I am 51. I am in better shape today than I was in my 20s and even 30s. I want to continue to get stronger and more fit as I age as much as possible. I have concluded however, that there are a few principles that I need to adhere to in order to keep moving forward. Most people start giving up at this point in their lives and conclude that they can’t do more and so they do less and less. I reject that concept and believe that it is a matter of working out smarter without giving in to popular wisdom. So here are some of my guiding principles at this point.
- Above all, do not get injured. Getting injured means you have to back off, take some time off and, since recovery is longer, you find yourself farther and farther behind the starting line:
- I’m judicious on how heavy the weights are.
- I try to be very, very mindful when I am working out – checking in with how my body feels.
- If I feel anything odd or ‘tweaky’, I immediately evaluate and try to change modify the exercise until if feels painless.
- If I, by chance, end up tweaking my body, I stop, take immediate action to keep any injury from expanding.
- If I get injured, I do NOT stop everything. I have a pain-free policy. I do not allow my injured area to be painful. However, I keep working out other areas as much as possible. And I back off on my affected area as much as I need but still try to do something.
- There are always going to be at least a half dozen ‘hot’ spots that I am going to be monitoring over the course of a day or a few days. If it starts getting worse, I really need to take action of some kind. Yesterday it was my thumbs but they feel fine today. Today my right knee (from a junior high wrestling injury) is a little odd but maybe it will feel fine tomorrow.
- When one of my hot spots flares up, I usually stretch first. Sometimes some of my affected areas feel like ‘arthritis’ type pain. But if I stretch, they always feel so much better. And I usually find that the muscles around that area are tighter than I thought. I explore the stretches in all directions to see which feels more effective.
- Stretch. My body is not as elastic as it was so stretching is more important. I will stretch my hands and forearms in the car. I’ll stretch my calves for a moment or 2 going up stairs. I move around in my desk chair and stretch my back and arms. Stretching is as important as strength.
- Recovery is, naturally, slower. I work out 7 days a week and would like to get more than one workout a day in if possible. While everyone may not want to workout that much, I listen to my body. If it is too sore or, more likely, too tired I just have to accept that and not worry about losing ground.
- I try to push how heavy I lift but I am now trying to lift based on 6-8 reps in a set rather than the heavier weights at 2-6 reps/set. It feels safer and better to me,
- Drink water, drink water, drink water. The process of aging is, sorry to say, the process of ‘drying up’. Cells lose their ability to retain water but we don’t have to help that process along. Even if you have to force yourself to drink water.
- Food, stress, energy depletion, and any kind of debauchery are going to have greater consequences than they did earlier in our lives. Most of us recognize that and give up the late, late nights but all of the things that keep us functioning optimally, while they may be fun, have a great price.
I know it’s a lot to think about but really, it’s just about being smart and aware and listening to your body. Today (Saturday), I am a little too sore from a workout I did on Thursday (which is a little unusual) but I’ll be out in the garden today, so I’ll keep moving and then tomorrow, on Sunday, I ‘ll get a Pilates circuit workout in and also hopefully, swimming in the evening.