Exercise Over 40
xercise is the critical ingredient to a long and healthy life. A 20 year old can live on diet alone because he or she has youth on their side. That is no longer an option for you. But I can already hear the objections piling up. You already have so much to do. How are you supposed to fit in exercise? Good question. Fortunately, you already have the answer. Don’t believe me? Well, why should you? I’ll prove it.
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How to Find the Time
Pull out your calendar and a piece of paper. Write down, hour by hour, a couple of your typical days. Most people have two or even three different versions of them. You have the days you have to pick up Jr. from soccer, the days you have to work late, and who knows what else. That sort of thing. Write down from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. Fill in the time you spend watching television. Don’t forget to add in the time you need to commute between your various activities. Pencil in the time it takes you to shower, dress, etc.
No matter how crazy your life is I bet you’re watching a couple of hours of T.V. a night. Am I right? Or maybe you spend time on other ‘filler’ activities. Do you surf the web after work? Is your time eaten up by activities you do for other people that they can very well do for themselves? Well knock it off. That’s an order. Your life is complicated enough without adding in other people’s complications. Easier said than done, I know. But you are going to have to shed some of your filler activities if you want to shed some pounds. It’s as simple as that.
Highlight all of those filler activities. Note: If you have an activity you do regularly to decompress—and it isn’t eating, drinking, watching T.V. or checking email—don’t highlight it. Maybe you talk to your best friend on the phone every night. Or perhaps you read a magazine or work on a craft. It’s the thing that consistently leaves you in a better mood than you when you started the activity. If you are lucky enough to have something like that, then keep doing it. It’s a necessary activity.
You’ll need an hour to an hour and a half’s worth of time out of each day. In the beginning you’re only going to be working out for 20-30 minutes. The rest of that time is for getting to where you’re going to exercise, and for showering and changing afterward. As you get into your routine you will spend more time exercising and less time getting ready for it.
Right about now someone out there is panicking—if only inside your mind. ‘I can’t find an hour and a half for exercise! Impossible! I have to do x,y,z. I’m too tired. I don’t have the money for a gym membership. My local gym sucks. My neighborhood isn’t a safe place to walk at night. It’s snowing outside. I don’t have enough room to exercise inside, etc. etc.’ Let yourself think of all the reasons why this program won’t work. You might want to write your reasons down.
Now treat those excuses the same way you treat your kids when they start whining. Nod your head and then make yourself do it anyway. Crumple up that paper and throw it away. Those objections are just suggestions that you are free to ignore. Every time they surface, give them a mental ‘Uh huh, uh huh, you’re right’ as you put on your workout clothes and go exercise. Don’t beat yourself up for not wanting to exercise. Just get in the habit of ignoring your inner whiner. That little voice may never completely go away, but if you start ignoring it, it will lose its power over you.
At this point you have found a free hour or two. Now you have a decision to make. Will you exercise during that time slot, or shift other things into it so you can exercise at a different time during the day? For example, if you have the hours of 8pm-10pm free, is it better for you to exercise then, or to move some of the things you do in the morning into that slot so you can exercise first thing?
The answer is really up to you. Are you a morning person or a night person? Some people find that they won’t exercise right after work. They’re tired, hungry, and unmotivated. Others just can’t get up at 5 in the morning. It messes them up for the entire day. All things being equal, pick the time that works for your body rhythm.
Having said that, I have to put in a plug for exercising in the morning. Stuff happens. You know that. If you get your exercise out of the way before you start your day, then life can’t get in the way of your health. But either way, choose a time slot you will actually use, and stick with on a consistent basis.
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How to Get Started
…If you’re sedentary.
If your idea of a workout is a round of golf on the weekends or playing with your kids, then you are sedentary. Under no circumstances are you to put on your sneakers and try to go running for an hour or do hard-core aerobics. You aren’t twenty anymore. You could put yourself out of commission for a month or more. We’ll get you to the point where you can pass for early thirties but you aren’t there yet.
