Getting in Shape at 50: What’s Your Motivation?

The impossible actually happened: you got older. You used to be younger, faster, thinner, more muscular — a whole lot different than you are now. Maybe there was a significant event that knocked you off course, or it may have been a combination of different things. Whatever it was, it changed the You you used to know into an older, slower, out-of-shape You. Right around 50, many people take stock and are dismayed at what they see. Some aren’t sure what to do about it, so they go out and buy a sports car or get some “work” done. Others know what they should be doing, but have trouble getting started.

The Mid-Life Nudge

No doubt–that sports car is fun to drive. But it won’t get you in shape or improve your health.

Everyone evaluates themselves in mid-life. It’s your body’s way of nudging you, saying it’s time for getting back into shape. No, there’s no scientific stats to back that up, but think about it: the people who buy the sports cars or who opt for plastic surgery are looking for a shortcut to feeling good about themselves. The irony is that they know that working out is healthy for them and may even realize that it will make them feel great, but they want to pass Go and skip directly to the feeling great part without putting in the work.

You already know why working out is important, especially as you age. If you used to be fit in your youth, it’s frustrating to no longer have the drive and dedication for it now. Compared to the essentially indifferent feeling you have today about working out, it seems like you were a different person back then. But you were. When you were younger, your reasons and motivation for getting in shape were different. Other things were important to you. You didn’t necessarily do it to keep your heart healthy or to ward off diabetes or osteoporosis. You did it because it was a challenge, because it put you in control of how your body looked and, in doing so, made you feel great. Plus, you had the energy to do it. The thing is, all of those reasons can still hold true. You want to feel good about yourself again? That should be motivation enough. When it isn’t, set aside all of the reasons you “should” start working out again. Revert back to the reasons that resonated with you the first time working out.

The Challenge

Targit Squats (2)

Challenge yourself with alternative resistance training.

There’s no doubt about it. It’s a challenge to get back into working out when you’re knocking on 50 or are looking at that age in the rear-view mirror. However, considering it that way could be what is interfering with your motivation. The type of challenge you need is related to improving yourself — meeting a new goal or learning a new skill — rather than simply getting started again. IDEA Health and Fitness says that when people master something new, it’s more likely to motivate them to keep working out. This could be learning a new aerobic dance routine, signing up for jiu-jitsu classes, or setting a goal to run in a marathon next year. If you used to lift free weights and want to build muscle and strength now, learn a new technique with a different form of resistance, such as the TargitFit Trainer offers. Enjoyment and seeing results are two top  motivating factors so, whatever you do, make it something you’re going to like doing.

Lock in a Goal

There’s no turning back once you’ve locked in your goal.

While we’re talking about marathons and such, don’t just set the goal. Commit to the marathon or any other sports/fitness competition you’re interested in. Signing up gives you a deadline instead of leaving your goal open-ended. If you’ve already obligated yourself to run the race next June or to attend the regional jiu-jitsu competition in the fall, you know you have to get started and keep working at it to be ready to go when the time comes.

It’s important to make your goal health or fitness related, though. The problem with using a wedding or class reunion as motivation to get in shape is that people tend to stop working out once those events are over. When your goal has to do with your training, reaching that goal sets you up to continue the forward momentum. Once you run the marathon or place in the amateur masters bodybuilding or power lifting competition, you can start thinking about doing even better next year or competing in new contests.

Eat the Elephant

Getting back into working out is as easy as eating an elephant.

You know how to eat an elephant, right? One bite at a time. Take on your return to working out at the same pace. One step at a time. According to the Thought Catalog, sometimes it will go as slow as

  • deciding you’re going to work out
  • changing into your workout clothes
  • driving to the gym (or walking into your home gym, if you’re working out at home)
  • warming up
  • doing the first exercise, then the second, then the third, etc…

Often, even if it’s a struggle for the first four steps, by the time you do your first exercise, you won’t be resisting as much, if at all. The Thought Catalog also advises promising yourself that you can quit after 10 minutes of exercise if you’re still not feeling motivated. That’s kind of a dirty little trick because your endorphins will kick in, and you’ll usually start feeling pretty good before 10 minutes is up.

Finding the Energy

Eating foods with a low glycemic index keeps your energy up.

Much of the time, just the thought of working out is exhausting. If you don’t have the energy to get back in shape, make a few tweaks to your lifestyle. First, make sure you get enough rest. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep each night, but not getting your required amount will ensure you don’t feel like going through with it when it’s time to work out.

Adjust your eating habits, too. You don’t have to go on an all-out diet, just eat more foods with a low glycemic index, so you have the energy to work out. Harvard Health lists high-fiber veggies, whole grains and nuts (Brazil nuts, anyone?) to have a low glycemic index and reveals that protein and fat glycemic indexes rate almost at zero. Yep, that means exactly what it sounds like: fat is a better, more efficient food choice for energy than sugar.

Buddy Up

Having a workout partner gives you someone other than yourself to be accountable to.

If you really, really do want to start working out again, make a pact with a workout partner. Someone who has similar fitness goals and who will help keep you accountable to show up for workout dates. No fair turning off your phone or letting it go to voicemail! When you just cannot muster the gumption to put down the beer, get out of the easy chair, and get to the gym (or the track or the aerobics studio…) that’s when you need your workout buddy the most, so take his calls! Yes, his infinite enthusiasm is irritating, but payback is sweet revenge when he takes a turn at trying to ditch the workout. Make it interesting, if it helps. Anytime someone misses working out, they have to pay the other person $10. Or $50. Or $100. Whatever amount is low enough to be realistic, but high enough to hurt.

Important Things to Remember

If it’s been awhile since you were working out consistently, it might be a good idea to check with your doctor first, just to make sure you’re good to go. You won’t be able to jump right in where you left off, so take it easy and allow yourself to ease into working out again. Start slow and be mindful of your heart rate and how you feel physically, stopping if you recognize that you’re overdoing. Remind yourself how great you felt in those younger days when you did work out consistently. No, there’s no guarantees that you’ll feel 20 again, but you will feel better and that’s a fact. Set a goal to get three resistance training workouts in each week and 120 minutes of cardio, but be lenient with yourself. If you only do two days of resistance training and 90 minutes of cardio, you’re still doing fine according to the CDC. Just keep going, working out whenever and wherever it fits into your life and your schedule. Pretty soon it will be just another part of your life, like doing laundry or brushing your teeth. Just like it was back in the day.

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