MOVING IS THE THING Over 50
I wanted to make sure that everyone understands that just because I love to run doesn't mean I think it is right for everyone. The point I'm trying to make is that an appropriate level of physical activity is important for everyone for good health, mind and body. We all need to find what makes us feel like a kid again and do it often. Start by thinking about what activities you loved as a child. I loved to run. I can remember my mom saying all the time, "Cheryl has two speeds, running and asleep." I have not changed. I would rather run than walk most of the time. When I run I feel like I leave all my troubles behind in the wind. I seem to think more clearly while running. I plan what I want to do for the day, I think of fun conversations and about almost anything positive. It is meditation for me.
How much I run and how often varies day-to-day or month-to-month. And that is part of the benefit. When you played as child, you didn't do the same thing every day, you mixed up because it was about having fun not forcing yourself to get a workout in.
Right now I am back to 3 mile runs here in Arizona so flat terrain three times a week. I was running a couple of miles a few weeks ago so now that I am able to do 3 miles again I am working on my speed. Right now I’m slow.
On alternate days I am practicing yoga for 30 minutes. I have found that if I do yoga it improves my runs immensely. A couple of years ago I pulled my hamstring during a 5k race. I went to a sport medicine doctor and tried many things but I would still have back pain after my runs. I kept doing them but not nearly as far and much slower. At the time I was not doing yoga regularly. When I started practicing three times a week my back pain disappeared. I am so grateful.
On yoga days I do a bare bones strength training routine made up of push-ups, tricep-dips, squats, lunges and planks. All these exercises are equipment free and I can do at home or at the gym. Except for the tricep-dips these exercises target large muscle groups which are most important for building muscle. I add the tricep-dips to focus on my triceps a muscle I find for to need more definition. I recently started a plank challenge on a phone app called simply “30 day plank challenge.” I set my level of fitness and each day it prompts me to do my plank and adjusts the challenge so I keep improving. So far it is easy and fun and I know it is an important core exercise.
Some days I will substitute a hike or walk with my husband just to mix things up and spend more time with him doing something active. If I feel bored with something I try something different which is what our bodies need. Variety in what we eat and what we do keeps us more fit.
To sum this up I get all my exercise done in 30-40 minutes a day. I take one off usually. Most importantly all my exercise is something I find fun! Some days when I’m running I add skipping, side-jumps, I speed up and slow down. Just like a kid having fun.
For the over fifty crowd, common sense and, increasingly, scientific research suggests that constant use will retain our physical capabilities and form. Once lost, however, it may be difficult or impossible to regain former capabilities.
The latest research suggests that disuse in those of us over 50 leads to more-or-less permanent losses in the number of nerve connections. There is good news in this otherwise depressing fact. First, if you keep at it, your ability to play tennis, lift weights, cycle, and so forth can be retained with little (sometimes no) loss of nerve connections, although with increasing age you may need to spend more time on your activities. Constantly used and challenged nerve connections do not die. In fact, they continue to grow and drive muscle growth and body tone, no matter what your age. Notice the "challenged" part of the equation. Changing even a small part of your activities builds new connections. For example, if tennis is your go-to activity, play doubles and singles, switch between one and two-handed form, try a few net shots with the other hand, play at night and in the day, learn some similar sports. Second, recent research suggests that there may be a way to beat the odds and actually regain skills you lost through disuse. How to do this will be a topic in a future post.
That's all I have for today! So go out and play!