More exercise is the intuitive answer. It isn’t always the right answer. Maybe you can’t do more. Your time is already spoken for and there’s no place to put more exercise.
Maybe you shouldn’t. You’re a mid-life woman who has been down that more is better route and ended up exhausted and quitting altogether.
The fitness you seek happens in the days between exercise. If you’re constantly pushing and never resting you’re more likely to put your body into stress mode. That’s where it will hold onto fat and you’re much less likely to lose fat weight.
The last thing an athlete will do before a race when they want to perform well is walk around all day looking at the expo or talking to people. Being on your feet all day makes recovery difficult. You may not think of yourself as an athlete, but it’s the same. If you want to perform at your best you, rest when it’s a rest day. Even if you can’t be on the couch lounging, do what you can.
Inadequate calories prevents you from recovering. It’s one of the things that lead to muscle losses in older adults and it can happen in not-so-older adults too but can be harder to notice until it’s too late.
If you’re trying to lose weight, the first thing most women will do is to cut calories. But a body fed less will tend to burn less. The way to get fit is to have your body burn more and use energy all day more generously. By increasing your intake of the right foods you can perform at high energy levels all day.
Within those calories you do want to be sure you have the right amount of protein per meal. Your body has a sweet spot for being able to utilize protein to benefit your muscles. If you eat too little it won’t be enough to spare muscle losses that occur with age. If you eat too much, extra is simply stored as fat like anything else.
Since about 2008 research has shown repeatedly that 20-30 grams at breakfast, lunch and dinner is a more user-friendly target than a percentage and that this helps spare muscle losses in older adults. The more sedentary you are, the more protein you need since athletes are better at synthesizing protein.
Calories are not all created equal. If you waste yours on processed foods essentially void of micronutrients, you’ll push your fitness level further away no matter how much exercise you get.
If you’re eating high quality foods the quantity often takes care of itself. It’s true from research that those who are eating better can about 300 more calories a day and maintain the same weight.
Instead of sugar, alcohol, foods high in omega 6 fats, and chemical-laden foods opt for those that have plenty of antioxidants, phytochemicals, and omega 3 fats. In short, unprocess your diet. Eat fewer foods made in a plant and more that are plants.
If you happen to have an autoimmune disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Hashimoto’s you may be more sensitive to additional foods. Wheat, dairy, eggs, nightshade vegetables and nuts and seeds can be triggers for inflammation too. The best way to know is to test.
Eat protein rich meals three times a day and post exercise wait 60 minutes if possible to eat a protein rich meal or shake. Moderate to vigorous exercise imposes a blunting effect on protein synthesis so it’s best to wait if you hope to burn fat and boost your lean muscle.
Sleep is the keep to optimal production of growth hormone. You do make less of it as you age but if you’re getting into deep cycles of sleep your body can produce it’s optimal amount.
Sleep can help you lose weight. Several studies now exist both with athletes and with perimenopausal women showing that longer sleepers both perform better and lose more weight which is fat compared to shorter sleepers.
Easier said than done, especially if you have a meaningful life. The key isn’t really to reduce stress. It’s to reduce your perception of stress as bad. Put joy in your life. Draw boundaries around work and your family life. Put things and people on your calendar that you love and keep those appointments. The stress hormone cortisol reduces your fitness level by storing more fat, preventing fat burning, and impairing your ability to recover from exercise.
Move during your days outside the gym or formal “exercise.” Take walks, do housework, and play with the dog. Take a swim for fun not laps. Ride an easy lap around the neighborhood on your bike. Lower impact and low intensity exercise increases circulation, which improves recovery. All of the following qualify as active recovery:
As often as you can afford it, get a massage. Spend time in an infrared sauna or a take an Epsom salt bath. Read a good book or take a nap.
How much thought do you give to the white space? That is the space between your workouts? Like great art, the space between paintings in the gallery is no accident. It gives you the chance to appreciate the art. Ditto with your time between exercise. I posted a quote from Joe Friel on Tuesday oh, so appropriate as he is an expert contributor to You Still Got It, Girl! and this is the time of year sleeveless shirts and shorts weather can get us overzealous (unnecessarily!) How many of these 9 tips are you already doing?
Your body’s ability to synthesize protein is blunted for about 60 minutes after intense exercise. So the ideal time to have that high protein smoothie is between 60 and 120 minutes when the muscles are ripe for repair and able to actually use the fuel you’re giving it. For older adults the amount optimal protein for rebuilding muscles that breakdown during exercise is closer to 40 grams, compared to younger adults who do well with 20-25 grams.
