I've been training now for 20+ years, since I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 50.
I take it seriously.
Diabetes doesn't just kill you; it does it cruelly - slowly destroying your circulation. Amputations, kidney failure, blindness and dementia result from your capillaries slowly clagging up with excess sugar.
That's why I take exercise seriously as a means of managing my diabetes.
Not just the rote exercise advice from the doctors about "trying to stay active" and walking 20 minutes a day. That's just enough to keep you dying fractionally less slowly. I mean seriously!
What would happen if tweeted "With exercise, you get out what you put in"? Here's what would happen:
Yes, we know that already, most would think.
And yet, nobody puts in the intensity - not in the over 50s. At least not among the many hundreds of people over 50 I've observed over 20+ years at my big brand gym.
This sometimes frustrates me
Don't get me wrong; I love that they turn up. But it's frustrating that they fritter away their opportunity to live longer better.
How I train, is the biggest difference
Sometimes one will ask me what could they do to get as fit as me.
If I have kettlebells to hand, I say something like this. (To be honest I first take a breath, as I want to educate and motivate them not turn them off.)
I don't say "from what I've seen you doing at gym, and, for example today over the last 40 minutes, you could get more benefit from briskly washing the dishes".
I don't even say, "compared to what you've been doing here for the last 40 minutes you could get massively more benefit from this one move that I can show you - something I do".
I say something like this:
I've noticed how you've been exercising. The biggest difference between the gains you are making and the gains I make are in how I exercise. I do exercises that train my whole body and my mind at one time.
Let me show you one exercise that would give you more gains than everything that I've see you doing here today combined.
I show them the kettlebell snatch.
See this article: How To Do A Kettlebell Snatch and this video
The snatch is a beautiful, explosive asymmetric movement that gets the posterior chain firing and core engaged, and builds your shoulder stabilisation. It increases your heart rate, engages the whole body, and trains your balance.
It is a pulling movement, and we don't get enough of those generally, and it can be done for power or cardiovascular conditioning.
The muscles trained by a kettlebell snatch include the:
Do it, after you've been instructed properly
This, as I explain to them, is why it does more for you than what you've doing sitting on your butt on one gym machine after the other.
I listen to their response.
It's often an excuse as to why they should not do it. I agree with them.
That's quite right - you should not do it. It is an advanced exercise, and you could easily injure yourself.
But I strongly recommend that you get a qualified trainer to help you understand the benefits of functional exercise, such as kettlebells, or TRX, or even just bodyweight exercises, and add those into your routine.
Here's my tip: learn how to do the snatch, then do this - warm-up, do ten pushups, ten goblet squats, ten single kettlebell swings each arm, then 3X six snatches each arm. Warm down by rowing 1.5km, and go home with massive benefits.
The less you use the machines, the more you'll get the benefits that I get - which is what you asked.
I recommend the same to you.
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If you're wanting to share some of the results of your gym time with your kids, and do it outside, I have some simple but challenging exercises for you.
My ten-year-old daughter announced that she was going to enter the school cross-country, and asked me to train her.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do something outside with her and something physically challenging.
Here's the little program I made for our training. You'll find it fun to do outside with your kids, or just to do something different outside, which will challenge you. These exercises are simple, require no equipment, but give you a whole-body workout, and a good burst of cardio.
Hate stretching after a workout, here's a smoother alternative.
I get it, you're tired from the workout, and you don't feel like spending the extra time, and anyway, stretching isn't all that comfortable.
I'm a bit the opposite, as in before running I think "oh I guess I better spend the time warming up or I will regret it" - and I do the thing. After running, I'm OK with stretching as I appreciate the benefits it brings.
No doubt stretching after a workout is a good thing. But let's face it, people don't do it.
I have some good news for you. I can't give you back the time you will need to spend, but doing this will ease your muscle aches and its not discomforting - as stretching can be.
How bored are you with your "leg-day, chest-day, arm day" gym routine?
If you are looking for something that will get you better results and be more satisfying, then I have good news for you.
Stop now, and you'll be better off.
Training splits, the "leg-day/chest-day/arm-day" guff are just figments of the bro-culture. If you're under 40 no harm done - you'll look good in a t-shirt following any strength-training regime.
If you are over 50, then it's time to stop and think seriously about your training objectives.
If you're a regular reader of mine you may have picked up on my admonitions to not use any gym machines that you sit on e.g. in my Five Secrets for Fitness After 50.
Very often I accompany my warning with the explanation that gym machines are designed to accentuate muscles and make you look great in a t-shirt, but you'll struggle to do up your shoelaces.
There's a reason that gym machines are not designed to help you be able to do up your shoelaces. And there is a much more important reason why that should concern you greatly. It might knock 5 years off your life. When I explain why I hope that you'll kick the habit of gym machines, and potentially live longer better.
Over 50 and hit a plateau? Here's what to do
You're consistent with your training, but losing your motivation because you've hit a plateau.
Sound familiar? If you are consistent it should, because it happens to us all. I've noticed over the last 20 years of training that as we get older the plateaus get longer. I've had a few people lately express frustration with their plateaus, but don’t give up - all will be well. It's by perseverance that your fitness will get to the next level of reward for you.
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.
From what I see around me, it seems that the older we get the more we become afraid of strength training - older people start to believe that it will do them more harm than good.
That's not the case, and you can do a lot with just bodyweight exercises to get started. Although you cannot reach the ultimate strength outcomes without heavy weights e.g. deadlifts and cleans - you can still achieve enormous benefits by just doing bodyweight exercises. And of course you can do those yourself at home.
Still, access to good equipment at a gym and a trainer, at least initially, is an advantage. Some basic knowledge also helps, and my four principles below will give you a great head start.
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