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Getting Back in Shape After Fifty – A Complete Guide

Getting back into shape is an exciting time.  Just envisioning walking or running around with minimal fatigue or pain can be invigorating.  How many times have you thought to yourself, “if only I had the flexibility, strength, or mobility that I had ten years ago, everything would be so much better.”  Well guess what, you can!paddleboarding

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  This same wisdom applies to health and fitness.  Of course it’s optimal to always live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, but if that hasn’t been the case for the past month, year, or decade, you have the power to make a change.  Now is the time to make a change.

Understanding Willpower as a Finite Resource

On your fitness journey, it’s essential that you understand the difference between willpower and habit. It will make your life so much easier.

mountain top

Using Willpower to Get Back in Shape

There’s nothing quite like taking your pair of running shoes or workout gear on it’s first training session.  You’ve been reading health and fitness articles for weeks, perhaps you even made the painstaking decision to sign up for your first 5k as a motivator to get back in shape, and now you’re ready to go out on the first training session.

It’s an exciting time, no doubt.  Chances are you’ll remember those first few workouts in your newfound training program for weeks and months to come.  Maybe you’re not even preparing for an event, but are training so you can move around with youthful vigor and spend higher quality time with your loved ones. Envisioning living life without the day-to-day pains that have crept up over the years can provide you with the energy to make great progress with your fitness.

When just getting started, improving your fitness is exciting because it’s a new experience, and a change to the routine you’ve become accustomed to.  But then, a conflict gets in the way.

When Excuses Get in the Way

What about the times when it’s the busy time of year at work, you have a packed schedule, and the in-laws are in town?  You work long hours, come home exhausted, and still have to run errands, prepare dinner, and do the laundry.  Don’t forget about those favorite Netflix episodes you can’t miss either!

Well what happens when it’s the dead of winter, it’s freezing outside, it’s rained or snowed for weeks on end, and your mood is as grey and bleak as the weather?  Thinking about lacing up the running shoes and getting a workout in may not seem quite as exhilarating as it did during those first few sessions.  When we rely on willpower to achieve our fitness goals, we can tend to burn out, because we only have so much of it.  When conflicts come up, our fitness routine can be one of the first things to go out the window.

Think of your willpower like a tank of gas.  When you continually use it, the tank depletes and needs to be refilled.  Our willpower is a finite resource – throughout the day, all of the decisions we make slowly deplete the tank.  When it runs really low, you may experience what’s known as decision fatigue.  Have you ever told yourself you’d eat healthy, but then find yourself eating fast food after a long day at work because it seemed so convenient?  If so, you’ve experienced first hand the challenges of relying on your willpower to achieve your goals.

roadblock

The Power of Habit in Terms of Fitness

If our willpower is a finite resource, and we know that our schedule is busy, we’re short on time, and still want to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, then how to we go about getting back into shape?  The answer is simple: fitness needs to become a habit.

It’s essential that you make health and fitness a part of your every day routine.  It needs to become a habit if there’s any chance of you following through over an extended time frame.  Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  Think to yourself about one of the habits you have in your life that has a negative affect.  Drinking, smoking, or watching too much television, perhaps?  Now think of one that has a positive affect.  Is it walking, running, biking, or lifting weights?

Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  When fitness becomes a habit, it leads to better health, longer lives, and more energy.

How to Make Fitness a Habit

Starting small is the key.  You want to focus on the process rather than the outcome.  If we set small and sustainable goals, then fitness will become a habit after a few months of consistent effort.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

Mary went to the doctor for her annual check up. Her doctor told her that her cholesterol levels were elevated, and she needed to make a change.  Her doctor asks about her diet and exercise, and they have a frank discussion about her lifestyle.  Mary was honest and told her doctor that her schedule always seems so busy, and that she feels there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all her errands done as it is.

When she eats sometimes its an easy meal that requires little to no cooking. Mary’s doctor acknowledges how difficult it can be to fit everything you want done into a day, however he also recommended that she try to eat more balanced meals and exercise more regularly.

walking

Getting Started

How should Mary take her doctor’s recommendation into practice? She can make fitness a habit by starting with small, achievable and measurable goals.

Mary is early to bed and early to rise. She commits to going on a walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes, after her morning coffee, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The first couple days into her routine, she finds that it’s an adjustment, but loves the sense of accomplishment she feels after executing on her goals.

Six weeks into her routine, Mary has now learned to love her weekly walks.  She finds that on days she goes walking, she has more energy throughout the day.  It’s a time that she’s able to exercise, and it’s also a time she’s able to reflect on all the great progress she’s made.  What’s better, is she’s actually met a few of her neighbors who are also up early each day, and she’s shared her goals with them.