It increases fat storage. Yes, that means lighten up on the fruit in favor of veggies and blood sugar stabilizing contents like avocado, greens, and stick to berries if you must use fruit. The smoothie bowl you buy at the health food store can be loaded with fructose and so might your protein shake mix. Check the label on your protein shake. Is it time to upgrade?
Reduce muscle soreness with an Epsom salt soak that will allow your body to absorb magnesium. In addition to reducing muscle soreness you improve your sleep, the ultimate recovery. Your best bath time is 90 minutes before bed. You raise your core temp causing it to fall about the time you want lights out. That’s a signal that prepares the body for sleep.
Using a foam roller or a similar tool (in a pinch a rolling pin will work) both before a workout and before stretching can help iron out the fascia that covers your muscles. Tending to fascia regularly can help you move more fluidly and enhance the value of stretching muscles after exercise.
Overcompensation happens between workouts as a result of an appropriate level of exercise and adequate rest period. It’s responsible for increasing your fitness level. Over-coach-compensation, however, is a need to reduce activity the rest of the day after a workout. Studies show energy expenditure and fitness are higher in those subjects who exercise in a Goldilocks spot so they have more energy and more desire to be active all day than those who have 30 minutes of activity followed by 23 of inactivity.
Find your personal strength and exercise program that supports an active life and your fitness level will improve. Exercise is about life outside the gym rather than inside it.
Foods rich in Omega 3s include avocado, salmon as well as fish oil supplements. Krill oil is available for those who prefer it. Omega 3 fats help reduce inflammation caused by exercise. Many foods like nuts and oils contain both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, which turns inflammation on. So beware of eating too many nuts, for instance, which are higher in Omega 6.
Easier said than done if you’re running off to be superwoman at work. If you can elevate your legs under the desk after a run, though, do it. Performance increases for athletes who can spend time adequately recovering even if it is the only difference in training program. That said reduce the intensity or quantity of your exercise during times of high stress. Your body can only handle so much stress. A good balance between your work day or emotional stressors and your physical activity stressors provides the best fitness opportunity.
Caution, reduce speed, and children-at-play signs on the side of the road help you and others stay safe. Navigating your own fitness can be a bigger challenge. Pay attention to signs of overdoing it. If your appetite for sweets is increased or your sleep is disrupted, you may need a little less exercise or a little more recovery between your harder workouts or both. If you’re starting the next workout still sore from the last, you’re setting up more breakdown than increase of fitness.
So many clients have reported doing a couple more miles or lifting another set that wasn’t part of the plan, because “it felt good.” Often that report comes just before an injury or illness. That kind of “how I feel” workout without a plan or deviating from the plan usually leads to breakdown.
Plan your week and ideally, plan a month or three of exercise so you can easily see a pattern of hard, easy, and rest days in each week. Plot the months so you have weeks of building based on duration, intensity or frequency as well as an entire recovery week. When you do this, using what coaches and athletes refer to as periodization, you will be far less likely to become injured and enjoy a new level of fitness. You’ll be training instead of simply exercising.
Want a little help to DIY?
You can watch a 5-part video series about how exactly as a Strength & Conditioning Coach and Medical Exercise Specialist I program for clients around the world (and for myself!) on the Flipping50TV Facebook page. Here’s day 1.
Now it’s your turn.
Which ones are you already doing? What can you easily add? I love to hear from you. Leave your comments or questions below!
Exercising regularly without regular results? In this day of boot camp, “go hard or go home” advice, and all-too-common adrenal fatigue among women at half time of life, this discussion from You Still Got It, Girl! deserves some real estate today!
“A hard workout only creates the potential for fitness.”
Fitness is realized during the rest and recovery period that follows exercise. The amount of fitness improvement you get is determined by the type of workout stress and the amount of recovery you have.
A workout slightly harder than your body is used to doing requires less recovery. You’ll be ready for another workout in 48 hours.
A workout that is a great deal harder requires a longer recovery period.
Forty-eight hours is the typical recommendation time between strenuous workouts, at least for younger individuals. Older adults often do best with 72 hours between strenuous workouts. If your workout is strenuous or high intensity no matter what your age, longer recovery is called for.