You need a minimum of three exercise days. You will be working on these three areas: Cardio health, Strength, and Balance. Add days as you progress, until you’re working out 6 days a week. Don’t panic. You are a few months away from that right now. Do one set of the following exercises the first 2-4 weeks. As they get less difficult to do, add a second set. Progress slowly. You aren’t in a race.
…If you’re active.
If you workout at least three days a week for thirty minutes you qualify as active. Those of you in this camp can be divided into two groups: Those that do just cardio work and those of you who do both cardio and strength training. You will eventually work on cardio, strength training, and balance, but you will want to focus on raising the intensity of your weight training workout.
Muscles equal youth. The more lean muscle you have, the younger you will look and feel. Start with two sets of the strength exercises the first week and add a second set in somewhere around week two or three. At week four, put in a third set.
The balance exercises will focus on your core muscles. If you have back pain, these are the exercises that are going to make that feel better. A strong core improves your posture, protects you against pulled muscles, and will help your balance. You will be more coordinated, which translates into fewer fitness and “lifestyle” injuries. You know what I’m talking about. Have you ever sneezed or reached down for something and pulled a muscle? A weak core is the culprit. Start with one set the first two weeks. This is an area that most people ignore except for the occasional sit-up. Go slowly. Add in a second set only after you can do one set correctly. Add a third set after you can do two sets correctly.
What to Do
HeartRateMonitorUSA.com usually has great deals on heart monitors. This little tool will help you calculate if you are working hard enough or too hard. You don’t have to buy one right away, but make it a priority after you get in your exercise routine. Buy a heart monitor that calculates your optimal beats per minute range.
You’re now ready to go.
…For the sedentary: This will take up one day out of the three minimum days you will devote to exercise. At this point you want to perform an activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat for 20-30 minutes. For some of you walking around your yard or up and down your street will do the trick. For others it will take a power walk around the neighborhood, a stint pedaling on a stationary bike, or walking laps in a pool. Beginner aerobic videos also count. Pick two or three activities you can do regularly.
…For the active: You will want to perform your cardio workout three days out of six. Do it every other day. The stair stepper machine at the gym is a great option because you can get an intense workout without jolting your joints or back muscles. If you have access to a gym, try the other cardio machines or consider an aerobics class for variety. Your body adapts to exercise quite quickly—you will want to change things up so you continue to see an improvement.
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A Master’s Swim club is a great way to keep the intensity up and make new friends. You will have access to a swim coach, who will design a workout based on your fitness and swimming ability. The United States Masters Swimming organization at USMS.org can help you locate a swim club in your area.
Once you start exercising regularly you will quickly see improvement. Remember to assess how you feel after each workout. It is normal to feel a little sore, but if you feel can’t get out of bed for days, then back off. You need to progress, but do so slowly. Add an extra minute to your exercise each week. Or raise the intensity of the workout by swimming faster, or raising the incline on the treadmill for a short amount of time. As long as you are working hard, small changes will produce big results.
This is your key to losing weight and looking young. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even when you’re sleeping. Beginners, you will be doing your strength training on one of your three days. Those of you who are active should pick two out of your six days to work on strength.
Everyone thinks of weights when they think of strength training. Weights can work, but they aren’t the only way to build lean muscle. The truth is, you don’t need any equipment to get strong. Bodyweight exercises are super effective no matter what shape you are in. If you buy a yoga mat, a couple of resistance bands, and a weight ball, you can have a complete home gym that you can store under your bed or on a shelf in the closet. Better yet, you can buy all of this equipment for less than $50 total.
…For the sedentary: Start slowly. Do one set each for the first week or two before adding a second set.
…For the active: Start with two sets, adding a third after the second week.
