In my 20’s, I defined being in shape by my accomplishments. By how long I could jump rope, how many push-ups I could do, or how much weight I could lift.
In my 30’s, I fought through injuries but still measured my success by whether or not I could keep up with everyone else.
Now that I’m in my 40’s, I feel pretty good if I can get through a workout without hurting myself.
Getting older isn’t easy. Neither is fighting the common health issues that we accumulate along the way. I don’t know anyone in their 40’s or 50’s that doesn’t have some kind of health issue that impacts their ability to workout. So we modify, go a little slower, and workout fewer times a week.
And we gain a few pounds and lose muscle every year…
It’s not easy figuring out how to stay in shape as you age. The first step is to see your doctor and maybe a physical therapist who can help guide you through your unique situation. But after that it’s up to you to find a way to incorporate fitness into your life decade after decade.
Listen to Your Body
No pain, no gain. That’s what they always told us. Yet, that’s the opposite of what we should be doing as we age (or arguably at any age!). Pushing through the pain won’t help you achieve your fitness goals and it may stop you from working out all together.
Charlie Scott, from Les Mills, shares her thoughts on finding the right balance: “I now realize how critical it is that I get the balance and intensity of exercise just right – and I put a lot of focus into reading my body when I work out. I do all the physical activity I want, but I listen to my body and I know when to rest, or stop and recover.”
Believe me, I know you want to keep going. But your body is trying to tell you something important. So listen.
Be Open to Alternatives
Knee braces, athletic tape, massage and meditation – I’ve tried them all!
It’s hard to keep a fitness schedule when you’re in pain, so I’m always looking for new or different ways to reduce pain during and after a workout. Unfortunately, 30% of people between 45-64 report pain lasting more than 24 hours. Yet, there are simple and non-invasive alternatives that you can try.
Just be open to trying something different, even if it sounds a little weird. One example is a TENS unit which uses low voltage electric current to relieve pain. A clinical study showed that “using TENS allowed the patients to receive fewer narcotics for pain relief, thereby lessening the side effects from medications.” Anything that can reduce pain will help you keep your workout plan track. You’ll never know what works best for you until you try.
Note: be sure to talk with your doctor to see what pain alternatives are right for you.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else
This is the biggest challenge!
It’s incredibly hard to see someone else doing the things you love when you’re sidelined by a reoccurring injury. And it can be harder to accept what you can’t do what you used to do. I watch others working out who are faster and stronger than me. I watch as they easily maneuver through their workout while I’m struggling to finish something simple.
But comparing yourself to others will only make you frustrated. Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger and everyone will have to change the way they workout eventually.
Remember to judge yourself by your accomplishments today, even if it seems small. Make a plan, but be flexible to changing it when things are working. Give yourself a break and focus on what you can still do.
I guarantee you can do a lot more than you realize.