And You Are HOW Old?

Lift weights for better health

It is never too late to get stronger, fitter, healthier. Why not start now? 

40 years out of high school I found myself in an exercise class called Bay Area Boot Camp. There I was at 6:30 a.m. on a chilly, rainy morning, jogging laps around a duck pond, avoiding duck poo, while wondering what possessed me to get into this class! With the rest of the women averaging 28 years old, the coach/teacher too, I was self conscious. But I found they were 100% supportive of my attempts to keep up with the class.

Squat thrust? Jumping rope? Sit ups? Push ups? Me? I haven't jumped rope since I was a little kid! I did not know if I could do it five times let alone for 30 seconds to a minute without stopping! Sure it was challenging at first but I did it. Week in and week out I got better at it, jumping longer without stopping!

Jog a mile? Moi? Walk/jog, yes, but after a few months, I too was jogging a mile. Not fast, as I have never been the fastest runner; au contraire, I have always been the slowest runner in any class I ever took, but jogging a mile was something I hadn't done since I was 25 years old, 30 years ago!

Stepping up onto a bench and down again holding hand weights? Yep, did it! After the first class I was dead on the couch for hours that night, but it got easier and easier and I got stronger and stronger. The body toned, the muscles tightened, and my body looked slimmer.

Short detour

After six months the upcoming ski season was looking do-able to me. I believed I could pound down the moguls like I did 40 years ago and was looking forward to it! But one chilly November morning coach said, "Run four steps then jump up like you're shooting a basket," a new exercise. I jumped, felt a pop in my calf, acute pain, and not only were my bootcamp days over but so was my ski season, which hadn't even started!

Ten months later, as I write this, I have to say Boot Camp was the most energizing, positive thing I've done for myself in many years. Challenging the body to do things not tried in so long!

Why was I the only 57-year-old woman out there? There was one 51-year-old, a cancer survivor, who was working it and loving it, getting thinner and fitter week by week, and several in their 40s, 30s and 20s.

But where were the Boomers, my generation?

Back on Track

Did I get injured because of my age? The coach said I just needed to warm up more. The tear heeled with scar tissue that now causes pain when I jog.

Jogging is such an intrinsic part of Boot Camp I have not gone back. Instead, I've reinvented my exercise program and think it is so great I'm writing to share it with you!

I found out exercising outdoors is invigorating. A few months after my injury, I went back to working out in a gym, but dreaded going there. I quit July 1 and began a regular outside walk/jog, early in the morning before work, before the summer heat sets in.

From warm-up to warm-down

My outdoor program is 20 minutes of walking to warm up, first a straightaway, then up a steep road. At the top I jog, all the way downhill (it hurts my calf but not nearly as much as jogging uphill or on the level) back to my home, 10 minutes return time.

After some stretching to warm-down my injured leg, I do a full-on workout with hand weights.

I learned how to do this in Boot Camp but I've also found that Fitness Magazine offers photo demos of great exercises, an assortment, every month. I tear out the ones I like and assemble them in a binder for reference. This lets me mix up the exercises so my body doesn't get too used to doing the same thing. Dr Mehmet Oz's book You: The Owner's Manual, as featured on Oprah, also includes a great workout, photos and all.

Here's my routine:

1. One set of twelve repetitions using 6-pound hand weights (some of you should start out with less, 2 or 5 pounds each) in each hand, doing eight different movements.

2. Then I grab two 8-pound hand weights and do the same set twice over.

3. I grab my mat and get on the ground, doing push ups (not girl style, but boy style, not very well but trying them nonetheless), holding a plank for 20-30 seconds.

4. Side leg raises, 20 each leg.

5. Onto my back for 40 sit ups, then 20 each side for side crunches.

6. Then back for another plank. I lay on my back and grab two 8-pound weights to lift them up and over twelve times, then lay them down while I do a modified bridge, then leg lifts from that position.

7. Upright again, I grab my weights and step up one step of our deck and raise the weights over my head, then down and alternate legs, then do 20 toes touches against the side of the steps.

8. I finish things off with some good stretches.

A little inspiration

I don't pretend to be an exercise teacher, I simply want you to try things you may not have tried in a lot of years. I want you to strengthen yourself to feel your central core strength, to not have a sore back, to build your bone density (mine was almost off the chart, above normal, when tested a few weeks ago), and to feel yourself getting stronger!

Listen to good music on an iPod while doing this; you will be energized by it! The theme from Rocky is a great song to motivate you. Also the song called One from A Chorus Line -- it has a great beat to lift weights to. You can design your own set of favorite songs to workout to.

Also, I golf, not great, but getting better. Golf is one sport where I see a huge benefit from weight lifting! The ball goes much farther and straighter as my arms get stronger. All women golfers should do hand weights; they will love the improvement in their game. I am sure there are DVDs to watch and books to buy that can teach you the moves for weight lifting.

I learned it at the gym and in Boot Camp. You can even hire a coach for a session or two to design your own workout. The results are worth it!

My generation did not enjoy girls team sports. We didn't jog, we didn't push baby strollers around while jogging, we missed out on much of the fitness the younger women exemplify so well today. But, it is never too late to get started weight lifting, to get stronger, fitter, healthier. After all, why not?

And you how are old? If you can do what a 21-year-old youth full of vigor can do, then you are 21. Number of years you have lived on earth is "irrelevant" sometimes
I am, or was, 58, when I wrote all of that! -- Norma
I had never pulled on a pair of running shoes before I turned 50 and as you can picture, I wasn't in the best shape of my life. However after my first run, I was bitten by the bug and now I have founded a running club just for the over 40s. Paul