The funny thing about getting older is that one day you wake up and all the strategies you used to get fit up to your 40’s no longer work. In fact, they can be totally counterproductive.
Whenever I am out and about socially I get to hear a lot of people who should not be giving advice actually giving advice about fitness, nutrition and all methods of exercise to their friends, family and whoever they happen to be talking to.
Based on what I heard lately, if you are also over 50 and fitness is one of your goals this year this is how NOT to do it:
1 – Follow somebody else’s idea.
The first thing you have to make sure if you want to embark on a fitness journey is that it is your idea, and it’s not an idea that you have borrowed from somebody else. This is why this is important: when the idea of getting fit comes from you, when you get up in the morning and you say to yourself “today I am going to workout”, you are actually going to workout.
If it’s somebody else who tells you to do it you are more likely to say “no” because that’s our natural reaction when somebody gives us what we perceive to be an order.
If you don’t want to fail, make sure you are not being influenced too much by other people, even if it’s your doctor who tells you that you need to get fit. Think about your journey and find a way within you to make it your idea to get fit so that you will be sticking it out over the long term and reap the rewards along the way.
2 – Workout harder than ever
Because it’s harder to get fit you plan to workout harder than you did in your 30s. This is a problem. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Yes it can take longer to achieve your fitness goals when you get older but you won’t get there by going at it like a banshee. Your body is ageing therefore your strategy has to be different.
As your hormones decline your body is more vulnerable to stress and guess what exercise is to the body? Stress. What does stress do to your body? It burns muscle and increases fat, especially around the waist.
Strategy trumps hard work here.
3 – No days off (training)
You worry that if you have a day off training you’ll have a major setback so you never stop. The solution is to not look at days off training as setbacks but to look at them as “steps back” instead. A bit like gymnasts do before they charge towards the vault.
As a matter of fact rest and relaxation are just as important as exercise when you are over 50. This also true when you are younger because unless you rest and recover adequately you won’t see any changes to your body in terms of lean mass gains, fat loss or performance. However when you are over 50 that’s 10 times more important and should be your priority.
An effective fitness plan would include structured exercise in relation to how much rest you can get in between sessions. Sadly, the older you get it takes longer to recover from workouts hence you have to rest more. You MUST include times of complete rest into your exercise plan.
You’ll get more out of your training by spending a day at the spa than if you did another workout. Therefore don’t be shy about going to bed earlier and sleep a little bit longer.
4 – You bore yourself silly
You stick to boring workouts because you think you are too old to do something daring. Bollocks to that!
As long as you honour the fact that your body is not as resilient as it used to be and it’s easier to get badly injured from mundane things you can attempt whatever you like. You just have to go about it differently and allow for the fact that you have to take everything one. step. at. the. time. Not five steps at once, just one.
Within reason, your unreasonable goal will probably be achievable, at least to a certain extent. Keep your expectations reasonable but be unreasonable with what you are allowed to have a go at. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to learn to do cartwheels in your 50’s but accept that you will never win a gold medal in gymnastics at the next Olympics. Have a go nevertheless and don’t let anything stop you. Certainly not the thought that you are too old (you are never too old to tumble!)
Simply take it one step at the time and don’t be afraid to go super slow. It’s not a race, it’s your fitness journey. Make sure you reach your goal in one piece and that you enjoy the process. Fuck everything and everyone else.
5 – Get the cheapest trainer available
If you want a 100% guarantee that you will fail at your fitness project go out of your way to hire the cheapest trainer that you can find, especially one who has zero experience of working with people of your age group.
I find it hard to believe that 20 year olds fresh out of PT school have a deep understanding of what 50 year olds go through because they have never been there. In any case, if that’s all the help available to you, always check your trainer’s credentials and whether they have experience working with older adults. Perhaps they have trained their grandparents or their parents.
These days I always tend to work with trainers who are a similar age group to me because I resent a young individual expecting me to do things now that my body is no longer equipped to do on a whim. I want their advice on how I can go around problems and how I can reach my goals.
The thing is at my age (50+) it’s the preparation that makes all the difference when learning something a little bit out of the norm. It’s not just about having a go at a new movement, I have to get physically ready for it.
It’s not always easy for younger trainers to understand the physical constraints that we go through as we age when attempting different exercises. It’s not stubbornness or laziness, it’s more like self awareness and a strong instinct for self preservation because we know all too well how long it takes to heal even the smallest of injuries. Plus there is always the issue of sleep or, rather, not getting enough of it of a good quality which causes our concentration to be poor.
By the way, I was one of these trainers too when I first started out. Not at 15 because I got my formal qualifications at 40 but still up to that point I was still super fit and couldn’t understand why others were struggling. Until I got there too.
6 – Don’t listen
If you want another ingredient in your recipe for fitness disaster make sure that you never pay any attention to what your trainer or other knowledgeable people tell you because you feel that you know it all by now. You have done it all before so instead of hearing what they are saying there is only “blah blah blah” going through your ears.
Although I am sure you know it’s wrong it is true that it’s harder to focus on something if you think you already know it. You might be listening but not actually hearing.
To counter this you have to resort to mindfulness and be in the present moment even if you already know everything that your trainer is trying to teach you. You never know when they might drop a little gem of information that will make all the difference to your journey.
I learned this the hard way many years ago when I was a beginner student in pole fitness, long before I started teaching it. I got stuck with one particular move which was very simple but it didn’t matter what my instructor told me I just didn’t get it. By the way, I had the best instructor ever as she was British Champion at the time so I always received the best tuition.
I struggle for ages until one day her daughter came along and explained to me the move in terms of “do this, then this, then PING! and get into this”. That PING! was the magic turning point: I finally managed to perform that move (which I didn’t like anyway) straight away.
So, again, PAY ATTENTION to what your trainer is telling you.
7 – Neglect your diet
Your diet doesn’t affect just your weight loss efforts, it’s critical in supporting you while you are on your fitness journey.
If you are training to complete a marathon your nutrition has to change accordingly. If you are training for fighting, gymnastics or anything else your diet will definitely affect your results. This is because, although anyone can attempt anything, the truth is that for certain activities you are better off being lean and trim to succeed and remain injury free. For example, it’s really hard to do explosive movements (safely) if you are overweight. You will also increase the chances of a mishap when you land.
Your diet has to take into account both what you eat or how much you eat and when you eat it. Unless you have all the time in the world it can be very difficult to time your meals to happen exactly at a certain before and after a workout. Both are crucial to your progress because you need to fuel your workout BEFORE it happens and then you have to fuel your recovery afterwards.
Never, ever, ever neglect your diet when you are trying to get fit because it will work against you. Remember: when you get your diet wrong it will cause you stress. What does stress do your body? It causes you to lose muscle and gain fat. Especially around the waist.
I know, I am over simplifying a truly complex matter but in a nutshell that’s what happens when your body gets stressed. And that happens a lot more when you get older.
If you want to succeed at your fitness…
…make sure you pay attention to your trainer, that you train as a 50 year old but remain unreasonable with your goals otherwise life gets too boring and you lose interest straight away. Stay curious, stay interested in your journey and have a lot of fun in the process.
Let me know if you are on a fitness journey and how it’s going in the comments below. Alternatively, you can leave me a comment on the ‘Gram.