An important topic for athletes to consider are the changes to make in your exercise habits as you age. Though my older friends disagree, when I divide 90 by 3, it puts in solidly in the middle aged category. Personally I think their disagreement is their own denial but it makes for a lot of fun conversations. As I have gotten older, I have had to change my exercise habits to keep the injuries at bay and feel good post workout.
When I was in grad school, it was nothing for me to go to a step aerobics class in the morning and a high impact aerobics class in the afternoon. Exercise is my Prozac and increasing the stress levels, just means I need more exercise to combat it. Fifteen years later, even one step aerobics class would probably leave me sore and twisted up for a week so I have needed to change my exercise habit as I have aged.
As I have started rounding the corner on 40, I have to add in activities that keep me limber and strong. Cross fit and old school weight lifting have gone away and I have replaced the 140lb squats with one legged squats on unstable surfaces or using TRX bands. I have also added in a pilates class at least once a week. If you haven’t tried pilates, it is hard as heck.. It took me going twice a week for two months before I was strong enough to not have back pain afterwards. If you have done pilates and it didn’t kick your butt, you weren’t paying attention to form and you were doing it wrong.
As far as running is concerned, I love running. Not because it feels good on my body, but because its very nature calms my mind. When I developed an awful case of plantar fascitis a few years ago, it was time to change that up. Obviously, I couldn’t run for awhile however, I fell in love with biking. I still run on occasion with my big dog trotting not too far behind but mainly I bike. My feet, knees and back feel better now and I find it a great stress reliever. As you age, runners need to focus on strength building and rest days from running.
As for feeling better in the morning post exercise, we really need to stretch after our workouts. When you are younger, you can get away without stretching for a short time but take advantage of that too much when you are young and you develop really shortened muscles and a lot of stiffness that doesn’t have to be there. Does stretching always feel good? Absolutely not but you still need to do it. As far as how far to push yourself; if you can’t breathe there, you shouldn’t be there.
One last thing, don’t underestimate recovery days. I fully subscribe to the theory of “everyone needs to break a sweat every single day”. However, some of those days I do it by hitting up a big Three Rivers Park and going on a seven mile walk. Though I would feel as if I cheated the workout gods when I was 23 by walking, now, that definitely counts as exercise.
The biggest thing you can do to keep your body limber, fit and injury free is to change what you do every day. Using different muscles and joints in different directions is the key to spreading out the force and keeping your body healthy as you (we) age.