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Training as we Age

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

It’s a given that our bodies change as we age. Nearly every system in our body changes in some way as we get older. If we do nothing to counter these changes, the body can suffer from many health issues and limit your mobility and function. I am an advocate for exercise, weight lifting, sports, and training throughout the lifetime to preserve and protect the body so that you can enjoy life well into your elder years.

So many times I hear, “I played football when I was younger and now I’m paying for it.” My thought is, what if instead of blaming it on what we did when we were strong, in shape, and active, we blame it on our lack of exercise, strengthening, and taking care of our bodies in our adult years. Most of the time we are in far less shape as adults than we were as children and then we feel all the wear and tear. If we maintained a healthy and active lifestyle as an adult would we feel all of the aches and pains that we associate with our active childhood?

What is Safe for our Body as we Age?

Determining what is safe for our body is dependent upon where you are starting in your training. How active are you regularly? What precautions or contraindications do you have for exercising?

It is important that you start exercising at a safe level for you. To figure out where this is for you, a good place to start is getting cleared by a physician. Once they deem you are safe for exercise, you can start where you feel comfortable. The keys to look for include:

  • Increasing your heart rate for at least 20 minutes

  • Lifting a weight that you can tolerate for 10-15 repetitions with mild to moderate fatigue

  • No more than 2-3 days of muscle soreness following exercise.

You will want to increase your load or length of exercise as they become easier and you no longer meet these key points.

Our bodies are always able to gain strength, endurance, and range of motion unless you have a health issue that doesn’t allow you to. You shouldn’t be afraid to strength train, build endurance, and progress your physical fitness. If you have fear in what is safe or appropriate for your current level you should reach out so that we can work together to build you a program that you will not only enjoy, but feel good about.

But, but, but….

Stairs hurt. Squats hurt. Running hurts. It can be anything that hurts and it will mentally keep you from performing any exercise. Mindset is a huge barrier to our performance and abilities. If you are struggling with this then you should read my blogs from 1 month ago.

The most important part of returning or starting to exercise and train is making sure your form is correct and learning to actively contract the muscles throughout your day so that the strengthening you are doing translates to functional movements. Let me give you an example.

  • You begin strengthening your glutes/buttock muscles and start to notice you can lift more when doing leg press and lunges, but continue to have knee pain w/ squatting.

  • Learn to actively contract your glutes w/ squatting and correct your form to decrease the strain put through your knees and the pain goes away.

  • You notice you are able to use this same technique to get in and out of your car without knee pain because you can now actively contract your glutes to decrease the strain at the knees.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! You can have all the strength in the world, but if you don’t know how to utilize those muscles in your daily life, you will continue to have pain and difficulty with functional movements like stairs, squatting, lifting, etc.

Real life example: Bringing Active Muscle Contraction into Running

“Outstanding physical therapist. She has done wonders for my lower back and shoulders that keep me running and crushing push-ups.” S. Jackels

This summer I worked with a client in the military who came to me with back and shoulder pain when he runs. If you didn’t know, running is a standard in the military and he also enjoys it and was running daily. When he was having to limit his runs due to pain, he sought out help to figure out what he can do in order to continue running and get back to the distances he was used to.

The first part was making sure his spine and muscles surrounding the spine were moving correctly in order to run. Next, we focused on turning on his core and glute muscles to activate while running in order to support the spine and prevent strain to his lower back vertebrae. We also worked on what his posture looks like when running, as well as at work, in order to decrease how much work he was making his shoulder/neck muscles work while running.

When he was able to put all of this together and use the techniques throughout the day as well as when running, he returned to running his normal distance and speed without back and shoulder pain. On occasion, we revisit the techniques and mobilize the muscles and vertebrae in his spine and neck/shoulders so that he can get back to engaging the appropriate muscles and continue his workouts.

Not Sure Where to Start?

Starting to train or returning to exercise, especially as we age can be a daunting task. If you have any fears in regards to how to begin your fitness journey, you need to schedule a No-Charge phone consultation with me so we can discuss the next best steps for you and where to begin. If it sounds like we would be a good fit for you, we can work together to create a program that is fun, challenging, and rewarding. You will be on your way to healthy movement in no time! Click here to schedule a consultation with me!

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