Watch your grip!
Joining a "Men's Challenge" obstacle course race last weekend was great fun. I haven’t had such a good excuse to play up to my armpits in mud since I was a kid.
Being me, I was particularly curious about how this group of 50-year olds and I would compare in overall fitness - me being 20 years older. I found two key differences, and one encouraging lesson.
Balance - not as easy as falling off a log
First off - disappointment !! The first obstacle to run over was all about balance. The leading few stepped their way across with ease. I fell off 3 times on my way over, and the followers made their way at various levels of competency
An under-appreciate benefit of HIIT exercise
Arterial stiffness occurs as a consequence of biological aging and arteriosclerosis. What is often not well appreciated is that exercise can make a significant contribution to reducing arterial stiffness, and thus mitigating the adverse health consequences.
How does that work?
Exercising makes the heart work harder and this sends more frequent pulses of blood out into the arterial system. These "pulses" are not just pushed along by the force of the heart, as in a pump pushing water through a hose. The blood is pumped along by the muscles in the arteries contracting and squeezing like squeezing toothpaste.
This exercises the arterial and vascular muscles! The exercise reduces their "stiffness', just like other muscles.
And in addition, as you exercise your heart it becomes stronger and able to pump out bigger pulses of blood with each stroke. That's why your resting heart rate drops as you get fitter. These bigger pulses make the arterial and vascular muscles work even harder to push the bigger pulses of blood along, and they get even less stiff.
I'm a male and not really a "runner"
I only started running at Xmas time 2018, so that's about 15 months ago. I'm probably not what runners call a runner. I run 5km twice a week to supplement my gym exercise program.
And although I've perused many articles online, I've never read a running book.
So what possessed me to buy Running for Women
I'm a curious person. Running For Women popped up as a suggestion in my Thriftbooks app (because of the many other exercise and fitness books I've bought).
I thought to myself, why not learn more about running, and also from a woman's perspective to see what differences are important to know (and might give me extra knowledge to help others).
I'm glad that I did. It's a very practical book. I notice on Goodreads it only has 4-stars, but I gave it 5-stars.
Here's a summary of things I think it covered really well.
These superfoods are easy to include in your diet
You've heard a lot about superfoods. Often it is an exotic list of foods that you might try once, but are unlikely to add to your regular diet e.g. ginseng, pomegranate, quinoa.
Here is a list of "everyday" common foods that contain some superfood qualities that are great for your body. These are among the healthiest foods that you'll see on your everyday supermarket shelves. There is no doubt that these foods all either contain important and hard-to-find nutrients OR have high levels of what’s called nutrient density. Nutrient density refers to how much nutrition you get in a given number of calories. Foods that have a lot of nutrition in a really small number of calories are considered ‘nutrient-dense’.
Add as many as you can to your weekly diet, and you'll be taking advantage of their unsung benefits for your health.
The simplest at-risk check for type 2 diabetes
Measuring your waist sounds like a very simple and perhaps innocent activity. But in fact it can tell you much more about your health than standing on the scales. After all, when you think about it, weighing yourself tells you very little. It tells you nothing about your body composition and nothing about what risks you have from, say, fat deposits in high risk areas (where you carry fat on your body is extremely important).
On the other hand, a waist measurement tells you important details about the location of fat and has proven correlations with future health risks. It reflects both health and nutritional status, and when associated with the shape of your body generalised health outcomes can be predicted. The reason is that under the skin of your tummy the intra-abdominal fat builds about around your organs, and this is what leads to the health problems (so-called metabolic fat).
Why It Is More Important Than You Might Think
At the gym I see lots of middle-aged people spending lots of time in the aerobics room, and few of them building strength in the weights area. Those that are in the weights area are more often than not sitting on machines taking a rest. It's not hard to conclude that most people past 45 don't place a high value on all-round body strength. Yet, all round body strength is one of the most fundamental physical assets that will help them improve their quality of life.
And my observation over 20 years at the gym is that, in particular, most mid-life women limit their understanding of "exercise" to cardio like biking or running. The idea that they could actually become strong perhaps seems absurd to the point that it never strikes them as a real possibility. But more than men, women 50+ need strength training to regain essential components of their degenerating musculoskeletal system.
Have you make the choice to live as long as you can, as independently as you can?
How can I help you make that choice, it is yours to create. After you have made it I can give you the options you need to achieve your lifestyle fitness goals.
The new exercise and physical activity guidelines issued by the US federal government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion are better tailored for age and ability. Importantly, they also now take into consideration the intensity of activity, and not just a blanket generalisation of "moderate activity". This is the biggest difference which will most change the potential impact of the new guidelines as compared to the old.
This move to recognise intensity is a very useful change. Previously the recommendations focused people on spending a certain amount of time exercising, including the caveat that spending less than 10 minutes at any one time was not worthwhile. The new guidelines base your dose of physical activity on relative intensity: how much effort a given exercise takes compared with your capacity for exercise. They also recognise that short bouts of exercise can be useful - "what really is important is the total amount of physical activity you accumulate during the day and the week".
It's that time of year again where new gym memberships soar, ambitions are high, and lofty fitness goals are set. As we all know, the New Year's fitness see-saw usually ends up with an unhappy ending, unfortunately. Here are my five suggestions to help you create the most sustainable start for your New Year's fitness program.
1. Start small - less is more
Trim your ambition and start with much less than you think you can accomplish.
For a start don’t plan an hours session at the gym every day of the week, and don't plan 5:30am classes if you normally don’t even get up until 6:30am. It's better to add more later than to start and then try to subtract. Most people don't end up subtracting successfully - they stop altogether. You only need start with 3 gym sessions a week, make one focused on cardio e.g. a spin class, one on strength e.g. a Bodypump class, and one on functional exercise e.g. Pilates or Body Balance.
Classes are the easiest way to get a pattern established and you don’t have to think about what to do next.
2. Trim your diet - eat 20% less not 20% more
Most of the population will lose weight by eating less, especially in combination with exercise.
However people who are starting out exercising often find themselves eating more to satisfy their hunger after exercising. After a while it becomes a habit to eat after exercise and eventually become disillusioned with their whole exercise program - for the wrong reasons. If you start to generally eat less - 20% less - then your stomach will shrink and your desire for food will reduce.
Of the books I have read over the last 6 or 7 weeks, these are four that I can recommend for your Xmas reading - one for yourself, one for your health, one for your business and one for society.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter