Two rules for midlife fitness

I’ve been grouchy lately, I’ll admit it. My ankle and knee hurt, my hip is not that happy with me and some days it’s hard to zip up my jeans even though I’m pretty much living on broccoli, chicken and brown rice. My left shoulder has a twinge.

It sucks being a woman of a certain age. Oh, blahblah, I know, with that aging comes great wisdom and blahblahblah. I admit I’m a lot wiser and much more intuitive than I used to be. In fact, just a few minutes ago I started a blog post about all that but it seemed like so much pap that I couldn’t force myself to finish it. Gag.

This past week I hit some personal lifting records in the gym. I taught a few group ex classes. I trained dozens of clients. I feel strong.  I rocked it out. I am healthy and grateful for it.

But I get tired and sore. Five years ago I didn’t get so tired and sore. Yesterday, when I finished the sixth day of my workweek (taught a class, trained some clients and did my own workout), I came home and took a two-hour nap and probably could have kept on going, but I didn’t want to sleep away my time off.

There’s not much I am 100 percent sure of, except for these two rules: you can’t let up. Because if you give in an inch, you have to fight twice as hard to get it back. Once you stop moving, you rust out like an old car in the middle of a field. And you also need to give your body healthy fuel because it gets gunked up more quickly when you’re no longer considered a “young adult.” (There’s a third rule, about rest and recovery, but that’s another story for another day. You need to work hard to earn that rest, right?)

This past week in two separate incidents, women who are younger than me complained to me about how they were getting older and it was a losing battle to stay in shape.

Both times the women grabbed their bellies to illustrate their weight gain. And both of them pretty much told me they weren’t interested in exercising all that much, giving up their evening glasses of wine each day, or even changing their diets because they said they “already ate healthy.” Their families/jobs/stress made change almost impossible, they said.

They dismissed me almost as soon as I started to explain why all this was happening and offer some strategies to turn things around. I think they wanted me to either give them a pass on all of it, or wave a magic wand to make it go away. Not gonna lie: I was miffed (see first sentence of post, above). I stewed about the encounters for longer than I should have.

But then, using some of that aging-related wisdom, I figured out why I was so angry. I am sick of the rules, too, but they are what they are and I can’t change them. Being a victim gets you nowhere. Stop complaining. Start doing something about it. I’d rather be a high-functioning person with a few aches and pains than a low-functioning one with worse problems.

I train some women in their 60s who delight in lifting heavier weights. This past week, one of them deadlifted 90 pounds for 10 reps. She could have lifted even heavier weights but we’re testing the waters with her hip replacement.  After her heaviest lift of the day, which required all of her effort, she said, “I love this. I feel so great.”

Another of my 60-somethings loves agility training. She has a long list of physical issues and I have to constantly come up with new ways to safely challenge her. But I know this, if I ask her to do something, she’ll figure out a way to get it done and she’ll crack some funny and smart jokes while she’s doing it.

Both women are fit. Both want flat bellies (that wish never goes away, I’ve learned. Flat bellies and tight triceps, we all want them). And both of these women are anything but victims. Who knows, maybe these women felt a little victimized by their changing bodies when they were in their 40s and 50s, but something clicked inside to change their line of thinking. I remember asking one of them about it, and she responded with a shrug. “What are you going to do? I got over it.”

Good advice: Get over it. Be a warrior instead of a victim. So far scientists haven’t come up with any safe ways to change the rules, so if you want to lose the belly and stay fit and strong, you have to eat clean and train smart. Start with something, and add on when you can. And when it’s time, take a nap.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Brewer-based personal trainer and author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at wendyfitness.com.