Over time, Mary decides to add more days to her walking routine, and after 6 months, she finds herself walking almost every day.  It’s become something that she looks forward to each day, and it’s a habit that’s she’s grown to love.  Walking also inspires her to make healthier food choices, because she wants to fuel her body with proper nutrients that taste great and make her feel even better.

All of the great progress Mary made was the result of starting with a small and achievable goal, walking for thirty minutes two times per week.

Finding Your Why

In our hypothetical example, Mary wanted to get back into shape because her doctor discussed with her the risks of her high cholesterol and sedentary lifestyle.  Thinking about her family and loved ones, she knew that she owed it to herself and to them to make a change, to take a step in the right direction.

Think about the loved ones that you have in your life.  Your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends and colleagues.  Think about the activities that you loved participating in when you were younger and had vibrant health and energy.  Envision ten years from now, how you’ll look, feel, and act if you continue on the same trajectory that you’re currently on.  What is it that truly excites you?  What is it that motivates you?  What’s one of the driving forces in your life that you care about above all else?

As Simon Sinek explains in his groundbreaking Ted Talk, Start with Why, people make decisions based on their “why.”  They don’t just choose to get back in shape, they choose to live a better lifestyle because their health is suffering.  They make changes because they want to be around for their family for longer.  They make positive habits because they want to meet their great grandchildren.  Watch the 18 minute talk to develop a better understanding of why we make the decisions we do.  I promise you it’s time well spent.

The Pillars of Getting Back Into Shape

Instead of focusing on “getting back into shape,” it’s helpful to break fitness down into smaller sub categories so you can make progress on each of the different pillars.

pillars

Pillar Number One: Exercise

Exercise is the first pillar to focus on in your fitness journey.  The great news is exercise is a broad term that encompasses a whole range of activities.  It could be taking a walk around the neighborhood like our hypothetical Mary.  It could also be playing tennis, golfing, practicing yoga, or taking dance classes.

Make it Enjoyable

Whatever activity or exercise you choose, make it enjoyable!  It’s so much easier to stick to a routine and activity that you enjoy, rather than one you can’t stand.  Think about which activities you’ve practiced in your life that invigorate you.  Was there a sport you played, or an activity that you loved that stands out above all the rest?  How would it feel to have the energy and flexibility to participate again?  Whatever the activity is that you’ve loved, use it as a way to get back into shape.

Make it Consistent

Build your exercise or activity into your routine.  Whether it’s a daily practice, or just a few times a week, be as specific as possible with when you will do it.  That way, it’s not something that you rely purely on willpower to achieve.  When it’s in your schedule each day or each week, it’s much easier to stick to the process.  Over time, it will become something that you look forward to.  It’s time that you’re dedicating for yourself, so you can live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Get an Exercise Buddy

Everyone has days where they feel low energy, low motivation, or are just simply feeling under the weather.  Having a partner that holds you accountable on your journey can be an invaluable motivator.  On days that you just don’t feel like sticking the the process, a companion can help you get through that workout or activity.  Sometimes your buddy might not feel like sticking to their workout – then the tables are turned and you are able to serve as a motivator for them.

Evaluate Progress on your Goals

When you’re as specific as possible on the activities you use to get back into shape, it helps you track progress over a given time frame.  Keep a diary, journal, or log of the workouts you complete, that way weeks and months down the line, you can look back on the progress you’ve made.

Pillar Number Two: Diet

cutting board

Our bodies are comprised of the foods that we put into our body.  “We are what we eat,” sounds cliche, but has a lot of truth to it.  When we consume foods that are high in sugar and low in nutrients, it doesn’t give us the proper fuel we need, and our health suffers from it.  When we eat a diet full of vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean meats, our diet helps support our health and fitness goals.

Practice Portion Control

At the end of the day, weight gain and weight loss comes from the amount of calories we consume.  When we take in more calories than we burn each day, then our body stores the excess as body fat.  On the other hand, when we burn more energy than we consume, our body uses some of the fat stores to make up for the deficit, meaning we lose weight.  Weight can and weight loss all comes down to total caloric intake over time.

Listen to your body each time you eat.  What’s key is eating until you are satisfied, not until you absolutely can’t consume another bite.  If you feel so full after a meal that you need to lay down or take a nap before doing anything else, you’ve eaten too much.

Adequately Hydrate

Many of us are chronically dehydrated.  Water comprises about 60% of our body, and is critical to vibrant health and energy.  An easy method to follow is the rule of 8.  We need about 8, 8oz glasses of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration.  It amounts to about half of a gallon.  Whether you have a large water bottle you keep with you, or you keep track of how many glasses you drink, make sure your body has the proper amount of water that it needs.

When you’re hydrated, you’re body is more effective at digesting food, leveling your blood pressure, detoxifying your body, and fighting disease and infection.

