Two weeks ago I shared the first six of twelve guidelines that I believe are essential for creating a successful midlife exercise program.
One that you can enjoy today, tomorrow and for years to come. If you missed that post, click over and get yourself up to speed before you continue reading below… there’s nothing worse than only getting half the story 😉
Tips for creating a successful midlife exercise program: Part 2
- Pay attention to aches and pains. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something might not be quite right. Ignore it and it’s likely to come back and bite you in the butt (sometimes quite literally).
Long gone are the days where ‘working through the pain’ is an indication of your dedication to exercise.
Much of the exercise-related pain mid-lifers feel is joint-related. Knees, hips, shoulders and ankles no longer move as freely, or with as great a range of motion as they used to. And reduced bone density (osteopenia), muscles that are chronically tight and shortened (hello ‘sitting disease’) and previous injuries that may have resulted in compromised movement patterns may also play a role.
Your best strategy is avoid injury entirely. Stop when something hurts. Know the difference between a little post-workout delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and true pain. Seek professional advice to diagnose and treat the problem. And be consistent with any re-hab routines they prescribe.
Note, if you’ve already integrated my first 6 guidelines to creating a successful midlife exercise program into your routine, you’re well on your way to remaining injury-free. You’ll find more suggestions for preventing workout-related injuries here >> Tips for preventing workout related injuries
- Take the long term view. It’s taken you half your life to get the body you have. There’s no exercise program in existence that will completely change your physique in time for your daughter’s wedding, your 30th high school reunion or your next beach holiday.
Improving health and fitness is a long term, life-long process. Even if you’re incredibly consistent with exercise and nutrition, the physical results of your efforts may not start to be visible for months.
If you’re using pounds lost or circumference measures to access your progress and those numbers don’t change in the first month or so of a new exercise program, you’ll likely get discouraged and give up. Better to pay attention to the myriad other benefits of exercise and solid nutrition; more energy, better sleep, improved libido, positive outlook on life, easier movement during day-to-day activities etc.
I like to describe my fitness philosophy as ‘training for the sport of life’. Challenging my body to move in complex and difficult ways so that I’m capable of continuing to participate in the non-workout activities (kayaking with my kids, hiking with my friends, back-country camping expeditions with my husband) I love for many years to come
- Plan for setbacks. When was the last time in your life everything went according to plan? Something always comes up and gets in your way of progress. Like holidays, or birthday dinners out, or a sick husband/child/pet or a busy quarter at work.
Rather than letting these obstacles derail you, expect them to happen and make a plan for how you’ll deal with them ahead of time.
For example, include a ‘flex’ day in your workout schedule. If you have to miss a planned workout, do it on your ‘flex’ day instead. More suggestions for overcoming obstacles while creating a successful midlife exercise program >> Overcoming obstacles to exercise and healthy eating
- Enlist support. No woman is an island. Just like we rely on family and friends for help in other areas of our life (e.g., raising our children and advancing our careers), we need the support of those close to us when attempting to make healthy changes to our lifestyle.
Some of my favourite support systems?
- A good, old-fashioned ‘fitness buddy’. Someone who will go to the gym with you, check in to see that you’re on track with nutrition and support and encourage you when you’re having doubts. Of course, you’ll do the same for her (or him) when she needs it.
- Group fitness classes, both small and large. In addition to having a build-in support group, you’ll also get the benefit of having a professional design your workouts. And the positive energy of a good group fitness class just can’t be beat.
- Online fitness and support groups. Help is only a keystroke away, any hour of the day or night. One of the most-appreciated elements of the online fitness course I offer is the private Facebook community. Participants check in daily, sharing their successes and frustrations with one another. A perfect accountability tool.
- Back up your exercise program with a solid nutrition plan. As much as many of us wish it weren’t true, in order to truly see results you need to be working as hard in the kitchen as you are in the gym.
Think about it. You need to spend an hour on the elliptical to expend 600 calories. Bet it doesn’t take you nearly as long to consume a grande pumpkin spice latte and a cranberry bliss bar….
Your body requires high quality carbs, lots of lean protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to support your strength training and cardio sessions. Give it what it needs and you’ll not only reach your aesthetic goals more quickly, you’ll also feel a whole heck of a lot better.
Not quite sure what a good midlife diet looks like? >> Hormones and weight gain at midlife: why nutrition matters even more now
- Make time for rest and recovery. A common response to not getting results in the gym is to go to the gym more often. While this may have worked for you in your 20’s and 30’s, it’s not the best strategy for a mid-life exerciser. Why not?
In addition to increasing your risk of injury (see above), it may also increase your body’s production of cortisol (aka the ‘stress’ hormone). High levels of circulating cortisol, combined with lower estrogen and progesterone set the stage for fat storage, in particular, the middle-of-the-body type. Add in a little insulin resistance courtesy of a high sugar diet and your ‘mummy-tummy’ may turn into full blown ‘menopot’.
Keeping workouts shorter and scheduling rest days between heavy strength days is a smarter way to exercise in midlife. Just think of all the other things you’ll be able to accomplish in your newly found spare time!
Did I miss something? Something that’s been instrumental to your midlife exercise success?
I welcome your comments below!