Strenuous workouts include anything that is “hard,” so a hard weight workout and a hard interval training workout – especially one with high impact may require time between. That’s a new concept. You’re likely used to thinking that cardio is different than weight training and doesn’t require recovery between. It depends. You might be able to perform a short high intensity interval training on an elliptical, bike or rower, or in the pool sooner after a hard weight training session since these lower impact exercises are less stress on the body.
Fatigue that you feel after a workout is mother nature’s way of preventing you from going right back to it and tearing your body down. An exceptionally high level of fatigue, indicating a very stressful workout is a risk. Combine it with too little recovery time and you’re on your way to overtraining. Overtraining is the opposite of overcompensation. As an older adult you’re at risk for losing more muscle, slowing your metabolism, and increasing fat storage if your body is under this kind of stress.
It’s individual. I’m often asked after women read You Still Got It, Girl! or have heard me reference this overtraining phenomenon, “Could I be exercising too much?” My answer has to be in the form of questions.
Boot camp sessions done daily 6 days a week are not ideal if you factor in everything written before this sentence. Typically consisting of hard workouts day after day, boot camps by the end of the week increase breakdown from 1.) the exercise 2.) lack of recovery time, and 3.) the stress of any typical work week that sets in even before it’s finally Friday. That combination will increase breakdown and inhibit your recovery. A better schedule would be a mid week day off, and alternating hard and light days such that the light days actually facilitate recovery – something many of us won’t do well for ourselves.
At the other end of the spectrum, easy workouts day after day result in a loss of fitness, too.
If you’ve been walking the same route, distance and speed most days of the week for months or years even, and it’s your sole form of exercise, it’s time to change. (You could insert, elliptical, swimming, or your form of exercise for walking).
The path to fitness at every age is to alternate your need to create fatigue, then reduce fatigue. As we age, we have less wiggle room and need to pay more attention to keeping it between the navigational buoys.
The two best recovery facilitators are sleep and nutrition.
Sleep during peri-menopause or after (including long after) can be tricky. If that’s the case for you, your exercise and recovery needs will be very different from that of your workout partner or others doing the same boot camp as you.
Getting adequate calories is a big part of recovery. Protein is especially important for aging athletes (yes, you ARE an athlete!), along with nutrient-dense foods rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation (caused by exercise levels that will change your body) and enhance metabolic processes that speed recovery.
If you’re playing that game of exercise more, eat less to create a caloric deficit, there’s a strong chance you’re hindering recovery. If you’re tired often, you’re injured often or chronically now perhaps, or just don’t seem to be making progress no matter how often or hard you work, flip your equation.
It’s not just quantity, but timing of those calories and protein that matters. It matters more after 50 than before. There are hormones at play here too. Eating around the clock with specific amounts of macronutrients timed to improve results on a daily basis is essential. Then pre and post exercise fuel needs to be on purpose rather than by accident too. This is not your daughter’s, mothers, or your husband’s exercise or nutrition plan. For flipping 50 you want to create that unique-to-you (and those ever-loving hormones) plan.
The non-intuitive answer is, exercise less and recover more.
Only then will you reduce the breakdown of your body so that you can increase your metabolism and burn more fat. You’ll finally begin to feel good both when you exercise and between exercise. Exercise will be serving its purpose better – helping you live your life more fully enjoying moving through it with energy at choice for doing what you want to do!
The key to less exercise, is more purposeful exercise. No more random acts of fitness. You can, and you should, feel great while maintaining a reasonable exercise schedule that enhances life.
You’ve got goals! In today’s episode, Julie is planning to do a marathon. She knows weight training is important to avoid muscle loss and wants help juggling the increasing miles and demand on time and energy.
Fortunately, marathon training has changed! Instead of miles and miles even endurance training is shifting to include more intervals, more weight training, and less overall miles. It’s perfect for an older athlete to avoid injury, recover better, and show up at the starting line healthy on race day.
We start with Muscles in Minutes so Julie knows how and what to include in a consistent weight training program. We continue with the importance of the recovery between training that includes Overnight Success and Minute Made Meal segments crucial for any woman over 50 and especially someone with big goals.
Planning is key. Once you’ve planned, you simple go into action. You’ll need to adjust based on energy, other time demands, and just life… but if you have a plan you just have a speed bump and you’re not derailed. Notice that the key runs happen 4 days a week, allowing plenty of recovery between. This schedule also takes advantage of weekends for the important long and recovery days.
A smart schedule is going to look something like this:
The key for Upper body and Lower body exercises I demonstrate in this episode are below:
Food for Julie has to increase as her energy demands do. Whether you’re running a marathon yourself, or running a business, or working through a major project, more of the right food at the right time will keep you heading for a strong finish.
