Middle Aged Women Can Still Get In Shape
You may have been that young thin girl that could eat whatever she wanted and not exercise, but as the years go by and the birthdays tick away, and you enter that dreaded ‘middle age’, changes start happening. When the body begins to age, hormone levels maybe more volatile than the stock market and your metabolism slows down. In addition, you probably have spent many years taking care of everyone else; your children, spouse, parents, in-laws and your career. Lots of your focus is on everyone else but lots of stress is on you.
So unless you have lived a full life of fitness and eaten a diet of sound nutrition, which many women in this category probably did not do since fitness was not very popular in this generation, than you may be running into a slew of problems. Perhaps you’re overweight, and/or taking medications for medical issues such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, depression and diabetes.. Or you may suffer from shortness of breath and just plain feel lousy.
Well I’m here to tell you you’re not alone and that you don’t have to continue living this way. There is a solution to the problem which will make you feel better, lower that cholesterol and blood pressure, and lose that weight. Now I must tell you, this solution is not a diet, it’s not a workout, “It’s a Lifestyle”!
Ok, so I am a man and may not fully understand what you’re going through, but I can tell you the story of my client Karen. I worked very closely with Karen to achieve what she has accomplished and played an intrical role in her journey. It is important to look back on what it took for her to go from unhealthy, stressed out and overweight to very fit, motivated, happy and healthy middle aged woman.
Let’s start by telling you about Karen. Karen is a 57 year old career woman who is married with grown children. Karen works in a corporate setting, is a senior executive and experiences lots of stress. In December of 2008 Karen joined the health club where I was working and was assigned to me for her complimentary fitness consultation. Well like many women Karen’s age she had never before joined a gym. She was about 30 to 40 pounds overweight, had high cholesterol and blood pressure, just learned of some major breathing capacity issues and was just plain feeling lousy. Normally during this initial consult I would weigh you and take a body fat % measurement, but at the time the body fat % was not necessary and would have really made it an unpleasant experience for Karen. And let’s face it, she knew her exact weight.
So from here we dove into the reasons she decided to finally take action and do something about how she was feeling. Karen basically told me that she reached that point where she didn’t want to die young and unhealthy but to start living and feel good. I took her through a beginner’s based session which consisted of some basic foundational exercises and then scheduled her for her follow up session in three days. Two days later Karen calls telling me she was having trouble walking from muscle soreness from just a few basic leg exercises and that she was thinking of canceling and give it up.
Well I talked Karen into still coming back in and assured her that we would take it slow. I can remember thinking that she was going to be one of those chronic cancellers; well boy was I wrong! From then on Karen came to every session ready to go and yes we took it very slow in the beginning. But little by little Karen started showing signs of improvement and was getting stronger.
Now don’t get me wrong, many days I had to sit with Karen and talk about staying the course and not to give up during those times Karen felt it was just too hard to do at her age. One of her early on favorite sayings was that ‘she could never lose weight at her age’. And when you say those words enough, they become true. So, it’s real important that we all have someone to talk to for motivation to keep it going especially in the beginning of a new lifestyle change.
I can tell you it is hard at times but the rewards are priceless and it will get better! And the rewards for Karen are that she lost a total of 40 pounds over a 6 month period and lost about 9% body fat in 12 weeks ( oh yes we now are measuring body fat %, She got down to 21% body fat which is considered very good for a woman at that age). Karen has increased lean muscle and went from doing only 3 modified push ups to 25, she can leg press 300lbs. and went from being out of breath walking just 10 minutes to running in her first 5k race. Karen also went back to her doctor and was surprised at the dramatic drop in cholesterol, lowered blood pressure and wants to reduce her medications dramatically. Today Karen lives a new lifestyle, feeling happy, healthy, and energetic. Karen has a brand new outlook on life!
Ok its time for me to outline what it took for this woman at her age to get these results and why you can do it too! I’m going to break it down into 4 categories:
- Time management
- Find your trigger point (your pain). What is it that is really painful to you where you are going to finally say “I’ve had it”! I can’t take how I feel or look and I do not want it anymore! For Karen it was that she didn’t want to feel like she was getting closer to death and that she wanted to start living.
- Make a plan to move away from the pain
- Take action!! This is the hardest part. You have to act like Nike and “just do it”! Don’t think of all the reasons why you can’t do it, figure out the reasons you can do it. Do not wait a day longer and like other important things in your life take action.
- Seek help. Sit down and talk to a fitness professional, meet with a nutritionist, and try to surround yourself with positive people.
- Stay motivated by making SHORT term goals. For Karen it was simple things like the first time she could actually wrap the smaller bath towel around her and actually tuck it. Or going from 3 push ups to doing 20. And then there was when she went out and bought and wore that nice pair of jeans again.
- Invest in a good day planner and get organized!
- Schedule your meals and workouts around your busy schedule.
- Make and keep appointments with the professionals that can help you achieve your goals.
- Don’t try and spend hours and hours in the gym just to burn calories. Don’t do more, do it better.
- Do at least 2-3 days of strength training.
- For every pound of muscle you’re burning 50-60 more calories a day at rest.
- Muscle will allow you to store more carbs instead of converting to fat.
- It’s empowering to feel strong and your body will feel tighter and more firm.
- Perform interval training for your cardiovascular exercises. Changing intensity levels from high to low intensities will keep you engaged and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day.
- Walking at a good pace on an incline for 35-45 minutes is probably the best and lowest impact form of fat burning cardio work, especially for beginners. As you get more conditioned, make sure to progress your cardio workouts every 6-8 weeks by increasing speed or incline %.
- Pick a day where you do something fun and different as a workout to keep you motivated and will enjoy.
- Make sure you stretch at the end of every workout.
- Eat breakfast! You haven’t eaten all night so you need to kick start your day with fuel and nutrients. Eat a small portion of carbohydrates like a bowl of oatmeal or an orange with a protein like eggs or a high protein cereal with some low fat organic milk.
- Have a protein shake with a small amount of carbs in it after your workout. Within 30 minutes of a workout is the most crucial time to put these nutrients into your body to start the recovery process of what you just worked. Your body is like a sponge so you will not get fat but use these important nutrients.
- Do not go more than 3 hours without eating something small or putting something of value into your body. This will keep your metabolism moving and keep your body from thinking its starving thus storing fat for survival.
- Eat to perform! Too many times we eat strictly for pleasure. Think about eating so that your body is supplied to perform well during exercise and recover when broken down with the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Eat fruits and vegetables when you can and stay away from processed and refined foods that not only add no nutritional value but also drain you of the nutrients in your body used to digest, recover, and repair.
- Drink lots of water!!
Karen no longer diets. She decided to follow these simple rules and the weight came off. Her weight lose was healthy, no starving, no crash diets. Just follow the basics.
Greg Crawford is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner and operator of “It’s a Lifestyle“. Greg graduated from Towson University with a bachelors of science in Exercise Science where he also played football as a defensive back. He has been in all health club environments and also interned as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at The University of South Florida. Greg holds certifications with the NSCA(National Strength and Conditioning Association), USAW(United States Weightlifting Association), and WKA(World Kickboxing Association). Greg brings 10 years of experience changing people’s lives in health and fitness.