For the first time in my life, I'm really enjoying the gym! Who knew?!
I turned 46 years old last week and can honestly say that I have never felt better! I am spending an hour in the gym four or five days a week and love the feeling of strength growing in my body.
When I decided to stop eating sugar, gluten and dairy and drinking coffee, soft drinks and alcohol, I lost weight without really trying. I lost muscle tone as well because exercise wasn't really something that inspired me. In the past, I would exercise to lose weight and as I was losing weight, I didn't see the point of regular exercise. I would swim a few laps in the pool or walk for half an hour, but nothing consistent.
Now, with regular exercise - a combination of weights and cardio - I can feel my body is stronger and more agile. I am sleeping really well and my concentration at work is sharp and consistent; I'm not reaching for the mid-afternoon snack anymore! I used to get upper and lower back pain from desk-work but that has gone now as I have more muscle strength to support my whole back area.
Here are my tips for beginning a new exercise rhythm in middle age:
1. Ask the gym instructor to make a little program for you so you don't push yourself too hard. Make the first appointment at a time that isn't very busy. This helped with my confidence, as there weren't many people around! Every six weeks, ask them to review the program and give you a new one. This will keep up your interest and confidence using the free-weights and weight machines.
2. Do the exercises slowly and really feel your muscles working. Take your time and make the commitment to your body to be present with every repetition. When you feel the strength building, you will know when to increase the weights or the repetitions. The gentle connection with my body really supported in my commitment to building strength.
3. Commit to going and stick to it - it's your body and you are worthy of the dedication and deserve the time for you. I prefer exercise in the morning and make the time every day to do some exercise. Weights in the gym three/four days a week and on the other days enjoy cardio - walking machine, cross trainer or a brisk walk around my neighbourhood.
4. Exercise in the morning is preferable. Exercise stimulates the nervous system so exercise in the evening can cause insomnia as the body is pumped with adrenalin following exercise.
5. Remember to eat lots of protein and reduce the amount of refined carbs and grains. This will give you more energy and you will feel less tired. I found that meat or fish and salad or green vegetables is a great energy source to support muscle development.
6. Smile! When you've been going for about four weeks, you will really start to enjoy the growing strength and flow in your body. I am not going to be entering any Miss Muscle competition, that's for sure! But the knowledge that I am building a strong body to take me into my fifties and sixties is the best health insurance I know!
Here's a little power shake recipe that I enjoy after a gym session ...
1 cup of coconut water
½ cup filtered water
1 scoop of 100% vegan pea protein powder - no sugar, no whey, no lactose, no chocolate/flavour
2 tablespoons nuts and seeds - whatever you like
1 tablespoon of frozen blueberries - or any berries
Blend in a blender till combined and smooth. Enjoy!