How I stay in shape over 50: A new Spring Jump Start

So spring is here, in my world in my small town in New England we are looking at mid 70’s today. It will be back in the 50’s this weekend which is par for the course but spring is here. So during the pandemic I got myself in very good shape, dropped nearly 30 pounds and refocused my training back to strength.

I’ve learned a few lessons along the way and one of the most important things I have learned in my now near 40 year fitness journey is changing workouts regularly is highly beneficial for making progress. Some say you never do the same work out twice, I don’t subscribe to that but I do stagger workouts. Meaning I will do a routine for 6-8 weeks then shift to something else. It’s worked well for me.

Now for many, spring is a time when you kick start your workouts. Some people walk more, some start taking yoga classes, work in the yard etc. If you want a quick jump-start to your fitness journey this spring I have a quick and easy plan for you to achieve it. You should continue to do more low impact movement (get your steps in) but the jump-start is every 48 hours do squats for the next 6 weeks.

Don’t Skip Leg Day !

Start with a lightweight and do 5 sets of 5 reps. If you complete the 25 reps, you increase the weight 10 pounds. Do this every 48 hours, if you are too sore one of the days skip that 48-hour cycle but you only get 2 of these so pick wisely. So you do this for 2 weeks and on the next 48 hour cycle you are too sore, sick whatever, you act as if you did the squats so you don’t work out again for another 48 hours. This gives you a 96 hour (4 day) recovery window should you need it.

Do this for six weeks, and do not start with a silly super lightweight either. Pick something you know you can handle but will be a moderate challenge. In 6 weeks, you should see some decent results. Your cardio should be better, your legs should look better and your confidence should be higher.

Squats when done with a moderate to heavy weight engage several of your “systems” and inspire great anabolic effects. Keep eating the best food you can and getting as much sleep as your lifestyle will allow. If you start this now you should be done by Memorial Day and you should feel great!

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How I stay in shape over 50 – inflammation

So the older you get the more aches and pains you have. That seems to be the general consensus of course there are exceptions. One of the trainers at my gym has a saying “Motion is Lotion” in context what she means is the more you move the better your body creates natural lubricants to keep you limber and you get less pain. Now a lot of the pain that comes as you age is from inflammation, I am no expert in this but I have a general understanding.

Inflammation happens when your immune system things something this wrong and sends resources to the problem area. There are many reasons for inflammation but the more injuries you sustain in an area the more likely you are to get it. Now injury doesn’t mean a high profile break or a wound it can very well be a pain in your shoulder you have had for years. It might not have been something serious, just a pull. Now 15-25 years later it hurts all the time.

Inflammation can also come via arthritis and auto immune disorders like lupus. I am not a doctor so if you have inflammation (consistent pain in your joints) go to a doctor and get a diagnosis. The sooner you do this the sooner you can begin to fight back the right way. The issue then becomes “How do I fight back exactly?”. Again I am not a doctor and I am not a nutrtionalist so your fight might be different then mine.

Does time really heal all wounds?

There are lots of studies on Zinc, Turmeric Vitamin D (as examples) that show a small to moderate impact on inflammation. Many of those studies are done on average people, not people who train or workout regularly but the concepts should still apply. If you increase your zinc and vitamin d supplementation (as an example) you should see some improvement in your inflammation issues. Like most health problems many solutions are found in dietary choices.

Let’s face it, if you aren’t eating well you are likely not feeling well. Over 50 you really need to start focusing on your consumption. This is the decade where small issues of health manifest into larger issues that change long term outcomes. Really look deep into what you eat daily, weekly, monthly and find “clean up” spots in your diet. Maybe it’s time to start drinking coffee black instead of with all that cream and sugar.

Inflammation is hard to deal with, I have it in my shoulder and my lower back. I actively engage it via heating pads, massage, better diet, stretching and target motion movements (trunk twists and shoulder stretches). I used to take fish oil every day, now I take it 3 times a week and eat fish 2-3 times a week. The older you get the more Inflammation is likely to be a factor for you. Your fitness journey ideally continues on well into your 80’s. Your 50’s are a pivotal decade, the more work you do now on diet the less inflammation you will have long term.

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Over 50 Fitness: What I can tell you about the early 50’s

So I will be turning 53 this year, the last year of my early 50’s (mid 54-56, late 57-59). Like many of you my fitness journey has occurred over decades of my life. Each one presenting its own unique challenges. I peaked at 26 honestly, I had a renaissance in my late 30’s and my 40’s was probably the worst period of time for me health wise. I got my moxxy back and lost 25 pounds at 50 and I have been enjoying my second renaissance.

Things are much different now, I have atrophied. So yes I have lost muscle mass it’s just the reality of not being able to naturally sustain testosterone levels 800+ daily like I could in my 20’s. I’ve gotten over this, although to be blunt, fitness is challenging as you age when you have been fit before. I still remember my 26-year-old self, with abs, good bulk and really at the top of my game.

So that’s the first hurdle you have in your early 50’s you have to let go of what you once were. The effort it would take to remotely approach where I used to be would require fitness to be a full time occupation I can’t do that. So if you can get past that you get to the point where you reimagine what you should be looking like. In your early 50’s? you’re probably going to have a little pouch and some love handles. Now they don’t have to be huge of course but short of cosmetic surgery or nothing but protein in your diet, they are here to stay.

The Importance of Sleep
The Importance of Sleep can’t be understated.

Sleep becomes a precious commodity. It’s not that you can’t go to sleep, hell you might be going to bed super early, its STAYING asleep that’s an issue. I sleep for 6 hours, so if I go to bed at 11, I’m getting up at 5. Doesn’t mean I can’t fall back to sleep by its not the same. I compensate, I take naps when I can but honestly its challenging not to feel drained if not tired a lot. Nutrition helps, so do crutches like caffeine and sugar but in the end it’s the ability to sleep for 6+ hours that is the heart of the problem.

