HOW TO GET FIT AND STRONG IN YOUR LATE 30’S AND 40’S
One of the reasons I founded Mya Care is due to my own personal experience of trying to navigate through the healthcare system for solutions when I was injured back in 2009. One day, a month after I turned 30, I woke up with horrible back pain. Even though I went to a few doctors, many told me I had a muscle spasm and sent me home with painkillers. Six months later, the pain had moved to my leg, and my cousin referred me to a doctor in India. It was then I was finally told to get an MRI, which showed a disc prolapse with significant compression on my left sciatic nerve that was causing left leg pain and weakness.
The doctors told me I should consider surgery, but I decided to take the natural route of chiropractic care instead. Even though the pain reduced over the next year with chiropractic care, I had trouble finding the right physio or personal trainer to help me regain the lost strength in my left leg. This meant almost a decade of leg pain, Achilles tendonitis, ankle pain, back spasms, and the general frustration of not being able to join my friends in hiking or spinning classes without pain.
At the age of 39, again dealing with a back spasm, and realizing that 40 was around the corner, I decided that this could not go on for another decade. Through extensive research online, I finally found a physiotherapist that understood how to help me and a personal trainer who dealt with injuries. Although there were covid lockdowns, which meant some interruptions to the training process, today, a few weeks short of my 43rd birthday, I feel I can finally now do all the things that I couldn’t before, and more, and am finally at a point of feeling strong. I recently even managed to hike 50km over 3 days in Europe, whereas just a few years ago, walking for more than a few kilometers without ankle or leg pain was a struggle.
In this article, I provide some of the steps that helped me get fit and strong in my late 30s to early 40s.
You shouldn’t expect too much of yourself when you first start exercising or if you are recovering from an injury. Start slowly and make progress at your own pace. Pushing yourself too much will only set you back on your journey towards getting stronger and fitter.
Don’t Let Pain Stop You. For those who struggle with aches and pains, starting might look to be almost impossible. Pain is definitely a challenge when trying to get physically active, yet physical activity is often part of the solution for overcoming chronic pain. If a muscle is sore, it does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the muscle. In many cases, it is just that the muscle is weak, and it’s important to spend time strengthening it to improve the outcome. Of course, it is important to check with your doctor, but often, the solution is regular exercise.
Keep At It. Once you start, do your best to keep motivated so you don’t stop. Consistency is very important, as well as repetition. If you find your routine boring, you can change it up to keep it interesting, as long as you still manage to work all your major muscle groups.
Getting a Trainer. For those that battle with structuring their own routine, I can highly recommend getting a trainer like I did. If you find a trainer, make sure they have experience with injuries and that they do not try to push you in the wrong way. Additionally, It is important that you start from the very beginning with basic bodyweight exercises. My trainer got me very comfortable with basic squats, lunges, clam shells, and glute bridge exercises before even considering adding weightlifting into the picture.
Get Comfortable with Physical Achievement. When you get fit enough, don’t be afraid to get comfortable lifting heavier weights. The idea can seem daunting at first, yet just think of the many more daily tasks that will become far less daunting in the long run. The fitter and stronger you are, the more effortless life becomes. Remember that you need to be able to handle that 25kg suitcase when you travel alone.
Understanding Brain and Body
The power of the mind is not to be underestimated. If you are recovering from an injury or just dealing with aches and pains, it is important to understand how pain works, how the brain works, and that the brain can be a prediction machine.
The Brain and Pain. For every experience we perceive, the brain forms an association which can be referenced later, like a memory. Pain is no exception. While the body informs the brain of painful sensations, it is the brain that services the memory of the pain to prevent future harm. In this sense, the brain is able to predict future pain.
Mind Over Matter. Over time, this protective mechanism can become a habit that is difficult to break, especially when planning to exercise a painful area of the body. Yet it is also because of this mechanism that the mind can intervene in a positive way that allows for change. The more you repeat exercises and create new memories, the less your brain will freak out and see it as a threat. Eventually, through forming new associations and by getting the body to become stronger, the memory of pain can be updated in line with a fitter, stronger you.
Warming up, slowly and gently, is vital for getting your body ready for a workout. Stretching helps to loosen up the body and improves blood circulation. Studies show the connection between stretching before exercise and reductions in pain . By starting off this way, you can help yourself to take the next steps by easing into your exercise.
Be Patient and Gentle with Yourself. When you stretch, take your time to work through the major muscles of your body. Use a variety of stretches and warmups, and be gentle. Dynamic stretching that warms up the body serves to lower the risk of injury during exercise. When holding a stretch, do not overdo it. Stretching still counts as a form of exercise that is known to cause injuries. 15-30 seconds should be sufficient for loosening a muscle.
Breathing is an important part of stretching the body. Consider yoga, not just for stretching but also for breathing. Yogic breathing, as well as slow deep breathing, can mildly reduce our perception of pain. Coupled with stretching and warmups, this helps make exercise easier and more enjoyable, especially for those who are in pain or recovering from an injury.
To become strong and healthy, exercise that ups your cardio fitness is vital. Getting your blood pumping allows you to absorb more oxygen, helps to stabilize metabolism, and boosts your energy levels. These factors contribute to overall health, longevity, and graceful aging. This is made all the more obvious when you realize what sitting all day does to your health.
