It is understandable to be uncertain about how to begin exercising after 50, 60, and beyond. Especially if you’ve never been a consistent exerciser. However, the benefits of exercising, particularly after 50, are so great that this point alone should drive you past any concerns. Although several key benefits of exercising are mentioned in this article, its focus is on how to begin.
Here’s how to begin an exercise program after 50.
Know the Course
Just like establishing any other habit, or giving up a bad one, there is a period of adjustment. In the beginning, it feels awkward and difficult. You find that it takes a lot of energy to get yourself to do it. You feel a resistance to continue.
Your body and mind are simply recalibrating and rewiring. Both are on your old schedule, so they may try to return to it for a while. Both need to set up the requirements to accommodate your new habit. This takes about 21 days. But it’s a progressive process, so things will improve each day and week.
The key is to expect this period of adjustment knowing that you’ll soon get past it and develop a new habit.
Design a Routine
Define your exercise routine. Research the exercises that interest you and then select which ones you’re going to do.
For example, if you’ve decided to do power walking for your aerobic exercise, find out how to do it properly, pick out a route, and then drive it to determine its distance.
If you pick free weights for your resistance exercise, study how to do it correctly, select the exercises you’ll do to get a full body workout, pick the weight amount for each one, and then decide how many repetitions you’ll do for each exercise. Start out easy and work your way up in weight and repetitions until you reach a challenging but comfortable level.
It is easy to forget a free weight or even a machine routine in the beginning. For this reason, I highly recommend you write out your routine on paper or in a computer document. Then hang it in a place where you can review it just before or during your exercise. This will help keep you on track and motivated.
For more information on designing a routine and exercising correctly, read this article entitled, Get Fit Without Boot Camp Style Workouts.
No Excuses Attitude
It’s easy to come up with dozens of excuses not to exercise. It’s amazing how many convincing reasons for not exercising we can come up with.
“I don’t feel like it. I don’t have the time today. I’ll start next week. I’ll have the motivation after I join a gym. I need to lose some weight first. I don’t have the right outfit. I’ll work up the courage to do it later.”
Here are the two most important secrets that helped me to become a twice-daily exerciser beginning at 3:15 am!
- Having a no excuses mindset will enable you to succeed. This means that as each excuse arises in your mind you simply say to yourself, “No excuses!” You answer each excuse with this response that I call a “success mantra” and go forward with your exercise plans.
- Motivation comes “after” you begin. This is a physical and psychological law! Once you get started, you get a tiny bit of motivation. As you continue, it builds. Once you’re done, you get the high! The high I’m talking about is the sense of accomplishment and the feel-good endorphins that are released when you exercise. This motivation will grow as you complete each week and month. Then it levels off and turns in to a solid, pleasurable habit.
Endorphins are brain chemicals that are released when you do vigorous exercise. They give you a feeling of well-being or euphoria.
Keep the End in Mind
Here’s a third secret that helps keep you motivated as you’re doing each exercise. Picture the body you want in vivid detail as you’re exercising. This image will pull you toward that result.
If you need a little extra push, visualize the body you do not want. I always picture a completely out of shape former neighbor who cut his grass shirtless. It was quite a sight.
In the beginning, if you really need a swift kick in the backside, imagine a situation that you do not want like open-heart surgery or permanent residency at a nursing home. Limit the amount time you spend thinking about these unpleasant situations, as you do not want to depress yourself or draw them into your life.
The key is to visualize the body and fitness you want while you are exercising as needed. It also helps to imagine situations where you can be proud to show your slim and toned body like at the pool or privately with your lady/gentleman friend or spouse.
I have always been impressed when I see a man or woman at the pool in their 50’s, 60’s, and beyond who have a trim, toned, or even muscular body. Any person under 30 can easily have such a body. But when a senior has it, that’s impressive!
Doctor Your Plan
If you have any health concerns about starting an exercise program or changing your diet, you should discuss them with your doctor before your begin. Your doctor can guide you on how to approach your exercise plan based on your current medical situation and fitness level.
