There’s no shortage of exercise tips on the internet. However, did you know that only 39% of all sport and exercise research feature women? And guess what? Even fewer have featured women in peri and post menopause. Our body composition, hormones, metabolism, and socialization are all so different that studies done on young, fit males can hardly apply.
Ironically, those differences are among the arguments for not including more women in studies. We’re unpredictable and that seems to be irritating or distracting for researchers! At least it was until 1993 when there was supposed to have been a mandate to make things more equal. Science may b a little slow I’d say in making that happen. It’s not just sports and exercise research, its heart disease, depression and dementia and more. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and yet more studies still feature men. Women are two times more likely to suffer from depression than men. Come on science, we need you.
So while we wait, know this. I consider it my job and mission to share studies on women, in peri menopause to post menopause (‘til death do us part, basicially). I provide exercise tips, specific to YOU. I make it clear to you when studies are across genders and ages so that you and I can co-collaborate to decide whether a study is applicable to you and how I would interpret it for me, my sister who is closer to 70, and my mom who is 91 as I write this. I’ve got you covered uniquely with a background as a Strength & Conditioning Coach who will choose the smartest exercises for your training; a Medical Exercise Specialist who will take into account special joint issues – common injuries – and conditions that influence how you can do certain exercises best, and an Exercise & Sports Psychology trained life coach who can focus on the behavior and habit change or resistance knowing you are a WHOLE person not just a physical body.
Let’s take a look at these 5 exercise tips that can change your next workout for the better today.
Do One-Sided Exercises
Perform all your repetitions with just one arm or one leg before you move on to the other side. This is an obvious change is from doing both arms (bilateral) or legs at the same time, or from alternating limbs.
The benefit is enhanced awareness of what’s happening in your body. You can only keenly become aware of a significant difference when you’re doing then separately.
This is about balance but not in the way that you can stand on one leg. This is about creating a balanced body or correcting one that’s not. Most often it’s the latter! You’re never completely symmetrical. That’s OK, provided you don’t let it get too far out of balance.
This can be done using cables, tubing, free weights dumbbells, or machines. You’ll either simply drop the other arm or you’ll hold a dumbbell in it but not move it (such that you’re stabilizing that side) while you perform the reps on one side. With legs you’ll need to stand on one leg or if using a leg press, for instance, you’ll lighten the weight, leave the other leg resting on the platform, while you perform each of your repetitions.
Balance has minimal improvement from simply increasing strength alone. You do have to spend a little extra time training balance specifically. The good news is, that’s really all it takes, a little extra time. A few minutes a day dedicated to a progressive balance training will reap you plenty of results.
Dedicated balance training is a step-by-step training. It’s more than just standing on one leg eye open or eyes closed. You may start there, improving your static balance, but then you want to progress to dynamic balance, and each of these should include predictable perturbed (say, I throw a ball to you and have you throw it back while you’re in a toe-to-heel stance) and then unpredictable perturbed (you don’t expect the ball or it comes at you anywhere from your right knee or above your left shoulder).
If you’re attending yoga involving balance poses, definitely that’s helping. It’s helping most with static unperturbed balance though once you know what’s coming in the sequence. You don’t need to react to anyone else. So use that foundation and begin adding little predictable perturbed conditions by changing your gaze for instance, or if the instructor walks around the room and takes your focus from one point to different ones. A partner who might touch your leg, or shoulder, becomes a little unpredictable if you know it’s coming but don’t know where it’s coming.
The time is now to train this one even if it feels good now. Proprioception, or righting yourself and knowing where you are in space and responding, is going to be affected by reduction of sight and hearing. Feeling young and athletic isn’t a good gage of whether you need balance training. If you’ve joined that club of bifocal-wearing babes, for instance the getting-used-to-them period can make you prone to falls. I was on a canyon trail a few weeks ago and looked up as someone politely opened the gate 10 feet ahead. My gaze went up and everything else went down when my toe caught a rock. I was seriously 5 minutes from done with a 3-hour hike. Are you kidding? I took my embarrassed self and bloody knee back to the car, irritated at the polite guy who opened the gate in order to cover my own disgust at looking up! I’d told myself to keep my eyes on the path for the last 2:45 and that darn courteous upbringing…
Generic exercise tips that suggest standing on one leg reach just one dimension of balance and very possibly not the one that will most help you either avoid falls or return that serve and win the match.