Limit Sugars and Processed Foods

Sugars and processed foods should not take up a large amount of your daily calorie intake.  Consuming too much causes spikes in blood sugar which can lead to diabetes, weight gain, irritability, inflammation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more.  Cutting sugar out of your diet is one of the single biggest positive changes you can make to better support your health over the long term.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

An easy change to make for a better diet is to not drink any of your calories.  Cut out the juices, sodas, and sugary drinks.  One can of Coca Cola has 140 calories, and 39 grams of sugar.  That’s the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes.  The soda may taste great in the short term, but it’s wreaking havoc on your overall health.

Instead of drinking sodas and sugary drinks, replace them with water, tea, and coffee.  They’ll help you hydrate your body better, and will add no calories to your daily intake.

Pillar Number Three: Sleep

Sleep is the third pillar to pay attention to on your journey to better health and fitness.  Adequate sleep is essential to our health because it’s the time when our body is able to rebuild, repair, and detox.  It may seem like it’s almost glorified these days to sacrifice sleep for productivity, but burning the candle at both ends is something that will do more harm than good in the long run.

koala

Set a Schedule

Go to sleep at the same time each evening, and wake up at the same time in the morning.  Yes, even on the weekends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that’s especially true with our sleep cycles.  when we have consistency in our routine, it allows our circadian rhythm to function properly.  Our bodies perform best when they have a set schedule.

Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

When we stare at our screens before going to sleep, it messes with your circadian rhythm.  Screens emit what’s known as blue-spectrum light – the same light that’s emitted during the day.  Our brains can’t tell the difference between the light the sun provides, and the light that our screens emit.  When we use our electronic devices immediately before going to sleep, it sends our brains mixed signals because our brain processes the light and tells our body it’s daylight outside.  Do your best to limit the use of electronics within one hour of going to sleep.

Supplement for Better Sleep

On average, more than half of us are deficient in magnesium, a micronutrient that’s fights insomnia, helps our bodies relax, and cuts down on cortisol, the “stress” hormone.  Take a serving of it prior to bed to help your body relax and get ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep cycle.  A great product to start with is Natural Calm – find it on Amazon, or at a local health foods store.  If that isn’t doing the trick, supplement with melatonin as well.  It’s a hormone that’s secreted by our pineal gland, and helps regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles.  Staring at screens too much, especially at night, is one way that our melatonin levels get out of whack.

Get Started Today

Your health and fitness is completely in your control.  Sometimes it may not feel like it, sometimes it may feel like our body is craving sugar, wants to lay down, and do nothing.  These are purely signals that your body sends, but you are the one that acts on the signals.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your health as you are.  Not your doctor, your spouse, or your loved ones.  It’s your health, and your body, and your life.  Even if you’ve spent years or decades with the wrong habits, it’s never to late to make a change.

Getting back in shape is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health.  You’ll live longer.  You’ll be happier.  Moving around will be easier.  You’ll be able to spend quality time with loved ones, and will get more satisfaction out of the time you have on this planet.

It’s not always going to be easy.  There will be days when you just don’t feel like sticking to the routine.  There will be meals that are full of sugar that just seem too resistible to pass up.  Some days you may not even want to get up from the TV.  That’s ok.  It happens to everyone.  What’s most important is making slow and consistent progress, and taking steps in the right direction.

If you miss a workout, or have a cheat meal, it’s not the end of the world.  Just don’t let it derail you from your progress over the long term.  Even when it doesn’t feel like it, it’s all within your control.

10 Motivational Tips For When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Our lovely fall weather seems to be wasting away quickly into plain ol’ yucky rain and pre-winter crud. There is a good reason bears and other creatures go into hibernation during this kind of weather. To help you not fall into hibernation mode and to make the most of even the dreariest weather, we have come up with some great motivational tips to stick with your fitness regimen in the months to come.

  • Getting up out of your warm flannel sheets can be a bear when the house is cold. Set your programmable thermostat to heat up the house 15 minutes before you wake up so that you can get up and get going with one less excuse to hold you back. If your thermostat isn’t programmable, investing in a new one is just a few dollars and could just be the thing to keep you going through the winter…in addition to the energy savings you will see!
  • Set out all of your workout clothes, water bottle, and gear the night before. Pack your gym bag, set up your yoga mat, dumbbells, kettle balls, or Bosu ball so everything is ready to go and calling your name.
  • Write up a variety of messages on colorful slips of paper with reminders of how good your feel after a workout, pics of yourself at your fitness best, motivational quotes, or the many health benefits of working out. Whatever you know are YOUR greatest reasons for working out, jot those down. In the morning, pull one slip out at random and surprise yourself with your “Workout Inspiration of the Day”
  • If it is the cold weather that is keeping you inside, have your coziest hoodie waiting to go in the dryer and warm it up just before leaving the house for the gym.
  • Re-create morning sunlight with a Wake-up-light to help set your inner clock to get moving even when it is still dark these winter mornings. Setting your body clock to get going these dark mornings is a huge help.
  • Plan your workout breakfast the night before so you are less likely to cast about for something to eat in the morning. When you start off your day in “healthy mode” you are more likely to continue it by not skipping out on your workout.
  • The night before, check out a few workout videos on YouTube for some fresh inspiration. Just one new idea is all it takes to get you excited to try it out the next morning.
  • Get a workout buddy. Even if some days your schedules prevent you from working out together, just agreeing to a text check in and knowing your partner will be counting on you to also check in, will keep you both going strong.
  • Set up a fresh, new workout music playlist so that the next day you have new tunes to get you jazzed.
  • Print up a pic of a great holiday outfit you will reward yourself with, that awesome new bike, or the entry form for that spring triathlon or Tough Mudder race you have been meaning to enter. Keeping your eyes on the goal (literally) can keep up your motivation and focus

