On the blog I’m often asked about my fitness regime; as I get a lot of different questions about what I do to stay in shape, I thought I’d write a post to share ways to keep fit in your 40s. However, in writing it I’ve realised these tips are, in fact, applicable to all ages, so I hope you’ll read on if you’re 18, 30 or 60 – it doesn’t matter, because this is not a post about losing weight…!
I didn’t want to write a post about weight loss – this is about fitness and getting a strong, healthy body. Losing a few pounds – or a lot depending how overweight you may or may not be – is often a result of a new regime and change of lifestyle.
By the time you reach your forties, you have most likely realised you’re not getting any younger (sad but true!), so I have written it from my 41 year old point of view. But I’ve reflected on my attitude to fitness in my youth, and what I hope to achieve in the future, as well as what I do right now.
Here are my top ten tips for keeping fit, and – more importantly – staying fit!
1. Find your motivation, and your mojo
If you’ve had long periods of inactivity, or indeed a lifetime of it, finding your mojo is possibly the hardest thing to do. It’s hard to imagine ever wanting to exercise, but the attitude you eventually want is not one where you’re having to force yourself to exercise, but where it is simply habit, like brushing your teeth. You have to want to do this for yourself, so think about your reasons for getting fit and keeping fit.
It’s a bit like learning how to drive: when you’re young you can’t imagine what it’s like to be able to drive a car – all those things to change and stuff to do with your feet whilst watching the road and turning the wheel… it just seems impossible and far too much to think about. Yet when you’re learning how to drive, one day it just “clicks” into place. You can’t imagine what it’s like not knowing how to drive any more. All the different things you have to do and concentrate on just become second nature – and you find yourself wanting to drive because, well, you’re growing up and you need to get places.
Your motivation to learn to drive is being able to get from A to B, by yourself, for the rest of your life. To become fit and strong you have to work out what your motivation is – but make it good. Not, I want to fit in that dress for my sister’s wedding next year; rather, I want to be able to do yoga when I’m 80. Or I want to stay fit so I can run around with my children – and my grandchildren. Your motivation has to last the whole of your life, not just till your sister’s wedding or next year’s holiday.
2. Start right NOW, today
If you’re reading this and you’ve been thinking about getting fit – don’t start a fitness regime tomorrow, next week, or worse: in the New Year. GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING TODAY. Go for a 15 minute brisk walk, do half an hour’s housework at lightning speed, run up and down the stairs 20 times. The sooner you start the better – start that positive thinking with some action today. As you get older time seems to pass so much more quickly so act now – don’t waste the new few weeks or even the next few days.
UNLESS YOU’RE READING THIS JUST AFTER CHRISTMAS, NEVER, EVER START A FITNESS REGIME ON JANUARY 1ST – START RIGHT NOW.
My best tip is this: Unless you’re readjusting this just after Christmas, never, ever start a fitness regime on January 1st. I have always done this in years gone by – New Year’s resolution, I’ll start after Christmas, after New Year. RIGHT NOW, five weeks before Christmas, is the best time to start. I did this last year for the first time: I got myself ‘reasonably’ fit before Christmas. The inevitable food onslaught and general laziness happened over the festive period of course, but because I’d started my regime in November, I didn’t go crazy because I’d already found my mojo weeks before. So yes, I put on a few pounds over the festive period, but here’s the thing: it was nothing like the usual 7-10 pounds I usually put on. I was actually really keen to get straight back into my new routine and found the first week of January so much easier – my head was back in the right place within a few days, because I’d trained myself to think the right way before Christmas. Which brings me onto…
3. Realise that getting fit is 70% attitude, 30% action
There’s a reason why modern day athletes have sports psychologists. No amount of training, hard work or the right diet will get them a gold medal or win that tournament if they haven’t got a winning attitude. If you’re steadily working towards improving your health by making small changes and keeping them up every day, one day (like when you’re learning to drive) something will just click in your head – that’s the winning attitude. I won’t pretend that finding it is easy; it’s not. I’ll be absolutely honest and say it took me years to find that click… but I didn’t know it was mostly about getting my head in the right place. Gaining a strong, fit body is simply the consequence of changing your attitude.
