In my mind — and from what other women over 50 tell me — this one word sums up how it feels when body parts cease cooperating with you.
The conversation I have with my knee could be one you’d have with a best friend who you found out has been stealing protein bars out of your pantry.
YOU: Why would you DO this to me after all I’ve done for you?? I’ve always been there for you when you called crying after your favorite lipstick shade was discontinued — I even took you on vacations — and this is how you repay me?
YOUR BODY: Yup.
This came to mind this morning as I went to tie my shoes before heading out to the gym. I propped my foot up on the side of the tub, a feat normally as death defying as brushing my teeth.
As I brought my foot back down to the floor, however, I felt a sharp pain in my knee as if someone took an ice pick and jabbed it into my kneecap (I’m exaggerating a bit, but it seriously hurt).
If you’re new to these posts (‘cause I’ve certainly done enough complaining about it), here’s a quick sentence of my backstory: For the past few years my right knee has a bad case of uncooperativeness also known as osteoarthritis.
It’s been quiet lately. In fact, I’ve been able to do formerly painful exercises without pain, which gave me a false sense of security.
But every once in awhile, like today, this saboteur apparently feels the need to rear its ugly kneecapped head and tell me who’s boss.
Betrayed by the very knee I nursed since birth, covered in fashionable jeans, and decked out in cute spandex capris. How could this be? I ask myself.
Here’s how: I’ve been active in one way or another for 38 years. And my knee has taken the brunt of all those hundreds of lunges and squats.
I simply cannot do the same workouts I did in my formative years, regardless of my positive mindset.
My body is not the same one I had back then. If only.
The key lies in knowing how to adapt and change with age instead of fighting it, being in denial and insisting you can still “do it all.” Maybe some people can, but they’re in the minority. Or they possess superpowers.
Truth is, the majority of us need to chill out if we want to avoid the ER or avoid adding ibuprofen to our daily supplement regimen.
So when I titled this post “…your perfect workout plan,” I meant the one that’s perfect for YOU and your goals.
Obviously, the specifics vary depending on your fitness level, any limitations, etc. But as a general guide, keep these tips in mind.
Here are the most common goals and the best approach to take:
I combined these two goals since losing weight is usually a way to reduce belly fat as well. No matter how many crunches you do, you can’t specify which fat cells can stay and which ones burn off, unfortunately.
– Focus on your diet. It’s way easier to cut out 200 calories than it is to burn it off with exercise. The latter is also difficult to estimate, since calorie burn of activities varies according to your fitness level, intensity of the workout and your body weight.
Research shows an intake of 1,300 calories a day works best for the majority of post-menopausal women.
– Do BOTH strength training and cardio. Women typically spend hours doing cardio when they want to lose weight, but adding strength training is often the missing piece to “finally” seeing results.
Both burn calories, but adding some muscle burns calories by boosting your resting metabolism, which comprises about 70% of your daily calorie burn. Plan on five or more days of cardio a week and two to three days of full body resistance training.
If you’re already at a healthy weight, adding resistance training enables you to see muscle definition (a.k.a. “toning”) and firming up. Cardio alone won’t do it. As above, aim for three times a week and use enough resistance that you feel a challenge at 12 to 15 repetitions.
You need to provide enough of a challenge to your muscles to trigger change — this won’t happen by doing thousands of reps with super light weight. The latter increases muscular endurance but if it’s tone you want, you’ll need to work a bit harder.
Ah, stretching… it’s like a reward for a good workout. Speaking of, always do your stretches only after your workout, at least after a good warmup. Stretching a cold muscle sets you up for strains and sprains.
Aim to stretch every major muscle group, with a focus on the ones you feel most tight: hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, inner/outer thigh, chest, back, arms and shoulders. Hold each stretch for 20 or more seconds and be sure to breathe into the stretch — avoid holding your breath. Focus on relaxing the muscle with each stretch.
The key to increased flexibility: daily stretching. Yes, every day.
I learned this lesson after experiencing severe back pain years ago. I went to a physical therapist who would only work with me if I agreed to stretch every day. Otherwise, he said, it won’t work.
It took me two months of daily stretching before I found relief. TWO MONTHS! Before then, I wasn’t sure if this plan was even working.
It did. It relieved my back pain and I still do some of those same stretches every single day.
True story! So hop to it.
Let’s chat… What are YOUR goals? What are you doing to get there? Leave a note in the chat box below… I’d love to hear from you!
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Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.