July 18

How to stay on track when you can’t do anything


Here’s the thing about making it to the half-century mark: Some body parts don’t work quite as well as they did in the past.  

If you’re wondering if that statement drips with sarcasm, you are correct. In fact, it’s dunked in sarcasm and batter dipped in Understatement of the Year.

In fact, very few things work as well as they did in the past.

As soon as I think of one that does, I’ll let you know.

Memory, joints, slower metabolism (which you know you can change, right?*), oh, and memory. And then we sometimes forget things.

So where was I?

As I see it, you have two choices: complain to anyone and everyone within earshot and do nothing to help yourself. Or you make the best of the situation and focus on what you CAN do.

One — let’s call it Option A — turns you into the old bat that scares neighborhood kids, and the other — Option B — makes you a pleasure to be around and a happier person in general.

Your choice.

Unfortunately, many choose Option A without realizing they have Option B.

We can’t always control when body parts go rogue, but we can control our reaction to the situation.

In fact, even if you do everything within your power to stay healthy and fit and exercise like clockwork, it’s inevitable something flares up/break/pull/twist that sets you back from doing your regular routine.

Your first reaction may be to throw a major pity party for yourself, complete with streamers, balloons, and candy-covered almonds. Oh, the humanity! You cry, punching your pillow, secretly hoping someone’s filming this so you get your own reality show. 

Then you realize no one else is there except you, sitting in the corner in the dark, in a puddle of your own self-pity.

Plus, no one likes candy-covered almonds. 

A better choice, and the topic of today’s post, is how to not gain 1,000 lbs. while you’re incapacitated.

1. Cut back calories

Now is the time to get your nutrition in order stat. If you’ve been hemming and hawing over recording your food intake, do it NOW.

Moving less also means you’re burning fewer calories. (Duh, yes, I know you know. But sometimes it’s important to spell these things out.)

And keep in mind this important little tidbit: Approximately 60 to 75% of your daily calorie burn comes from basal metabolic rate or your resting metabolic rate — the operative word here is “resting.”

Calories burned during exercise is a bonus, which is why doing a 30-minute workout for a week doesn’t send the bathroom scale plummeting into a downward spiral.

If only.

Research shows post-menopausal women can lose weight and keep it off on 1,300 calories a day. (If you’d like the details, be sure to watch my free webinar, How to Firm Up After 50, where I go into all of this.) So aim for between 1,200 and 1,300 calories.

2. Focus on what you CAN do

If you suffer an injury, and your health care professional gives you the go ahead to work out other body parts outside of the injured part, do it.

I’ve worked out with many injured clients and those recovering from surgery over the years. One had an arm in a sling from rotator cuff surgery, for example, so we did a leg routine.

Want to hear something weird (of course you do or why you be reading this?)? Science also shows that if you exercise one side of the body, say the right biceps, the left one benefits slightly due to nerve connections via the spinal cord. It’s definitely worth trying.

Before jumping into anything, be sure the workout takes into account balance or other issues that may be affected by the injury. 

In addition, remember what I said above about your resting metabolism? This means the calories you burn during the day by standing instead of sitting when you’re on the phone, and fidgeting when you’re sitting and otherwise moving around any chance you get counts enormously. 

So move as much as you can throughout the day in any way you can. It all counts!

In the fitness world we refer to this as NEAT, for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.” Why? Because that sounds better than “get up and move any chance you get, even if it’s fidgeting.” Besides, that becomes GUMACYGEIIF, which does not make as cute an acronym.

3. Stretch and foam roll

If you exercise regularly, you’re most likely to shortchange yourself on the stretching and foam rolling part of your workout. Who has time to stretch when you have abs to firm up?

Now’s the time.

Make use of your downtime to increase your flexibility by stretching daily. Be sure to start easy and do a short, light cardio warmup first if you’re able.

Another benefit of stretching when you’re injured: You’re likely compensating for the injured part by overusing another set of muscles. Stretching and foam rolling enables you to re-balance those muscles and stretch out those that may be picking up the slack for their fallen comrades.

Lastly, enjoy the time off! Use downtime for catching up on reading, and practicing your meditation or mindfulness. Getting back into the swing too soon may set you back even farther and for longer.

Don’t be a hero. Be patient and you’ll be back sooner than later.

YOUR TURN: What do YOU do when you can’t work out? Let me know in the comments below… 

Other posts you may enjoy:

3 Knee-friendly, leg toning exercises

Best functional exercises for women over 50

How to exercise when you’re hurting

Your Ageless Body Coach,

*If you’d like to know how to keep your metabolism amped up, watch my free webinar, How to Firm Up After 50 for the whole scoop!


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  1. I appreciate your effort in writing this up. At times when I can’t work out, I’ll usually take time off to meditate as it calms and quiets the mind. Like they say, when you conquer your mind, you conquer the world. 🙂

  2. Enjoyed reading this! I’m going through physical therapy & this was a great reminder to focus on what I can do & to be patient. Thank you

  3. For over a year I wasn’t able to exercise due to a hip injury. It was VERY hard not be active, nothing I’d ever experienced before. No yoga, no walking, no light weights…. The only exercise I had was from PT and most of that was painful. What helped me the most was meditation, mostly guided meditations using an app called Insight Timer – it’s amazing. The other thing was the positive loving support of friends and family. I had very successful surgery this past April and am now back to a full and active life! In fact I’m more active now then in recent years. So a rainbow after the storm is possible!

    1. That’s such a great story, Carrie! It can be super frustrating when you can’t do anything, and even depressing. That’s where meditation and the support of friends can definitely help, as you found. Glad you’re back better than ever now!

  4. even when I can’t workout, I can stretch and bend. This helps tremendously when I can workout again.

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