Defining fitness is not an easy task. Everyone it seems has their own interpretations and definitions. There are lots of lists which promote the best habits of those who are already fit. Basic ideas such as “eat breakfast and or make sleep a priority” are not on this list because I wanted to move past the basics.
We are a holistic ecosystem, so the focus here is on women becoming strong in body, mind and beliefs.
1. Embrace Strength Training.
Being strong is essential for Women Over 40. Your muscles naturally grow in strength and mass until you reach 30. However, once you’re in your 30s you begin to experience sarcopenia, the natural loss of muscle mass and function.
Each decade after that if you are inactive you may lose as much as 5 percent of mass. This loss may speed up as you reach 65. In a large study, researchers discovered those who incorporated strength training experienced a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.
Strength training benefits your cardiovascular system, reduces your risk of osteoporosis, improves your mood and self-perception and helps control your blood sugar. Lifting weights has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase bone density.
Strength training also stabilizes your core muscles around your abdomen and back, that provide balance and stability to your hips, abdomen and lower back. This helps prevent injury and reduces your risk of falls while improving your overall balance.
Perhaps most importantly becoming strong increases your mental and emotional well being. Women who strength train don’t all have to become bodybuilders or powerlifters. You can reduce your risk of depression, elevate your mood and self-esteem and enjoy an improved body image all from having toned muscles. Simply becoming more physically strong can be an amazing boost to your self confidence.
2. Do not believe the myth that women will get bulky if they lift heavy things.
It’s just not true. Women bodybuilders work, eat and train for years to look like they do. The truth is lifting heavy weights will make you stronger not necessarily bigger.
When you strength train, your muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over the next 24-48 hours. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it’s recruiting more calories and energy to make the process happen (generally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ or “burn the fat” effect). What this means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout.
If you are looking to lose weight, strength training will produce a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio.
3.Don’t rely on cardio.
If you are looking to lose weight, strength training will produce a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio. There’s no reason you cannot be incredibly healthy and look amazing, even if you never run another mile in your entire life.
Despite what you might think, and what you might see in a gym, you will never need to step foot on another cardio machine again. If the thought of running on a treadmill for four hours sounds miserable to you, don’t do it. Again listen to your body, if running makes you feel great then go do it, but if you slog thru a spin session just to get it done then reevaluate what you are doing and why.
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4.Stop obsessing over the number on your scale.
Instead celebrate the inches lost and strength gained. Refocus your health goals toward zeroing in on your fitness and not just weight. Body weight is a combination of several factors: water, muscle, and fat. It can be deeply frustrating to rely on a traditional scale to detect fat loss.
Most scales just measure overall body weight without pinpointing whether you’re losing water, muscle, or fat. It’s becoming common knowledge that the number you see on the scale isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to health. “One pound of muscle and one pound of fat may weigh the same, but they look and function entirely different in the body. Unfortunately, the scale cannot tell the difference.”says Chelsea Axe, C.S.C.S., D.C., fitness expert for Dr. Axe.
5.Eat Real Food. Eat for your body type.
Your body is unique. There’s no such thing as a one-size fits all eating plan. Wellness means prioritizing a healthier diet based on your unique biology. There are tests available which look at how efficiently your body processes carbs, fats, and proteins. Analyzing your DNA for certain biomarkers could give you valuable information on your own particular metabolic processes. Buy Organic. Avoiding pesticides is the No. 1 reason people buy organic.
6. Listen to your body.
There is no “one master plan fits all” approach that will work for everyone. Don’t fall for the next new fitness craze geared towards women. Do you want to make fat disappear faster? Eat better. Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of that fat loss. Strength train not with targeted spot exercises, but with big compound movements that use your entire body.
7. Ask for help.
Join a fitness group or get a workout partner. No one will push you into discomfort better then a workout buddy, coach or trainer. Being active is a lifestyle change. Be consistent. Show up everyday. It usually takes 21 days to change a habit. Find ways to be accountable to a workout buddy. Join our private Facebook group to become part of the Fit Women Over 40 online tribe.
