What are the most effective methods of staying fit in your fifties? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
I think it's fair to say that the key to longevity is maintenance. I like to visualize the body as human-shaped ball of energy, and these flows of energy travel all through our bodies. You can think of an injury like a blockage of this flow of energy. The body normally does a pretty good job of healing itself and getting the energy flowing again, but massage, acupuncture, stretching, and physiotherapy can all aid the body in its recovery. Also, as we all know, young bodies heal much better and faster than old ones. For another visualization, you can think of your body as a bedspring. For example, I'm an old, stiff bedspring with rust in some sections, not the bouncy, shiny, new spring I once was. That's why I opt for sensible training to prevent the stiffening up of muscle joints and fascia.
So, how can we keep our springs bouncy and able to distribute the stress of the weight evenly when we have a little bit of rust on our springs? We need to decompress the spring and oil it up! Some good ways to achieve this are: yoga, pilates, Gyrotonics, Feldenkrias, and just general stretching.
The next piece of the puzzle is nutrition. I won't focus too heavily on this because we all know the general rules for good eating and how important this is to our health. I highly recommend taking vitamins, minerals, oils, and other concoctions to bolster a healthy diet. Speak to a naturopath and find out what's right for you and your body. For those interested, I've written about my past and present diet.
The next thing to keep in mind is that we must adapt our training styles as we age. The workout regime that works for a twenty year old may not be beneficial for a fifty year old. Not only are our bodies older, they will have different fitness needs. Also important are variety and pacing yourself; don't try to be a hero! I pushed my body to the limit for myself and my country back in the day, now it's about pacing myself and surviving this workout to train another day!
I've had about seven knee surgeries (I say 'about' because I lost count), two back surgeries, one Achilles surgery, a year of tennis elbow and more, but I'm still ticking and able to train. It's all about training smart. For example, I do sprints and other short bursts of semi-high intense training as opposed to running fifteen kilometers on hard roads. This suits my aging and injured body much better and prevents unnecessary wear and tear on my knees. I'll put an example of an ideal week of training below so you can get an idea of what else I do.
For me a good week would be:
- 3-4 tennis sessions per week (semi-intense match play) with warm-up drills
- 3 sessions of yoga (or Gyrotonics or Feldenkrais) for flexibility, stability, and core work
- 1 fun off-court workout session (for me, this is sprints, and again the key is not going too hard)
The goal of the sprint sessions is to get my heart rate up and improve my body's anaerobic abilities while developing speed and strength.
A typical sprint session looks like:
- Warm up
- 1 set of:
- 1x10m sprint
- 1x20m sprint
- 1x30m sprint (and so on until you get to 1x80m)
(I walk back to the starting line in between sprints and go at 80-95% intensity. Never 100% Remember you're getting older and hopefully wiser!)
An alternative indoor workout for a small area with a jump rope:
- Skipping 1 min on and 1 min off
- Running skips
- Right leg hops/left leg hops
- Double leg hops
- Fast high knees in place (or moving slowly forward)
- Double jumps, non-stop for 10-20 jumps (if you have a jump rope)
I'm obviously a bit more active than the average fifty year old, but the principles behind my training can be applied to anyone. Again, it's about maintenance, recovery, and not doing more than you can handle. I'll be sharing some sample workout plans and talking more about how the "average" person can stay healthy and fit in their 30's, 40's, and 50's insoon. In the meantime, I hope this helps.
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