Simple 5-Step Plan to Get in Shape
Getting in shape after 50 requires a unique strategy. If you read the first line of most articles on this topic, you’ll learn that it’s harder. My advice? Stop reading them. Thanks to your brain and conditioning since you were born, you’ll tend to avoid anything hard.
You don’t need to a reminder of why you haven’t, you need to, and you can’t! Focus on all the reasons you’re only at half the time! This is where games are won, girlfriend!
Those well-meaning articles describing woe-is-you aren’t going to bump your motivation; in fact, they may discourage you. That stops right now. Follow this 5-step plan for getting in shape after 50. Leave the overwhelm and the excuses for someone else. Just take one step at a time.
Ready? For the first exercises, you’ll just need to write (a journal is excellent). No, sweat. So far, so good, right?
Step 1: Define it.
Before you go shopping for a get-in-shape plan, consider what getting in shape means to you. A fitness expert may tell you it’s about flexibility, muscle strength & endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and body composition. However, you have a more personal definition.
- Is it picking up grandchildren without lower back pain?
- Do you want to continue to dominate on the tennis court?
- Do you want to love the way it feels to walk into that closet and not be limited by selection?
- Is it related to a bucket list item?
- Do you want to reduce or avoid medications that always come with side effects?
Write them down. Don’t be shy about sharing them with any coach or trainer. I have to know
the motivation of a client before we start. The emotional reasons are what makes it possible to be consistent when life drops say, a virus, on you.
Step 2: Assess it.
What’s measured matters. Collect your measurements and your body composition, in addition to your weight. Don’t skip body composition. You’ve got to know what you’re doing is maintaining muscle, at least, increasing it, and or reducing fat depending on your need and goals.
You may want to measure formally with a fitness test of your strength and cardiovascular endurance. Primarily if you’re motivated by number, this is helpful. It can also help a trainer or fitness coach (on or offline) determine good starting points for your exercise sessions.
If this isn’t a good time for that, there are other ways to assess yourself.
- After a brief warm-up, walk as quickly as you can around your block four times or do a mile on your treadmill. Record your time and comments about your effort and how you feel.
- If you have access to an elliptical or bike instead and you can monitor your heart rate, try this:
To begin, warm up. Then set a pace and resistance you record so you can repeat it later. Make it slightly challenging. Hold the pace and complete a mile or choose 5 or 10 minutes. Record your heart rate, and your “feels like” effort level 0-10. After several weeks of your new routine you can repeat the test and see the difference.*
*If you take a beta-blocker or other medication with a heartrate-blunting effect, your heart rate won’t elevate, but you can still monitor your perceived effort level. `
Step 3: Plan it.
Put your plan in real-time on your calendar or in your planner. If you think you’re just going to walk and you can do that any time, think again. Look at other habits in your day that define you. Coffee drinking, email answering, and work probably all have boundaries. Anything you want to happen regularly does.
Plan your interval training, your strength training, and your recovery days. You can fill in with light-to-moderate exercise days. Recovery includes including adequate nutrient-dense foods, including protein, rest time between challenging sessions, and sleep. Sleep is the queen of recovery. All hail the queen!
For help planning, you might like this: The Definitive Guide to Exercise for Women Over 50
The old saying says the best time of day to exercise is the time of day you’ll do it. Not necessarily true getting into shape after 50. Time of day should dictate the type of exercise you do and vice versa. The reason? Sleep.
Sleep Interfering with Getting in Shape After 50?
Did you do an eye roll at the mention of sleep? If sleep is elusive right now, there are plenty of sleep hacks to help. Exercise itself – as little as 10 minutes a day – improved self-reported quality of sleep by up to 33% according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation. Keep your intense exercise early and make your late-day exercise light.
Late day exercise can result in what’s known as a “pregnenolone steal.” Your cortisol is down late in the day. You’d otherwise use it for energy to exercise. But instead, your body can do this seemingly neat trick of converting pregnenolone into cortisol. The problem is you need that pregnenolone to relax and get to sleep later and won’t have it.
So, to optimize your sleep, make “intense early” your mantra.
Step 4: Do it.
Plan the work (exercise), and work the plan. This is really the easy part. If you’ve taken a little time to define what you want, why you want it, and created a plan when it’s on your calendar all you have to do is go into action.
Do you find you are great at starting but not at following through? Never fear. You’ve just been collecting data up to now. Help yourself by enlisting a friend for those longer walks. Get an online trainer or coach who either does the workouts with you or provides you with a video and accountability check-in. Load up music that makes you smile, literally for miles or find favorite podcasts and only listen while you’re exercising.
The idea? Couple the exercise with things you enjoy. Even if you don’t love exercise, you’ll have positive emotions around it.
Step 5: Enjoy it.
If you’ve picked and planned based on the highest calorie-burning exercise, and best fat-burners, and you hate the exercise, it’s not going to work out well for you. Find an activity you enjoy first. It’s your number one priority! Make it a habit. Then you can add intensity as you progress.
So, when all other factors are considered the most important component of getting in shape after 50 is consistency. Specifically, you need to do the right things consistently. To enjoy results along the way and later begin by enjoying your exercise.