Start Slow To Finish Strong

“I’ve got to lose weight!”  It’s the relentless mantra running through the mind of every middle-aged person I know.  It’s the theme that bombards us from TV commercials, magazine covers, and even our daily junk email.  We all want to be fitter, trimmer, and thinner – and that usually means additional exercise must somehow be added to the mix of daily activities.


Happily, the percentage of over-50 health club members and personal training clients has risen dramatically due to the aging baby boomer population.  The oldest baby boomers are now turning 73 born in 1946 and the youngest are 55 born in 1964.  This stage of life, when the realization our sedentary lifestyle – too much time spent sitting with our eyes glued to some type of electronic device, has resulted in an increase in our waistline and decrease in our energy.  For some, this trigger point is followed by an ambition to return to a leaner, stronger version of themselves, a positive objective that eventually brings us to the health club, group class or a personal trainer.  Simple solution, right?  Not exactly.


The biggest challenge I see with individuals starting a new fitness program, especially those of us over 50, is that we still want to do it all, right now.  Even if we haven’t worked out in 10 or 20 years – no problem – we still want to be in shape by the end of the first week.  We get caught up in our memories of the good old days and think we should be able to go right back there regardless of how much older we are.  More often than not, leading to injuries, frustration, and abandonment of the new fitness program.


The percent of fitness center members who never show up enough to receive a benefit is about 80%.  The statistic for those who drop out during the first 90 days is around 60%.  The main reason for this, I believe, is a lack of proper instruction.  So, here are some key points to remember in starting your fitness program;


  • Get a check-up with your family doctor before starting any strenuous fitness program or any dramatic change in your diet.
  • Be sure to select a health club, studio or personal trainer you feel comfortable and confident will provide the personal instruction and attention you require.
  • Check to see if the trainers or training director has a college degree in a related field (Physical Education, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Science, and Sports Management, etc.) or a nationally recognized personal training certification.
  • I would also recommend some nutrition guidance from a registered dietitian or certified nutritional specialist.


So, guys and gals, let’s give ourselves a break and start slow.  If it has been a while since you were in a fitness program, think of the first 4 weeks as your break-in period.  During this phase of your program, use lighter weights and higher repetitions.  I start my clients off with light weights and 15 to 20 reps, usually only one set per exercise.  The goal during this period is to get the form for each exercise perfect and to gradually add weight to each exercise so that by the end of the four weeks the weights you reach on each exercise should be all you can do with perfect form for 15 repetitions.


This will allow the tendons and ligaments more time to strengthen since they respond more slowly to exercise than the muscles.  This slower progression for tendons and ligaments is due to the decreased blood flow to these areas compared to muscles.  By starting with this 4-week break-in, it will help prevent some of the injuries that often occur when trying to progress too quickly.


Also, during the break-in period, I like to see more of a focus on cardiovascular training, flexibility, and core training.  We don’t just lose our muscular strength as we age, we lose flexibility, muscle endurance, and cardiovascular efficiency.  All of these areas are impacted and will require targeted training.   If you start slow and build a firm foundation you are more likely to reach your fitness goals and enjoy your new fitness program.


You can be as fit or even more fit now then you were when you were 20.  Remember, fitness is for a lifetime.  Set a goal to live better, longer and thrive not just survive.


To Your Success,


Mike Inabinett


“The Three Most Important Words You Can Say To Yourself: ‘Yes, I Can!’”  by Denis Waitley

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