I have found that 80% of the battle is being self motivated and disciplined. So work out with a team, then you’ll have a good reason to show up everyday. I love the support and camaraderie of having women to compete against at my training sessions. They have become my motivation. Success in any endeavor is small constant steps over time equals results. Fitness is no different then sticking to a savings plan. Over time the benefits add up once your habits become grooves in your track.
8. Fitness is a lifestyle choice so Have Fun.
Strength training can be done outside of the gym and be incorporated into your everyday life. Do bodyweight exercises, yoga or just pick up some heavy things. Try swinging some kettlebells, using a climbing wall, or simply taking the stairs more will make you use your muscles in different ways that can have the same benefits without the need for rushing to the gym all the time.
9. Track your Progress.
“Progress is very motivating. Lack of it is not.” says Open Ocean Rower Roz Savage. Start keeping a workout journal. The results you will be able to see can give you tremendous satisfaction. Data is a powerful motivator, showing you not just the pounds lost, but the increase in weights you can lift and the decrease in time it takes you. A sense of accomplishment can NOT be underestimated.
10. Embrace Discomfort. Learn to get outside of your comfort zone.
Becoming fit isn’t easy. It’s probably safe to say that most people just want to be comfortable, be it physical, psychological, or emotional comfort.
To make significant changes happen, “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do”, as Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said. Be unstoppable. Always keep moving. Practice Gratitude. Work out with laughter when necessary. Even when it’s tough, stay committed. Keep on your program.
This is a way of life, not a temporary fitness regime.
“Paleo works, but only if you do it”, says Robb Wolf
one of the leading authorities on the Paleo Solution, the Original Human Diet. One of the questions I can imagine “healthy” people might ask ( like I did) is why do I need to this “diet” and what will the benefits be for me? I actually asked my Cross Fit trainer, Mauricio that very question this morning and here’s what he had to say.
A Paleo Breakfast
He is a very healthy 20 something male and he noticed right away a big increase in his energy level and not bonking at mid-day like he used to. Also he hasn’t been sick with a cold or allergies in a very long time and he has been able to do more training then he used.
Personally I am in the category where I adhere to 80% of the diet and so I actually get about 95% of the benefit that Paleo has to offer. And the benefits can add up very fast.
Let’s take a look at where you should start.
1. Clean out the Pantry
We do not have self-control. PLAN AHEAD! Don’t have tempting foods in the house. Remove the bread, rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, puddings, ice cream, waffles, juice, sodas, cereals, oatmeal, artificial sweeteners, yogurt, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, canned soups, apple sauce, noodles…all refined, packaged foods. Bag it all up, take it to a food bank or homeless shelter.
2. Go shopping
Now it’s time to fill your cupboards with food worth eating.
Buy Protein. Ideally these options are grass fed or wild caught. If you cannot find those should you eat a bagel? No! Beans and rice do NOT count as protein. Pork, beef, lamb. Trout, salmon, shrimp, crab. Chicken, turkey, duck. Round things out with some good quality bacon, omega-3 enriched eggs and some items like chicken apple sausage to help you with breakfast on busy days.
Garden Fresh Strawberry
Visit a Farmer’s Market to get Local Veggies. Shop with the season, which typically means what is on sale. Mix up the colors, lots of orange, red, and greens.
Fruit. Limit fruit to 1 serving per day if fat loss is your goal. In order of preference: Berries, melons, citrus, apples, pears. Bananas, papayas and mangoes are great for athletes post workout but not for folks who want to lose weight.
Fats. Olive oil (extra virgin) coconut, avocado (oil and whole), macadamia (whole and oil), almonds, walnuts.
If fat loss is a goal limit nuts to 1-2 oz. per day.
