Why am I so much sore-er now that I’ve turned 40?

People tell you that it’s going to happen but you don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you.

Why is that? Why do we think that somehow our body is a special snowflake, impervious to the effects of aging?

I remember hearing my sisters talking about how ‘everything changed’ once they turned 40. And clearly, I knew that some stuff was going to happen – that I’d get wrinkles, generally just look older, that where I stored fat might change, and I’d heard that it was more difficult to lose body fat as we age.

But nothing really prepared me for how freakin’ sore I would be after I would take a week off from working out.


As I think about my younger self, I’m reminded of the quote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’m jealous of the days that I used to be able to strength train at full force after taking a week or two off. Sure, I was sore afterwards, but now, compared to the debilitating soreness I get now, I think, “oh, wasn’t that soreness cute. ;)”

When we’re younger, our body just is able to recover faster. If we injure ourselves, we just heal faster.

And here’s the kicker: scientists don’t know exactly why it takes our body takes longer to heal. But at least they’ve confirmed that it does.

My mind says that I'm in my 20s... but my body says, 'Yeah, you wish!'
My mind says that I’m in my 20s… but my body says, ‘Yeah, you wish!’

Post 40

Seriously. If I take a week off of strength training, and just hop back into my ‘normal’ routine, I am seriously debilitated for about a week. You know that I’m-so-sore-that-I-can’t-sit-down-on-the-toilet-without-assistance feeling? Yeah, that.

It’s like the demon wrath of the pain gods have rained upon me for days!

When I go on vacation, I typically don’t strength train. I have, but it’s the exception versus the rule. Last year we went to Dubai on vacation. I worked out while we were away solely for avoiding feeling awful once I resumed my normal routine.


DOMS is an acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. And it’s the soreness that you feel after you’ve over exerted your muscles. It’s not isolated to weight training. It can also happen through gardening, housework, or play. And as you get older, you realize that. Sometimes the stupidest thing will make you sore.

What happens, is that your muscles get tiny tears in them. So, basically you’re injuring your muscles through strength training. But wait. It gets better.

When you are strength training, the tears occur during the eccentric, or relaxing, phase of your movement.

Let’s use squats as an example. Surprisingly, these tears don’t happen when you’re pushing up (and it’s difficult) but rather when you’re lowering into the squatting position (sitting back) and it seems easier.

That’s why you want to lower the weight with control. You don’t just want to flop the weight down.

Wait. What? But I don’t want to be sore!

Although being sore isn’t a true sign of progress, when you get those tiny tears in your muscles, your body responds by repairing the tears, and reinforces it with additional muscle fiber.

The relaxing phase of the exercise is what makes you stronger.

Preventing Soreness

I think most folks like being a little sore. Just enough so that you’re reminded that you did something, but not so much that you are having a hard time functioning.

Side note: Why is it that when I’m sore, I start to get lazy. Do you do this too?

Like, I won’t want to put a fork in the utensil tray of the dishwasher – I’ll just kind of flick it in there, hoping that it will make it.

It never does.

Then, I have to work harder, and bend over more to dig the fork out of the bottom of the dishwasher…when I should have just put it in the utensil tray properly in the first place.


So, what do you do?

Now that I’m over 40, I train differently than my pre-40 days. When I come back from vacation, I tend to use lighter weights, but still train in such a way that I’m still getting a good workout. I strength train faster, and focus more on conditioning versus strength.

Where I normally train for strength twice per week, and train for cardiovascular conditioning 2-3 times per week; when I’m trying to ease back into working out, the days that I do train, I’ll focus on conditioning – which totally DOES NOT mean that I do cardio.

How do you train for cardiovascular conditioning without ‘doing cardio’?

I integrate cardio moves in with my strength training. I might still run, but instead of trudging along at a slower pace for 30 minutes to an hour, I perform sprints of 30-45 seconds.

If you’re interested in learning this way of working out, you can download some sample workouts HERE.

As we age, we need to train differently. We need to respect that our body needs more rest and recovery than it did when we were in our 30s. It’s just a fact of life, and we are all going through it. None of us is impervious to the effects of aging, although treating your body and mind with respect through eating properly, moving daily, managing your stress and getting enough sleep will help.

And maybe listening – really listening – to those folks who are older than us when they try to prepare us for what’s going to happen next. We should believe them.