Finding your Rhythm
For about 10 years, I’ve been coaching people who decided to make the shift to a healthy lifestyle. Whenever the time came to discuss goals, I’ve seen and heard just about everything. Men and women who were morbidly obese were planning to run a half-marathon after only six weeks of working out. I also had clients who wanted to start training as if they were a bottomless well of energy, only to end up petering out.
In training, as in all things, we must learn to listen to our own limits and respect them. If you make your body endure stress that it’s unable to handle (a training session that is too intense), you may very well hurt yourself, get discouraged and give up. But when your lifestyle is sedentary, what kind of rhythm should you adopt when you start working out? It would be easy to give you a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are unfortunately none. Factors such as age, gender, weight, and your sports background are factors that inevitably influence how you are going to begin or resume your training.
Studies clearly show that the level of physical activity decreases with age. Whether you’re a man or a woman, your body is at its physiological peak when you are about 25 years old. After that, it gradually begins to lose effectiveness. If you decide to start training, try to do it right. A 40-year-old person without a limiting condition (a disease or musculoskeletal problem) could easily consider a medium- to high-intensity program. Running, playing tennis and badminton are some examples of sports that offer good training intensity.
For people who are 40 to 60 years old and whose body has never done workouts on a regular basis, it would be best to focus on activities of low- to moderate-intensity. Road cycling, taking brisk walks and swimming are great ways to achieve your goals while making sure to avoid injuries.
The person who is 60 years old or older should focus on low-intensity effort. If in sixty years of life you have never trained your body, you have to go at it very gradually. Controlled walking on a treadmill, riding on a bike with wide tires (to prevent falls) and aerobic sessions in a pool will allow you to tone your muscles and improve your cardiovascular capacity gradually and without injury.
Regardless of how old you are, you should include a strength training program with any cardiovascular activity as muscle strength decreases with time. As proof, according to a study, opening a jar is an easy task for 92% of men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. After that, this action becomes much more difficult: from ages of 71 to 80, only 32% of men and women are able to open the same jar. (1)
A strength training program allows to maintain muscle tone. If you’ve never done strength training, I strongly suggest you see an expert, read or watch a DVD that explains how to do the movements well. Start with small weights and make long sets (15 repetitions).
As for body aches, don’t worry! At first, you'll feel muscles you didn’t know you had, but keep it up. After a few weeks, your body will adapt to stress, and pain will be a thing of the past. In short, the more time passes, all the more reasons to start working out. What about you? What is your reason to start training?
Motivational speaker and personal coach focusing on healthy habits for a healthy lifestyle
1. Saltin, B. (1986). The aging endurance athlete. In J.R. Sutton & R.M. Brock (Eds.), Sports medicine for the mature athlete. Indianapolis: Benchmark Press