Ease into Cardio. In the beginning, you don’t need to go crazy to build your cardio fitness. In fact, it’s best to take it at your own pace. If running is not your thing, go for a walk, start swimming, hiking, dancing, or any other physical activity that you really enjoy. The key is to move as much as possible, in a way that makes you feel good, and not to push yourself too much. The more enjoyable the exercise, the easier it is to break a sweat! It shouldn’t feel like a chore. With time, you will be able to do more exercise at a higher intensity that suits you.
Invite Your Friends. Remember that we are made to move and to be social. Physical activity is almost always better when you get your friends to join in. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee, meet them for a walk or try a new activity. As an example, I recently started rock climbing with friends as a Sunday activity. Getting outside of your comfort zone is a great way to keep life interesting while creating new memories that expand the horizons of both body and mind. Unlike coffee, this form of refreshment will encourage long-lasting friendships that emphasize a better quality of life, health, and aging.
Spend Time Outdoors
When we get outdoors, we allow our bodies to immerse in fresh air, sunlight, and nature’s greenery. We need all these elements to bring our bodies into balance. Together, all of them provide us with numerous health benefits, many of which promote graceful aging, as well as improve mental health, blood pressure, and quality of sleep. Being in nature also encourages physical activity and social well-being, both of which help in getting fit and enriching life.
Sun. Getting moderate doses of sunlight is an excellent way to get more vitamin D3, lower pain, and relax. In those recovering from surgery, sunlight exposure reduced the painkillers they needed to make it through recovery. For those with injuries, exercising outdoors or even just spending a little time in the sun each day can help to improve the recovery process.
Active holidays. Time outdoors can be enhanced by traveling into new environments and exploring new terrain with friends. My friends and I enjoy organizing active holidays abroad, where we travel to a new country to enjoy hiking along foreign mountains and trails. Traveling, experiencing something completely new, and exercising with friends does wonders for toning down old associations and creating new, uplifting memories.
When looking at your diet, remember that balance is the most important thing to focus on. Make sure you get enough proteins, fats, and carbs in your diet, as all of them are equally required. Don’t restrict yourself with healthy foods or make any set of nutrients the “enemy”. It’s vital that you develop a good relationship with your diet. Understand food, and that it’s meant to nourish you.
Avoid eating processed foods where possible, as the additives and processing methods tend to reduce the nutritional value of the food. Some of these foods have been shown to increase pain levels in the body as well.
Digestible Protein for Muscle Repair. During exercise, especially when just starting out, the muscles of the body tend to break down a bit before repairing and building extra muscle. Eating a meal that includes a decent portion of protein and carbs, either before or after you work out, helps with muscle repair . Protein digestion is important if one wants to benefit from proteins, which demands balancing them out with enough fiber and keeping your gut healthy.
Take Time for Recovery
For those getting fitter who have painful conditions or injuries, there are plenty of ways in which you can streamline the process towards recovery. Various therapies are available that can help to decrease body pain, improve mobility, and encourage you to keep getting strong. These include:
- Dry Needling. This therapy has been used to lower muscle pain and stimulate muscle tissue regeneration. Dry needling is good for anyone with injuries, musculoskeletal pain, pulled or inflamed muscles, as well as tendonitis.
- Massage. Regular massage appointments with a qaulified massage therapist go a really long way towards easing the muscles, reducing fatigue, and getting rid of any residual stiffness post exercise. If you’re planning to do some intensive exercise, make sure to book a massage appointment soon after!
- Physiotherapy. Seeing a physiotherapist is a great way to make sure you’re on the right track, especially if you have limited mobility, injuries, aches, pains, or want to learn more about staying fit and healthy. A physio can fine-tune your fitness regimen in a way that enhances physical recovery and rehabilitation, as well as limit potential mistakes that may set you back.
If you’re battling to find credible physicians and therapists near you, don’t forget to check out Mya Care’s database of world-class professionals. We’re here to help!
Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate
On the note of choosing the right therapist, just remember that you’re in charge of your own health. Doctors can make suggestions for what treatment may be best for your specific case, yet they don’t have the final say. You do. Know that you are the best advocate for your own healthcare, that there are many types of doctors and that you can insist on a treatment that you feel might work for you best. Had I known this sooner for myself, I would have opted for an MRI much earlier on. Instead, I was repeatedly sent home with painkillers, which merely masked the problem without tackling the true cause.
Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of any treatment option that you’re offered, as it may just cause more trouble for you in the long run. For example, my doctor recommended I get surgery after the first MRI. Looking back, I know it might have been unnecessary, especially considering that I would have likely needed to go the route I did anyway to recover completely.
No one said the road to recovery is easy, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it. Through persevering and getting fitter, I and many others managed to overcome age-related health problems that stood in the way of living our lives to the fullest. Keeping your body strong is the secret to aging well. Through consistent physical activity, the body will change over time for the better.
Remember to work at it from all angles, exercising all muscle groups and increasing your cardio fitness levels. For this, you may need to consult with a personal trainer and physiotherapist. Stretch before your workouts, breathe, and eat a wholesome diet that encourages growth and regeneration. Above all, try to enjoy the journey! Get outside and spend time being physically active with those you care about.
Lastly, don’t forget about the world of physical therapists at your disposal who can really make a difference, especially if you are recovering from an injury or in pain. Regular massage, dry needling, and many other therapies are there for you to help reduce pain and make the process more comfortable.
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Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from myacare.com.
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