Whatever floats your boat (especially for you kayakers); learn to adopt the tricks and motivational tips that keep you in the game and on top of your workouts these dark, cold months ahead. Let us know what motivational tricks work for you!

Featured photo credit Wikipedia Commons.

5 Ways Fitness Improves your Relationships

Unless you have been living under a rock, all the health benefits, disease fighting, and mental sharpness as reasons to stay fit are pretty clear to most of you.  Those are pretty motivating factors in themselves.  But just in case those are not quite enough, how about considering the ways that fitness improves your relationships.

  • Improves your sex life! A more fit body tends to make people feel sexier and gives increased confidence.  As we increase in our fitness, we are becoming more in tune with our bodies and more focused. Both of these benefits will help our ability for sexual arousal. We also have more energy, stamina flexibility, strength, and endurance.  We’ll let you connect the dots on those benefits and specifically how they improve your sex life 😉

  • Buddy system bonds together with friends: Team bonding is not just for pro athletes. Not only does having a workout partner help you to keep accountable and on track, opportunities to connect and talk, share in a friends’ life will deepen those friendships.
  • Playing with grandchildren: Studies have long confirmed that families that play together form deeper bonds and learn better communication. When you stay active and share in those activities with your grandchildren, it opens up opportunities to talk and listen, getting a deeper connection into their lives.  Your grandchildren will view you with different eyes when they see you venturing out and having fun in their world.
  • Staying active with your adult children keeps you relevant in their lives. Often times during your children’s high school and college years, they pull more into their social circles of their friends more than their families.  As your relationships with your adult children change, working out together can bring closeness and communication back into your relationships on a different level than when they were younger.  Simply going on walks or hikes and connecting is all it can take. Taking on a new, challenging activity together, like training for a cancer fund raising run can help you bond with common goals.
  • Fitness with your spouse improves your marriage: Beyond the benefits found in the bedroom, Opportunities to make time with each other in your busy week is crucial to a strong marriage, why not spend that time getting and staying healthy together? Teaming up to encourage each other will offer not only more opportunities to communicate, but deepen your connection on many levels.

Getting fit and healthy improves your physical, emotional, psychological outlook.  When your stress is reduced, all your relationships are affected in positive ways just because your view on things can be different due to reduction of stress in your life. Get fit, reduce stress, and relate better with all you come in contact with.

We would love to hear from you some ways that you have seen positive changes in your relationships due to fitness in your life.

Workouts at Work!

Some days it is impossible to get that workout in in the morning or after work when we are facing work deadlines.  Americans have desk jobs that require sitting at the computer for hours on end.  It is not helpful when our employers don’t have a company gym onsite.  We don’t advocate substitution of “office workouts” for your normal routine on a regular basis, but they can be helpful to keep us moving throughout the day instead of allowing our bodies to go stagnant. Here are a few to keep the blood moving through your veins and muscles challenged, with some workouts at work.

Office chair squats: With your feet a little more than shoulder width apart, stand in front of your office chair. If your chair is on wheels, take extra caution or use a standard chair. (Make sure that as you squat, your knees should not push forward past the front of your toes and your back should remain straight. When you do this, your butt pushes back and gives you the best squat form.) Lower down slowly, but do not quite sit on the chair, keep your back straight and eyes forward and hold for a few seconds, then slowly return to standing.  Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

Inner Thigh Adduction:  Use a rolled towel or sweater to squeeze between your thighs during this exercise.  Keeping your abs tucked, squeeze the towel as hard as you can for a few seconds.  Try to work your way up to 10 or 20 seconds.  Release, then repeat again 3 sets of 20 reps.

Leg Extensions: If you have some ankle weights, this exercise is even better! Sit straight in your chair, toward but not on the front edge of the chair, resting hands on the arm rests or chair sides. Flex your quads as you extend your leg straight out in front of you. Hold for 3-5 seconds, and then curl back down to starting position. Repeat 15-20 times before alternating to the other leg. Remind yourself to do this one throughout your day.

