Experienced fitness experts share advice you can apply to your workout routines today.
Fitness experts like coaches, physical therapists, and trainers may seem like they’ve had all the answers from day one, but that’s rarely true. Much like their clients, they all had a starting point, too — and discovered some missteps along the route. That might have led to overtraining, poor form, or not setting goals in a meaningful way.
But with experience comes wisdom. We talked to fitness experts who’ve had a few decades to understand what worked for them and their clients. You can put their advice into practice today.
Workout Tip #1: Understand the Importance of Unlocking the Body, Not Just Building Muscle
Everyone loses muscle mass as they age, which is why it’s important to keep building muscle. Another good lesson? Focusing on strength gained rather than calories burned.
But here’s something that even seasoned pros learn late in the game: the power of flexibility, according to California–based strength and conditioning coach Rocky Snyder, C.S.C.S.
A good workout should also do two key things, says Snyder:
- Build muscular flexibility
- Train joints to move with the least restriction
“Most workouts are about strength gains by any means possible,” Snyder says. “This will eventually lead to greater degrees of muscular imbalance, inflammation, and pain.”
In other words, the opposite of what you want from an exercise routine!
Rather than feeling like you need to “beat up” your body and tear down muscles to build them up stronger, Snyder suggests focusing instead on the quality of movement. That will help you maintain mobility for decades to come.
Build a well-balanced exercise routine with SilverSneakers group fitness classes! Choose from dozens of different Community classes, visit a participating fitness location, or view the current schedule of SilverSneakers LIVE online classes here.
Related reading: Lose the Weight, Keep (Even Gain!) the Muscle: Your 3-Step Plan
Workout Tip #2: Gentle Consistency Is the Key to Long-Term Success
In other words, you don’t need to destroy yourself during workouts to see progress. Exercise should make you feel refreshed and energized rather than depleted. Choose exercises that let you build on what you’ve done in a very gradual way, which is how you can avoid injury.
“Consistency is key for any routine,” says Jenny Maphis, D.P.T., physical therapist at Tallahassee Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in Florida. “Understand that ’no pain, no gain,’ is not a phrase to live by. You are more likely to stick to a routine that you are confident in.”
What that means for you at the gym or in a workout class: Eight great reps completed with proper form and with an appropriate level of resistance, for example, are much better than twelve sloppy reps that you struggle to complete.
Workout Tip #3: Add Novelty to Every Workout
Another major lesson Snyder learned in his own fitness journey was that when you get stuck in a rut, it can make exercise far more boring. That might cause you to start skipping workouts and moving less overall.
“Introducing different movements to the body provides the brain with added knowledge and excitement,” he says. “It lets joints experience three-dimensional movement, something most strength training programs lack.”
Workout Tip #4: More Counts as “Cardio” Than You Think
Running, biking, swimming, and elliptical machines — that’s pretty much the full range of cardio, right?
Fortunately, that’s far from true. While going for a jog or brisk walk, or getting on a stationary bike is great if you enjoy it, these traditional “cardio workouts” aren’t the only way to strengthen your heart.
For example, a 2021 study in the journal Menopause found that older women who dance regularly may lower their cholesterol levels, improve body composition, and even boost their self-esteem.
Another study in the International Journal of Exercise Science describes the effects of kickboxing on a group of adults ranging from 60 to 80 years old. Researchers found the activity improved balance, muscular endurance, and quality of life.
So, if you’re getting tired of the same old cardio, expand your definition of what that can include.
Related reading: How Crucial Is Cardio to Heart Health?
Workout Tip #5: Don’t Underestimate What Your Body Can Do
If you’ve ever started a thought about fitness with “I’m too old to do that,” or “I’ll never be fit enough to do that,” you’re not alone. It’s a common belief, says Ryan Glatt, C.P.T., personal trainer at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
In some cases what you’re envisioning may truly be out of reach — jumping from a helicopter to ski down a backcountry trail, for example, or running an ultramarathon through the desert. But what about signing up for a 5K at age 70? Or trying a cardio dance class?
If you’ve told yourself those are just as improbable, it’s likely you’re shortchanging yourself, believes Glatt. He’s learned that regular, consistent training can bring considerable and sometimes surprising advantages, and not just physically.
“Most people, not just older adults, put limitations on themselves and underestimate what their bodies can do. But that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says.
“That’s a mental block that can be tough to overcome, but it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that and keep going,” he adds. “An important part of functional exercise is to challenge yourself, and that’s true mentally as well as physically. Challenge your assumptions about what you can do.”
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