4 Health & Fitness Pitfalls for People over 50

Last Updated on October 26, 2020 by Cathy Jo Johnson

Image source: https://www.sawinery.net/ Photographer: Mike Birdy

As we age, our bodies change. The solutions that worked in our younger days stop yielding the same results. Along with that, life gets faster and busier. Taking care of our health and fitness feels more like a luxury versus a necessity.

 

Then things start to pile up. We begin regularly breaking our self-imposed diet and exercise rules. That creates even more stress accompanied by the emotional and mental fatigue of feeling like a failure. Self-doubt creeps in, and food becomes a pacifier.

We know that we are not giving our bodies the nutrition or activity it needs and we start to think things like:

“I know it’s important; all I need is to find my motivation.”

“I manage to schedule everything else. Why can’t I find time for me?”

“Healthy living takes a lot of time and energy I just don’t have.”

“How can I fit anything else into my jam-packed day?”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Busy women (like you and me) don’t have a second to waste on activities that won’t get us healthy and fit. We need to cut to the chase.

In my experience, I’ve found there were four major fitness pitfalls that women over 50 can blame for our lack of fitness and weight management success. I’m going to debunk these traps and show you how to put solutions in place that work.

Fitness Pitfalls #1-I am too old

During a recent conversation, one of my clients said: “I’m too young for AARP but too old to fit into Fabletics (Kate Hudson’s fitness clothing brand).” I couldn’t have said it any better than she did.

Most of us are struggling with a changing body, and as we look for new solutions, it’s tempting to think we won’t find something that works. We start to believe that perhaps we are too old.

Let’s examine the myth versus the reality of that line of thinking.

Yes, your body is changing, but in truth, your body has always been changing. Remember puberty? Like that wasn’t a shock to the system? Look back on every decade in your life and consider the changes your body went through.

For many of us, our 20’s were a battle with body self-image. Too fat, too thin, eat, don’t eat. Personally, the internal struggle and the negative self-talk was incessant.

Career and or family typically dominated our 30’s. We were doing whatever it took to carve out our niche in life while chasing our dreams and goals to exclude most other things. It was a time when our bodies responded quickly to diet and exercise, even if it was intermittent at best. Many of us paid minimal attention to our physical and nutritional needs.  It was during this time that I threw in the towel. I permitted myself to eat whatever I wanted and stopped trying to fit exercise into my hectic schedule. Like so many other women, my reward was a corner suite and a closet full of size 20 suits.

Then came 40, and health and fitness started getting a little more complicated. Our bodies didn’t respond as quickly and needed something more consistent. A new word entered our vocabulary, perimenopause, and with it, a variety of physical changes. I started a battle combatting the effects of low thyroid — my youth’s resilient body that I so carelessly took for granted needed attention.

I think you get my point that our bodies have been changing since the day we were born.  Today more than ever, there are resources available to aid us in understanding and managing change. When I tell women, they can get in the best shape of their life after 50, and they often stare at me in disbelief. Why do we find it so hard to believe?

Understanding what our bodies need at this stage in our lives is critical. It’s similar in many ways to long-term financial planning. We need a wellness plan to manage the challenges at our current stage in life and to plan to control the stages ahead.

Fitness Pitfalls #2 – I need to get motived

I can almost hear you protest now, “CJ, I know how to plan and do it successfully in most other areas of my life. The only thing standing in the way of me getting fit is motivation. I create these plans, and then one of two things happen; I get off to a roaring start only to have something completely derail me, or I never leave the starting block. How do I get motivated to get started and stick with it?”

It’s not about motivation!

Yes, you heard that correctly. We have been led to believe that if we can’t start or stick to a fitness plan, it’s our lack of ability to motivate ourselves. Excuse me, but that’s just BS!

I’ve worked with and been one of those women who changed an unhealthy life into a healthy one. If you asked us what started the change, you’d likely find motivation played only a small role.  For some of us, it’s a class reunion, a child’s wedding, or a special event. But events internal or external are rarely what keeps anyone on the health and fitness path for long. We need to do something much more challenging if we want lifelong fitness and weight management.

We need to go to the root of the problem and change how we think about it.

Simply put, our thoughts control our feelings, and those feelings lead to actions, and our actions create our results or lack thereof. Society has taught us to focus primarily on our efforts. If I can change my actions, I will get different results. While that’s true, it’s only a part of the equation. If we don’t understand our feelings and the thoughts that create those feelings, our success will be short-lived at best.

Long-term success requires us to go beyond the surface and get to the root of the problem, the feelings, and the thoughts that create our actions.

To this day, I can’t tell you what the difference was between Oct 9 and Oct 10, 2001. What I can tell you is that I got sick and tired of overweight (feeling). I was in a desperate place and was finally ready to start looking at what got me there. Yes, I consumed too many calories, ate when I wasn’t hungry, snacked on all the wrong foods, but why was I doing that?

I couldn’t walk up the stairs to that corner office without huffing and puffing, and that was embarrassing. My god, I am a failure. How can I be so good at so many things and not manage to take care of myself?

