You’ve heard it a thousand times: 50 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30, and so on and so on. That’s all fine and good when you’re talking about how to dress, going out to see a band, or how you feel in general. But when it comes to exercise, you need to act your age.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was obsessed with exercise. I was a triathlete, I ran like there was no tomorrow. It was all about competition, speed, how many miles I could get in, how many calories I could burn. I did yoga and Pilates to balance the hardcore running I was doing. I didn’t need anybody to motivate me. I just did it myself. I got myself up and out the door every day, no problem.
But now, at 45, my body just can’t take all that pounding of running, and I’m not going to risk injuring myself to try to keep up with what I was doing in my 20s. Nowadays, exercise is more about creating strength, stability and flexibility than burning calories or competing. Now, I have to ask myself, Can I do it at all?
The truth is, as you transition out of your 20s and 30s, you need to drop the no pain, no gain mentality. You have to listen to your body and accept that, as you get older, you will benefit in the long-term from accepting that you have limitations and they should not be ignored.
Now, instead of running my ass off and competing with myself and everyone around me, I don’t run at all. I like to spin or take a cardio-sculpting class or do CrossFit. Instead of yoga and Pilates balancing out the attack of intensive cardio, they're a regular part of my fitness routine. Exercise is about having fun.
In my 40s, I find that I need someone to push me, to keep me motivated through a workout. If I don’t have classes to go to, I am lost in my week, thinking, What am I going to do?
Here are some tips for those who are realizing that the workouts they did in their 20s are no longer the best workouts for their bodies today:
1. Accept who you are now.
It's a fact of life that we all get older. This is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide or hide from. Get honest with yourself about what your body is really capable of. If you try to kid yourself at age 40 that you’ve still got the body of a 20-year-old, you're going to wind up injuring yourself. Accept what you have, let go of what you used to have.
2. Stop competing against your younger self.
Exercise doesn’t have to be what it used to be. Sometimes, I get mad at myself for not being as strong or as fast as I used to be. But I found exercises that are every bit as challenging and don’t risk injury. Keep at it, but find exercises that work for your body where it is — not where it used to be or where you wish it were. Give yourself a break. As long as you’re getting a good workout, that’s what counts.
3. Figure out the right exercises for where you are now, and consider trying a few different classes.
Marathon runners hit their prime in their 30s and 40s, but sprinters are done by the time they hit 30. Were you a runner and now you feel it in your knees every time your feet hit the ground? Try a spin class instead (those spin instructors are crazy)! They will work you HARD. You'll still get the cardio benefits, but your knees won’t be in agony when you’re done.
But, maybe you need to start being careful about pushing your heart rate too hard. Take a full body cardio-sculpting class. Your whole body will be moving and your heart rate will go up without pushing it to the limit.
If you get your butt up and out the door, no matter what you do and what your age, you’re doing more than most people. Give yourself credit for that.
Exercise is supposed to support your life, not be the thing that sets you up for knee replacement surgery in your 60s. This isn’t about ego and pride. It’s about taking care of your body, the whole package, at whatever stage it’s in.
I’ve just given you three tips on how to adjust your relationship with exercise as you get older. Got a tip you’d like to share? Post it here.