Working Harder At Fitness As We Age
You need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable for there to be change. Although applicable in all facets of life, Adam Lee lives by this mantra in the fitness world. I talked with Adam, a Nashville fitness trainer for the past 16 years, about ways to keep my body from rolling steadily downhill as I approach my 60’s and beyond.
He assured me – with hard work and persistence – I do indeed have some say in the deterioration cycle. Adam works with many 70+ year olds who are still traveling, still exploring, still moving. That’s who I want to be. I want to play golf, ski with my grandkids, haul my suitcase around Europe. I want to reach in the backseat without pulling a muscle, carry my groceries, climb into an SUV, weed the garden.
So – how do we??????
- Maintain our balance and prevent falls
- Increase bone density
- Preserve flexibility and stability
- Prevent our shoulders from rolling forward
- Avoid stooped posture as we age
- Keep ourselves as mobile as possible
- Stay strong
- Decrease joint and muscle stiffness, aches, and pains
Adam explained, “As we get older, we have to work harder, devote even more time to caring for our bodies, even if in bits and pieces, catching when we can.” In his opinion, “working with a trainer is ideal, but not sustainable for most people. Classes are great, but time is a factor for many.” He encourages everyone to “do what you can and remember that it is never too late to start – ever with a fitness routine.”
Adam’s key categories for a perfect-world weekly workout include the following:
- Foam Rolling – Fascia encases the muscles – think the casing around sausage. Dense fascia causes us to become stiff. Rolling helps keep the fascia loose – and is easy to do while watching a tv show.
- Mobility and Stretching Exercises – These are warm up exercises focusing on hip, ankle, spine, and shoulder mobility. Can be done anywhere.
- Strength Training – 2-3 sessions per week, Adam prefers dumbbells to machines. Your own body weight is good also.
- Moderate Cardio -walking inside or out, for example.
- High Intensity Intervals – a stationary bike is great for these.
- Yoga or Pilates – when you can fit a class in your schedule!
Adam believes everyone, and especially women over 55, should consider strength training their top priority. In his opinion, strength training answers all concerns regarding joints, mobility, balance, stability, and flexibility. “If I am building a program to help a woman with body composition, health, and performance, it all starts with strength training,” Adam pointed out. “If someone has 3 hours a week to exercise, I would ideally want her doing strength training.” Seriously – all 3 hours? All 3 hours! He continued, “People go to fitness centers and tend to do a lot of cardio – it is easier, more enjoyable. But strength training is vital.”
I asked Adam about the female fear of bulking up with weights. Personally, I tend to worry about my thighs becoming even larger! He assured me, and I believe him, that this is not going to happen because you are working out with weights. To look like a hulk, one truly needs to train and eat like one. “I’ve never worked with a woman who increased her measurements,” he laughed.
Why do older people often have rounded shoulders or stooped posture? According to Adam, our shoulders tend to rotate inwardly. We are prone to internal rotation because of the time we spend hunched over a keyboard or steering wheel or slumped on a couch. Our shoulders and chest muscles and lats (large muscle on back) become shortened over time. To prevent this, we really need to pull. Many fitness trainers advise clients to double their amount of rowing or pulling, as compared to pressing.
Exercising for longevity becomes more time consuming as we age – it is absolutely a part time job! A book Adam likes and recommends to female clients is Younger Next Year For Women. It was written in 2004 by Dr. Harry Lodge, a New York City internist and Chris Crowley, his 70- something year old patient. The book, which is one to reread and refer to often, describes things we need to do to help our bodies age as gracefully as possible, both mentally and physically.
“So,” Adam summarized, “Get out your calendar and schedule your workouts.” Plug them in. Make it a top priority, a job. “If you always go by how you feel, you aren’t going to make much progress. You have to push yourself,” Adam stressed. He recommends keeping records to motivate yourself.
His advice for me? Up my game and get out of my comfort zone. Increase my weight work, step up the cardio intensity, and definitely get to work with a foam roller. “Like the end point of Younger Next Year,” he says, “you need to do these things.” It is never, ever, too late to start.