I recently read a story about the demise of an Indonesian man, Mbah Gotho, who claimed to be 146 years old when he died.
Many people say he exaggerated. For one, Indonesia did not begin recording births until 1900, which makes his claim suspicious. Truth is, he may have been a whippersnapper of merely 120-something.
And honestly, he didn’t look a day over 110.
But who in their right mind tacks on more than 20 years to their actual age??
On the other hand, once you hit 100 and your face shows up on a Smucker’s jar, you should be able to make up any number you want.
Personally, I have no desire to live that long unless science figures out a way for me to be back in the body of my younger self.
At 58, each morning I am forced to play my least favorite game, What’s Hurting Today, for Cripe’s Sake?
To drive one more nail into my ego, there was all that recent hoopla about the 86-year old triathlete nun featured in Nike commercials.
I can’t imagine running a mile, let alone 26 of them, on top of swimming in the ocean and biking more than 100 miles.
Sure, it’s inspiring, but it can also prompt a why even bother? give me the ice cream response to see someone doing something that you can’t dream of doing even on your best day. Which, in my case, is getting through a workout without ending up in the ER.
Even if you’ve done all the right things, most of us over-50 women can’t do such an extreme feat, let alone want to do it.
Here’s the good news: Most fit people have never done a triathlon or even a marathon, because pushing yourself to extremes is not a necessary part of being in shape, thankfully.
You can do a lot less and still be super fit.
Because a funny thing happens on your way to 50 and beyond… your body betrays you.
Yup, the body you’ve been living in all this time decides it’s going to show you a thing or two about who’s boss.
Take my knee, for example. I’ve done everything to keep it healthy throughout the years, never abused it by doing anything crazy like jumping off buildings onto asphalt or otherwise pretending I have super powers.
Yet, how does it reward me? By becoming arthritic, popping, cracking and swelling up for no good reason other than to make my life miserable and preventing me from doing some of my favorite exercises.
I’ve gone a couple of rounds of cortisone and other shots to cushion the joint and ease the inflammation, yet all of it helps for only a short time. Then, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, it’s baaaack!
I asked my Ageless After 50 Women Facebook group for their biggest physical challenges. Many responded with their own stories of rebellious body parts.
Knee and back issues, not surprisingly, topped the list.
In my never-ending search to find the “glass half full” version of whatever life dishes out (which trust me, isn’t easy some days), I thought I’d come up with some do’s and don’ts to help you cope with whatever ails you.
The big question: How can I stay in shape and lose weight when things hurt?
Obviously, if you’re hurting you should first see a physician first. Or, if you’re like me and know where the problem lies (arthritis), and your doctor gave you the go-ahead, it’s a matter of trial and error.
If you end up on the couch with an ice pack and bottle of Motrin, you may want to modify your routine next time.
Here are my best tips for avoiding pain and modifying your workout so you can keep on keeping on…
Do a thorough warm-up
Skipping your warm-up seems like an easy way to cut your workout time (guilty as charged…), but it’s more important than ever now. Warming up primes your muscles and nervous system to get ready for the work ahead. And, if you have arthritis like me, it’s crucial. Strive for 10 minutes or so of a light cardio exercise, ideally using the body parts you’ll be exercising, until you just start to break a sweat.
Stay within a pain-free zone
Know your limits. If it hurts to “do this” don’t do that. For example, if squats hurt your knees, but half-squats work fine, stick with that. Adjust your range of motion to stay within the pain-free zone – don’t push it!
If running hurts, try walking. Swap Zumba for yoga for a couple of weeks. Swimming may ease joint pain when you have a flare-up. Try biking or rowing instead of the elliptical, etc.
First, ONLY stretch after you’re warmed up, or you risk pulling or straining a muscle. Stretching includes traditional, static (stretch and hold) stretching as well as foam rolling. Research shows foam rolling helps speed recovery and increases range of motion when done on a regular basis — e.g. every day.
Change your workout time
Mornings tend to be when joints are at their angriest, although that varies. If that’s the case for you, consider exercising later in the day if you can, after you’ve been moving around for a bit.
A few specifics…
IF YOUR BACK IS SORE
Avoid overhead lifting, which puts stress on your spine. A slight incline works better for something like overhead shoulder presses, for example. Also, stay clear of machines like the leg press, which can also hurt your back.
WHEN YOUR SHOULDER GIVES YOU GRIEF
The exact cause of the discomfort determines what works and what hurts, but in general stay away from overhead presses, lateral raises, chest presses and the chest fly (the latter involves bringing arms out to your sides and back up and together as if you’re hugging a giant tree). Each of these stresses out the shoulder joint. Chest presses can work if you use a modified range of motion and lower the resistance about half way. Modified push-ups may be alright, but go easy on all chest and shoulder exercises until you’re pain-free.
FOR REBELLIOUS KNEES
I saved the best for last. And by “best” I mean the worst. One of the consistently named “worst exercises for knees” on any list on this topic includes the knee extension, a machine, a seated exercise where you extend your legs out in front of you with a weighted pad on the fronts of your ankles. Ouch! It’s not a functional movement anyway, so skip it.
Hip raises and side-to-side crab walks are also usually fine (you can find these on my YouTube channel HERE).
NOW YOU… What are YOUR biggest physical challenges? Let me know in the comments section below …
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Let’s do this!
Your Ageless Body Coach,