Whether it’s sore joints before bed or waking up in the middle of the night to pee – finding the energy to train well into middle age can often feel like an uphill battle…
But just because things are marginally harder doesn’t mean you should give up – all you have to do is tailor your training accordingly, and take a more realistic view to your progress.
According to the ambassador for World Physical Therapy Day and champion runner Steve Moneghetti (who, by the way, is a very fit 53-year-old), training in your fifties is all about responding to how your body feels, and acknowledging the fact that you will have some bad days.
“When you are in your fifties compared your twenties, it is all about management and listening to your body,” Moneghetti tells Coach.
“What I think I can do mentally and what I am able to do physically are two vastly different things, so it is vital to listen to your body and respond accordingly.”
That means if you wake up from a gym session or a long run extremely sore, it’s fine to take your foot off the accelerator even if your program recommends ramping up the intensity.
“It is vital to allow for appropriate recovery and this will differ day to day,” explains Moneghetti.
“I am a lot more flexible with my running now than I was in my twenties. I still stick to the routine of exercise but I adapt it to fit my soreness and tiredness — I might skip a session or even ride my mountain bike with the group instead of running with them.”
Don’t rely on incidental exercise – make specific plans to train
When you hit your fifties, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re now much more fragile than you used to be. While that is partially true, it’s also important that you don’t rely solely upon incidental exercise like walking and standing to be enough for your body.
For Moneghetti, this involves deliberately setting aside time – like an hour in the morning or afternoon after work – to work on your fitness.
“I encourage people to actually put time aside as this forms a routine and actually is more motivating and satisfying when completed,” recommends Moneghetti.
“Often incidental exercise is not acknowledged and if there is no reward then I find it is more difficult to keep motivated and keep doing it.”
Don’t be afraid of the gym
If you’re keen on keeping your health well into old age, and struggle to keep motivated cranking out kilometres of burpees on your own, then it might be time to sign up for something like a gym or running club.
Although this might seem like the domain of healthy young bodies in tight clothes prancing around (enough of a reason alone to go, just saying), it’s important to remember you’re doing this for your health – and that nobody really cares what you look like.
“I also like to exercise in a group with mixed ages and gender as this doesn’t compartmentalise you by your age and you get a far better social experience as the conversations are so varied,” recommends Moneghetti.
“Believe me it is never too late to start but just be realistic about your exercise and transition in to it gradually — the old ’10 percent increase per week’ rule works well for all exercise.”
If heaving weights around or paying money to run on the spot sounds absurd to you, there’s no need to worry: Moneghetti says you can get plenty of strength through load-bearing exercises like Pilates and yoga.
The ‘use it or lose it’ mantra is true…
If there’s any motivation to help you tie on the runners, it’s the fact that the fitter you are in your fifties, the easier old age will be for you.
The old mantra that you must “use it or lose it” holds true, according to president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Marcus Dripps.
“ABS data shows that more than half of all people aged 65 years and over (56 percent or 1.4 million) had at least one form of disability lasting – or expected to last – at least six months and which restricted everyday activities,” says Dripps.
“Physiotherapy significantly improves people’s quality of life as they age – keeping them actively mobile through evidence-based treatments that treat and prevent injuries.”
For Moneghetti, the message is simple: Exercise when you can and however you can, because the alternative is not even worth considering.
“It’s difficult to listen to your body if you are sitting on the couch,” says Moneghetti.
“I abide by the ‘use it or lose it’ theory and definitely feel I know my body a lot better through exercise, it is the perfect way to get feedback… both the good and the bad!”
Platinum Physio offers a wide range of active exercise programs for which are individually tailored to suit your body’s needs, including Pilates, Hydrotherapy, Gym Strength and Balance classes. Call us on (03) 8554 0111 to find out how we can help you reach your fitness goals.