Office Chair Ab workout: Make sure this is done on a wheel-less chair. Sit up straight in the chair with your shoulders back.  While sitting on the chair front edge, place your hands on the arm rests. Keeping your back straight, lift your knees up to your chest and then slowly back down. Repeat 15-20 times for 3 sets. Not allowing your toes to touch the ground in between each rep will provide a greater challenge.  You can vary this to challenge your obliques by rotating your knees to the side on the way up and down.

Desk pushups:  Stand up and position yourself a few feet from the front edge of your desk with your feet together.   With your palms about a shoulder width away, keep your back and legs in a straight line and lower yourself to the front edge of the desk. Push back to start position for as many reps as possible, aiming for 15 reps.  Do 3-4 sets

Desk triceps dips: Similar to pushups, face away from the desk with palms down, keeping your feet together. Bend your elbows and bring buttocks forward so you can dip straight down along the front of the desk.  Dip until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Push back up to start position.  Both the dip down and push back up should be slow for optimum results.

If you have a private office, rather than a cubical, most of the above exercises are easy to fit into your day here and there.  Here is another total workout that can be done at your office. Also, consider replacing your office chair with an exercise ball and incorporate those exercises into your day.

Safely Intensify Your Workout Routine

You may have found yourself at a place in your workouts where you are not feeling as challenged as you once were, or perhaps you just want to turbo-charge things and see more results faster.  If this is the case, then increasing the intensity and method in your workouts is for you.  The trick is to intensify your workout routine safely so that you don’t risk injury that would side line you and defeat the whole purpose of increasing your workouts.

Combo Training: Combo training is when you combine an assortment of aerobic exercises and resistance training. This a very demanding form of intensity training and can lead to over training and/or injury, so use caution and even a personal trainer to coach you through until you gain a safe understanding of how to proceed.

You will perform a resistance training set and follow it with a short burst on moderate intensity aerobics for 30 seconds.  You then repeat for another two sets. For example, perform a set of squats, and then do a 30 second burst of burpees, and then back to a set of squats/burpees. This cycle should be done in three “sets” (squats/burpees as one set). Combo training really torches fat and whips you into great cardio conditioning quickly. Here is a sample You Tube workout to get you started.

Supersets: If you are weight training, one method to increase intensity and strength results is known as Super Sets.  A superset is when two exercises are completed in sequence without a break in between them.  It is important to pair up two agonist/antagonist muscle groups in the set pairs.  For example: quads/hamstrings or back/chest.  This technique will noticeably increase muscle strength and result in your ability to train at higher intensity levels.

You will be more efficient if you set up agonist/antagonist stations before you begin so that once starting, you can go from pair sets to the next station with only a 30 second rest in between.  Here is a great YouTube superset workout to get an idea of what is involved.

 

Photo source, Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source, Wikipedia Commons.

HIIT Training for runners: Runners who desire to increase both speed and endurance, do so with interval or HIIT training.  It is important to already have solid base of mileage as well as speed work before starting this type of training.

Run nearly full out for 10 to 60 seconds, followed by a rest/walk (or jog) period. The rest period should be one to four times the length of the high intensity burst.  Essentially, your rest period is just enough so that you are recovered to do the next repeat at the same speed with good form.  This challenges your cardio system to get stronger and pushes oxygenated blood through your body, making it available for you muscles. Be sure you are warmed up and flexible before starting these workouts.

This same idea of HIIT training can be applied to cyclists, rowers, and even hiking.

Mixing it up challenges your body and can jump start you out of that plateau or even boredom you may have hit in your workouts.  At the very least, you will find yourself in better conditioning! Do you have a tried-and-true method to intensify your workout routine safely? Please share it in the comments area below! We’d love to hear from you and share your experience with the Fit After Fifty community.

Happy training!

5 ways to age better than your father did

By Kia Zarezadeh, Sponsor contributor from HealthwaysFIT.com (Silver Sneakers)

Most of us grew up idolizing our fathers. It wasn’t just in our nature; Dad was stronger, smarter and had more know-how than we ever did. It might seem like sacrilege to suggest you  can live better than dad did. But one way to top pop is by living a longer and healthier life. Here’s five ways to age better than your father did…

Ditch diabetes

About 25 percent of Americans 60 or older live with type 2 diabetes, so there’s a good chance your father has or had diabetes. The good news is you can eliminate most risk factors by taking better care of your body. Most people with type 2 diabetes are obese, so aim to keep your body fat lower than dear old dad’s. Focus on eating nutritious, low-fat, minimally processed foods that are moderate in calories. This is especially important if you’re a woman: Weight gained after menopause can put you at even higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Avoid arthritis

Like diabetes, arthritis carries a hereditary risk. But that doesn’t mean you have to grin and bear it like Dad. Rest, combined with a healthy weight and a nutritious diet, can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms. And, though it might sound contradictory to dad’s advice, exercise is great for reducing joint pain associated with arthritis. That’s because building muscles around your aching joints takes the pressure off those joints.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Take care of your ticker

Heart attacks unfortunately cost many of us a few extra years with our fathers. But heart health has come a long way in the past few decades. Now we know exercise and the types of food you eat can greatly reduce heart disease risk. When it comes to food, do better than dad and look for recipes designed to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. As for working that heart muscle into an invincible piston, try aerobic exercises that raise your heart rate while helping you burn fat.