Move with speed during both strength training and cardio regularly. Bursts of interval training, particularly those that involve jumping (called plyometrics) can improve power, which in turn increases your fast twitch muscle fibers. I wrote about losing fast twitch muscle fibers twice as fast as slow twitch muscle fibers as we age in You Still Got It Girl, and Navigating Fitness After 50.
And I’m still talking about it in Hot, Not Bothered, the brain new “99 daily flips” book out in October of 2017 (and on pre-order now in kindle version for 99 cents). The reason is simple: more and more proof that less exercise of the right kind pays off. Power is the right kind of exercise. Since these fast twitch fibers are the ones we call on when we need to react quickly, and certain life moments usually require it, adding power to your workout a couple times a week is wise.
It doesn’t have to increase your exercise time. Simply substitute power for your usual strength work after you have a solid couple months’ foundation of regular training. Lift the weight quickly and lower slowly.
Adding plyometrics to your cardio can be a more risky if you’re vulnerable due to an injury, arthritis, or osteoporosis. If those describe you, leave power to your strength sessions. If you’re healthy, however, do small jumps onto a step and step back down repeatedly for 30 seconds to a minute a few times once you’re well warmed up. As far as exercise tips go, if you enjoy keeping things short, and you can safely add power, the intensity can reduce the time you need to spend exercising.
This is an unapologetic plug for The Whole Flip. If you’re unsure of how to add each of these you’ll get some support right here in The Whole Flip dvds. From power, plyometrics (small scale and joint-safe), support planning your work and rest days, and one-sided work; I’ve incorporated many of these components into the workouts.
Take two days off between your tougher workouts. This is particularly helpful if you’re reading it and resisting it! What? Yes, busted! If you love to exercise (I get you!) and yet you’re feeling a little stiff, or sore, even as you begin your next workout… or you are feeling overall tired and find yourself complaining about the workout you did instead of enjoying the life you’re living because of the workout this may be the most important of exercise tips.
It ‘s time to rest a little more and workout, not with less intensity necessarily, but with less frequency. Add another recovery day – when you can still be active – but you aren’t tearing down muscles again that aren’t fully recovered from the last workout.
Older adults (over 50 in this case) often increase their fitness (and ability to work harder during workouts) by recovering for a slightly longer period of time. Here’s a tip that is good for anyone in your household or in your workout group, though: we each recover with varying times. The differences can be dramatic if you’ve done extreme exercise. So, test your fitness and fatigue scales and experiment with a tough day, two days of recovery, a tough day and two days of recovery, instead of that every other day schedule.
The absolute biggest mistake you make impeding your fitness is intense exercise day after day. If you would rate an exercise session at or higher than a 7 out of 0-10 scale rest is the key to making that workout payoff. It reduces fitness, increases muscle breakdown and increases stress and inflammation on the body.
Without the fatigue at the end of your weight training set (everyone, not just the last) there is little over-compensation from your body. It’s that overcompensation that occurs when the body is adequately stressed that increases fitness.
This principle of “overload” is a basic component of fitness. When you do reach the I-can’t-do-one-more with good form level, you’re done. When you prefer light weights because you’re doing a more functional workout, or because arthritis, fibromyalgia, or something else makes that a smart choice, or you have progressed to heavy, you have to get to fatigue.
I’m so often asked, what weight should I use. My answer is seemingly illusive but right on target in reality to allow you to choose for your personal need. For light weights – you choose a weight that you can do no more than 28 times. For moderate weight as you progress, a repetition range of 15+/- 3, and for heavy weight, that’s a weight you can lift 10 or fewer times.
Each of those repetition ranges have an optimal purpose. Heavy weight training is most related to weight loss and bone density. Moderate weight is a bit more functional and when you add power can support more energy expenditure. And light weights help with gait and specific small muscle work best.
Take these exercise tips and incorporate one or two into your next workout. You don’t have to flip your usual routine upside down, just make small shifts and you’ll improve your results short and long term.
Exercise Tips Overwhelming?
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