When Exercise Is Not The Answer To Fitness After 50

Exercise is Fourth

I am reminded as I write this blog of the book by Gail Sayers. He wrote, I am Third. He was, in case you don’t remember the teammate of football player Brian Piccolo. Sayer’s book was the inspiration for the tear-jerker Brian’s Song.

“Exercise is fourth” when it comes to getting you to your healthiest, fittest after 50. Truthfully, as I point out in my book You Still Got It, Girl! you can exercise all you want and right along with it do all the calorie cutting you want, but you will not lose weight, get in shape or look the picture of health if you don’t take care of the three other steps that come before it…and two or three that come after. Together all of these work in an integrated way.

Where did this information come from? What evidence do I have? Over 30+-years or working with individuals and groups as a fitness instructor, personal trainer, and wellness coach I’ve seen it with customers and clients. Over 20 years of teaching and training other instructors and personal trainers to lead their own clients, and directing programs onsite as well as consulting program directors and owners around the country … the same trends emerge over and over again. Exercise is a small – and integral – part of fitness. It does not work, however, in a vacuum.

Clients and customers who attempt to “cheat” and cut the fitness corners eventually suffer the most from lack of results. If you only exercise, without the attention to nutrition, to a balanced life full of joy and experiences you look forward to, and adequate sleep, you’ll never achieve the results that you want. You don’t, unfortunately, begin exercise and find fitness. Your exercise will “work” when the other pieces of the puzzle are in place.

What’s best about this truth is that it will take far less than you’ve ever believed. If you love exercise, you of course can do more. You possibly shouldn’t. Loving it does not mean that you aren’t potentiall overdoing it for your hormones to be in balance and give you the results you want. It’s easy to know however. If you are at your optimal weight, energy, you’re sleeping well, and your mood is more often positive and joyous you body is pretty pleased with what you’re doing.

These first three things are things you can focus on even before you begin to exercise. If you’re holidays are hectic and you can seem to find the time ( I might argue that even 5 or 10 minutes is time), you can be working on these things instead.

1. Find Joy. 

We put so much stock in reducing stress. Eliminate stress. That’s what you’re told, you read and you try. Impossible if you have a heart rate, I say. The key is to embrace stress with a “Bring it On” attitude. It’s a part of life. When I watch CEOs – especially those who’ve been doing what they do for a long period of time, and doing it well, there are common denominators. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some top execs. They expect turnover. They expect setbacks. They expect customers to complain and for things to go wrong. They have a plan and most often a system for responding. They already know that a percentage of people will have an issue with a product or service. They aren’t ruffled by it. They know too if they’ve hired really qualified people, even if they take care of them, those people are ambitious and will leave at some point.

How can you CEO your life stressors? You know what they are. If I asked you to list them in order 1-2-3 you probably can in seconds. So the key is what you do when they arise again. Quiet for now means they’ll bubble up again at some point, right? And old argument with a spouse or colleague that continues to be a source of disagreement will emerge. A tired conversation with a child will come up again. An old injury or condition might show up again and disrupt your normal activities.

The point of stress is not eliminating it or running from it but responding. Simultaneously, having the ability to experience joy is the other secret. So many women I’ve worked with – high-level CEOs or not – won’t let themselves have joy until all the work is done. Unfortunately, it never is. So breaking this habit of thought is a good first step if that’s what you find yourself doing.

2. Get Sleep. 

It may be that if you handle #1 you will get #2. Yet, focus on sleep hygiene as if your life depends on it. It truly does. Quality of life without adequate sleep is nearly impossible. Mood, energy, cognitive skills and more suffer. Your body’s ability to store fat is better and your body’s ability to burn it becomes worse.

You’ve got to define what is in your way of sleep and seek every opportunity to get help working step-by-step through solutions. Diet, the right type and timing of foods helps. Exercise of the right type at the right time helps. The wrong food or exercise or at the wrong time both sabotage you.

Stress – both mental and emotional – and environmental are sleep killers. If you’re a screen lover there’s a strong chance your sleep deprived. You can be addicted to the habit of watching TV til bed, in bed, falling asleep with it on… and any of these is more linked to clients who have poor sleep than those who experience rested sleep.

A good habit doesn’t happen until a bad one is removed. And it’s much easier to shift with a good one replacing a bad one instead of simply stopping cold turkey.

3. Eat for the Body You Want.

Not the one you have now. If you want something other than you have now don’t continue doing more of what you’re doing. For a lot of women the opposite is also true: don’t just eat less of the same foods that got you here.

Contrary to popular belief it’s not just portion size. Your quality of food has to be so much better than you ever have had it before. Why? Because your toxic exposure is so much higher. Your food is so much lower quality. You’ve got years of nutrient insufficiency potentially working against you.

None of us can get by without nutrients in the supplement form at this point in time. We likely never could but it’s worsened now. All of our lifestyle habits further deplete or enhance our nutrient profile somehow. Don’t sleep? Don’t like vegetables? Don’t eat meat? All affect nutrients and mean you’re missing some or are depleted of some regularly that you need to replace. Your body works like a machine and each part has a job. If you missed Tuesday’s blog about micronutrients, you may want to go back and read it. Get a start on finding the right nutrients for supporting your energy, weight loss and mood.


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