Monday, November 18, 2013

now that that don't kill me can only make me stronger

You might think since I haven't talked about it in several months that I've stopped exercising, but that would not be the case. I can't think of much that would be more boring than me passing along to you the big news that I can now do four sets of eight overhead dumbbell presses with 10 lb weights. Yawn.

But it's NaBloPoMo and I need topics--we're only halfway through the month, you know--so you get an update on my exercise regimen. The current plan is weightlifting two days per week and a brisk 35-50 minute walk at least four other days per week. Lots of weeks I make it--in fact, it's not unusual for me to do some sort of exercise every day-- but other weeks I don't.

Slowly, very slowly, I've been inching along in my campaign to stop the slide down the slippery slope into mid-50s inactivity. It's difficult because as anyone over 50 can tell you, it's not what your body wants. Your body wants to be indolent, to gain weight, to sit in front of the tv or the computer or a bowl of ice cream or a good book and do nothing. It takes a certain amount of work--for me, it took three years of regular exercise--to get to the point where it felt good to exercise. I'm still not to the point where I want to put down whatever sedentary thing I'm doing and go do something active, but at least it feels good while I'm doing it.

I've always loved to walk, so that one isn't hard. But strength training was a hard sell for me. I resisted it for a long time. (*smirk*) You can google and find thousands of articles on the benefits, so I'm not going to re-hash all that here. I'll just tell you what finally swung me over to the pro-strength training side: about three or four months after I started doing it, I realized I was stronger. I could lift things I hadn't been able to lift before. I could pull myself up and out of bed in the morning using my abs instead of my back. I like being stronger.

The thing that has made the biggest difference in how my body feels is doing ab work. Except now you are supposed to call it core work. The big improvement in doing core work now as opposed to twenty years ago is that you don't have to do crunches anymore. Since I have a finicky neck (and crunches are notoriously hard on your neck), that is a good thing. You do leg lifts and plank pose and one particularly helpful exercise called dead bug. And having more core strength makes a surprising difference in everything. I feel different just walking across a parking lot. I'm in favor of this.

One major change I made in my fitness routine just happened last week. I've been a member of a fitness site called Fitocracy for almost two years now-- I joined on Janunary 2, 2012. For a long time, Fitocracy was a great place for me. They have a point system that rewards you every time you log a workout, which for some strange reason was a great motivator for me. That little kick of motivation got me over the hurdle of being a lackadaisical exerciser to being someone who exercises 6-7 days a week.

Fitocracy also pushed me to do things that I never thought I could do. When I first started working with weights, I was using 3 and 5 lb dumbbells. Now I only use the 5 lb for one particular exercise (side lateral raise), most of the time I use 8 or 10 lbs, and for a couple of exercises (goblet squats and one-arm rows), I manage to hold two dumbbells in one hand so I can do 13# or 16# at a time.

But of course if you lift at all or know someone who does, that is nothing. Most lifters are working on ten times that amount of weight (or considerably more). And that's why I finally left Fitocracy. Fito is for people who want to be real athletes--run a 10K, swim major distances, lift big weights. I'm not going to get there. I don't even really want to.

I'm getting the results I want with the itty bitty weights I use, and I'm not really interested in ratcheting the weights up and up and up. Partly just because I'm stubborn like that, but partly because when I tried to make the jump to big weights, I ended up with tendinitis and a tricky shoulder and numb, tingling hands. And when you're over 50, it takes a long time to come back from that stuff. There's a fine line between pushing yourself to work hard and injuring yourself in a way that might take a very long time and/or a very large amount of money to overcome.

Another user re-explained the Fitocracy point system to me recently--it's designed to reward continual improvement. Their goal is for you to continually exceed your previous bests. That's not what I want. I know myself well enough to know that I could push myself to do ever more difficult workouts for a certain amount of time--maybe four months or six months or possibly even a year. But eventually I would lose interest and quit. It wouldn't be sustainable for me.

And at this point in my life, what I want is a workout routine that I can do forever. That's only going to happen if it feels do-able for me and if I don't end up with debilitating injuries. I'm sure if I keep at it that I will make incremental improvements, but I also know--because in the two years I've been doing this kind of workout I've experienced it-- that injuries, illness, travel, and life intervene, and every time they do, I have to back up and start over. Maybe not completely over, but well below my previous bests.

I've known Fito wasn't working for me for months now, but I didn't want to give up that little bit of extra motivation. Then last week I discovered SparkPeople--I'm not sure why I never found it before, since it is huge. They have an exercise tracking system, but it is more oriented toward rewarding the amount of time that you spend exercising, rather than specific exercises. (At least, I think it is. I've only been there a few days.) the goal is to do something and do it consistently, rather than continuing to ratchet up and up and up. When I discovered that their group for people who are over 50 who are more interested in fitness than weight loss had over a hundred thousand members (on Fito, the over-50 groups tended to have a few dozen members at most), I realized I had found a place that was going to be more suited to my interests. I canned my Fito membership over the weekend. Onward.


  1. Sounds great, Barb! very positive change.

    1. Thanks, Eva! It's working out well so far. But I will miss seeing your workouts, and many other Fitos as well. I couldn't think of any way to say good-bye that wouldn't sound like I was trying to take people with me, so I just left. Hope your knee continues to get better!