I find inspiration from so many people I've met since my husband embarked on his journey and since I started my website. This amazing woman Sue inspires me to be the best person I can be and I wanted to share some of her inspiring words.
At any age, who doesn’t want to be healthy? In your 20’s and 30’s it may come to you naturally; you just don’t think much about it. When the 40’s arrive, however, one can find it a much more difficult journey: your metabolism becomes less efficient and thus, slows down but your appetite may stay the same. Simply, that means you need less calories. The weight can slowly increase even if you aren’t eating differently than when you were in your 20’s and 30’s when you considered yourself healthy.
I have numerous friends who gained weight in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and don’t really understand why. They feel their food choices are similar to what they’ve eaten for years and hadn’t gained weight then, so why now? When 40 or 45 arrives, it’s like you have three fast balls coming at you at breakneck speed: metabolism slows, gravity takes over and those darn hormones!
What does this mean? It means lean muscle mass decreases, and body fat increases--even if you exercise regularly. When you blow out those 40 candles and officially hit the 4th decade, it dawns on you that your body is changing in ways you may wish it wasn’t. This is not the time to throw in the towel!
This is not the time to give up and let the combination of advancing age and bad health be the deciding factors in your life. This is the time to have a serious talk with yourself. Figure out what you want the REST of your life to be and then discover what you need fitness-wise to accomplish that. Do your daily habits lead you down the road to bad health? If so, remember one of my favorite quotes:
“If you’re going down the wrong road, you can always do a U-turn”.
The effects of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, not to mention knee and hip problems due to added weight, are real health concerns as we age. If you don’t understand the importance of exercise, weight training and core exercises as you age, a “couch potato” label may be in your future. If you just don’t care, I implore you to read further so you understand why you should. In reality, it’s all about the quality of your life as you become older.
Here’s the good news: You can choose to be healthy and strong no matter what your advancing age is. Here’s my personal story:
I was highlighted in one of Drew’s Fit2Fat2Fit “success stories”. Following 10 months of daily exercise and limiting calories and portion sizes (I tracked my food intake with (free) “My Fitness Pal”), I lost over 100 pounds. The journey began huffing and puffing the first .10 of a mile and pushing myself to complete just one mile the first day. It progressed to more miles of walking and for the last four months of the journey: walking, kettle bell and weight training combined.
The key to my success: I told myself if I exercised and ate right the day before, I could do it again. And I did. I also realized excuses weren’t going to get me healthier; excuses would only get me a one-way ticket to being a full-time “couch potato”. I started doing core exercises that Drew recommended in November, 2011. The first time I tried a pushup--on my knees--I couldn’t even complete one. It‘a embarrassing to admit that now, but it wasn’t really a surprise--as the last time I did one I was a teenager.
Success should never be measured in how long it takes you to accomplish anything; it should only be measured in the fact you never give up. I kept at it day after day, week after week, and month after month. Within only a couple months, I could do all of Drew’s core exercises. Now nearly 3 years later, I consistently do planks, (at least 45 seconds), side planks (30 seconds), thread the needle planks (15), 2 kinds of superman exercises, 35-40 pushups, wall sits, and “bridges” with my arms extended upward with a kettle bell.
At my age now, my priorities have changed. I lost the weight initially because my nephew was getting married in 2012. But it only took me 10 days of daily walking to understand that my #1 priority wasn’t how I looked at a wedding, it was how I felt. Not only was my mood better, but I felt better about myself. And as the weight decreased, my energy levels soared.
In 2013, I continued mileage (walking and some running) and continued the core exercises. I was just as committed to staying healthy and fit, but my body was still changing. No matter how much I exercised and watched my portion sizes and ate whole foods, I realized my metabolism was still slowing down. Yes, it was frustrating, but it hasn’t made me quit my desire to stay healthy and strong.
Simply, I realized I was spending too much time trying to be skinny instead of focusing on health. Considering I am not only in my 60’s now, but solidly in my mid-60’s--I realize the most important attribute is strength. I grasp that when I read a certain study. Results found that life expectancy could be predicted within certain ranges of older individuals based on just ONE factor:
Could the person get up from the floor, unaided?
Those who couldn’t and were followed later had shorter life spans than those participants who--even though in advanced ages--could STILL get up off the floor solely by themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I still walk and do cardio to burn calories. But the walking is no longer everyday; it entails a 4-mile route together with the same friend on Saturday mornings. I’m now a huge fan of Lynn’s 2fitathome.com program--not only because it is inexpensive--but there are videos for correct form and delicious recipes too boot. It’s like having one of the best fitness trainers on the planet right in your own living room and you are her only client.
Right now, I’m in the intermediate program, and some days are a real challenge as I’m doing exercises I haven’t ever attempted before. I’ve learned to do what I can, and if I have to modify some exercise because of my age, so be it. The important point is I AM doing them.
Let me share something with you. A few weeks ago, I flew to visit both my kids who live in another city. It was an amazing six days, except for one incident. One night--while walking downtown with my sister and brother-in-law after it had turned an inky dark--I tripped over uneven concrete. In quick sensation I silently said, “What?, I’m falling”, to “I can save it”, to “Oh no, I can’t--and then quickly reaching out with my right hand hoping to break my fall. It was such an extreme fall that a young man across the street yelled, “Is she ok?”
As I lay on my stomach, my sister put her hand on my back and said, “Don’t move! You probably broke your wrist and have other injuries.” I turned over on my back, groaned, and took a deep breath. Yes, I sustained a couple scrapes on my knees and hands but was remarkably ok.
That I wasn’t seriously injured wasn’t luck.
I attribute it to the strength and fitness I gained over the last 3 years with Drew and Lynn’s advice/exercises and eating whole foods.I sustained no serious injuries, not one medical bill, and no trip to the ER for X-rays for possible broken bones.
