Do you ever get discouraged on your exercise journey? Do aches and pains get you down? If you are over 50, the answer is probably, yes!
Does that automatically become your reason for not exercising?
I have heard so many excuses for why people cannot exercise, I could write a book. No kidding.
But a good percentage of those excuses are not that great. Yes, they may be great reasons to the person who has the excuse, but I have seen many other people with very valid reasons not to exercise who still find a way. They alter their exercise path and keep plugging along.
For instance, a YMCA member who broke her arm was back the next day exercising with modifications that protected her arm — AND she was over 70 years young! She 100 percent had a valid reason not to exercise, but she did not use that excuse.
I personally have had just about every injury associated with exercise: plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, shin splints, ACL tear R and L, meniscus tears, low back pain, bunions and a few more. It just goes with the territory, and women who exercise a lot are prone to some of these problems.
As of late, I am feeling my age more as my body starts to signal me to slow down or modify some of my exercises, which I am trying to learn to listen to. But I refuse to stop because my knee hurts or my foot hurts. Not going to happen.
I have learned that my classes and the other activities I do outside the YMCA make my joints and body feel better, 100 percent of the time. Not to mention how awesome exercise makes you feel mentally.
I recently was listening to a podcast in which someone said that your body is like an answering machine; it gets messages all the time that we delete or never listen to for some reason.
That really hit home with me. I know I have been guilty of not listening to these messages, and I suspect you have too. I am starting to understand how important it is to listen.
But I am not saying stop exercising. Not at all. I have been preaching modification for 35 years. At some point in life, every athlete must modify.
If your shoulder is injured, do your legs stop working too? Can you walk around the block, or ride a stationary bike?
If you have a knee problem, do your arms quit working? Can you lift weights with your upper body?
You can change your focus — but first you must want to do that. I know some people are just more motivated by exercise than others. Maybe it is how they were raised, or maybe they just figured out that exercise is the key to their physical health. But many folks pile on excuse after excuse as to why they cannot exercise.
Age-related aches and pains should just direct us to do things a little differently. As we age, we will discover that naturally our bodies slow down, and our performance is affected. Those changes can also be on the cellular level. Changes in sleep patterns or weight gain can also slow us down. All these are valid reasons to use a different approach.
If this rings a bell for you, take time to ask an expert how you can remain active while working around your issues.
Sometimes a week-long rest from exercise may do the trick.
Sometimes you may need to completely change up your routine. If you normally take classes, maybe hit the pool instead. If you like to run, try some fitness classes.
Some aches and pains are plain old overuse syndrome from doing something repetitive. In that case, change is a good thing.
If you are healthy enough to exercise, then do not pass up that chance. Work around your issues. Modify, but be smart about your approach.
Next time you have an exercise excuse, ask yourself how valid that excuse really is. My guess is if you are being honest with yourself, you may end up exercising after all.
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.