I really hate hearing and seeing how people can’t move as they get older.
A big part of that is what we see in our own families – expectations. Our grandparents and parents stop moving and have aches and pains and therefore we believe it’s our destiny, too.
You have more control than you might believe and so I’ve put together some tips for you that will help you move better, feel better and stay strong and agile as you get older (and by older I mean anything past your mid-30s.)
- Practice focused breathing. Many women will skip this and figure, “Hey, I’m alive so I am breathing” but the issue is that everyone breaths incorrectly. We use accessory muscles instead of our primary respiratory muscles, putting undo stress on our neck, shoulders and even the upper back. This practice also hits our para-sympathetic nervous system – the “calm, rest & digest” system. Since stress can cause such things digestive disorders, heart disease, depression and more, it’s truly a health practice to re-engage, so to speak, your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Include regular mobility and soft tissue work. Your body conforms to your environment. Sitting at a desk, craning your neck to see the computer or working with your hands over a counter or table – it doesn’t matter what you are doing, if you do it for hours per day, day in and day out than your body will conform so that you can do that “job” more efficiently. Unfortunately, that can lead to stiffness and joints that don’t want to go through full ranges of motion. Mobility drills don’t take much time and give you a lot of bang for your buck. Same with foam rolling and other self-myofascial release work.
- Add plyo work. Power is the first fitness attribute to go – and I’m talking in your mid-30’s. Plyometrics (plyo for short)-sometimes called jump training – is training for power. If you search Plyometric exercise, you’ll see images of people jumping up to really high boxes, jumping over hurdles or jumping down from really high boxes. Luckily, you don’t have to do all that to get the benefit of plyo exercises. Skipping, carioca (grapevine), jump rope, squatting and then coming up to your toes and such all count as plyometric exercises.
- Do more than forward/sagittal plane moves. Exercise in different planes of motion. Master the sagittal plane, but then you’ll want to make sure you are doing rotation and frontal plane movement too. Our bodies were meant for all of it so practice all of it. Some ideas are lateral lunges, lateral step ups, turkish get-ups (or 1/4-1/2 TGUs), or med ball rotational slams.
- Include Core Activation and Anti-Core exercise. Every woman I’ve assessed has had core activation or “timing” inefficiencies. This just means that the core muscles are a bit slow to activate and big, primary movers like the quads are turning on first. The problem is – it’s backwards. The core is supposed to engage first to protect your low back and hips and then the large muscles fire up to do their big job like walking, running and lifting. Teach those deep core muscles to fire up first. Lower and upper body rolls, chop and lifts, core-engaged leg raises are just a few. Also, anti-core means Don’t rotate, don’t laterally bend – it’s the Don’t Allow exercises – anti-rotation, anti-lateral bend.
- Multi-joint exercise. No muscle group works alone. Everything is connected. Isolation exercises aren’t really isolation exercises anyway, but no sense in wasting time (unless you have it). How often have you carried something heavy or done some digging in the garden only used your bicep? Yeah, never.
- Carry heavy stuff. Carrying exercises is excellent for your heart and lunge and total body strength. Carry different loads, different positions and even different things – kettlebells, sandbags, grocery bags, plastic bags with skinny handles that dig into your hands – you get the idea.
- Single Leg exercises – Want to build lower body strength then do single leg exercises. Actives in life happen on one leg – walking, running, hiking, stepping and so on.
- Spend time working on your feet – Fee are your foundation and if they don’t feel good, you’ll become sedentary real fast! Get your feet out of regular sneakers and into some with a wide toe box (I like Xero brand, but there are a ton of options any more.) Foam roll the bottoms of your feet with a lacrosse ball, sit down and, using your hands, gently splay and lengthen each toe. Standing – work on separating your toes and lifting the big toe while the others remain on the floor and vice versa. Massage in between the metatarsals on the top of the foot. Stretch out the calf.