How well are you living right now?
Do you feel as good as you’d like to feel? Can you do the things you’d like to do and do you enjoy them as much as you could?
I’d like to help, and I’m confident I can. But let’s figure out where you’re at before we proceed. First, I’d like to save you a little time and let you know exactly whether or not this article is for you. It is if:
1. You’re already sold on and committed to a wellness lifestyle (regular exercise and healthful eating) at least most of the time.
3. You’re not confident that your eating program is as supportive as it can be of your fitness efforts but you’re not interested in regimented, restrictive diets.
Sound like you? You are in the right place.
Most of my clients are over 50; some over 60 and a few past 70. Of course, we’re all individuals with different schedules, obligations and preferences, so the information below is no substitute for a more in-depth exploration with a helpful guide suited to your exact needs. But the issues below are often big contributors to limiting the success of your habits and routines in your efforts to develop the firm, fit physique you’re looking to create.
Here are five habits you can start (or fix) today to get yourself on the best track going forward:
1. Strength train to keep your heart rate up in the 120+ bpm range. You already know that building and retaining strength requires resistance training, and it yields the key ingredient of “firm” in the phrase “fit and firm”. What you might not know is that it’s pretty easy to get most of the traditional cardio benefits through strength training in a particular way. Here’s the magic formula: Work large muscle groups with compound exercises (moving more than one joint at a time – pulls, pushes and squats or lunges) using pristine form (correct posture, full range of motion and fluid, controlled cadence) to absolute failure, and continue to the next set when your heart rate is lower than 90 (15 bpm over 10 seconds – you can put your fingertips on one hand on either on the opposite wrist just inside and below the thumb-side joint or on the carotid artery under the jaw just inside the lateral neck muscle). Keeping this pace will, effectively, give you an additional cardio workout in the same training session you worked your muscles.
2. Drink a glass of water, tea or decaf coffee before every meal or snack. Most of us walk around at least partially dehydrated and we sometimes eat too soon or too fast because we’re craving the water in the food, rather than the energy (calories) in the food. That contributes to over-eating. Consuming water before eating also helps to keep your blood sugar more stable – the most important factor in managing hunger.
3. Mix up your cardio and core with a broad range of low-impact, full-body movement patterns. Here’s one of my favorite circuits that incorporates both. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) for both women and men over-50 is great, as long as you have built up a fitness base to accommodate it and have no injury, surgery or condition/medication related restrictions that preclude it (check with your doc first). This not only limits the joint stress by dispersing the workloads evenly throughout the body from multiple directions, but also significantly improves balance and coordination as well.
4. Step up your percentage of veggies and protein (the most under-consumed and the most nutrient-rich dietary components in our age group) through variety. Research shows that the more varied your choices are of a given food type, the more likely you are to consume more of it. Try planning a different protein for dinner each night (chicken, beans, fish, beef, tofu, turkey and pork cover the week without repeats). It’s even more important for veggies. Don’t get stuck just eating salads! Stir-fry mixed veggies, roasted asparagus, beets on the side with balsamic vinegar, mixed greens with strawberries and pecans and cauliflower mash are all worth a try, as well as low-sugar veggie juices and cut carrots, cherry tomatoes and broccoli dipped in hummus earlier in the day are all favorites of mine.
5. Add a stress-reducing component to your fitness program. Yoga is a great alternative since it also builds core stability and improves range of motion and flexibility. And it’s distinctively different from the more aggressive modes of cardio and core – not just in feel, but in purpose. The dedicated focus on feeling the movements and relaxing into the poses (asanas) helps you get out of your head and out of an achievement mindset. Even if you don’t feel you have a stressful life (work and family are pure unadulterated sources of joy, right?), it’s a great practice to move your body with no agenda but to make all your other your movement easier and more comfortable. The invigoration that results is truly unique. But you can get similar benefits from a long, relaxing full-body stretch session (warm up first, though, so your body is optimally receptive and you’re far less likely to over-stretch). Same with meditation, guided or otherwise. There are lots of great meditation videos on Youtube, but I mostly just put “Meditation by the Sea” on my Pandora station and sit on my pillow focusing on a candle flame and my breath. The point is not to try to stop thinking, but simply to “notice” and release judgements you become aware of as they arise. There’s no scorecard for meditation, and the goal is simply to center and “be” with the experience. It can provide a nice contrast to the other habits you have that are meant to produce some tangible outcome that can be measured and judged.
If you want to get the most from this article – and I know you do – don’t try to implement each of these habits simultaneously. You stand a much better chance of being successful, and enjoying the process more, if you concentrate on one at a time and devote a week (or more) to cultivating each.
Now here’s the fun part – which ones should you focus on first? Good question. Here’s my answer – are you more likely to enjoy starting on the one that you think you need the most, or are you more likely to have fun focusing on the one you’d like to master before moving onto to the others.
Yes, let enjoyment lead here, folks. Haven’t we done enough for others out of a sense of duty or obligation? Now it should be time for you, and that should bring you some pleasure.
Want more great advice and motivation to be fit and firm past fifty? Here's a link to our premium six-week course/coaching program (new session starts soon and is limited to 20 registrants!) and here's a link to a cool FREE giveaway cheat sheet pdf and video on Seven Simple Steps to Lifelong Vitality.