Improving after 40. Redefining “Peak Fitness”

Tiffany Kari
Tiffany Kari

Tiffany Kari is that all too rare person who shows and shares her joy and zest for life on her face, in her words, and especially with her actions every day.  She puts her best into everything but gets her greatest enjoyment in helping others achieve their best. ~Malcolm Macaulay

Well, I’m not 40 yet (depending on when you read this article,) but today I’m just over a month away.  I can tell you that I still plan to work hard and expect to see improvements in speed and strength; a mindset and possibility I wouldn’t have thought possible in my 20’s or early 30’s. 

Not very long ago, most people would have agreed that an athlete reached peak fitness in their early 20’s if male and early 30’s if female. Thanks to great research, we now see this may not be the case. (There are many studies available with a quick Google search so I won’t bore you with data.) New inspiring stories pop up weekly in our feeds about 50-year-olds with PRs and 60-year-olds crushing the fastest known times. 

How does this pertain to you? 

I think we need to take a step back and define peak fitness. Truly, what is it? What does peak fitness even look like on you? 

Reaching peak fitness is a highly challenging process that requires long-term commitment, focus, and sacrifice. It’s said that only a few people reach it. A traditional example of peak fitness maybe a 20-year-old runner who ran a fast 5K, then never matched that time again.  Was that truly his peak fitness?  Maybe if peak fitness only measures his 5K PR.

I prefer to define and see it less black and white. 

In my opinion peak fitness is not only for the elites, or something someone experiences once. Rather peak fitness is something we can all achieve when we put focus and drive into it. I don’t think one has to assume that their very best times in a race should be considered peak fitness. Heck, who knew Eliud Kipchoge would run a 1:59:40 marathon! Yet again, maybe he could actually run a 1:58. Do we say he’s at peak fitness or not? It all depends on your definition. 

There are several times in my own life I’ve made mention that, “I’m the fittest I’ve ever been!” 

The first time I was 27 years old.  I had begun competing in the bikini division in bodybuilding. I was blown away by my body’s transformation for that first show. I lost 35lbs and never looked better (in my mind). I couldn’t imagine being “more fit”.  I won the Minnesota State Competition in Minneapolis. Next, I won my division overall at the Upper Midwest Competition in North Dakota. At age 29, I was off to the National competition in Chicago. Did the image of my body speak to peak fitness? One could argue. Sure, I won overall at a couple of competitions, but I didn’t even have the energy to run more than 5 miles for weeks before and after the competition. I know for a fact my body wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed. My exterior showed one thing, but my interior another. So was that really peak fitness? 

I spent most of the winter training for spring bodybuilding shows, allowing time to transition to running and triathlon training in the early summer months. At 29 years old, I competed in my first 70.3 triathlon held in Texas. I somehow earned a spot at Worlds that day. I didn’t even know it was a qualifying race until I crossed the finish line! Worlds came and went the following year. With all the training put into this new distance, I thought for sure that was “peak fitness”. But was I?

At age 34 I got talked into attempting to qualify for Boston (beer was involved). I hadn’t ran a marathon before or even considered until two weeks before my first. The window was closing for Boston. I had three weeks to find a qualifying race, complete it and qualify. Long story short I qualified and before I knew it I was off to Boston. I pulled off a 3:07 at the Boston Marathon that year.  I had never trained like that before. Prior there was no way I could’ve run that far or at least pull off that time.My body wasn’t as sculpted as the photos portrayed me in my bodybuilding days, but I was a different kind of fit. Peak fitness or close to it? 

At age 35,  Lightspeed Lift systems came into my life.  I continued to improve greatly in all distances of running races and triathlon competitions.  Eager to see what I could do in the marathon, I hired a coach and transitioned somewhat away from the Lightspeed so I could stay true to the traditional training plan created for me. Unfortunately, I found myself injured and overtrained. My body was not at a peak fitness place.  I worried that time was running out to reach my goals. 

Luckily I’ve personally learned over the years that when we struggle, suffer, and find ourselves in uncertainty, there is always a silver lining to be found if we care to look for it. The struggle can be the catalyst to an amazing life unimaged prior. We just have to be patient and remain present. Although my recent setbacks were dark, in hindsight I can honestly say I gained so much more than I lost. 

The longer the injury or struggle the greater the chance for growth right? 

By working through to my recent setbacks I: 

  • Became finely tuned in on what I could do and not what I couldn’t.
  • Became mentally stronger and more resilient.
  • Regained my love for open water swimming and reconnected with some of my favorite people with the same love. 
  • Bought a gravel bike which connected me with another great friend and became possibly the most bike fit I’ve ever been! 
  • Let myself get talked into signing up for Anna McGee’s virtual weight lifting classes which I remain committed to four days a week and now find myself stronger than ever before! I’ll be a  lifer!
  • Signed up for the Luke Humphry 5k virtual training group and just ran the fastest 5k of my life! 
  • Started mountain biking (as much as it scares me) which is an activity I can share with my partner. Turns out I love it!

For the reasons mentioned above and more, I view my current self in a state of peak fitness. That’s not to say there’s not more to come. Not in my definition. 

Regardless of the day's definition of peak fitness, I believe we can all have it at any time in our life. I believe the definition can be ever-changing giving us all an opportunity to push for the improvement of self. For me, it’s more of a mentality than just specific results. I believe“peak fitness” wears many coats and may look different on us as we grow more mature.  

In closing, I must add that due to the LightSpeed Lift system's ability to literally transform my speed and endurance with less chance of injuries I bought one for my home. I see it as the gateway to my future goals and dreams of reaching yet another form of “peak fitness” in my 40’s and beyond.  

With that said my wish for you is for the strength to press on, the ability to dream, the desire to grow, and for the commitment to never stop learning and playing. 

All the best,

Tiffany Kari

Tiffany Kari is the "Fly-Gal" seen in LightSpeed Lift advertising. She is a close friend and staunch advocate for LightSpeed Lift. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Tiffany!

Tiffany FLYING on an LSX-500! More information about this system below!