As another year rapidly draws to an end, I'm starting my annual 'Life Condition' inventory. While this encompasses all aspects of my physical, mental and spiritual being, I'm particularly perplexed by my physical state. 2018 has held many challenges for me and I have fallen away from where I hoped to be at this point. I had hoped to go to Nationals for Women's Figure Over 50 and to have taken in a few other competitions as well. I had hoped to see my strength improve or at least stay the same. None of these things happened.
Recap: two bouts with near-pneumonia totaling 72 days of time away from training. Next up: two incidents where my left knee gave out (due to torn ACL) with recovery taking longer because of the swelling and pain. Then came an accident sustained from a mountain bike crash (of course, injuring my left knee once again) and a dislocated left shoulder. I've been weight training since 1976 and have never experienced such a rapid decline in fitness levels. Welcome to old(er) age...I am sort of joking because I refuse to take aging lightly. I am far from done and am now back in the gym training after several months of down-time with only intermittent exercise. It is challenging and in many ways, I feel as though I am starting over.
In over 42 years of going to the gym, this has been the first year it has been hit-or-miss for me and the results have been just what one would expect: loss of muscle tonus, loss of strength, and a mental frustration that feels foreign. Now I am going to WAR (acronym for 'What's at Risk'), considering What's at Risk if I don't change this direction and What's at Risk if I do. The only thing at risk if I do change the direction I've been going in is the time investment and that is NOT a risk. I feel exactly What's at Risk with the other option - inaction towards forward movement - and that is not acceptable. And for me? It is not a question of 'IF'. It is a matter of 'WHEN' and that when is happening now.
While it is frustrating to have to find my new training intensity after so much time away, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do this, meaning - I didn't die, I'm still alive, still willing and able and still have the mental ability to push myself to do what I need to do. I now know the pain of becoming 'unfit' and while that is relative to my past, I have a better appreciation for how difficult it can be to start a fitness program while feeling this way. It's hard work even if you're happy to go do it - and want to do it - and when you suddenly find yourself gasping for air and unable to complete a set at a light weight that you haven't used in years (or worse yet, EVER), it's humbling. It's also an eye-opener. Fitness levels definitely decline fast as one ages if one does not stay in the game.
My body may not have been able but my mind and spirit were willing. This more than anything has helped me come back though I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone that doesn't have the will or the desire to begin a fitness program. The key is to do something: any amount of time that you can commit to some movement during the day will be time well spent. Things in motion stay in motion and as one ages, this becomes vitally important. If you want quality of life, that is.
Being Fierce sometimes means being honest about the good, the bad, the ugly. For all who have asked what happened to me, now you know. I have had zero motivation to write. I like to share the good stuff and well, there just hasn't been much in my world of fitness but hey - that's changing. You can't keep a good woman down and this one is determined to put this chapter in the distant past as fast as possible. I'm in the gym pressing the accelerator a bit harder each session. I will overcome. I will conquer. I will come out stronger than I was before. Take the journey with me. If you're struggling, start your small steps now and let it be enough. Stay with it, keep taking those steps and you WILL reach your goals. If you need help starting, contact me. Whatever you have to work with, I can help you design a program to meet your needs. No excuses. If the season of cold weather happens to be one of your 'issues', read on. Guest writer Sheila Olson has some tips!
Don’t Let the Cold Slow You Down: Staying Fit When it’s Freezing Outside
When the weather turns cold, it can be challenging to exercise enough if getting outside isn’t an option. Finding a workout routine that suits your physical capabilities and meets your health objectives may be difficult, especially for older adults who may have physical restrictions to consider. Breathing in cold air during exercise can cause respiratory problems, and a wet or icy surface constitutes a serious health threat.
All things considered, it can tempting to put your exercise routine on hold during the winter months. Fortunately, there are ways to work around the problem so you don’t miss out on the physical activity you need to stay healthy and happy during the cold winter months.
There are plenty of ways to exercise indoors. Joining a gym or heading to the YMCA may be an option, but if you just can’t get out (or if you don’t like going out in the cold), try doing laps on the stairs at home. Walking stairs is good for your heart, builds muscle strength in your legs and core, and helps maintain joint flexibility. If you don’t mind going out, consider inviting friends to go for a walk in your local mall, a fun venue where you can check out the sales and have a coffee and post-exercise snack afterward. Make it a date a couple times a week and you’ll notice an improvement in your attitude and mood, as well as a drop in your weight.
If there’s a natatorium or swim club nearby, look into a water aerobics class or just do some laps a couple times a week to elevate your heart rate and alleviate muscle and joint pain. Swimming is an especially good form of exercise for elderly women with arthritis and chronic lower back pain. It’s also a good way to meet new friends and enjoy some regular socialization, which can be hard to come by when it’s cold outside and physical activity is infrequent.
Silver Sneakers is an inexpensive workout program that’s covered by one in four Medicare plans. As a member, you have access to workout equipment and group exercise classes at more than 15,000 locations nationwide, which may include low-intensity or high-impact aerobics, swimming, and yoga classes, among others. Silver Sneakers Flex offers seniors more than 70 kinds of exercise classes at parks and recreation centers.
It’s nice to be able to work out in the comfort of your own home, especially when the weather’s lousy. Consider setting up a personal workout room in your garage, basement, or in a spare bedroom; any place that has enough square footage to accommodate basic exercise equipment, like free weights, yoga mats, resistance bands, and maybe a stationary bike or treadmill. You don’t need to fill your exercise room with high-end equipment to get the workout you want. There are plenty of ways to purchase inexpensive or used equipment. Ebay, Craigslist, and second-hand sports equipment stores and websites can help equip your workout room just the way you want it and well within your budget.
Outdoor Workout Prep
If it’s your intention to exercise outdoors — cold weather or no — there are a few things to be aware of. Dress in layers and protect hand, feet, ears, and head from frostbite. Be smart about checking the weather forecast — if the wind chill factor is too extreme, stay indoors until the temperature’s at a safer level. Always consult your doctor about your workout plans before you begin in earnest, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Cold weather shouldn’t prevent you from carrying through with a workout regimen. Be prepared to exercise indoors when the weather’s too nasty, and always use good judgment when it’s raining or snowing and when the temperature is dangerously low.
Thank you for the tips Sheila! Having just moved to Virginia from Florida, I am experiencing the cold again for the first time in almost 30 years. While I was setting up my new household, I utilized bands, a chin-up bar, an ab roller; I created a circuit using body weight exercises incorporating most of my muscles and managed to get a decent work-out until I found my new gym. While the intensity wasn't what I am used to, the point is to keep moving, approach your exercise time seriously and use it wisely. Remember: fitness is a lifestyle, not a seasonal activity. Don't go into hibernation mode!