You’ve decided enough is enough and it’s time to start exercising again. If you are a midlife woman then you’ll want to read this article before you get started. Getting back into fitness isn’t hard, but there are some things to consider.
There are many reasons that you may have stopped exercising. Maybe life got too busy or maybe perimenopause symptoms were making exercise a lot harder than it used to be. You might’ve stopped exercising when pregnant and never got back into it or perhaps you never had a really good routine and just fell out of it. It might have started as a short layoff from exercise when you were on vacation or when you were sick and turned into a longer layoff.
Whatever the reason, use this guide to help you recreate an exercise routine that will move you into a healthy midlife and beyond.
Check with your physician
Before starting a structured exercise plan, it is a good idea to check with your physician. This is especially true if you are over 50 (for women).
Your physician can tell you what precautions to take especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Start slowly, but consistently
There is always a tendency to try to jump back into exercise really quickly. This can lead to injury, exhaustion and frustration. It is better to start slowly and ease back into exercise. This will give your body time to adjust and let you ease into exercise.
On the other hand, you want to be consistent. One way to be consistent is to aim for daily movement. Movement can include 10 minutes of stretching, going for a walk, even cleaning the house. Gradually add some structured exercise into your plan. 2 or 3 days a week of structured exercise is a good place to start.
Set goals carefully
Women make a few mistakes with setting goals:
- They set goals that are not realistic for where they are at right now. If you haven’t run in 10 years, then setting a goal for running a marathon this year might be unrealistic.
- They set goals that are not specific enough. Get in shape or start working out is not a specific enough goal to be meaningful.
- They set goals that are based on an outcome that can’t be controlled. Goals like lose 10 lbs in 2 months might be specific and even realistic, but there is so much going on that is beyond your control that outcome based goals are hard to meet.
A better option is to focus on what you are doing. Make your goal something like exercise 3 days this week, or complete the strength training workout 2 times and walk 2 times for 20 minutes. Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the process.
Listen to your body
But make sure that you listen to your body. I know this sounds cliche, but if you are getting back into exercise you need to be aware of how your body is responding. Do you finish a workout and feel exhausted, then it’s time to back off or even take an extra rest day.
Your muscles may feel sore after your first few workouts. If this lasts for more than a day or two then give yourself some extra rest.
Don’t expect to be as strong or as fast as you were when younger
If you exercised regularly when you were younger, don’t expect your older body to be the same as when you were younger. This is the new you. Accept that and work to be the best you that you can be.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive. Compete with yourself, join a challenge with your friends or even enter a race and compete in your age group.
Include strength training
Women lose muscle as they get older. The combination of less activity and lower hormone levels means that muscle is lost at a surprising rate. Strength training will help to maintain and even build the muscle you are losing as you get older. This helps you to keep doing the things you need to do and also helps to maintain your weight.
Include cardiovascular training
Cardiovascular training is also important as you get older. Your heart is made of muscle and needs exercise to stay in shape. Without cardiovascular fitness, you will eventually not be able to do things like climbing stairs, shopping or living independently.
Allow for more rest days
Recovery takes longer as you get older. You may have been able to run 5 days a week when you were younger, but you might want to give yourself a rest day in between your runs now. Mixing up the types of exercise you do will also allow your muscles time to recover, and allows you to stay active on most days of the week.
Work with a fitness expert who specializes in midlife women
The fitness industry is huge and is filled with passionate young people who want to help you get back into shape. But many of these men and women do not have the education or experience to work with women with changing bodies. They might assume that you are lazy when you can’t work as hard as they would like or tell you not to do things that you are capable of. Or worse they might treat you as someone who is old and frail and not push you to meet your full potential.
A better choice for fitness help is someone with experience working with midlife women, someone who understands how menopause affects the body and what exercises are best for women going through menopause and beyond. You can download a workout designed specifically for women going through menopause here.
If you’ve stopped exercising and want to get back into it, then use the tips suggested to ease into exercise without doing too much or too little.