I’ll share with you what clicked with me: it was seeing my parents age, and realising that ageing (or rather, becoming elderly) will also happen to me one day. I’ve always had youthful, fit parents, despite them having me much later in life, and I thought they would be invincible forever. But in recent years they’ve both had their knees replaced, heart problems and arthritis, amongst other things – and it dawned on me that despite them being healthy and fit, these things can still happen to us.
So if I were to continue doing exercise sporadically, and doing it because I want to fit into my skinny jeans, then that wasn’t enough to see me through into old age. I realised I was suddenly in my forties and I had to become fit for the rest of my life, to be able to cope with whatever life threw at me because I wasn’t 20 and as resilient as I used to be. I had to start straight away and make it part of everyday life for my own health and well being.
4. Stop making excuses
Ever said any of these things?
I don’t have the time to exercise.
I can’t afford a gym membership.
I can’t see any appeal in running.
I don’t want anyone to see my flabby bits.
If you’ve ever thought anything like that before, consider the alternatives: lack of energy, trouble sleeping, skin problems, headaches, bad times of the month, constant colds, health complications in later life… those things are not worth putting up with for the sake of the excuses you’re making. All those things should improve if you get yourself fit. If I’ve stopped exercising for a while, I always get three-day headaches, and terrible cramps at that time of the month… if I’m in the zone and exercising regularly, the headaches stop and my time of the month gives me no pain at all. Those two things alone makes it all worth it.
No time? Unless you never, ever watch TV and have six children to look after, everyone can find 15 minutes to do something that’ll get your heart racing. Turn off the TV and just move instead.
UNLESS YOU NEVER, EVER WATCH TV, EVERYONE CAN FIND 15 MINUTES TO DO SOMETHING.
Gym too expensive? I’ve never stepped foot inside a gym, let alone bought a membership. Buy an exercise DVD to do at home, run up and down the stairs for 15 minutes till you’re out of breath, or look at a Health & Fitness Pinterest board for workouts you can do without forking out any money at all.
Hate the thought of running? So did I when I was 28. But I tried it and could only run for three minutes before I had to stop and walk. But now, aged 41, I like to run for between 20 minutes and half an hour, so I’m ten times fitter than I was in my twenties. It doesn’t have to be running – simply try something new, because you never know, you might just like it.
And if you’re worried about others seeing your wobbly bits, remember you don’t have to wear skin-tight lycra, or exercise in public. You can put on a dance playlist at home and dance to your heart’s content all by yourself in sweatpants and your oldest t-shirt – who cares what you look like?
5. Find something that works for you
There’s no point me suggesting particular exercises or workouts, what sports are good to take up, or how often to exercise and at what time of day. Everyone is different and has different lifestyles, jobs and home situations. Once you’ve got your motivation, and found your mojo, what you do and when will fall into place. Getting your head in the right place means that the fitness regime you take up will become habit, and your positivity will make you want to try new things. Running 2-3 times a week and using exercise DVDs such as the 10 Minute Solution DVD range worked for me, but only after I tried all sorts of other things first. I also accepted the fact that I cannot function in the early mornings – I prefer working out after work when my body’s had a whole day to loosen up, and my head is clearer.
This short article entitled Want an Exercise Routine? Ask Yourself These Questions has some great questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to work out what is best for you. Don’t try to compete with your best friend, or copy what Jennifer Aniston does, or think that being a gym bunny is the only solution. This is your call – unless it’s achievable and personal to you, it isn’t going to work and yield results.
