why You’re Not Too Old to Get in Shape

Yep, we have readers from all age brackets in the Rebellion.

You’re never “too old” to start your fitness journey.

When 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi was asked how long he thought he could continue competing at an elite level, now being over the age of 40, he responded: “If no one ever told you when you were born, how would you know how old you are?”

If you didn't know when you were born, how would you know you're too old to get in shape?

Tamae Watanabe of Japan summited Mount Everest at the age of 73, setting a world record as the oldest woman to complete the climb. Oh, she broke her own record by the way, set 10 years earlier at the age of 63.

Over the years, I’ve met many Rebels over the age of 70, including Gay from New Mexico who is 73, has nine grandchildren, and lost 90 pounds on her journey!

On the flipside, believe it or not, we get emails from 30-year-olds explaining why they are too old – how it’s too late for them to get in shape, learn a skill, try something new, etc.

Yep, as soon as Deadpool stops OMAD, the fat he lost will come back.

The problem is – whether you are 30 or 80 – if you believe you are too old, then you ARE too old. This belief that you are too set in your ways to change becomes paralyzing.

Those who subscribe to the belief that they are “too old” see the person who declares “age is just a mindset” or “you’re never too old to change” as a naive or foolish statement. “They don’t understand. When they are my age/in my situation, they’ll get it.”

And it’s hard to see the other side if you believe this about yourself. Really freakin’ hard. The belief has hardened so much that you can’t even realistically imagine yourself changing. But I’ve seen thousands upon thousands of people in the NF Rebellion change their mindset after proving to themselves they CAN change.

I mean, if Willie Murphy, this 78 year old grandma, can power lift, there’s probably something you’re capable of too.

Oh and by the way, and she started her fitness journey at 56!

It should also be noted that a late start into fitness still reaps many health benefits. This study found that starting an exercise program in your 50’s may offer many of the same rewards as if you had started in adolescence.[1]

So it’s NEVER too late to attempt getting into shape. 

As long as we can overcome the mental roadblock.

Breaking through the wall of: “I can’t because ___” is a tough task.

That’s why today we’re going to let our veteran Rebels do the talking for us.

Whether you have health issues to work around, weight to lose, habits to build, or haters to prove wrong, let’s get inspired by some Rebel bad-asses who have already walked the path.

I wanted to share a few stories from some of our veteran Rebels out there to let you know that no matter what age you are, or how far you have to go on your fitness journey, starting today is the best gift you can give to yourself.

“You’re Not Too Old” Spotlight: Joni

A picture of Steve and Joni from Camp Nerd Fitness.

Steve: Hey Joni, great meeting you in 2016 at Camp Nerd Fitness. To start, tell us a little bit about you.

Joni: First and foremost I’m a mom and grandma. I’ve been divorced for a very long time (21 years) and raised my daughter by myself for the most part. She’s grown and 35 now with a husband, and I have the most perfect grandson in the world. He’s 6 in April and the joy of my life. Oh, and I am CTO for a small managed services company.

Steve: What’s your background in fitness? When did you first start?

Joni: Haha…no background in fitness. I mean literally none. I stayed around 220 after my divorce and carried that weight for years. I’d go to a gym, get a trainer who would drag me around cardio equipment and make me pound the floor with large ropes and I’d quit.

I hated it with a passion.

Yeah, doing exercise you hate can really make you lose your cool.

In 2009 I lost 60 pounds on Medifast by basically eating around 1000 calories a day. I dropped down to 160 then promptly went back up to 185 when real food was introduced. A couple of years ago I literally searched for “Fitness for Nerds” on Google and up popped Nerd Fitness!

Steve: Congrats on eventually finding your path! What inspired you to get started?

Joni: 20 Seconds of Courage has changed my life. Actually Staci’s story inspired me. I am brave in the professional arena but not so much in the personal one. 20 Seconds of Courage got me into a CrossFit class. I hated CrossFit but loved the weights. I was hooked!

I finally found a trainer who agreed to train me to lift and the rest is history.

As a note I went through a whole list of trainers who thought I was too old, too fat, too all kinds of things before I found one who would train me to powerlift. Feb 8th, 2015 was the first session with my current trainer so it’s really only been a little more than a year (Editor’s Note: originally published in 2016). In the last year, using that 20 seconds over and over, I’ve done the 33 floor stairclimb for the lung association, a 30-obstacle mud run, a 5K and a Push/Pull meet at the State Fair, and Camp Nerd Fitness. What a wonderful, fun, scary year this has been.

Joni doing squats at Camp Nerd Fitness, a great time for all involved.

Steve: This makes me so freaking happy. So, what’s your routine look like now?

