Featured Photo: June Lantz, Kenzai Member
As I approach 50, I’ve noticed changes in my body. Progress is slower and recovery takes longer. Shortcuts in my diet will have punishing consequences. It has me wondering how I should plan my approach to fitness as I age, and how I should advise my more senior trainees. As we endeavor to stay fit and focused with age, what adjustments should we make to stay healthy, injury free, and avoid burnout?
So I dug into some literature and talked to some people. I found some helpful articles, links below:
As I studied, all the tips and suggestions sounded smart and familiar. Which led to this simple epiphany: Do the things that are good for you. As we advance in years, we don’t need to change our practices, but all the things we know we are supposed to do become even more important. No skipping stretches after 50!
Here is my list of good for you things that are especially necessary for our more senior trainees.
1. Injury Prevention
Nothing will ruin your fit lifestyle faster than an injury. As you age, your body won’t heal as fast. One of your main responsibilities is to train in a way that is sustainable for the long run. Push your body in a way that promotes positive adaptation, but avoid going so hard that you risk sudden or overuse injury. Trainee June, 61, asks, “Am I working through pain that is an old injury that can sustain some weight bearing, or am I creating an overuse injury? Learn to know the difference.” This excellent note from Patrick Reynolds advises us to be cautious and go slow, especially when trying something new or returning to an activity after a long time: The Pulse: Why You Get Hurt
The Kenzai advantage: All Kenzai programs are designed with a ramp-up period to build strength, endurance, and mobility in a sustainable way. Follow the program and listen to your body (and trainer guidance), and you’ll be fine.
2. Warm-up and Warm-down
Every Kenzai trainer I talked to mentioned the importance of nailing the before and after workout components.
A good warm-up and warm-down will go a long way towards injury prevention and helping you feel good throughout the day. My trainer colleagues are laughing at me now- I hate the stretches! But in the last few years, I’ve taken them seriously.
The Kenzai advantage: Jumping rope, a hallmark of Kenzai training, is an excellent full-body warm-up for most exercises. Be it rope or otherwise, if you do your cardio first, you will be warmed-up and ready for resistance training. All Kenzai workout comes with a set of recommended post-workout stretches. Don’t skip them. Add in some foam-rolling and legs up the wall to enhance your recovery.
3. Muscle Mass, Mobility, Balance and Core strength
These physical attributes decrease with age, and losing any of these can impact your ability to live an active life. Let’s zoom in on muscle mass. It decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and the decline accelerates after the age of 60. But I have good news! These are averages, and you, dear trainee, are not average. You stick with programs, you eat veggies for breakfast and egg whites for dinner. You do burpees and Da Vincis. More good news - research says that genetics are responsible for only 25%–40% of healthy aging. This means the remaining 60%–75% comes from lifestyle and environmental factors. Trainee June says, “Weight loading is essential even if it’s just your own body weight. 30 minutes a day keeps assisted living away!” Plot out an annual training cycle that gives a little attention to each of these factors every day, and seasonally shifts more intensive focus on each of them.
The Kenzai advantage: Kenzai offers a whole pantheon of programs to help you address this. All the Body programs will build muscle strength. Iron (kenzai.com/training/kenzai-iron-program/) will take this to another level. I recommend Reach (kenzai.com/training/reach/) once a year to triple down on mobility, flexibility ,and balance. All Kenzai programs have a core strength section. Silver (kenzai.com/silver-program-overview/) brings all these together with senior-specific lessons and content.
4. Sleep and Recovery
Kenzai trainer Jim Matt is over-50 and fit as a fiddle. His secret: “Train smarter, not harder. That includes sleep. Eight hours per night is critical.” As we age, recovery takes longer. Yet sleep, the key period when recovery happens, can elude us. Most Kenzai programs contain a lesson on sleep hygiene. This post from trainer Cecilia Aiello emphasizes the myriad benefits of adequate slumber: The Pulse: Let's Talk About Sleep.
We talk a lot about nutrition and exercise in our community, but sleep is the key that unlocks the results we seek.
The Kenzai advantage: When on a Kenzai program you are eating clean, exercising vigorously, and avoiding alcohol. This is more than half the work you need in great sleep hygiene. Now turn off those screens an hour before bedtime, keep your bedroom cool, have a pre-sleep ritual, and do relaxing things late in the evening.
5. Try New Things & Be Social
As we advance in our age journey, we need to work on our cognitive fitness. You are already staying active, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Congratulations! Two other practices that correlate with mental acuity are trying new activities and being social: Biz Journals: 5 Ways Seniors Can Maintain Mental Acquity Doing new things, even as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or traversing the supermarket in the reverse direction, force your brain to be alert and fire up more neurons. It’s like doing brain burpees. Taking on something even more intensive like learning a new hobby or language (every year I tell myself this is the year I’ll learn Spanish) will push your brain into high gear. Additional fitness benefit: increased intellectual effort burns a lot of calories. Remaining connected to other humans is also essential to our brain functioning and general wellness. The pandemic has been rough on connection. Both my parents and kids miss lots of grandma and grandpa time. Virtual platforms help us keep connected. I hope you are also able to spend in-person time with people that fill you with energy - masked, distant, and outdoors.
The Kenzai advantage: We have dozens of programs that will keep you trying something new throughout the year. Curious about meditation? Try Mind (kenzai.com/training/kenzai-mind/). There’s a reason we are placed on teams in every program. Even cheering for each other on our journals builds connection and accountability.
6. Substitutes and Accommodations
Despite our best efforts, our aging bodies make things more complicated. That old shoulder injury may become a bum shoulder. My perennially tight hips may lead to decreased mobility. This need not prevent us from training to our fullest. We should proceed with more caution – including making substitutions for things that hurt or put us at risk.
The Kenzai advantage: We have dozens of exercises that will work the same muscle group. Your trainer will help you find an alternate for any exercise you can’t do. This infographic is a great place to start: Kenzai Full Body Exercise Substitutions
No matter what age you are, these recommendations will help you train in a sustainable, healthy way that allows you to focus on fitness for years and years to come.
Thanks to Jim, Barb, Ward, June, and Hailee for your counsel.
By: Ed Center // Kenzai Assistant Trainer & Member