I was almost struck by lightning once. It happened during a visit to a client’s house in Connecticut many years ago.
I specify Connecticut because here in Southern California lightning storms are as common as a salad without sliced avocado.
In other words: never happen.
In fact, if a lightning storm were to occur here I’d assume it was the end of the world.
The minute I hear rumbling I’d pack up my favorite makeup palettes, a couple gallons of water and a few protein bars and head underground — and it’s where I’d stay until I ran out of water. Or highlighter.
So my lightning story.
It began like any other day…
I left my house for the 20-minute drive. It looked like rain but had not yet started. I heard the rumble of distant thunder. I wasn’t worried. As opposed to the west coast, in Connecticut summer thunderstorms happen nearly every day.
I arrived at my client’s house just as it starts to pour. Thankfully, she had a covered porch where I waited until she reached the door.
I rang the doorbell, sack of fitness equipment in a bag over my shoulder. Where the heck is she? I remember thinking, since she didn’t usually lock her door when she expects me.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see a white hot streak accompanied by a simultaneous giant, crackling — BOOM!!!
Lightning hits a tree in the next yard, setting it on fire. I nearly jumped into my equipment sack.
(Thankfully the pouring rain put out the fire immediately.)
I screamed and began pounding on my client’s front door, in
near hysterics, “Let me in!”
I was shaking and trying not to burst into tears. So much for professionalism, I’m thinking.
She finally opens the door. She’s holding her 3-year old son and simply says, “Wow, that sounded close.”
It took me half the session to calm down, as if that lightning bolt wanted a second chance to hit me and would stop at nothing to get it.
By now you’re probably thinking one of three things:
- I’m being overly dramatic because it’s not as if my hair caught on fire or my shoes melted to the front porch
- It would’ve been way more interesting if the bolt hit me and I was able to play the piano after I regained consciousness
- For cripe’s sake what does this have to do with exercises we should never do??
And you’d be 100% correct on all accounts, at least for the first two.
But let’s face it, fitness is not nearly as exciting as almost becoming a human shish kebab. So if you read down this far, I rest my case.
As for #3, here’s the thing: You can have a near miss with lightning just as you can with exercise.
Problem is, there’s a lot of gray area in the fitness world. And no, I’m not just talking about hair color after 50.
It’s what makes exercise as frustrating as it is challenging.
As a writer for numerous online publications, I realize the importance of a headline that attracts clicks. So do my editors.
Nearly any time I’ve been assigned an article using the phrase, “… To Never Do/Eat/” I get less-than-friendly emails and comments.
For example, a 40- year old fitness pro friend once wrote to tell me I was wrong about exercises for people over 50, and that he plans on working out the same way and just as hard well into his 50s.
To which I said, “Good for you! Catch up with me when you reach 50 and we’ll chat.”
Then of course you have ridiculous exceptions such as the Iron Nun featured in Nike ads, who’s reportedly completed 340 triathlons and continues to race at the age of 87.
I can’t imagine running a marathon, let alone a triathlon or any other heroic fitness feats.
The good news? You don’t have to do anything extreme to be fit and strong.
In fact, extreme anything in any type of sport or workout will much more likely land you in the ER after 50 due to changes in the collagen, elasticity and recovery time required. But yes, some people are more resilient and have better genetics than us mere mortals, apparently.
Having said that… in general, the following exercises are deemed less than great for you after 50 (note: personally, I never do these exercises, for the record)…
Leg extension machine
As someone with knee osteoarthritis, just thinking about this machine makes my knees hurt.
It involves extending your legs up out in front of you with resistance in front of your ankles while in a seated position. It hits the quadriceps, the front of the thighs.
Why it’s not great: This exercise puts a ton of shear force and stress over the knee cap area, causing wear and tear on the knee.
A better choice: lunges or squats, if you can do them, or simple leg lifts while seated with your back against a wall
Pulldowns behind the head
This back exercise involves pulling a bar straight down and behind your head until it reaches neck level. It forces you to lean in towards the machine and is awkward at best.
Why it’s not great: Pulldowns behind the neck stress out the front of your shoulders and could lead to injury.
A better choice: You can use the same machine but lean back slightly and pull the bar in front of you at collarbone level, instead of behind your neck, keeping your back straight. Or substitute seated rows.
This refers to lifting weights directly overhead and in line with your shoulders, which includes the military press done on a machine, with a barbell or dumbbells.
Why it’s not great: It puts stress across the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons, which are more prone to injury as we age.
A better choice: Modify the move by bringing hands slightly in front of you instead of directly in line with your shoulders, or substitute lateral raises.
BONUS TIP If you have osteoporosis or osteopenia…
Any type of flexion, where you curve your spine forward as in a crunch, puts spinal discs at risk of fracturing. You won’t necessarily know it, either, until you find yourself becoming shorter.
As someone with osteoporosis, I substitute planks and other ab exercises that do not involve flexion.
What exercises do you no longer do and why? Let me know in the comments section below… I’d love to hear from you. And please forward this post to your ageless friends who may find benefit in my rantings :).
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