Joni: I am leaning out (my trainer is a bodybuilder, that’s his term), so all my food is prepped on the weekends. I eat about 2300 calories a day and am dropping a pound or two a week. 5 days a week I am at the gym around 5:15 AM.

I am doing the Juggernaut Powerlifting Program and very much enjoying the process although I have lots to learn. I am so excited, I’ll be going to a full day fitness clinic in May! Can you imagine the looks when the old, grey haired broad walks in? There is no way that would have happened two years ago.

I firmly believe in discipline as opposed to motivation. I am not in any way motivated to crawl out of bed at 4:45 in the morning to go to the gym, but I sure feel good when I get back home after a workout. Two days a week I have a Yoga guy come to my house and help me with mobility. My hips are very tight and I’ve had one injury and am trying to avoid another one.

On my rest days, I do a dog class with some girlfriends and our various pups. We do agility, obedience, and tricks. On Sunday, weather permitting, I go to fighter practice with SCA. That is a whole other 20 Seconds of Courage story.

And between 8 and 5 I work. Retirement in a couple years I hope! It’s 8:10 now so it’s almost time for bed. It’s Deadlift day tomorrow and I can’t wait!

Steve: Dang Joni, you got ME inspired now. Looking back, after all those years on the “roller coaster,” what do you think it was that made you successful this time?

Joni: Nerd Fitness is important! This community is so safe and powerful. Had there been a Nerd Fitness when I was 20, I would have lived a very different life I think. I wouldn’t have watched the guys at the park wrestling, I would have walked up and asked if I could play too. I would have walked to the back of the gym and learned to lift instead of watching the guys from the corner of my eye while I walked on the treadmill. I would have stopped worrying about what people think 40 years ago.

I am sure that this is the first community or tribe a lot of us have ever experienced. We fit in here.

Joni is a badass who started powerlifting only recently.

Steve: I told you this at camp, but you made me cry when you told me your story. In a good way. So, thanks for being such an awesome example of what’s possible Joni! And, last but not least, do you have any nerd hobbies or interests?

Joni: Well, I am learning to make chainmail armor. It’s very slow going but it’s fun. I’m also learning to fight with sword and shield in SCA. That activity came from Camp and Dakao Do. I used to play WOW for hours every day, but it’s not a priority now and I cancelled my subscription.

“You’re Not Too Old” Spotlight: Jim

Jim is another Rebel who proves age is all mindset.

Steve: Jim, thanks for being awesome and talking with us. Tell us a little bit about you:

Jim: I’m a 56 year old father of 5, grandfather of 6. I’m a Senior Solution Architect for Red Hat. Translation: I’m a technical sales engineer. I work with several sales representatives making sure we sell our customers appropriate software. I support accounts that are based in Florida. Or as one of my friends says, I learn all I can about technology and travel around the country talking about it, which is when you and I first met Steve (in Nashville!).

Steve: Yup! And now I feel like I see you more often than I see some of my other friends! Let’s see…when did you get started with fitness?

Jim: That’s a hard question to answer. I grew up on a farm and played sports through high school. That was followed by getting married and having kids. During my 20’s and 30’s most of my exercise came from my work, or from activities like splitting firewood, remodeling houses, playing pickup basketball, etc.

I got back into the gym in my mid 40’s starting with the typical running and dumbbell exercises.

This cartoon uses free weights for his strength training.

Steve: Most recently, was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change? What inspired you to get started?

Jim: Really getting to a place in my life where I had the time and money to get a gym membership, etc. I wanted to get stronger and be in good shape. At some point we had a personal trainer and I told him I wanted to be able to bench 225#. He laughed at me. Now, my current bench is 370 lbs. That motivated me for a long time to keep working.

I found Nerd Fitness sometime in 2011, and about the same time I had a young co-worker who was a power lifter. I had started doing barbell work on the forum. He told me about a power lifting competition that was a mile from my apartment. I registered and was hooked.

Now I’m hooked because I ‘accidentally’ set the USAPL Florida state record for squat and bench for my age and weight class. This is motivating me to lose some weight so I can drop a class and set 2 more records.

Seriously, how awesome is Jim?

Steve: Holy crap man, what a fantastic example of using a challenge as motivation instead of an excuse. And congrats on the state record!! Screw that trainer – sounds like you can bench two of him now. What’s your routine like now?

Jim: I spend about 1/2 of my work life on the road. Whenever I can, I pick hotels that are near a gym (a 24-hour chain) that I’m a member of. I prefer to go to the gym early in the morning (5 or 6 AM) and workout for an hour or so. I aim to go 5 or 6 times a week, and average about 4. I only do cardio as a warm-up (rowing machine or jump rope or calisthenics).

