Updated: Sep 5, 2020
You cross the big 5-0 look in the mirror and suddenly realise that you need to get a grip. I have had just such a moment of clarity. Mine came last year just after Christmas! I looked in the mirror and did not like what I was looking back. My body had a softness that was not pleasing to the eye. I was 53 and although I felt I still looked ok in clothes, it was defiantly not pretty when I took them off.
I had moved through dad bod into what could only be described as middle aged spread. Add to this the fact that I was facing a complete right shoulder replacement, two bulging disks at the base of my spine; and slow growing prostate cancer, and you’ll understand why I wasn’t feeling particularly good about myself. I knew I had a choice to make. Either I draw a line in the sand and get fit or I accept my decline into dotage. I wasn’t ready to give up so I decided to get fit again.
I have dabbled in fitness for most of my adult life. I was never a great athlete. I was just an ordinary kid who discovered girls and realised that being in shape could have very positive side effects. So for 30 years I swam, trained in the gym and kept reasonably healthy. As I moved into my mid-forties problems began to appear, aches and pains became common and ultimately I just stopped working out.
Getting back into the gym at 50plus
I joined a local gym and tried to train the way I had in the past. Things did not go well. All I ended up doing was hurting myself. My body had changed! It quickly became clear that if I was going to get fit again my approach was going to have to change too. I did a little reading around health at 50 plus, talked to people who knew more than I did, tried a few things out and came up with the following five key tips to getting back into shape at 50plus.
Gone are the days when I can just walk into the gym grab some weights and start a work out cold. I tried it and all I did was hurt myself.
Now, I spend the first 15 minutes of every exercise session making sure everything still works. I listen to my body, get blood streaming to the extremities, and crank up my heart rate to a reasonable level. Personally I do this by stretching and then warming up on a stationary bike.
Build up over months, not weeks
We all need targets if we're going to get fit , whether it’s completing a 5k park run on Sunday morning; or losing 10kg to get back into that suit. I have found the key to reaching my goals now I'm older is time and commitment. Simply put it takes longer to turn the ship around. What used to take 8 weeks in my 30’s has taken 16-20 now I’m in my 50’s. We can get there. It just takes longer. Start slowly and build up over time.
Listen to your body
Rest between sessions is more important than ever. Listening to your body and knowing when to take your foot off the peddle is one of the keys to avoiding injury. You’ve lived in your body for over 50 years, you know it better than anyone else. If there’s pain stop! If it doesn’t feel right today , then come back tomorrow.
I still like to try and get 3 sessions in the gym/pool each week but if I only get 2 I don’t cry about it. I just make sure I get three in the next week.
If I’m training hard and something feels wrong I stop. I don’t push through it. I take a moment , perhaps I move on to my next exercise , or maybe I just call it a day. Things hurt for more than a couple of days I get them checked out.
Stop comparing yourself to your younger self
You can’t turn the clock back. Even when you’ve lost that weight and got back in shape you haven’t suddenly become 30 again. Looking at old pictures and comparing yourself to that old you is in my opinion a waste of time and often just depressing.
The key is not to try and look like you did twenty years ago but to look the best you can right now. It’s time to embrace the men that we are and to stop pinning for the men that we once were.
Revel in the fact you’re still staying in shape.
Do what you enjoy. Be prepared to try new things. It's over 30 years since we began working out. The machines have changed, the theory has changed, the exercises have changed. There are more classes offering more types of exercise than ever before. Give them a go. This isn't just about getting fit, it's about having some fun. If you don't enjoy it , you just won't do it. So make sure you enjoy your workouts.
And there you have it, five tips to help you get back into shape at 50plus. Follow our 90 day challenge for practical steps to get off the sofa and into the gym.