5 Tips for a pain-free workout

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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. Switch gears

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.

  1. Increase stretching

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.

  1. 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 …

Other posts you may enjoy:

6 Key ingredients for a DIY success plan

How to get back into the swing of things after a break

How to change your mind so you can change your body

By the way… If  you haven’t done so already, be sure to get on the WaitList for my new member’s only Ageless Army group! You’ll be first in line to hear when it becomes available. Sign up HERE.

Got questions? Send ’em to me at linda@lindamelone.com.

Let’s do this!

Your Ageless Body Coach,

10 Comments

  1. Denise Ross on May 4, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Hi Linda,
    As always you make me laugh (mostly at myself) since all the things you speak of are happening to me right now. I just had water removed from my knew and received a cortisone shot on top of that. The pain of those needles was well worth it. Today I woke up and could straighten my leg when I got out of bed (victory)! And guess what else? I was doing those seated leg raises on my universal gym. Ugh! If only I had known. So off to some physical therapy to find out just what exercises are appropriate! Thanks for the laughs and advice!
    Denise Ross

    • Linda Melone on May 4, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Hi Denise! I’m getting a shot in my knee today, too, so I feel your pain. I am surprised you can do the leg extension machine if your knees hurt. That thing would just about kill me! lol The PT should be able to steer you in the right direction. And thanks, I’m glad you enjoy my sense of humor :).

  2. Mary Collette Rogers on May 4, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Two things that have really helped me are 1) changing my end-goal from being some amazing athlete to just being mobile and active at 85; and 2) never doing any one thing very much. So instead of being a great hiker or biker or swimmer, I just do a little of everything–from Pilates to dance to spin to skiing. I had to give up the ego rush of being really great at one particular sport; but the trade-off has been worth it. I never (or only rarely!) overwork any part of my body to the point of having bad aches and pains!

    • Linda Melone on May 4, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Mary, you definitely have a handle on what works for you! I like your “exercise buffet” approach, some of this and a little of that :). Keep up the good work!

  3. Deb on May 4, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Honestly, the description in this article is exactly what sabotages my workouts. Not to mention, now I get a migraine the next day if I do anything strenuous. I’ve been active my whole life, but menopause has really limited everything. It seems as though that was the really nail in the coffin. Not to mention that all the “workouts” that are supposed to have results are really meant for younger people. I look at some of these and know that my body would rebel violently. It seems as though as soon as I get on a roll with something consistent, something else “breaks”. Frustrated to say the least.

    • Linda Melone on May 4, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Deb, have you tried a gentle type of exercise like Tai Chi? It’s a great way to get in low-impact activity and also eases stress. Or a gentle form of restorative yoga? Keep searching! There’s plenty out there, something will work for you :).

  4. Dr Heike Franz on May 4, 2017 at 7:52 am

    I am “only” 57, but nevertheless, on some days I feel like 75. Backpain! I had back surgery (prolapsed disc) about 20 years ago, so I should be grateful to be able to work out every day. I think my worst enemy is my ambition: when I see somebody in my age doing yoga (backbends, the crow, I guess you know the animals) I feel, I have to be able to do it as well. I know it is stupid and I couldn’t do all these asanas when I was a child, but hey, give it a try. And then my body tells me to STOP NOW. But doing moderate exercise on most days makes me feel so much better. Let me take the opportunity to say thank you for all your posts, it is so inspiring! Greetings from Katzenelnbogen, Germany, a very rainy place today

    • Linda Melone on May 4, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Hi Dr. Franz! I’m definitely in your camp of moderating what I used to do and bringing it down to a more moderate level. It’s fine to push yourself outside your comfort zone, but not if it’s in the “danger/injury” zone. That approach defeats the whole purpose of working out to get fit! Thanks for checking in from Germany :).

  5. Sheila on May 6, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Hi Linda,
    I’m 58 also (will be in a couple of days) and I recently was diagnosed with bicep tendinitis. Silly me, I was using my rebounder and raising my arms over my head. Anyway, the injury really cramped my work out (I was on a pretty good workout streak). I also have knee issues. I have noticed that I am not able to consistently use my treadmill or rebounder without aggravating my knees, and now have to wait a bit before using my dumbbell again. What other exercises can I do at home that will be effective and gives my kneess a break. Should I be alternating activities to prevent overuse injury? Any suggestions?

    • Linda Melone on May 7, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Hi Sheila, Happy birthday! And yes, tendonitis becomes more common as we age, unfortunately, so alternating or “cross training” is essential. Alternate the treadmill with a non-impact workout such as an elliptical or bike, if you have access to one of them. Rowers sometimes also work. Hope this helps!

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