Two goals to be aware of in addition to exercise session goals after 50:
In a busy life full of extra training hours and goals, convenience of high quality food is a must. Smoothies made with “super foods” that include greens (spinach, kale, chard) and fruit (berries), along with healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil), and things like cinnamon, cacao, mac, to reduce inflammation and help rebalance blood sugar and hormones can all go right in that post-workout smoothie along with your post workout protein. Grab your coupons for $5 or $10 off your first order right on this episode’s  page! Then, grab the smoothie recipe books below (the smoothie bowl book is full of some of the big “additions” that will boost your smoothie benefits).
Before we turn out the lights on this episode, we have to talk about sleep. It’s the “athlete’s steroid” and the over 50 woman’s BFF. In order to have your best days you have to have your best nights.
If you’re not doing interval training, you’ve heard of interval training. In terms of getting the most return in the least amount of time, interval training is a beautiful thing.
The balance to high intensity interval training, and much of the reason it works so well or leads to injury, is the rest and recovery between. By between, I mean between repeats of interval during a session as well as the amount of rest before you perform other high intensity exercise.
Too much of a good thing is cause for injury. We’re seeing hints of that as trends away from 4-6 day a week bootcamps and toward a more balance activity schedule were reported with the 2016 world fitness trends.
We tend to focus on the work intervals. That, of course, is how we burn calories, right? Though calories burned during exercise is NOT the total picture of how fitness is born or gained (just as the scale is not the total picture of how fat is gained or lost), we still can’t help ourselves. Fitness programs, gyms, and online information sources like MyFitnessPal’s subject lines play us like a piano when it comes to high calorie-burning workouts or recipes with fewer than 400 calories. (two recent subject lines in my inbox).
It’s the rest intervals that make or break your progress.
A brand new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that passive recovery, that is, basically standing still, allowed study participants to work harder on subsequent work intervals (in the study they were sprints). Comparing passive recovery to active (where subjects ran or jogged between) there was much less deterioration of performance and most importantly, stress accumulation.
If you’re flipping 50, approaching 50 or you’ve already turned the corner, working hard without injury, and without additional stress are both crucial to your ability to stay active and stop exercise from creating additional cortisol. Stress is stress and even exercise is stress on the body.
If you perform some of the most popular workouts featuring 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery and find you begin to lose form during the latter repeats, you’re probably not achieving your overall goal of burning more energy and at the same time you’re putting yourself at risk for injury.
Speed intervals: Find a stretch of flat area – it could be a city block long – and “sprint” then stand or walk in place to recover for at least the time it took you to sprint up to double that time.
Hill or incline intervals: Find a hill that allows you to “sprint” up (walk fast, run or bike) somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute. Then return slowly down the hill – not a jog or anything close to a fast pace. Your breathing should be completely nose-breathing before you repeat the next interval. (You can perform the same thing on a stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill)
Swim Intervals: Sprint as quickly as possible to one end of the pool, ideally in a 25 or 50-meter pool. Rest at the wall before you go again.
If you perform 5-10 intervals with full rest between you should notice only a slight decline in your performance in latter repeats. If you’re new to intervals, perform five, if you’re experienced shoot for 8-10. These “all-out” intervals mean you should work every single one. If things get cloudy and your performance during hard and recovery during the “easy” interval begin to look too similar, you’re done. Know when to stop.
Always include a warm up and cool down before intervals. Speed always brings a greater risk than adding resistance. So choose a higher gear on your bike or find a hill as opposed to using speed all the time.
That’s across disciplines. If you do interval training on Monday and heavy weight training on Tuesday, you’re not resting between your high intensity exercise sessions. Plan an interval day, and a moderate or easy exercise day the following day.
Do one high intensity interval training day a week to begin. Add a second as long as you have several days recovery between.
Less of the right kind of exercise wins. You’ll get better results. You’ll feel better.
You’ll stay active longer with fewer injuries.
Welcome to the first edition of The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women!
If this is your first visit and pass through my site, in your shoes, I’d be wondering who this chic is and how she has authority to deliver content. So here’s the dirt on me. No police record, no tabloid headlines, just a few speeding tickets. (It’s genetic).
The book by the same title as this blog, created based on success of my private coaching programs based on similar titles, is under construction. You could then call this procrastination. You would be right. You could call it excitement about the chest deep research I’m wading through on a daily basis and eagerness to share it with you now so you can see results…instead of waiting til later in the fall. You’d be right.