Okay so now there is training, no not working out, training.  I know that sounds like a semantics play but here is how I make the distinction. Working out is something you do as part of your life to make other parts better, training is a workout that results from you changing the rest of your life to accommodate the workout. Simply put, you start prepping for training that day the minute you get up. Working out is something you do as an additional activity for your day. In my early 50’s I am transitioning between the two. I “Train” for 3 months on and then “work out” for 1 month.

This helps me stay fit but not break down. Constant training requires mental, physical, emotional commitments that affect a great deal of your life. It can be exhausting and can shape your day. As an example you may decide to eat at 3PM on training day instead of 12 so you can time the glucose and carb release with your digestion. I know this all seems technical doesn’t it? Well by the time you are in your early 50’s you know the drill its actually all rather easy. You’ve made it to 53, there isn’t a whole lot you haven’t seen.

Over 50 fitness has been a mixed bag for me. As I approach 53 I am in good health but I have aches and pains, I have to be very careful what I eat and I can’t recover as fast. It’s harder to pull it all off but the good news is I know HOW to pull it off now. You’ll get there someday or maybe you are already there too?

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Over 50 fitness – The most important body part for long term fitness

The heart? The brain? This won’t be a long post today but a qualifier before I begin. During the pandemic I lost 30 pounds and kept it off. I did this by TRAINING, not working out there is a huge difference. Now this isn’t a fitness blog, I am no diet guru I am an average man who used to be an athlete 30-40 years ago. I am now 52 and I have decades of experience working out. There are posts on my blog explaining some of the nuances I employ in my over 50 fitness journey check them out if you want more tips.

Today I’m going to talk about the most important body part for long term fitness: YOUR KNEE’S.

Your knees are critical to movement and movement = the ability to create long term fitness. Even if all you do is walk you have bad knees you won’t do it. “Ya but I can work upper body without my knees Karac”. Sure you can but you have to walk to the bench, or from your car to the gym. Point here is take care of your knees.

If you are over 50 this should be a priority item for your training regimen. You should be stretching your knees, getting them examined by your medical professional annually. This might mean a scan to see if there is scar tissue or how the knee looks internally. Here are some stats from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons – Link:

  • By 2030, total knee replacement surgeries are projected to grow 673% to 3.5 million procedures per year.
  • About 60% of all knee replacement operations are performed on women.
  • Approximately 85% of knee replacements will last for 20 years.
  • Nearly 1/2 of American adults will develop knee osteoarthritis in at least one knee in their lifetime.
  • 80% of osteoarthritis patients have some degree of movement limitation.

Millions of people have knee replacement procedures now, and no it is not exclusive to the elderly (although the majority are 65+). The key take away is, in your 50’s if you are working out/training you have to be mindful of your knees and take care of them. They are the key to successful fitness outcomes and they should be your priority.

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Over 50 Fitness: 90 days – 90 reps every 48 hours

So if you frequent my blog you know that I dedicate a portion of my writing to my personal fitness journey. This in a lot of ways is a huge NO NO for blogging as every advice article I read says “you have to create a niche to write about”. I am all over the place of course but its authentic. Like most people I have multiple facets of my life so I write about most of them here. The fitness aspect is one that I take very seriously and honestly more people should be passionate about fitness. The positive effects are astounding.

So what is the “90 days – 90 reps every 48 hours” thing? I normally do this in the winter when many people who train do a “bulk” cycle. I don’t want to get into the semantics of training jargon but to be clear, this isn’t a cutting phase (fat reduction) its overall foundation building and readjustment. When you are over 50 you have to reset your body often, particularly if you lift weights. Weight training, with moderate to heavy loads creates a lot of impact on the body.

You have to cycle out of this after 50 from time to time otherwise you will be inflamed, injured and run down. So I do the following workouts, usually Dec – Feb:

Lifting Heavy over 50 requires breaks to let your body recover

Warm up: 20-30 min walk on the treadmill – This just gets my hips and lower back engaged and begins to cardio process. You can stretch here if you want, but stretching isn’t absolutely necessary here, this is not a high impact work out.

Air squats: You’re doing your normal squat set up here, no bar no weight. You can use a bar if you want but no more than that. Start your squats, ideally you can do 30 in a row no break. These are “quick” they are normal squats no weight. If you need to stop fine, but the goal is 30 air squats in a row, that’s the set.

Pushups: You finished the squats you should be sweating, if you aren’t you are in better shape than I am. Pushups next, you use whatever hand placement you want. Same deal, 30 reps.

Pull ups: Last but not least pull ups. Ideally a wide grip but you adjust the grip as you need to but keep and OVERHAND grip, underhand puts a lot of pressure on the biceps. These will be hard, use assistance here. Bands, or pull up machines are fine. If you can’t do pull ups, do lat pull downs but you want to eventually get to pull-ups.

Do the 90 reps quickly without sacrificing form, for the cardio effect. Now you have just completed a full body work out that should have minimal impact on your joints. Are you sweating? Are you exhausted? Yes? Great do it again in 48 hours. If that was a breeze increase the reps to 50. If it’s still not enough for you add in “dips” after pull ups. This is a very basic workout, some might say to simple. Believe me it works.

IF you are out of shape and looking to get into shape quickly do this for 90 days. I guarantee you will see good results. This work out engages your entire muscular system you should make very good gains here. If you are already training (not working out, training) then this workout might not be great for you, it actually might be your warm up (lol) for the vast majority this will hit all the right areas and is simple and efficient. Give it a shot let me know how it goes.

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