My in-gym routine varies a lot, since I often don’t know what equipment I am going to have available to me. I try to hit at least 2 of the major lifts every workout, plus whatever accessory stuff is available.

Steve: Welp, looks like Rebels who travel frequently now have lost that excuse too. Thanks for busting that one for me. Anything you aren’t awesome at (that you struggle with)?

Jim: Food is my biggest challenge, especially with the travel. I tend to do really well at breakfast, OK at lunch, and terrible at supper.

Steve: Any advice for Rebels around your age?

Jim: Check your ego at the door. The key to exercising and getting stronger when you are older involves not getting hurt. Anytime I start thinking about beating the kid who just walked up next to me… I unload the weights and go home.

As an older person, I recover and heal slower. I can’t afford a week or month long hiatus in the same way I could when I was younger. Of course, the advantage I have is being more aware of my limits cause I’ve been doing it longer…

Steve: Play to your strengths and be aware of your limits. Any nerd cred you want to share?

Jim: Technology (especially Linux) is my nerdy passion. I realized pretty early in my life that I have some addictive tendencies, so I have always avoided all sorts of computer games. At this stage in my life, I find most fantasy and sci-fi movies pretty boring and repetitive. I live a pretty boring life.

I usually have to use Google to understand most of the challenge themes, gifs and memes on the Nerd Fitness Forums.

Yeah, there are SOME differences between the generations.

Steve: Ha! Well, good on ya for sticking with it even if you don’t get all of the absurd references we put into the content. 

How to Get in Shape at Any Age (Getting Started)

We had people from all ages at Camp Nerd Fitness!!!

Fitness isn’t a privilege for the young, it’s for everyone. Young or old, big or small, pink or green (wait, I’m thinking of Power Rangers).

No matter what color you are, you can get in shape!

Regardless of your age, here’s exactly how to start your fitness journey:

#1) Focus on Your Nutrition

80-90% of the battle of getting in shape rests on how you eat. Seriously. This is why one of the Rules of the Rebellion states “You can’t outrun your fork.” 

If you need help here, I’ve got a few resources for you.

    • Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable: our guide on healthy eating will walk you through building a nutritious plate. We’ll teach you about macronutrient ratios, calorie counts of common food, and how to eyeball portion sizes 
    • How Many Calories Should I Eat: if you have no clue how many calories you need a day, or how many calories are in the food you eat, read this. You don’t have to count calories forever but a grasp of “calories in” and “calories out” will help your nutrition game.
    • How to Determine the Perfect Diet: did you know that all diets work by getting you to eat fewer calories than you are generally used to? We explore this topic and all popular dieting programs in our guide.

#2) Start Strength Training

Young or old, a strong nerd is a healthy nerd. 

Plus, if you want to be able to navigate the physical world, you’ll need muscle. So start a strength training practice.

I have lots of resources for you here too:

    • Beginner Bodyweight Workout: many a Rebel have jump-started their fitness journey with this routine. Our beginner workout can be done in your living room and requires zero equipment (although you might want a milk jug). 

#3) Find Movement You Love

I know. Exercise can suck

Which is why we encourage all our coaching clients to move in a way they enjoy.

Do you like walking? Dancing? Yoga?

Perfect, do more of that.

Using your muscles and raising your heart rate provides all sorts of health benefits.[2] 

Plus, movement of any sort helps raise our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which is just a fancy term for how many calories you burn a day.

The trick is to exercise without even realizing it

If the thought of hiking in the great outdoors excites you, do it. All body movement counts here.

That’s it.

Three simple steps. If you round this out with plenty of sleep you’ll be rocking and rolling with your fitness journey. 

The most important thing you can do now: start.

Take a step today that will propel you forward. 

Go for a walk or try our beginner at-home workout. If you get your heart rate up a little, it’s a total win.

You’ve got this. If Joni and Jim can start a fitness practice, so can you.

Want some options for exact next step? Okay, I’ll give you my best three, but only because you asked nicely. 

Option #1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

Option #2) Good at following instructions? Check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy.

The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles, meal plans, a questing system, and a supportive community.

 

Option #3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get a worksheet for our Beginner Bodyweight Workout (because I really want you to try our no-gym workout). 

Alright, enough from me. 

If you have spent more time than most on this planet, I’d love to hear from you:

Leave a comment, let me know where you’re commenting from and how you found Nerd Fitness.

If you know somebody that’s up in their years and would benefit from this community, we’d love for you to share it.

Help us improve this community by recruiting those who think they’re “too old” to get started. Today is as good a day as any to start making changes.

-Steve

PS: if this article inspired you, use the motivation to help establish systems in your life. A calendar will help a lot here. 

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Photo Source: Gardener.

GIF Source: Dumbbell, Summer, Power Rangers

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