Defeat dementia

Dementia is a bit trickier than other health problems that may have impacted your father as he aged. Not much is known about diseases like Alzheimer’s, but what we do know is leagues beyond the information available just a few decades ago. The latest research suggests everyday activities, such as walking, can help protect your memory. Of course, in addition to working your body, you should work your brain. From crossword puzzles to online games, people today intentionally are working their minds  stay sharp.

Prevent falls

How many times have you seen an accidental fall devastate the life of an otherwise strong and capable father? Of course, you can’t stop accidents from happening. But powerful core muscles and good balance can cut your chances of taking a spill. Plus, they actually can reduce the severity of injuries you suffer when you do fall. Recovery time is greatly improved in people with fitter bodies. And here’s something we’re pretty sure your dad never dreamed of doing to help prevent falls: video games. New research suggests video games can boost your balance, rejuvenate the brain and even lift your mood.

Finding the Right Personal Trainer for You

We all know the many benefits of regular exercise.  Sometimes, however, we need that extra push and motivation to keep us at it.  Many times it is just plain smart to have the sharp eye of a professional to keep us in good form, lifting properly and maintaining good body position to help prevent injuries.  Personal trainers will not only help to coach you in regards to cardio and lifting, but good ones will address all areas of a healthy lifestyle for you, including nutrition and diet.

There are many highly qualified trainers out there to choose from.  It is important to understand the various certifications and professional organizations that certify personal trainers, as well as the credentials offered so that you can better assess if a personal trainer and his/her certification are a good fit for you.

  • Photo source, labeled for reuse.

    Photo source, labeled for reuse.

    Are they certified and if so, what are their credentials?

  • The National Commission for Certifying Agencies makes sure that certification programs demonstrate adherence to specific standards for the industry.
  • The American Council on Exercise (ACE) provides fitness certification, continuing education, exam prep for a variety of specialty certifications.
  • The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) provides education, certification, support materials, conferences with a more specific focus on strength and conditioning.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) provides education and certification for CPT, HFS, or CGEI instruction.
  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is one of the most highly recognized standards in personal training certification, offering A CPT certificate with specialized focus credentials such as fitness nutrition, weight loss, senior fitness, corrective exercise and more.
    • Once you have determined their certification, find out how much actual experience they have and what kind. Hours logged is important, but equally, if not more important is what has been their focus. Sports-specific, age groups, re-hab, or lifestyle management. Make sure you choose a trainer whose focus and experience is a good fit with your fitness goals for yourself.
    • Ask about their cost and also availability.  How far in advance do they require to book sessions.  Do they charge by the hour or a flexible fee for service approach? Some trainers are happy to schedule semi-private sessions with clients of similar fitness levels and goals.  You can save considerably with this option.
    • Have a clear understanding of cancellation policies and additional.
    • Many trainers have specific training styles as their predominant focus.  CrossFit, TRX, Pilates, YogaFit are just some to start. Be sure that their style is compatible with your goals and find out how much they are willing to blend the two.

Using some of these guides will help you to not only find and decide on the best fit personal trainer for you, you will rest assured knowing you did your homework and are getting the best value for your fitness dollar.  Most of all, your personal trainer choice will play a critical role in keeping you on track and injury free on your road to a more fit lifestyle.

Get Started, Get Fit, No More Roadblocks!

This generation of boomers is the fittest and most health conscious one to hit our 50’s, yet.  Because we are the first generation to hit this season with this level of fitness, we are also the only aging generation to be facing this second half of life with more health to experience the richness life has to offer.  As a result, we are also in a unique position to challenge and change society’s misconceptions of what it means to age.  Sometimes the misconceptions are our own roadblocks and we may need a little help in getting over them.  It starts with identifying your roadblocks to getting fit for 50+:

  • Feeling self conscious around younger, fitter people at the gym. Just remind yourself you are there and making a difference in your health today!
  • Feeling intimidated with gym equipment or classes not yet tried. Keep in mind this is a great opportunity to learn something new, which keeps your brain fit, as well.
  • The “some day” syndrome or better known as procrastination.  I will get to it some day. That day is now, GO FOR IT!!
  • “It takes a lot of hard work to change my fitness level”. It certainly does, but it is well worth it!
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Don’t let those or any other road blocks hold you back. Consider some of the following people who may inspire you in breaking down those roadblocks:

  • 100 year old Sid Cojac of Atlanta plays pickle ball twice a week and works out the other 5 days of the week.
  • Seniors are starting second careers as personal trainers. The percentage of people over age 55 attending a personal training conference sponsored by IDEA Health & Fitness Association, a worldwide organization of fitness professionals, more than doubled from 2004 to 2011 — up to nearly 11 percent from 5 percent.
  • 71 year old Annette Larkin of Florida has astounded people with her agelessness, looks 40 and credits raw food and a meatless diet with her amazing health.
  • Needing an adventure for her 60thbirthday, Ginny Benware of Portland quit her job and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.

