Q. I am 38. In the past year or so I haven't been bouncing back after workouts like I used to; I feel sore longer. I usually do cardio for one hour a day at a moderate level and maybe once a week or so at a higher level. What should I be doing to recover better from the workouts?

Q. I am 38. In the past year or so I haven't been bouncing back after workouts like I used to; I feel sore longer. I usually do cardio for one hour a day at a moderate level and maybe once a week or so at a higher level. What should I be doing to recover better from the workouts?

A. This might sound strange coming from me, but have you tried not working out? A day off isn't a sin. It's a necessity. Just ask 45-year-old W. Hodding Carter, whose new book "Off the Deep End" chronicles his decision to train for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. Trials are this weekend, and it's safe to guess he won't qualify, but he is speedier now than he was more than two decades ago as a Division III All-American.

Carter's secret: That recovery day. "A recovery day means I don't do anything strenuous. My heart rate is always below 140, and I don't lift," he explains.

Those days are on his schedule three times a week now.

You'll get similar advice from Robbie Hebert, director of sports performance at the Edge Sports Performance Center in Roanoke, Va. He tells his more, ahem, mature clients not to schedule workouts back-to-back, and he's a stickler for a dynamic warm-up and static stretching for the cool-down.

He also advises exercisers not to skimp on proper hydration and nutrition. And if you're not getting massages? Do something about that. (Carter pays his kids a quarter a minute to rub out his muscle kinks.)

Just don't sit back too long. Aging doesn't give you a pass on exercise. As Hebert says, "If you can work out, you'll feel young."