6. Accept what you can and can’t change
We’re always reading that should stop comparing ourselves to other women, stop thinking that the bodies we see in magazines are what we should be trying to achieve. This is another part of changing your attitude, and the “click” going off in your head. Concentrate on YOU, and no one else. Learn to appreciate your best bits (read how to make the most the most of your best feature here), and forget your small stature/lack of long legs/round face shape. Aim instead to get fit so you improve your posture and stand tall; get strong, shapely legs no matter what their length; optimise your circulation to improve your skin and make it glow. Optimise the things you like, improve the things you don’t.
7. Walk regularly, and everywhere
Even if you don’t do any exercise at all, ever, then do take this one piece of advice away with you: Walk. If you’re able to make a 15, 20 or 30 minute walk part of your everyday routine, so you do it automatically, then you will see your fitness levels improve. All other sports and fitness become easier if you’re walking regularly, and walking fast – literally as fast as your legs will go; don’t amble along. Incorporate a walk into your lunch hour if you have an office job, or go the long way round to pick up the kids from school. Do it at the same time every day and aim to make it habit.
A lot of people don’t realise this, but the less sleep you get, the less chance your body has to refuel, burn calories and improve your mental state. If you have trouble sleeping, start with the exercise – keeping active helps you sleep better. If you are able to get into bed earlier every night and do it regularly, combined with the regular exercise, the cycle of not sleeping and lack of energy should start to improve.
9. Set yourself realistic goals
I know I said that this post isn’t about weight loss, but in our forties weight gain is all too easy if we’re not staying active. So if you know that you have some pounds to shift but it seems like such a daunting task – stop thinking about the amount as a whole. Give yourself a realistic target to achieve – for instance, losing one pound a week sounds more than doable, don’t you think? If you consider that springtime (let’s say mid March) is only about four months or 17 weeks away, you could lose 17 pounds between now and then if you set your mind to it, depending on how much you need to lose to shape up. Break down your targets into realistic goals and they won’t seem so unattainable.
10. Do it for your health, forever
I do despair a little when I hear women of any age saying that they couldn’t possibly contemplate doing any exercise, or that they envy girls who eat junk food all the time and never put on weight. Why do that to your body? I’d rather be heavier but strong and healthy, than very slim but getting sick all the time. It’s never too late to realise that we only have one body, and we should look after it. YOU’RE in control of changing your body, no one else, and that change has to come out of a respect for the one body that’s going to see you into later life.
YOU’RE IN CONTROL OF CHANGING YOUR BODY, NO ONE ELSE.
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On a more practical level, if you’re doing any sort of impact exercise (i.e. where your feet leave the ground), make sure you get yourself two things: the best sports bra you can afford, and a really good pair of sports shoes. In the pictures I’m wearing the Nike Free 3.0 V5 running shoes that were gifted to me for review – I usually have to buy a new pair every year to 18 months and have tried a lot of different makes and styles in the 15 years I’ve been running.
However, I’ve not worn Nike shoes for a long time and was keen to see if all the improvements and changes in sportswear design over the years would help my performance.
The first thing I noticed about these shoes is how incredibly light they are – they weigh next-to-nothing and it feels like you’re running on air. A great feature is that there isn’t a separate tongue – it’s incorporated into the shoe upper so there’s no annoying slipping of the tongue down either side of your foot.
It has the usual mesh upper that you’d expect from a pair of quality running shoes to allow your foot to breathe, and I love the styling and colour combination (neon yellow and grey is perfect).
I haven’t run in them enough to know for sure, but I certainly noticed a difference in wearing such a light shoe. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like running barefoot, but as if your feet have a thin cushioned sole to take the impact, and you simply don’t notice them. Most other running shoes I’ve had make me all too aware that I’m wearing them, with thick soles and a high supportive arch – and I liked the change.
You can buy Nike Free shoes here if they take your fancy.
Next Monday: Part two of this post will concentrate on the food side of keeping fit, and how I changed my eating habits for life, so do check back next week for that.
I’m really interested to know how many of you regularly keep fit, whether your age has made a difference to your regime, or whether any of my tips have helped you or inspired you to act now. Let me know!
JD Sports kindly gifted me these running shoes for review. All opinions are my own, however, and 100% honest.