If you are just getting started or contemplating getting started with a workout plan, keep it simple and manageable and focus on the four building blocks of fitness to get you over those roadblocks:

  • Breathe! Take just 30 minutes a day to participate in an activity that makes you breathe hard.  This increases your endurance and cardio levels.  It just has to be intense enough to raise your heart rate, but not so intense that you can’t hold a conversation while doing it.
  • Build muscles! Any kind of strength training with weights, exercise bands, kettle balls, or suspension training with your won body weight will build muscle. This also builds bone density and balance; all of which reduces your risk of falls.
  • Get Balanced!  Core fitness is a phrase all of us have heard about.  This popular fitness approach revolves around exercises that challenge your balance and core stability.  No gym is needed to do balance training activities. Brush your teeth standing on one leg, raising the other slowly and you will increase your balance and core stability.
  • Stretch and Flexibility!  As each year passes, we are all losing flexibility unless we are actively doing something about it.  Flexibility and balance are closely related.  Your balance is helped as you gain flexibility.  Regular stretching gives you more freedom of movement and reduces muscle soreness and possible injuries from exercise.

Once your fitness plan includes the four basics, the sky is the limit to what you want to do and where you want your new life of fitness to take you.

A Perspective on Spinning from Live Love Flow

By Jaime Scates Schmitz from LiveLoveFlowYoga.com

OK, now it’s time for honesty. I do not love spinning the way I love yoga. But I see it as a necessary evil. Before Live Love Flow, I operated a yoga studio for 3.5 years that offered just yoga (Mountain Flow Yoga in Madrona). Yoga all by itself was never quite enough for me. I had a spin bike at home, which I used often and I ran to keep the cardio conditioning up. As mountain biking is the second greatest love of my life, just behind yoga, the addition of a spin studio seemed logical. If I lived somewhere that riding 3-5 days a week up big hills on the dirt was a possibility, you might not find me in the spin studio. But since I have to hoof it up to the mountains with my bike packed away in the car, that’s just too many hours out of the day. So you’ll find me in the spin studio a lot! And don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the music, I LOVE the energy, I appreciate the intensity and therefore the efficiency. And well, it does make me feel AMAZING!

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Spinning is an amazing way for people who are getting older to start or complement a fitness routine:

  1. When you’re inside on a stationary bike, you’re not going to fall or get hit by a car. There’s very minimal risk of needing a hip replacement from falling!
  2. When the bike is ridden in the ergonomically correct way, there’s zero impact on the joints and it keeps them lubricated by using them.
  3. Spinning increases serotonin and endorphins so we feel amazing.
  4. The ticker needs that cardio conditioning.
  5. One of the leading contributors to aging is the decrease in production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone). Don’t get a shot; you can become dependent and stop making your own naturally. But DO high intensity interval training – we do a ton in spinning. ”High intensity burst training in which one’s heart rate bursts above their anaerobic threshold (best established by VO2 max testing) for 30 second intervals five or more times in a workout. This engages super-fast twitch muscle fibers, which release HGH naturally.”
  6. You can really go at your own pace. The teacher will set a cadence and a gear; if it’s too hard, scale back. No one’s pressuring you; it’s your ride!

So my number one goal in life is not to be super fit, super fast or super awesome on the bike. It’s to be super conscious, super awake, super alive, FREE and vibrant. I’ve wrapped my brain around how spinning supports this for me.

As we’re riding, the mind puts up a lot of resistance: it’s really HARD in the class, so the noisy mind loves to complain, to pull us onto the path of least resistance, to bitch and moan. I see spinning as an amazing opportunity to “shush” that part of my mind. If I can cultivate equanimity to that suffering and silence the mental bulls*#t to face the challenge, I win!

Spinning also teaches an amazing lesson about transcending/transmuting our drama and our trauma. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I don’t want to minimize how hard we work in there; it’s kind of nuts! However, the minute we walk out of the room we feel AMAZING and we put the story of the ride and all of the suffering it evoked into the past where it belongs. We don’t relive the ride over and over and over again the way we do everything else that hurts, i.e. heart-ache, legal battles, neglect, addiction, being “wronged” by another, failure, embarrassment, suffering etc. Nope, we hop off the bike an we pop that ride into the past.