Spices, Herbs and such. Marinara sauce, herbs, spices-curry powder, garlic, ginger, cilantro, garam massala, chili powder, black pepper, lemon zest, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, and basil. Get at least 20 herbs and spices to keep your cooking lively. Stock up on espresso, teas and mineral water as these are your beverages of choice.
A Typical Paleo Lunch
3. Cook! The majority of your meals will look something like this: 4-8 oz of lean protein such as chicken, lean beef, turkey, pork loin or seafood.
Several servings of vegetables, either raw, steamed, or lightly cooked. Finally, round out the meal with good fats from Avocado, olive oil or a handful of un-salted nuts such as almonds, pecans, macadamias or walnuts. A lot of meals start looking the same, but everything can taste great with just a few variations.
Key points to remember:
• Eat Protein every meal and 3-4 meals per day. Eating protein with each meal I found reduces my cravings for more food then I need. • Beverages are coffee, tea, mineral water. Unsweetened, this includes stevia.
If fat loss is a goal: Limit fruit to 1 serving & Limit nuts to 1-2 oz and EXERCISE!
4. Go for a Walk or a Run or go do Cross Fit, Just Move that Body!
You were born with a certain set of genetics from your parents and all of us have genes that are meant to be active. Really active. The Center for Disease Control lists “INACTIVITY” as the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
How your genes “experience” the world thru sleep, food, exercise etc, influences how those genes are turned on or off and this determines your phenotype. If you were analyzed for disease potential when you are a “Sedentary Person” vs. an “Active Person” your genes would look totally different. You are literally a different person when you exercise vs. when you do not.
So, Get outside and move. Gauge your fitness level and act accordingly. If you need help, find a trainer or coach.
5. Sleep! Black out your room. No, REALLY black out your room. No LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s etc. Do not watch TV or check email for at least 1 hour before bed. Go to bed early, get at least 8-9 hrs of sleep. You should wake up without an alarm, feeling refreshed.
6. Get Your Blood Work done. So you will have some metrics to show you that Paleo is actually working on your insides, go to your doctor or clinic and order your blood work. I get mine down every year and its a fairly simple process. Read Robb’s book or ask your doctor what all of the different aspects of the blood work mean. But mainly you will be comparing your LDL Cholesterol (Bad) vs. HDL Cholesterol (Good) levels, your Triglycerides, which are a measure of your circulating blood fats, Glucose levels, Glycated hemoglobin ( or A1C), which is a measure of how much sugar is sticking to your red blood cells, and C-reactive protein or CRP is a marker of systemic inflammation.
Use your blood work as a starting point for your Paleo diet changes and then get tested again in a month or 2 to really see the overall effect your food choices and exercise regime are having on your health.
What is NOT allowed on Paleo:
Fuji Apples and Cinnamon – Paleo Snack
• Grains: bread, rice, cereal, pasta, corn, gluten-free pseudo grains
• Sugar or sugar substitutes: maple syrup, honey, agave, stevia, sucralose, etc.
• Alcohol: sorry aficionados, beer is maltose is sugar; wine is fructose
• Legumes: beans, peanuts/peanut butter, lentils, soybeans (yes, this means tofu), peas
• Dairy: milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, whey
If you must have some “Cheat Foods”:
• I’d recommend one small square of dark chocolate per day
What about Alcohol? Don’t take away my drinking, you say?
Well even the Paleo King, Robb Wolf admits to having a “Paleo Margarita” occasionally. The drink consists of 2 shots of tequila gold, Juice from 1 lime and a splash of seltzer water. Its quite good actually.
Much of the problem with drinking is not the alcohol but the sugar that comes with it. A “typical” margarita or vodka & tonic would be loaded with sugar. Beer is loaded with gluten and has a significant sugar content. As for wine, opt for the dry varieties as they have less sugar.
But as with anything moderation is key and alcohol is NOT Paleo. If you must drink, imbibe earlier in the evening as far away from bedtime as possible. Alcohol turns off your growth hormone release which is Not good for your health, recovery or body composition. So if you are wondering why your fat reducing is not working cut out drinking for a month and see what happens.
