Do you have a plan for staying fit? Or maybe I should ask, do you have a plan for getting fit? Here’s what I’ve learned: fitness never just happens. In fact, only the opposite just happens. Right? But, as a 50+ woman, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s more important than ever to have a fitness plan.
Where I’m Coming From
First, let’s get a few things straight. I am that 50+ woman. Next, I’m not a fitness guru, a trainer or an especially athletic woman. I’ve never run a marathon, nor have I any desire.
On the other hand, I have worked at staying fit all of my adult life. I’ve done it all: swimming laps, running, aerobics, Zumba, walking, weight training, non-mystical yoga, Pilates, hiking, you name it. But not all at once. Ha! I’m not that gal who wears her workout clothes all day and spends most of the day at the gym. Heavens no. I have to make myself move.
Yes, I’m the girl who always loved P.E. class in middle school and voluntarily signed up for phys ed classes in high school. While I was in high school I stayed in shape through marching band, but as soon as I graduated I started running and swimming to keep the freshman 15 off. I’ve been doggedly determined to keep the weight off.
And yet, there have been times in my life when I didn’t succeed at that. First of all, I gained too much weight with each of my pregnancies. And then I struggled to get it off.
Then the inevitable happened. I say it was inevitable now, but at the time I was clueless. Nobody had alerted me that this would happen. If you’re over 30 you know what I’m talking about.
My metabolism came to a grinding halt. Or so I thought. In truth, it had just slowed down. And it would continue to slow down more and more every blasted year! Can I get an amen! Finally, I was even diagnosed with hypothyroidism a little over a year ago. And I didn’t want that diagnosis! I’m on a low dose thyroid medication, but it makes me mad that I have to take it. Alas, this condition runs in my family, so perhaps it was inevitable.
Staying fit, lean and healthy has definitely become more and more challenging as the years have passed.
Why We Need a Fitness Plan
Maybe it’s become obvious as I’ve recounted my own fitness successes and struggles, but as we age we have to have a plan for staying fit. Here’s why:
- Our metabolism naturally continues to slow down as we age. Without a fitness plan we will naturally and gradually gain weight because our bodies no longer burn the energy provided by the food we eat at the same rate. But it doesn’t have to be the drastic decline that most women experience. There is a better way.
- We lose muscle tone and mass as we age naturally. In fact, after the age of 50 the loss of muscle is accelerated, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. But once again, we don’t have to lose as much muscle nor do we have to lose it as fast as the average woman. We can slow down this process drastically.
- We naturally lose balance as we age. Because we lose balance and stability over time, many senior adults experience falls that greatly change their quality of life and even propel them towards an early death. But we can maintain a sense of balance longer with a fitness plan.
- Naturally, we lose flexibility with time. You may think it’s no big deal that you can no longer touch your toes or scratch your own back. But flexibility helps us move through life without injury and enables us to catch ourselves if we do lose our balance. Flexibility is important for quality of life as well as safety.
- We naturally gain weight as we age. But we don’t have to. Look, I doubt I can fit into my wedding dress, and that’s okay. But I don’t want to gain a dangerous amount of weight that slows me down, increases my chances of developing deadly diseases such as diabetes, puts me at increased risk for heart attack or stroke or limits my life expectancy or quality of life. And with a plan, that doesn’t have to happen.
- We naturally slow down with age. I already walk a little slower than I did just 15 years ago. You may, too. But with a fitness plan we can keep from coming to a grinding halt. Better yet, we can stay more energetic and mobile.
- Our posture tends to worsen with age naturally. Ugh. Enough of the bad news already. But it’s true. With age, we naturally begin to be more stooped and rounded in the shoulders. But we can slow this process down drastically, and maybe even prevent it altogether.
Did you catch the key word that I included in each of the above statements? Naturally. If we just let nature take its course and we don’t have a plan, we will not age well. It’s a fact. We will lose mobility, range of motion, flexibility, posture, agility, energy, muscle, balance and good health. The only thing we’ll naturally gain? Weight!
A Fitness Plan for the 50+ Woman
So what do I mean by a “fitness plan?” I simply mean we have to include certain elements into our fitness regimens. We can’t afford to leave any of them out. We need the complete package.
I also mean that we need to stick to a plan. We can’t just willy nilly stay fit. Just “being active” isn’t sufficient. For instance, it’s not enough to play a little golf, work around the house, mow the yard and occasionally run after the grandkids. Why not? Because how is that helping you to maintain good posture, flexibility, balance or strength?
Just staying active is not a fitness plan.
If I want to slow down the effects of age in my body so that I am healthy, strong, energetic, mobile, flexible, stable and lean, I’ll need to incorporate the following into my life on a regular basis:
- Regular Cardio Workouts – Currently, most health agencies are suggesting that we get 30-45 minutes of cardio workouts in 5 times per week. However, if we up our game a little and intensify our workouts a couple of days a week, we can cut that cardio time in half. So that means if on two days of the week you’ll get in a 20-30 minute high intensity cardio workout, you’ll only need to go for a brisk walk, hike, or bike ride one or two other days. That’s it! For my two high intensity days, I do HIIT intervals, Tabata rounds or 20 20-second sprints with 40-second cool off periods in between. I’ve actually come to love these days.
