We have so many choices for How To Fitness. What should you be sure to include in your training in order to stay healthy and balanced?
LET'S ZOOM OUT
This is the really big picture: every time we exercise, we send a signal to our body that says we want to live. Every time we remain static for hours or days, we send our body the "I'm dying" signal. In response to these stimuli, our bodies build or break down ALL systems and organs, not just muscle.
In addition, as we age, any specific movements we repeat over days-months-years, we become deeply efficient at, which carves a deep groove into our muscle memory, strength, and access. Even the 'bad' movements. And unfortunately 'good' movement patterns we aren't practicing become ever harder to grasp and coordinate.
Here is a more specific list of ways to NOT miss out on optimizing our function and fitness as we age:**
1. Practice several components of fitness; not just one or two.
Imagine yourself someday making an excursion to hike 4 miles up a tall mountain with your adult children or your newly-retired close friends. You set out at 5 AM. The first few miles are slow and steady, challenging your aerobic system. Then comes the switchbacks: you can't catch your breath but you don't need a break yet! Then the altitude becomes a factor (you're hiking a 14'er in Colorado) just as you hit tree line. At the boulder field, muscular strength, endurance, and mobility are required to reach that next rock. Plus your aerobic system is still working hard. Three hours after you began, you hit the summit, sign the log book, and eat your smushed sandwich. It's a glorious memory for you to share with loved ones for years to come!
Doesn't that sound powerful and amazing?! I've actually been the 'adult child' with my parent, who wasn't able to make the final ascent, probably because work and "life" got in the way of training. It was not the way we wanted to finish the hike, so I KNOW this is true when I say that later, after exercise had become that parent's new full-time job, getting to the summit a couple summers later was not even in question.
To get "summit-ready," -- or whatever-you-want-to-do or however-you-want-to-feel-ready -- here's what we practice at Homegrown Fit, roughly in order of most-frequently to least-frequently practiced: muscular strength, anaerobic/lactate endurance, mobility, flexibility, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, and muscular & anaerobic power.
2. Move over a variety of planes, not just one.
There's an affliction that has swept through fitness centers and gyms over and over: training through the Sagittal Plane, AKA working the mirror muscles, or the muscles we can see in the mirror. This leads to imbalance between the front and the back of the body, which slowly becomes more apparent as we age. The 'hunchback' position we see in older adults is where we could be headed if we don't intentionally balance things out. We can gradually end up with rounded shoulders, a protruding chin, back aches, and the inability to complete necessary functions like looking both ways in traffic. This is even harder with the current electronic device/driving/sitting lifestyle we typically follow, which are also just "mirror non-movements."
Prevent this by regularly performing rotation and lateral flexion/extension movements, all with the hopes of preventing pain and dysfunction!
3. Focus on balancing dominant and non-dominant sides.
Another insidious way to end up with chronic pain or injury from "just bending to pick up" or "just reaching back to get" after years of relying on your dominant side to do the heavy lifting.
We can prevent this from happening by performing single-limb/single-side exercise on most days, using dumbbells, kettlebells, or body weight for added resistance.
4. Practice mobility and prehab regularly.
This component of training is critical to our fitness, especially as our fitness improves. Many weaknesses don't show themselves until we begin to perform at a level that the musculoskeletal weak point can no longer 'get by.'
Short-term stretching and foam rolling feel good but have temporary benefits. The real injury prevention and pain deflection comes with working the small muscles that are responsible for stabilizing around a joint while your prime movers do the big work. At Homegrown Fit we primarily work on the shoulder and the hip joint, and will be adding to that more regularly, the ankle and neck.
Where to begin?
We at Homegrown Fit address each of these components and delivers at least one of them on most days. If you want to start adding one or more of these practices into your at-home program, let's talk and get you started! I can also direct you to specialists if you have specific pain or concerns I can't help you with.
** Disclaimer: who am I to say what's best for someone else? I can only suggest that my theory of creating a balance between what most bodies needs will be the best choice for most people. **