Pay attention to the mistakes of others when it comes to midlife health and fitness. There isn’t enough time in life to make them all yourself.
In a previous blog post about midlife fat loss, I shared what happened when my client experienced too much of a good thing too soon. I have a related personal experience that I’d like to share so that other midlife women can learn from my mistakes.
Like many women in midlife seeking health and fitness, the path I have taken has gradually morphed.
It began innocently with postnatal fitness goals I thought I could restore my body to its prenatal state. (Now I know better)
Gradually, this morphed into a body obsession. Over the last few years, it’s back to a more health-focused anti-perfect approach, including occasional wine and chocolate. Over the years I have shared bits and pieces of this story. The lessons I learned can very likely help you avoid some costly mistakes.
There is a false assumption in the female fitness world, and I was part of it.
In spite of good intentions, many of us have assumed that being body conscious is the same as being health conscious. These are not interchangeable.
This is important to understand because it is possible to go down the body-conscious road in a way that is not in alignment with optimal health.
Body-conscious goals can inadvertently become unhealthy.
A health-conscious journey always prioritizes health and relies in large part on the feedback our body provides us. Whereas a body-conscious path may become more like being a slave to a certain look regardless of biofeedback from our body.
A particular look, say one popularized in the media, may or may not be healthy.
And it may or may not be healthy for those that try to copy it.
We cannot in the best interest of our health, mold our body to look like someone else’s or even our own from 10-15 years earlier. Doing so can be costly to our health both physically and psychologically. It can also lead to a lack of self-respect.
When I was very lean my shoulders were remarkably shaped, and veins popped out over my biceps and abs. At the time I thought those were signs of health and aesthetics. But those things came at a cost. I was chronically exhausted. Post-workout soreness was present seven days a week, and I was frequently cranky. Every bite of food was met with anxiety.
I was not fun to be around, and my family suffered the consequences. I had guilt and feelings of failure if my workouts were less than 60 minutes and (90 on leg days)
Eventually, I began to dread working out and eating well.
I knew I wasn’t doing my body or my self-confidence any favors, but my self-worth and confidence were dependent on compliments from others.
Shallow, I know.
After my husband remarked that he missed the old fun me, I began to realize that I missed her too. I thought this over very carefully and knew it was time to revamp my lifestyle. It was time to let the perfection go, and let the image of the perfect trainer go. I was ready to go back to an approach that was effective and fun and with respect for health.
This change had to come from rewriting my internal beliefs around what healthy means. Sitting around like a sloth all the time is not healthy. duh, But extra-long workouts in a calorie depletion with no rest days isn’t healthy either.
The following are tips for making sure your body-conscious midlife health and fitness journey is also health conscious:
1. Get your rest days.
Our recovery requirements in our 40s and beyond are different than they were in our 30s. Plan them to fit your schedule and match your energy needs. Some people respond well to a week of 3 days on, one rest day, two days on followed by a rest day. Others do better with 2 days on, followed by one off, or training every other day. Experiment with how well you recover. Don’t be afraid to add in an unplanned rest day if you are exhausted. Being consistent does not mean ignoring signs of exhaustion.
2. Eat to fuel your body.
Especially post-workout. Learn how your body responds to eating around workout time and find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with carbs. They have always been a fabulous sources of energy.
3. Allow yourself occasional treats sans-guilt.
(Hello Hershey’s Kisses) Being overly strict, as part of an all-or-nothing plan will lead to eventual binge behavior. Especially if you are overtraining and restrictive. These days I still prefer to weigh and measure 90-95% of my meals, but I am also flexible enough to have an occasional dessert and a few glasses of wine porer week.
4. Workouts should never scare you.
Train to maintain strength, and prevent natural muscle loss. Increase weight or reps or sets gradually. If you are afraid to lift a certain weight, then don’t. Give yourself permission to try a heavier weight, but also to stop if it feels wrong. If it goes up but feels risky, it’s probably too much for that day.
5. Stop using physical characteristics as a measure of success in your midlife health and fitness journey.
Cut shoulders and tiny waists are nice, but training for them exclusively can lead to unhealthy choices in the long run. The low body fat needed to pull off this look long-term can lead to an increased risk for bone fracture, poor sleep quality, other injuries, and disharmony with your mate. (from being hangry all the time)
6. Celebrate your gym wins.
Like the feeling when your deadlifts go up easy, or those walking lunges don’t cause knee pain.
7. Give special attention to joint health and posture in midlife.
Pay attention to strengthening the supporting muscles and tissues. These are not the vanity muscles, but the ones underneath. Rotator cuff muscles and connective tissue around knees and hips need to be free of inflammation and pliable so that they can do their job. Here are the best exercises for women over 40.
8. Get advice from a trainer experienced in your age group.
Someone who has firsthand life experience with fitness and midlife fat loss.
9. Pay attention to your gut.
The microbiome (trillions of microorganisms) in our gut can help or hinder our efforts at fat loss. If you are constantly craving processed or sugary foods, you may be feeding the harmful bacteria more than the goods guys.
Midlife Health and Fitness Has to Be Approached Differently
Use the above tips to stay healthy as a woman over 40. Looking for the BEST exercises for women over 40? Click on the linked post, or sign up below to watch my FREE video series!