Squats (Lower back, butt, hamstrings)
Stand with your back to a chair. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Pull your belly button towards the spine. Lower down as if you are about to sit in the chair. If you’re advanced you may want to touch the chair with your rear, but don’t rest on it. Lower only to the point you feel comfortable and hold for a count of 2. Come up slowly, squeezing your rear. Keep that stomach tight. Beginners do 3, Advanced do 8. This is one set.
Lunges (Lower abs, hamstrings, quads, butt)
Stand up straight, belly button pulled toward your spine. If you haven’t done these before you will want to use a chair for balance, but don’t hang on it. Take a comfortable step forward. Keep your back straight and keep sucking in that belly button. Bend your knees. Hold for a count of 2, then come back up, squeezing all the way. Do the other leg. This counts as one. Beginners do 3 sets, Advanced do 6.
Push ups (Chest, lats, upper back, stomach)
There are three main variations: For the absolute beginner (or for someone who has difficulty getting on the floor) stand one or two feet away from a wall. Put your hands on the wall and do your pushups there. For the intermediate exerciser get down on the floor and do your pushups on hands and knees. For the advanced exerciser do full pushups on your hands and toes.
For everyone: Keep your stomach in tight and your back flat. Do your pushups in front of a mirror if you aren’t sure you’re doing it right. Lower down as far as you comfortably can. Push up until just before you lock your elbows. Don’t forget to breathe. Beginners do 1-3, Advanced do 3-10. This is one set.
Use either a weight or a resistance band. If using a resistance band, put the band under your foot, making sure the band is even on both sides. Stand up straight, suck in your belly button, and curl the weight up as you count to 2. Extend back down as you count to 3. Beginners: 5 reps, light weight or easy resistance band. Advanced: 8-10 reps with appropriate weight or resistance band. This is one set.
Use either a weight or a resistance band. Bend your knees and lean forward with a flat back. Pull your elbows up toward the ceiling, hands by your hips. In this position push your hands back toward the ceiling on a count of two. Come back to the start position while counting to three. Beginners: 5 reps. Advanced: 8-10.
These exercises may be really hard in the beginning. But fortunately for you, these are the muscles that are already used to working out. All of your movement begins in your core (the muscles of your pelvis and trunk). These muscles will respond quickly to a consistent workout. Both beginners and advanced should do this workout a minimum of once a week. As you progress you will want to add one or two of these exercises to your other exercise days.
Bridge (Back, stomach, butt, thighs)
Lay on the floor with the bottoms of your feet on the ground and your knees bent. Pull your belly button into your spine and raise your hips off the floor. Your arms should be flat on the ground. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Beginners repeat this 2 more times, Advanced – 4 more times.
For anyone who is advanced and looking for a challenge, get into the bridge position, then try extending one leg (so that you are balanced on one foot while still in the bridge). Hold for 10 seconds. Alternately, you can put the weight ball between your knees and perform a regular bridge.
Quadreped (This works everything)
Get down on the floor onto your hands and knees. Pull your belly button into your spine and keep your back flat. Squeeze those butt muscles. Beginners: Raise one hand as if you are pointing at something in front of you. Hold for 2 counts and lower. Do the other side. Do 2 more on each side. Intermediate/Advanced: Assume the same position. Raise one arm and the opposite leg. Hold for a count of 2. Do 4-6 more on each side.
Plank (This works everything)
Lie on your stomach. Come up onto your elbows. Beginners: You will be on your elbows and knees. Keep your back flat and pull your belly button in. You want to get to the point where you can hold this for 20 seconds. Just concentrate on holding it as long as you can in the correct position. If that is 3 seconds at first, so be it. This is one set. Advanced: You will be on your elbows and toes. Hold for twenty seconds.
This is not a wimpy workout. Exercise doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Do this workout consistently and you will see results.
Exercise will help make you fit and strong. But if you want to show off those muscles to the best advantage you need to eat a diet that leaves you glowing with health. The next section will show you what to eat, and how to incorporate healthy habits into your crazy busy lifestyle.
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