If you feel comfortable going ahead without consulting your doctor, work up to your exercise goals gradually. In addition, go at your own pace. If you join a gym, do not try to match the speed or intensity you see others doing. Go at your own pace! If you stick with it, soon you’ll be the one that the newbies are envying. Including some much younger than you! 🙂
Joining a health club is an excellent place to begin if you don’t know how to work out with free weights or machines. The staff will help you get started, friendly members will point you in the right direction, and personal trainers will work with you on a one-on-one basis for a fee.
If you start your new exercise program without discussing your plans with your doctor and you begin to feel strange while working out, stop and make an appointment to see your doctor. This happened to me when I started getting serious about going to the gym in my mid 40’s.
If you feel a tightness or pain in your chest or numbness on one side of your body while exercising, stop and call 911 immediately.
I felt a bit faint and lethargic after working out. Rather than feeling invigorated as I do today, I felt like I needed to take a nap. When I went to my doctor and explained, he asked me about my diet and coffee intake. My diet was way off for the exercise program I was doing. I was relying too much on coffee for energy. And I was pushing myself too hard at 45. My doctor, who appeared very fit for a man in his 60’s, gave me a meal plan and explained that it takes more time for the body to get used to exercising as we get older. He also said that this is especially true when we haven’t exercised for a long time. However, he assured me, it can easily be done and the benefits are tremendous! I did as he said and I never had any problems again.
Go the Distance
If you do not push yourself forward with a “no excuses” mindset and reach your goals, you’ll miss out on some exciting rewards that you can only partially imagine now. It’s like anything else, if you want it you have to work for it. That is not to say that the journey will not be enjoyable because it will.
Each time you complete a workout, you will feel good! During the first few days and weeks, you might feel a little tired or sore when you’re done. But soon you’ll only feel invigoration with a healthy splash of euphoria from the endorphins.
In 30 days, six months, or one year from now, you will have either exercised and gotten trimmer, fitter, and stronger OR you’ll be the same as you are today. I don’t know about you, but I would rather look and feel great! The plan is simple. Go the distance during each exercise routine and continue to do them each day, week, and month. Make exercise a part of your schedule and lifestyle.
Set up milestones so when you reach them you give yourself a reward that you’ve selected in advance. This is especially important in the beginning.
Your reward might be buying new “smaller size” jeans, shorts, or suit, a day trip to the beach, or a meal out at your favorite restaurant. When it comes to rewarding yourself with food, I have this advice. Do not reward yourself with junk food or binge eating. Instead, enjoy a special meal that aligns with your new diet and lifestyle. Here’s what I mean.
I’ve evolved into being a vegan. I can get just as much pleasure out of picking vegetarian foods on a traditional restaurant menu or even from a buffet as I did before. I particularly enjoy going to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant because I can enjoy and learn about incredibly creative and delicious dishes that align with my diet.
Tip: Ignore comments like “You should reward yourself by eating anything you want. Enjoy life as I do and don’t worry about exercising or what you eat. Vegetarian and especially vegan diets lack protein and are not good for you. How can you get enough protein without eating meat?” (The comments about vegetarians and vegans are common misconceptions.)
The point is this. Celebrate your achievements in positives ways that reflect, support, and enhance your new lifestyle. Ignore comments from friends and family who don’t have the knowledge or willpower do you as you are doing. I have found that in most cases, the people who feel the worst about their own weight, fitness, and appearance will be the ones who belittle you. Just recognize it for what it is, laugh it off, and be a positive example.
Fitness after 50 is not only extremely important health-wise, but it makes you feel good and look great. It can also make you the standout or even the leader among your peers. Unlike when we were children when the oldest and biggest kids were the ones everyone respected and looked up to when you’re over 50 the fittest ones are the alpha males and females.
Even if you were an uncoordinated, geeky, or unpopular in grade school, fitness rules after 50. Those who were once the tough jocks or pretty cheerleaders but are now fat and out of shape will respect you. It’s kind of like the kids who were the brainiacs in grade school but later became wealthy doctors or software entrepreneurs. So regardless of past athletic recognition or popularity, those seniors who are the fittest are the ones everyone looks up to. Sweet revenge, perhaps? 😀