Do you want to… Lose weight? Feel better?
Have more energy? Reduce inflammation and pain?
Reverse diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, autism, diabetes, and obesity?
Look, feel, and perform at your best ever?
If you want to lose weight, stop doing your 5 mile runs or your hour-long treadmill sessions and replace them with high-intensity interval training or Cross Fit training instead.
One of the reasons why people continue to struggle with their weight despite engaging in regular exercise is because they’re not doing the right kind of exercise! Studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session.
By doing Cross Fit or another high intensity workout, such as TRX Training, you can cut the duration of your exercise session in half and still burn fat! One study showed you can burn more fat exercising for 20 minutes than for 40 minutes. In the study, women either exercised for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of sprinting on a bike with 12 seconds of exercising lightly, or exercised at a regular pace for 40 minutes. After exercising three times a week for 15 weeks, those who did the 20-minute, alternating routine lost three times as much fat as the other women.
This type of exercise works because it produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, the so called “fight-or-flight” hormones, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin and within your muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation is thought to drive the increased weight loss.
High Intensity Exercise Increases Growth Hormone Production
The higher your levels of Human growth hormone (HGH), also called “the fitness hormone”, the healthier and stronger you will be. After age 30, your levels of human HGH begin to drop off quite dramatically, this is called “somatopause and leads to the dreaded “middle age spread”. Maintaining your HGH levels is increasingly important as you age. You will experience vibrant health and strength the longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH.
You must engage your super fast muscle fibers in order to naturally increase your body’s production of HGH. Regular aerobic cardio such as running only works your slow muscle fibers, and can impede natural HGH production by causing your super fast fibers to atrophy from lack of use. Only high-intensity power burst cardio training, such as Cross Fit exercises, TRX Training or others, will engage your super fast fibers and promote HGH production.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Women tend to avoid exercises that will increase muscle mass, but carrying more muscle has many health benefits, including:
• Improved blood circulation
• Increased metabolism
• Increased bone density
• Increased energy
• Decreased body fat
• Improved posture
• Increased range of motion
• Increased body functions
Strength training is recommended for women of all ages, including seniors. Retaining your skeletal muscles is one of the most critical elements of human fitness to keep you strong, functional and healthy. Your muscles also help regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, which protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Cross Fit and high-intensity interval training which have intense speed and power exercises trigger a mechanism in your muscles that actually promotes muscle growth.
TRX Suspension Training – Total Body Workout
Exercise Slows Down Your Aging
Exercise also has other anti-aging benefits such as it can prevent or delay the onset of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and osteoporosis, which are all common ailments associated with advancing age.
Also, if you can control the aging process inside your cells, as one anti-aging theory suggests, you should be able to control your rate of aging. Telomeres are part of your chromosomes which are inside each of your body’s cells. When your cells divide, these telomeres shorten and when they get to a certain level you will die of old age.
Exercise can not affect the telomere shortening process, but it can be accelerated by an unhealthy lifestyle. Exercise plays an important part in the prevention of aging. So, lack of exercise, obesity, stress, and smoking, all cause production of free radicals that speed up cells splitting and the telomere shortening process.
Need more ideas for Cooking Healthy Meals, then check out: The Healthy Urban Kitchen Cookbook The Healthy Urban Kitchen is a simple, step by step system for shopping, cooking and eating the world’s healthiest foods. It was created for busy people who want to improve health, have more energy, and prevent disease.
Are you sure that you are getting everything you can out of your core routine? With all of the new developments in core training, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest and most effective tools and techniques. Though the core has become a mainstream concept, most exercisers have a clouded view of what exactly the core consists of, its importance and what the best ways are to activate it.