There’s so much information out there – some of it good, some not so much – that it’s just plain noisy. I see my job here as cutting through the crap and the too-good-to-be-true promises to give you both sides of the story. I’ve had 30 years to personally make a lot of mistakes, teach – train – and coach clients through change, and teach emerging personal trainers how to best work with clients for optimum results. I base the information I share on:
-Personal and professional experience with what’s worked and what’s failed
-Current research that is changing the way we think about exercise and nutrition
-The aging of America and our desire to stay fit and thrive in our second 50
So, with that long-winded introduction, let’s get to it.
I’m all about getting better results in less time. I wish I had the time to be outdoors and active for hours, but frankly right now I just don’t. For some it’s about getting started or restarted and finding motivation to do it. Less time is very attractive to a lot of us!
Here are three things with low exertion level and minimal time commitment that will help you – a second 50 exerciser – get the most from all the right moves.
1. Use a foam roller 2 or 3 times a week for a few minutes. Here’s what it does for you. It irons out bound up fibers that surround your muscles so that you feel less “tight.” If you say you’re “tight” frequently or you think you need stretching often, it may not be those muscles but the connective tissue on top that’s all wound up. Young, healthy (or old and rolled) connective tissue has “spring” to it. It’s got longer lines and it’s less intertwined.
If you’ve ever had a massage, even a shoulder rub, you know that feeling of getting up afterwards feeling lighter and longer. Yet, you haven’t actually stretched the muscle longer. You just got some of that connective tissue to compress and hydrate. It’s like squeezing a sponge. When you wring out the muscles with massage or foam rolling you compress and when you release new fluid rushes in. It’s like taking a tall cold drink (of water with lemon- I don’t know what you were thinking!) on a hot day.
More isn’t better. Two to three times a week and leave a couple days between. It isn’t instant. But results are cumulative. The more frequently and regularly you do it the better results you’ll have. Optimal results take 6-24 months. If you take a month off you’ll lose some ground. Of course, you’ll be better off if you’re doing yoga and keeping a good activity routine while you’re off.
If you haven’t any experience, ask a fitness professional, check out the foam rolling playlist on Allagesfitness in YouTube or email me for help.
2. Get plenty of sleep. Growth Hormone (GH) is your best training friend for a lean second fifty. It’s released in smaller doses as you age. And since we’re all aging, after about 25, it’s down hill for GH. You can optimize it with high quality strength training that is followed by good nutrition n (see #3) and sleep.
If you’re a skilled sleeper, you’re going to have an easier chance keeping your lean muscle and keeping fat away. GH is released in the largest doses during the deep stages of sleep. If you’re a light sleeper or have many waking periods at night, seek some solutions. It’s a beautifully passive way to optimize muscle and minimize breakdown.
3. Get adequate protein. The amount recommended to us for years and still by RDA standards is likely to be far below what we actually need. Intuitively, we’ve thought as we age we need less. As we get less active we need less. WRONG, WRONG. As we age we’re not quite as good at processing protein in our diet. As we age if in fact we do become less active, we are also less able to process (or synthesize) protein than our more active friends.
Twenty-five to 30 grams of protein per meal three times a day is minimum recommended by researchers. If you’re less active or frail you need the upper limit. If you’re more active and if you are trying to reduce weight on a lower calorie diet you need higher levels of protein in order to spare your muscle.
That’s a 4 oz serving of chicken, turkey, or salmon for example. Some protein sources are higher quality than others. If you don’t do animal protein it’s harder to get 25-30 grams of protein per meal that offers all the essential amino acids. Not impossible, but harder. Unless you’re consciously trying most clients fail to get this. When they do add protein to meals and to snacks (in smaller amounts) they often notice an added bonus: fewer cravings.
Most experts disagree on a lot of things but on recovery nutrition they agree. Within 30-60 minutes after exercise you’re ripe for replenishing glycogen and beginning to repair muscles. The smoothie to the right provides anti-oxidant rich healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Liquids often not only go down easier after a hard workout but blended the goodness is absorbed easier too. Get this in before too much cortisol is released and you’ll be forever young inside out.
If you lose muscle, you’re gaining fat. Motivated?
P.S. Please share a comment about your recovery strategies. Do you roll? Do you rest? Do you include enough protein? Share your biggest challenge and in a future post I’ll offer solutions.