My brain was telling me I was fat. This is what fat people eat like and look like. You are still the girl who had to buy clothes at the Lane Bryant Chubby Club. That keen, sharp mind of mine that was causing me to keep repeating the same eating behaviors, and the result was keeping me fat.

It was never solely about my actions. It was about the thought and feelings that led me to keep repeating those actions. When I finally altered my thoughts, it changed my feelings, which gave way to different actions, ultimately creating a healthy fit me.

Ultimately if you are bold enough to ask yourself the right questions, you will find that it has nothing to do with your motivation and everything to do with your thinking.

Next time you don’t like your results, look at your actions, then start asking the tough questions. What am I feeling? What am I thinking that’s causing that feeling? It’s not always a fun process, but that’s where the real solutions are found.

 

Fitness Pitfalls #3 I don’t have time

Even in this day and age, where someone is steadily making a case for “alternative facts,” there are a few valid realities. Each of us gets 24 hours in a day.

Have you ever looked at someone and marveled at their ability to manage their life? I know I have. How is it that some people seem to balance their fitness and wellness with other commitments? They don’t seem to be any less active than me; in fact, many times they are busier.

It’s not about the amount of time, which incidentally is something you need to stop telling yourself because it’s another perfect example of fitness pitfall #2. A thought (how we talk about it is what we think) leads to feelings, which shows up in your actions. If you want to fit more into your day, you first need to believe there is enough time in the day to achieve your goals. Then you need to arrange your priorities accordingly.

The first thing you need to understand is where do you spend your time. We have become a culture of distraction, it’s everywhere, and it’s such an easy trap to fall into.

Do you play games on the computer? How much time do you spend on the phone, Facebook, or other social media? If you are curious to see how much time you spend on social media, grab your iPhone, go to settings, battery, and then take a look at how much time you spend on your apps. (I’m sure there is something similar for an Android)

What about TV or YouTube? In September of 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report stating that even with all the other distractions out there, the average American still spends 2 hours and 45 minutes a day watching TV.

Perhaps you’re thinking, hey CJ, I don’t spend time on social media, and I don’t watch TV. Good for you! Where are you allocating your time?

We invest our time in the things we prioritize. Unfortunately, for most of us, we prioritize unconsciously. If I commit to watching the Packers play football once a week, I have devoted three hours of my life to sitting in front of the TV watching a sport. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, and we need to give it all up. I usually decide to watch the Packer game, but I am fully aware of the time I allocate to that choice.

I am challenging you to make conscious decisions on how you spend your time creating the space to prioritize your health and wellness goals.

 

Fitness Pitfalls # 4 I’m the only one struggling with this

You’re not! All you need to do is look at the magazines at the grocery store checkout stand. Ever catch a headline out of the corner of your eye, and you’re sure that the author wrote it just for you? I know I have!

I’ve worked with many very successful “get it done; I’m going to figure it out no matter what” types. They aren’t afraid to search for resources, get educated, and ask for help and support when needed.  However, it never occurs to most of them to ask for help with their health and wellness. They rely on the information they already know and are hesitant to ask for help and support.

For most of us, achieving health and wellness takes a village. We need to create a community willing to share their knowledge and encouragement to help us reach our goals, and it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you may think.

A few years ago, I was on vacation and went for a run on the beach. The sun was rising, and the ocean waves were slowly lapping at the sand. As much as I was enjoying it, I was getting tired. The soft sand was making the small muscles in my legs beg for mercy. Just then, I saw a man walking on the beach with a beautiful husky. They were a welcome break!

He was a Hispanic gentleman in his 70’s ready and willing to chat. He proceeded to tell me that he retired a few years previously and that much to his family’s dismay, he spent his days in front of the TV. Then they gifted him with this beautiful rescue Shala. At first, he was resentful, “She was so active, and it didn’t matter what the weather was, she wanted to be out.  I hated it, but she needed to go out, so I started walking. Now we walk at least two times a day; I’ve lost 25 pounds,” he said, slapping his belly. “I got off my blood pressure medications. I owe my life to this beauty.”

Accountability is a powerful driver. However, most of us find staying accountable to ourselves difficult. A support system can help us stay on track, and it can be as straightforward or as complex as we choose.

Conclusion

Last week,  I was  3/4 of the way through a high-intensity spin class, absolutely sucking wind. I was no longer interested in pushing my tired, aching legs, and my pounding heart any further. Satisfied with my efforts, this would be the point in the class where I would coast until the end. Then the instructor asked, “Are you willing to explore your potential?”

What if I didn’t coast until the end of the class? Could I give up my preconceived notions and do something new?

What if we stopped falling back into old habits that no longer serve us? Are we capable of more than we are doing or expecting of ourselves? Can we finally get fit and manage my weight successfully after 50?

Damn……here we go!

Keep reading……now that you know the pitfalls that keep you from reaching your fitness goals; I’ve created a cheat sheet to help you get on track and start taking action today!