I’m not going to sugar-coat it – achieving a high level of physical fitness after 50 is tough. As the founder of Sixty and Me, a community of over 500,000 baby boomer women, I have seen firsthand how people our age struggle to lose weight, strengthen our bodies, get flexible and improve our physical appearance.
Like many of you, I also spent my 50s frustrated (and even angry at times) about my inability to get in shape. It was almost as if my body had taken on a life of its own. After supporting me as I raised my children, navigated my career and built my life, it felt like it had finally given up… and I was just along for the ride.
When I told my friends about my desire to get in better shape, I was met with two basic philosophies. I’m paraphrasing a bit here but, here’s what my friends said.
One group said…
“Come on Margaret. It’s time to accept your body. Stop worrying about staying in shape. Just have fun. You deserve it.”
“I hear you Margaret. Getting in shape is tough. That’s why you need to work three times as hard. Get to the gym 5 days a week. Hire a personal trainer. Go vegan. Do whatever it takes. You deserve it.”
Don’t forget to check out the gentle yoga for balance video at the beginning of this article. And, you can also order a DVD of the entire series if you enjoy this practice.
I knew that I definitely didn’t want to give up on my body. While I didn’t care what other people thought of my appearance, I did want to have a long, healthy life.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to train like a professional athlete.
I knew that there must be a better way to start living a more active life. I just needed to find somewhere to start.
On a certain level, each and every one of us knows what we need to do to get in better shape. We need to move more and eat better. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done.
My breakthrough came when I sat down to analyze why I was leading such a sedentary life. Why wasn’t I walking more? Why hadn’t I visited a gym in years? Why didn’t I play any sports?
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was lacking in motivation, confidence and discipline. I decided that I needed to find the easiest possible exercise plan, one that would help me to develop a routine while I built my confidence. I decided to try gentle yoga.
Looking back at my first experiences with yoga, decades ago, I decided that yoga would be my “gateway drug” to a healthier life. Increasing my flexibility and balance would give me the confidence that I needed to hike and ride my bike. Riding my bike and walking more would give me the endurance to feel comfortable taking a class or two at the local gym.
I didn’t just want a fitness routine. I wanted a healthy living routine. And, developing my balance through yoga felt like the best place to start.
The great thing about balance exercises, particularly those that are a part of a yoga routine is that they can be done from the comfort of your home. As a result, you can go at your own pace without feeling pressure from those around you.
Personally, I started with just 5 minutes of yoga balance exercises a day. Then, I increased my yoga sessions by 1 minute every week. This doesn’t seem like much, but, within 6 months, I was doing 30 minutes of yoga a day. Do you remember the last time that you did 30 minutes of any exercise? I rest my case!
Once I reached 30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to incorporate simple weight bearing exercises. I lifted a few soup cans, did planks and forced myself to walk.
Now, several years later, exercise isn’t something that I do… it is something that I am. Because I started slowly and focused on the most basic of attributes – balance – I succeeded where others failed. I was a tortoise, but, I won the race.
If you are looking for a way to improve your fitness after 50, I strongly suggest that you give balance exercises a try. They may not be the flashiest exercises, but, they are foundational to everything else that you do to get in shape after 50.
How do you feel about your balance? What are you doing to improve your physical fitness? Do you agree that, when it comes to big goals like “getting in shape” small first steps are often best? Why or why not? Please join the conversation!