In the past 3 years I have gone from a solid 185 lbs that surfed several times a week, ran 4 miles daily & ran marathons to a 215 lb sedentary desk jockey.

I am trying to get back on the wagon for the past several months but my recovery is nil.

I'm at a loss on how to create a calorie deficit. I consume about 1500 calories a day. The rest I need to burn via exercise but if I do anything strenuous more than twice a week I am sore & weary for days at a time.

Thought I'd start slow with long walks but its been weeks. If I try to run or bike I will be sore & weary for days afterwards killing any sense of continuity. Even the daily strolls give me knee aches after a few days.

Seems in my old age (39) I am falling apart.

What are resources with tips to aid in recovery (for a working family man)?

I cant do specialized training programs or diets. I have a narrow timebox in the morning & evening before/after family & work take over.

  • First, 39 isn't old. Second, simply follow Berin's advice and gradually improve on it. If you think you're getting old, your body will start aging and falling apart. If you wish to maintain your youthfulness, keep reminding yourself that you're young. And gradually build up your strength. By the way, start your day with 5 pushup reps and gradually increase it. Add pullups as required. Incorporate activities in your daily routine. Dance! :) Aug 12, 2014 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


As a 42 year old man myself, I can relate. One thing about getting older is that you have to manage your recovery better, and be more strict on how you address your exercise and nutrition regimen. You need to start by figuring out what the first thing you want to address is:

  • Start with what your desire is--lose fat, get "fit"
  • Decide how to measure your current fitness
  • Set short term realistic goals to help you improve the measurements.

For example, losing 5 lbs of fat is a good short term goal if you have a way of measuring body fat. If not, go by total body weight.

I have found that as I got older and heavier, high impact activities like running/jogging are really not going to work for me. Some tips from Alex Viada for guys over 185 lbs include:

  • Forget barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Body weight alone requires well cushioned soles.
  • If you want to run, get outfitted with proper running shoes.
  • Run on pavement or grass, not sidewalks
  • Biking can work, but build it up a little at a time.

For myself, I found that strength training allows me to improve all my health markers, is remarkably low impact, and helps increase my work capacity. I started strength training at around 39.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that you have some unrealistic expectations of what you can do right now--particularly on a severe Calorie deficit. You're 3 years away from your former endurance exercise self (arguably with a much younger body). You are going to have to rebuild a little at a time. Don't try to rush back to where you were. You may or may not be able to get back to your former athletic abilities, but it's definitely not going to be overnight.

  • Figure out how much a 215 lb man at your height needs to eat for exercising 3 days a week. NOTE: you are going for lightly active to start with. There's several Calorie calculators out there, just pick one to get started with.
  • Take 500 calories off of that number (aim to average 1 lb a week)
  • Eat the same amount every day no matter how much you exercise.
  • Keep your protein up at .82 g per pound
  • Keep fat at 20-30% of your overall food
  • All the rest of your calories go to carbs (preferably with a decent amount of fiber)
  • Readjust every 10 lbs you lose.

This is going to be a lot more sensible than going all the way down to 1500 calories. By a rough guestimate using 5'10" (average for the US) as your height I came up with 2608 calories to maintain, and 2108 Calories to lose a pound a week. Using that you would see a dietary plan that looks like this:

  • 2100 Calories a day
  • 175g of protein a day
  • 50g of fat a day
  • 235g of carbs a day

That will help fuel your exercise better. Carbs are pretty important to keep your energy up so you aren't digging a deeper fatigue hole than you need to.

Next, choose your activities. I highly recommend doing some strength training and some cardiovascular work. Done intelligently, they can help each other out.

  • The first week, keep the cardio down at 5 minutes at a work pace. Use a form that is fairly low impact at first, or get the proper shoes.
  • Each week, add 5 minutes until you get to 20-30.
  • 3x a week do strength work. Focus on one major compound exercise, and 2 assistance exercises. Each week just try to add 5 lbs until you get to a satisfactory level of strength.

A reasonable goal for someone who just wants to be fit is to be able to squat and bench press their body weight, and deadlift 1.5x their body weight. More than this isn't going to make you better at running or whatever other exercise you want to emphasize.

Notice, how we start off very light, and build on it from there. The older you get, the more sensitive your joints are going to be to impact. That means you're going to have to be a lot more conservative in building up your activity levels.

  • This is great advice. Thanks! I was following a regimen of weight exercises but stopped. I was looking like a football player. I was adding bulk, weight was increasing & shirts felt tighter. This is when I thought I'd go the get lean by caloric deficit then add muscle route rather than add muscle first. First order is to get real shoes. The converse I wear have no cushioning. I'll try weights again but lower weight at higher reps perhaps? Thinking about it its true that weight training did not fatigue me terribly or beat me up like doing cardio does.
    – Ivo
    Aug 13, 2014 at 14:14

The best natural supplement I can recommend is OMG-3 (3 gr/day). This would help you out to reduce the inflammation, and the sore of your body.

As a former athlete, you would know ice therapy is your best friend. Do not forget to put some ice at your knees after exercise.

Finally, try to do mobility sessions. Focus on core balance and flexibility. Even if you can do sole mobility sessions, try to spent the last 10-15min training your skills.


@Berin has given you a very good answer so I will just add that this question/answer about getting back in shape will give you some additional information.

As far as your knee pain, you may find that a pair of Nordic Walking Poles can help to lessen the impact on your knees. They can also increase your calorie burn by about 20% over regular walking. Aquatic exercises can give you either cardio or resistance workouts (or both) without stressing your knees. Cycling is another way to get a good workout without impact.

A regular daily stretching program will go a long way toward reducing your aches and pains. The consistency of the program makes gradual changes over time. If you have specific areas of tightness or aching, using a foam roller after exercise can be helpful.

Other than that, as has already been pointed out start slowly and keep up the effort. You may also want to journal what you are eating and how it affects the way you feel. For me, reducing carbs/sugars made a big difference in how my body feels. And as far as family, try to combine your efforts with a healthy lifestyle for your family with active outdoor and indoor activities. Sports, an exercise ball, wii-fit, or xbox fitness games can make fun and active family time. Good luck.

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