Exercising and strength training aren’t the whole answer. Along with that, eating nutrient-rich, real food is important. Another critical factor, in my opinion, is drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water. Water improves your metabolism and helps all your organs to function properly.
Here are some sobering facts from CBS News:
1. The #1 cause for injuries and fatalities for seniors is falling.
2. One of three seniors, age 65 or older, will fall at least once a year.
3. Resulting falls by seniors cost $30 billions/year in health care costs.
Now let me contrast my own story with another woman only five years older than me--at age 70. Over 2 years ago, she called me at midnight and said, “Come over. I need your help. I’ll open the garage for you”, and then the phone clicked. When I got to her home, the garage door was closed. After 10 minutes of finding no entrance open, I called 911. The cops arrived; they couldn’t get in either. One cop--seeing her lying on the floor right by the garage through a peak in the glass door below the shutters--broke down her back door with his heavy black boots. She had blacked out. After paramedics checked her, she was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital--staying until the next afternoon.
Since then, she has: 1. Fallen, and had what she thought was a sprained ankle which in actuality was confirmed by X-rays to be a severely broken ankle (Result: Surgery: two ankle plates and 16 pins); 2. Fallen (Result: Broken hip); 3. Fallen (Result: Broken wrist).
And the latest occurrence: Recently, an idling fire truck woke me up @ 6AM on a Saturday morning. This lady had fallen in her bathroom, landed in the tub and couldn’t get herself out. Luckily, she had a cell phone with her and called 911 for assistance. I waited outside by the fire truck for word of her condition. A fireman--who saw the look of concern on my face-- kindly reassured me that she was ok, but just needed their assistance to get back up.
I hope to never become that lady in another 5-10 or even 15 years. And I’m confident I won’t.
I tell this true story not to scare anyone. We all will get older; it’s a part of life. I tell it because it’s not too late in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to take control of your health. I get up from the floor every morning when I do core exercises. I gain strength and have muscle definition in my arms because I do consistent kettle bell weight training. I have definition in my calves because I walk. I am healthy because I eat natural, real foods--not processed foods full of empty calories and artificial ingredients. When doing errands, I choose one of the farthest-away parking spots in the lot. I choose moving instead of sitting. Weight training hasn’t turned me into an iconic early-version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve become strong, and that’s important as I grow older.
On that recent visit out-of-state, we decided to hike at Rocky Mountain National Park. While the others walked, on impulse, I started to run. I hadn’t done that since December, 2012 as I was having concerns about my right hip; but not on this August afternoon.
Do you remember running with abandon when you were a kid? That’s how I felt that day. No matter that the trail was 9,475 feet above sea level, I not only took off running like a kid, I felt like a kid! Because of the extreme altitude, I was breathing very hard at the end, but I felt so good. Yes, I felt healthy and strong. But this is what I remember most: A very overweight lady stopped hiking on the trail, looked at me running by, and uttered only three words: “Oh my God!”. Near the end of the run, I passed a guy on the trail coming in the opposite direction. He was hiking with his 10-12 year old son. “Look out, Kyle! That lady is running a marathon.”
All the days I continue to exercise, I’m going to remember how those words enforced the realization in me that at nearly 65 years of age, I am healthy and strong.
Do I have good and bad days? Yes, absolutely. There are days I don’t want to exercise and don’t. There are other days I attack it like a well-trained dog going after a well-loved tennis ball. I choose to consistently exercise--usually at least five days a week--because it not only makes me feel terrific, in makes me FEEL younger than my chronological age. Attitude, I say, is everything.
Sometimes I eat too much--not remembering portion control because the from scratch- food I cook tastes way too good. I’m human; aren’t we all? My #1 battle is emotional eating at night. Why? To be completely honest: the combination of widowhood & the kids grown & out of the house is very difficult for me.
The house is too quiet--especially after 7PM and food can and is comforting. Right now, it’s a constant battle. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be an eventual winner. Some hard-fought victories take time, and perseverance is the key.
At this point in my life, my unchanging commitment to exercise and strength training has nothing to do with how I look; it has everything to do with being as strong as possible.
Drew told me years ago: You get healthy from the inside out.” It’s 80% food, 20% exercise.” You really can‘t out exercise a bad food diet.”
But if you’re only eating well, you’re losing a VERY important 20% without choosing to exercise. And that 20% is even more important with advancing age. That’s right; like most things in life, you have to choose to exercise; you have to choose to eat right; you have to choose what kind of future you want not only for yourself but for your family. And don’t we all want to be there for our families and our grandchildren?
I recently saw the comedienne, Roseanne Barr on TV. I hadn’t seen her for years. She had recently lost about 50 pounds. She was asked what her secret was. I chuckled as she replied:” it’s a revolutionary new diet: you exercise more and eat less. Imagine that!”.
As the years go by, it’s even more important that you make the best choices to give you the best chance for a long and healthy life. Look at these sobering facts: The typical “Western diet” of processed foods causes:
-Virtually all obesity and (type 2) diabetes
-80% of all cardiovascular disease
-More than 1/3 of all cancers
I’m convinced that the older you get the 20% exercise and 80% whole food choices is the key to a long and healthy life. As someone who couldn’t be more surprised that I hit the age 60, I’m now eye-to-eye with 65. And you know what? I like what I see: healthy is the best choice for ANY age--but especially when you have a 4, 5 or 6 as the first digit. I made that U-turn from unhealthy to healthy at age 61, and am ecstatic I was smart enough to realize I needed to.
Take that first step--no matter what your age. In 6 months to a year, you’ll hardly recognize yourself, and I will be rooting for you every step of your journey. Your goal is not to just live longer, it’s to live longer with quality.