- Systematic Weight Training – In order to maintain muscle mass, we have to lift weights or do resistance exercises, such as push ups or planks. We have to work our muscles to exhaustion at least three times per week. We’ll need to incorporate resistance moves or weight lifting that challenges every group of muscles at least twice weekly. So that means we need to learn how to do these exercises effectively and make a plan for getting it done. We may need to buy some weights or resistance bands like these (which I love!). We may need to join a gym or enlist a trainer for a few weeks to get us started. My mom, who is in her 80s, has been doing extensive weight training exercises with her buddies at church three times weekly for years and years. And I see the benefits of her diligence every time I’m with her.
- Stretching – Really, we need to stretch out our major muscle groups every single day to maintain optimal flexibility and strength. You might check out my post about post-exercise static stretches here. But I’d also recommend checking into Pilates, yoga or just a good stretching class at your local gym. Bottom line, we need to stretch our muscles regularly, long and for long periods of time.
- Nutrition Plan – As we age we can no longer afford to just eat whatever we feel like eating. I call this “eating like a fifth grader,” and I’m terribly guilty of it. But in the last year I’ve really reigned in my diet. I’m not on “a diet,” mind you. I just learned how to eat a nutritionally balanced diet of 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein most days. Two days a week I limit my carb intake to less than 50 net grams (carb grams – fiber grams = net carbs). But all other days I eat a very balanced and satisfying clean diet. Here’s the thing. I can eat plenty of food each day, but when I start making bad choices and eating too many sweets, gluten products or dairy products, I pay for it. We’ve got to have a plan for eating healthy.
- Accountability – I’m a secret eater by nature. I confess. I’m also prone to fudge on my workouts left to my own devices. But when I line up accountability, I stick with it. During the spring I got started with a fitness plan like the one I’m encouraging here through the FASTer Way to Fat Loss. That program also includes awesome accountability, and I benefited from that so much. Now that I’m maintaining, I had to search out my own accountability. So I have a friend (whom I’ve never even met in person and who lives in South Dakato!) who helps me stay accountable to my fitness plan. We text each other several times a week to see how we’re doing with our cardio, weight training and nutrition plan. And I hate having to ‘fess up when I’ve blown it. But I do confess. And that helps me get back on track. You could get similar accountability from a friend, a sister, an exercise class, a trainer or a program like FWTFL.
- Recreation – Staying fit is not just about getting the moves in, doing the work and sweating it out. It’s also about having fun, staying motivated, engaging with our families and friends through recreation, enjoying nature, playing games and laughing. There needs to be lots of laughing. We’ll stay more engaged and motivated to put in the work if we have lined up opportunities for pure recreation. That means we need to find a hiking buddy or a golf partner or a tennis mate or a girlfriend to go on walks with. Maybe your husband would join you for a bike ride or ballroom dance lessons. Or maybe you have a place to swim occasionally or climbing wall to tackle. Don’t leave the fun out!
This Isn’t a Sermon
Look, if it feels like I’m pointing a finger at you in this post, remember that means I’m pointing three fingers back at me! I write posts like these to motivate you and me to plan our workouts and work our plans. But I know me. And I bet you’re not so unlike me. I need a plan if I’m going to stay healthy, fit and engaged for the long haul. And, sister, that’s what we’re in for. Let’s make a plan for fitness.
If you’d like some help developing a plan for fitness, I highly recommend checking out the FASTer Way to Fat Loss. It’s not a diet or really even just a workout program. It’s a lifestyle. And through two six-week rounds of it I learned how to create and stick with a fitness plan that I believe will see me through the rest of my days. You don’t necessarily need to want to lose weight to benefit from this plan either. In fact, Amanda Tress, the creator of FWTFL doesn’t want you to ever get on a scale again. Ever. So the FWTFL is really more about fitness than just how much you weigh.
If you’d like more information or have questions, let me know in the comments section below. But you can also find a wealth of knowledge at their website.
And no, FWTFL isn’t the only way to develop a fitness plan for the 50+ woman. But it’s a good one, and it worked for me. Registration is open now for the November 12 round, but it will fill up and close soon.
So I’d love to know. Do you have a fitness plan? What areas of fitness that I’ve mentioned here do you struggle with the most? For me, it’s definitely flexibility. What are you doing right and what do you need to improve? I’d love to encourage you!
Blessed for My Day
Father, I pray for my friends who are reading this post today. I pray that You would help us to take good and wise care of the bodies You have given us. I ask that You would show us the areas of our physical lives where we have allowed bad habits to form or we’ve given up on worthy goals in favor of comfort or laziness or gluttony or apathy. While such realizations may be painful and even humbling, would You show us how we can get back on track so that we are healthy and able-bodied and engaged women again?
And if anyone reading this truly suffers from a debilitating illness or condition that keeps her from being as active as she once was and would like to be again, would You please confirm in her soul that there is no condemnation in that? We all have limitations and struggles on this side of heaven. Please do not allow the enemy to use those to compound our suffering with guilt. But instead, show us how we can overcome what we can overcome and how we can experience Your grace in what seems to overcome us. Amen.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
If you enjoyed today’s post I hope you will pin it to your fitness Pinterest board. And share it on your Facebook feed, too. Your friends might benefit from this information. Finally, be sure to subscribe to my email service so you never miss a post! Tomorrow we’ll return to fashion, and I’ll quit stepping on your toes!