The core includes the following muscles: Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Multifidus, External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum and Erector Spinae. It provides a stable platform which launches all of our movement by stabilizing the spine. The core generates the rotational forces needed for many athletic movements including throwing, swinging, striking and twisting. It acts to resist or neutralize external forces such as gravity, contact or momentum. We are only as strong as our core. A weak core limits our strength capacity.
Four Tools to add to your Core Training Routine
TRX Suspension Trainer
The TRX® is one of the most innovative additions to core training in recent years. It’s a non-elastic, adjustable harness constructed of industrial-strength, nylon webbing which uses bodyweight as the sole source of variable resistance. The TRX allows for hundreds of exercises that can accommodate all fitness levels. It integrates the core’s postural, stabilizer and neutralizer components in all of its exercises and the addition of the suspended planks, crunches and oblique capabilities make it one of the most effective tools on the market.
Ex Navy Seal, Randy Hetrick of Fitness Anywhere, in San Francisco’s Russian Hill developed his prototype for his TRX Suspension Trainer out of necessity. As a special ops squadron commander, he needed a way to keep his team in world-class shape without having access to world-class gyms. So he bought a $49 sewing machine & using some parachute webbing and began stitching away. The rest is history. Since hitting the market in 2005, the portable straps have recorded more than $20 million in sales. TRX training kit Fitness Anywhere has been ranked by Outside Magazine as one of the top 30 places to work in the United States this year.
The stability ball creates an unstable environment that requires more work from the core. Simple yet demanding, the stability ball can be used to add challenge to many exercises and modify others.
Most modern heavy balls are constructed of a textured rubber that is mad to bounce. Heavy balls are the perfect exercise tool when training the core to control external forces, to stabilize the body while applying internal forces, and when working at higher speeds.
Balance devices come in all shapes and sizes: wobble boards, balance discs, Bosu balls, Bongo boards and foam balance surfaces. They all destabilize the surface using a base of support in one way or another, making the core more responsive. A word of caution: Always evaluate possible danger versus potential benefit before attempting any exercise that destabilizes your base of support.
Handstands, hand walking, and pressing to a handstand are excellent exercises to developing your athletic potential. Even my Mom remembers doing handstands & cartwheels as a kid, yet today hand balancing seems to have fallen out of favor.
Of course, we think we grow out of doing such movements as we get older. I have a yoga friend who comes to my house, kicks off her shoes and does a handstand against my wall just to get the kinks out after a long day. She is so effortless. I decided I needed to be able to do that. Something about being upside down appeals to me. They say that the handstand is the first step to developing a catlike capacity for landing on your feet. Oh boy, I can’t wait!
Being upside down gives you a whole new perspective to a brand new world. Being upside down is a whole other world for your mind and body to comprehend. We spend roughly two thirds of our life upright and one third in lying down. When upside down most of us lose our breath, orientation, and composure. Having the ability to land effectively on your feet after tripping versus knocking your teeth out can be a result of mastering these movements. I had a near catastrophic fall happen just the other day. I slipped on the top of some wet stairs and I went flying down 4 steps to land gracefully and without injury. I attribute that excellent landing to a bit of luck but mostly to the balance and coordination I have gained by developing my core strength and agility training.
Increased coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance are all developed through the hand walking and hand pressing movements. Full body movements such as hand balancing & presses improve balance and increase shoulder strength, but they also improve proprioception and core strength in ways that other exercises cannot. Proprioception (pronounced/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shin), from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body. In other words, when you are up side down you get a whole new view of the world and so does your brain, which thrives on new stimulus.
If you just starting out & you are afraid of falling over, start by practicing up against a wall and slowly move up the wall backwards. This is always a good a idea to start with a spotter but in time you’ll get more confident on your own.
Once you are out in the open on a grassy field, practice falling over using a tuck and roll. Most of this skill is about visualizing and having confidence. If you are afraid and think you will fall, then it is more likely that you will. I have found that like any new skill, practicing a little bit every day is what will make the difference.