By The STRONG Editors
It’s safe to say the term “over the hill” is about as old and tired as the image it conjures of women over 40. Even headlines that exclaim things like “Fit After 40” are all verbal shortcuts that seem to have warped how we view what it truly means to age—especially for women (as if it’s a surprise we can do a push-up or squat, slay a red carpet, or be total babes past a certain age).
But for celebrity trainer Kira Stokes, there are no shortcuts. That’s why she’s featured on the cover of our September/October “STRONG AT ANY AGE” issue. At 44, she’s completely killing the game as a top trainer with fans all over the globe. Her science-backed workout technique, The Stoked Method®, attracts athletes of all ages including devoted clients like actresses Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars) and Candace Cameron Bure (Full House/Fuller House); CBS This Morning anchor, Norah O’Donnell; and The View co-host Sunny Hostin. Among that sampling of some of Stokes’ most well-known celeb clients, the ages range from 31-49 (Hostin turns 50 in October.) Stokes, along with her buff arms, six-pack abs, and infectious energy, continues to prove staying fit at any age doesn’t have to be an uphill battle.
Some vital Stoked tips for training strong in every decade:
1. Think Differently
Don’t let outdated views of aging dictate your goals. “One of the first things I always say about reaching midlife is that you have to embrace it,” says Stokes. “I was thrilled to hit 40 and it is personally my best decade so far. That midlife span no longer fits the stereotype of steady decline mentally and physically. I see people getting better and taking wellness even more seriously. That said, whether you’re in midlife or about to get there, your body does experience changes. Metabolism slows, estrogen levels drop, we start to lose muscle mass, and you can be more prone to insulin insensitivity and sometimes unexplainable fatigue. Midlife is not the time to slow down. You actually need to exercise even more regularly and learn to train smarter.”
Stokes suggests high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in combination with strength-training. Followers of The Stoked Method get a solid helping of HIIT in combination with strength endurance workouts. (You can get more of Stokes’ method when her “Kira Stokes Fit” app debuts this fall 2018.) The Stoked Method emphasizes using weights and bodyweight movements mixed with cardio. She suggests structuring workouts as a “flow,” so compound movements always complement one after another, helping you build endurance, reduce injury risk, and prevent you from flaking out on your goals.
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2. Get Sneaky with Cardio
If Rome wasn’t built in a day, your body won’t be either. Find ways to fit small chunks of exercise into your everyday life—especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you can’t do all 60 minutes of a workout at once, break it up into 30-minute windows instead.
One of Stokes’ signature “sneaky cardio” moves is jumping rope. “Jumping rope is key for interval training with the way I design workouts,” she says. “Not only does it build endurance and help with post-workout recovery, but it also strengthens joints and boosts oxygen levels to improve your blood circulation. Jumping rope for just 10 minutes can be the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile!”
3. Keep It Form-Focused
“If you aren’t training with proper form, you’re going to hurt yourself or completely defeat the purpose of training goals,” says Stokes. Whether you are new to training (it’s never too late), making a comeback, or are a tried-and-true warrior—form always needs to be the benchmark of your game. This is when “training smarter” comes into play. As we age, it’s harder to recover from injury. Train to avoid setbacks.
At the end of a run or brisk walk on recovery days, try throwing in a few form-focused moves. The “Sunrise/Sunset Stoked Flow” combination is a great way to put your brain into form and score some core endurance points. It’s also a solid flow for hip mobility, along with shoulder strength and stability:
-Side plank sweep/hip dip (staggered stance for a more continuous flow)
-One-arm pounce position
Practice slow, controlled, mindful movements for a real test of your form. Aim for three sets of 45-60 seconds on each side. You can drop to your hands and feet and do this move anywhere. In fact, Stokes prefers it on one of her favorite park benches near her Larchmont, NY home.
4. Get Stoked Every Day
While the length of time spent working out per week depends on the individual, Stokes encourages her clients to aim for 4-5 days of cardio and strength per week, which includes an emphasis on fine-tuning specific muscle groups. “I find that sticking to this general formula is a great way to stay motivated and not lose momentum with training goals. It also allows you sufficient recovery time,” explains Stokes. “Keep your body guessing. Muscle confusion is a key element of The Stoked Method.”
On rest days, practice active recovery methods like a brisk 20-minute walk, light run, or restorative yoga. Movement prevents soreness between heavier workouts and assists recovery. Even on “rest” days, your body is still getting Stoked! Stamina, strength, endurance, and flexibility are daily commitments whether taking giant or small leaps towards goals.
5. Add Some ZZZs to Your Reps
Stokes is constantly in motion, so it’s hard to imagine her ever sleeping. But getting proper rest is one of her simplest secrets to aging well. She says a surefire way of undermining health goals, especially as we age, is not getting enough rest. “From just an exercise perspective alone, never forget the simple fact that when you are strength training, you create small tears in your muscles. You repair and grow stronger muscles while you rest, so it’s important to give your body time to recover and come back stronger,” says Stokes. “If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you can also sabotage weight loss goals, increase risk of hypertension, disrupt concentration, and even cause your skin to age faster.” Studies show that when you don’t get enough sleep, hunger hormones increase, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Lack of sleep also impacts your performance, response time, memory, and other cognitive functions. Stokes says, “Just remember, catching zzz’s can help you prevent disease.” Try using an app on your phone to help regulate sleep and wake times.
6. Get Stoked About Snacks
“One of the top questions I always get is, ‘What do you eat?’” Stokes shares. “I like to preface my response to this question with the fact that I’m not a dietitian and no matter how great of a trainer you are, you should always suggest to people seeking advice that they defer to those experts for professional nutrition advice and guidance.”
But a few quick tips Stokes is willing to share:
She is a self-proclaimed snacking queen. You can find examples of “Stoked Snacks” on her social media accounts for fuel throughout the day. “Try thinking of meals as well-portioned snacks rather than full-blown feasts. I try to avoid letting myself get to the point of hunger or feeling too stuffed from meals. I find that feeding metabolism throughout the day keeps it revved. I ‘snack’ about 6-8 times throughout the course of a day,” says Stokes. “As we age we do experience hormonal shifts that can zap our energy, but you want to avoid starving yourself or going for quick, sugar-filled energy grabs. Balance plates with lean protein, tons of vegetables, and save starchier foods for earlier in the day. That’s energy you need to metabolize throughout the day, but not at night. Another solid Stoked tip? Fuel for the day, not for sleep.”
Snacks don’t have to be food alone. Stokes also refers to movement breaks throughout the day as “snacks.” “Remember, every rep counts and the world is our gym. Take the stairs, do push-ups off a bench, dips off a chair, lunge around the grocery store, perform glute bridges while watching TV. There are opportunities to move (and snack) anytime, anywhere.”