Now THAT’s a powerful lesson in movin’ right on through, moving higher and increasing consciousness.

I do think that anyone who’s using just the spin side of the studio is missing the whole point of Live Love Flow, but heck, they’re welcome and maybe the energy that’s being created in that amazing space, sincerely dedicated to evolving consciousness will seep into their field and we’ll find them in the yoga studio.

Namaste!

A Perspective on Yoga from Live Love Flow

By Jaime Scates Schmitz from LiveLoveFlowYoga.com

When Tony first asked me to do a piece for FitAfterFifty.com I was reticent: #1, I’m not 50 or even that close and #2, I cringe a bit whenever someone refers to me as a fitness guru . . . I am not.

In response to #1, I thought ‘What the heck do I know about being fit after fifty?’ And in response to #2, barring a car falling on my child, you will probably never see me lift a heavy thing.

I pushed through resistance item #1 when I thought of my amazing parents and my cute mom, who while still vital, attractive and lovely, is seeing her body wear down. Then I thought of my friend, student and current teacher-trainee, Nancy Richards, who at 64 moves like a 30-year-old in yoga, crushes it on the spin bike, hikes, bikes and skis. WOW. I’ll take that.

I pushed through resistance item #2 because I LOVE yoga (yes it’s a work out, but at its core it’s a spiritual practice of which the work-out is a tiny portion). I’m also happy to ride indoors to stay conditioned for mountain biking (my second greatest love behind yoga) and I believe all of the research about intense cardiovascular exercise increasing HGH, endorphins, serotonin etc. – I’ll take all of that because there’s nothing that I love more than feeling AMAZING.

As soon as Tony and I started the interview I knew it was a great idea. It was an opportunity to talk about my passions to a new audience.

Watch the interview here:

Yoga

Yoga is amazing for EVERYBODY. It’s especially amazing for bodies that want to age gracefully. In yoga, we move through our entire range of motion and all of our little accessory (rarely used) muscles. We also work tremendously hard on the core, which protects and lengthens the spine. Flexibility and balance are two of the first pieces of athleticism and health that people lose as they age, and yoga helps to improve those areas as well.

We spend a lot of time upside down in down-dog, forward-folds and inversions. These poses have amazing benefits to calming the parasympathetic nervous system and they are officially working against gravity – take that sagging skin! We do work incredibly hard, doing a lot of lunges, chattaranga pushups, side planks etc. We are using our own body weight to build bone density, which is another must for people over fifty!

Photo credit: Pixabay

Photo credit: Pixabay

So that’s just a tiny list of the health benefits of yoga. But my favorite thing about yoga in its ability to invite people to age gracefully is simply the fluidity and grace we introduce.

We hold so much tension and density in our bodies because it gives us the illusion of control. We also hold all of our pain, failure, drama and trauma as little energy nodules in the body called samskaras.

Everything in the universe, including humans, flows in an energetic pattern called a tube torus. When the tube torus is open and flowing freely we are clean, clear, bright, free and alive. In nature we can see examples of clean energy patterns flowing together. Nature balances, syncs, synergizes and coalesces with itself. We are intended to synergize in the same way and our tube torus is supposed to flow freely.

Sadly, due to all of the density, tension and samskaras we hold in our bodies (as well as a lot of external influences from the electromagnetic soup we swim in and the SAD – standard American diet) our energetic patterns are generally not flowing properly. We can see in the high rates of addiction that are currently in existence (I just read that while only 10 percent of Americans are truly addicted to alcohol, a full 30 percent are alcohol-dependent). Other examples include depression, numbing with the dumbing of American TV, the acceptance of hard-core violence and soft-core porn into our living rooms every night (not mine!), environmental degradation, poverty, famine, the sex trade of children, war, genetically modified food, disease etc. By all of these things, we see that we are clearly NOT syncing with nature in the way that was our birthright, in the way spirit intended for us.

In yoga, we move through our entire energetic sphere with grace and fluidity. When we do this with a burning desire to connect to consciousness, to cleanse our habits and our patterns, to free ourselves from our rigidity, to move higher, we just might make a little progress in that 60 – 75 minutes on our mats.

There’s something about moving with fluidity and grace, the way we do in yoga that also breaks down linear thinking. It helps us confuse the mind, move in a circle, play. Einstein said, “Confusion is the brink of discovery.” When we’re confused, doing something new, and pushing our edges we create new neural pathways (we’re pretty addicted to the ones we always use, and most of those stories aren’t so pleasant). So get a little lost, get a little confused, try something new, change your brain and explore that brink of discovery!

If we all work hard on cleaning up our own energy, elevating our own vibration, bringing ourselves into greater alignment and higher consciousness, then sooner or later that nasty list from above will start to shrink and lose it’s hold over humanity.