Turning 40 is no joke, it’s a major transition in one’s life… my take on it was pretty much life-changing! With this change comes a multitude of adjustments, including having to adapt your exercise regime. The older you get, the more you start to notice that your body responds very differently to food, exercise and late nights, to name only a few things.
Your metabolism is not as fast as it used to be, your muscles respond to weight-bearing exercise a lot slower than they did ten years ago, and you might take longer to get used to cardiovascular exercise and feel the benefit of it. This is ageing, and it’s nothing to get downtrodden about. It simply means that you need to adapt the way you exercise in order to fit in with your new age group. You won’t snap back into shape like you did when you were 20 and your younger counterparts will have to put in a lot less effort than you… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done and you can’t look great, feel fabulous and maintain a great level of fitness!
Here are a few excellent fitness tips for women over 40, based on my own personal experience and what works for me. I’ve spent decades involved in health and fitness, and was a personal trainer, aerobics instructor, Pilates instructor, yoga instructor and all-round fitness enthusiast… so I always simply apply what I know to my ever-changing body. So far, so good!
This is my personal combination of exercise preferences that suit me as a forty-year-old.
1. Plank For Ultimate Core Strength
Your core is the centre of your entire being and it’s the machine that keeps everything else running smoothly, fluidly and with strength and purpose. If you have a weak core, you will see the effects of this in so many other areas of your body too. A strong core helps you maintain stronger legs and arms too as by extension, the strength helps you carry out all exercises with more precision and focus.
A strong core will help you hold yourself upright, it will prevent back pain and injury and it will naturally tone and strengthen your abdominal area too, which is always a win! By lengthening out and holding yourself taller the muscles also get a chance to extend.
I recommend planks for ultimate core strength because they are easy to do and they always deliver results. I have so many great core exercises that I will always continue to share via my Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channels, so keep checking back. But for now, you can consult this workout here to get going! All of these exercises are geared towards a stronger core. You can also join me at any time for online fitness classes where planks are often the order of the day.
2. Push Ups For Lifelong Strength
I used to hate push-ups because I never had the strength to do them. I always thought they were more geared towards men, which is the most ridiculous notion I could ever have concocted! Not only are push ups fantastic for women to do, but they are also an incredibly empowering exercise. You really can feel the absolute strength and magnificence of your body when you pull off a set up perfectly executed push-ups.
I started with five per day and progressed from there. Then to 10, then 15 etc. I currently am able to do 20 comfortably and I do them as often as I can. I do them for upper body strength, for core strength, to help keep my back strong and toned and also just because I love knowing that my body is capable of them.
If you need to, start with your knees on the ground, but don’t get too comfortable there! Your body is a lot more capable than you give it credit for. My daughter told me she couldn’t do a single push up. So I put her into the right position and told her to drop and try to give me one. She managed to do three in a row after believing that she couldn’t do one. Our minds can sometimes be our worst enemies!
3. Cardio-Vascular Exercise Kicks Butt
Keeping your heart healthy as you grow older is a key to feeling fit and fabulous and also maintaining a longer life, free of complications. Cardiovascular exercise is anything that gets your heart rate up. From brisk walks to running, to ashtanga yoga, to dancing, swimming, skateboarding or rollerskating, cycling or using the cardio equipment at the gym. The trick is to find the cardio that you enjoy and then stick with that. If you enjoy running on the treadmill in front of the TV while your favourite soapies are on, then do that! If you love swimming, then go for it!
I like to mix things up as I get bored with just one type of exercise. Some days I run about 4.5km. I have a great little route in my area with hills and lots of trees and some nice flat bits and downhills. It’s a great, well-rounded route so I will try and do it about two to three times a week. There are days when I DO NOT feel like running, so I will walk. I also enjoy skipping rope, because it’s a quick and easy way to get in a great workout, and I absolutely adore ashtanga yoga too, which definitely has a cardio element to it.
The point is to just go with what your body wants, but also to know that you can’t coast forever… every now and then you need to challenge yourself, push a boundary and go that little bit further.
Here’s a great little water workout that you can do this Summer that will help you maintain great cardiovascular health, but also give you something to do instead of floating around the pool on your lilo.
4. Weight-bearing, Strength Training For Healthy Bones And Joints
As we age, our bodies start to show signs of the years of abuse, toil and trauma. As a wakeboarder, I have very “iffy” knees from landings and not-so-clean landings. The only way around these tell-tale signs of getting older is to keep the joints mobile as much as possible, and also to strengthen the muscles around them. So many people suffer from weak, rickety knees and often this is as a result of injury, but it can also simply be due to immobile joints and weak muscles. If you strengthen the muscles that support your knee, you will find added mobility and strength in that area.
The same goes for hips, ankles, wrists, elbows and shoulders. We are only as young as we allow ourselves to feel so why should we limit ourselves? Every week – I aim for two to three times per week – I will do a strength training routine after a walk or a run. I do the walk or run first to warm up the joints and muscles and then I get on the weight-bearing exercise. I sometimes use weights, but also like to only rely on body weight at times. You don’t have to use weights to be doing weight-bearing exercise, but they definitely do help. Your body offers sufficient weight for the exercises to be more than beneficial, but when you get to a point of the exercise becoming too easy, then you need to step it up a notch by using weights.
Squats and lunges are my go-to for legs, hips and buttocks, push-ups for my upper body. Here are a few weight-bearing strength training exercises that you can try at home.
5. Yoga For Mind, Body And Soul
My yoga of choice is ashtanga yoga. I used to teach it, but now just do it for myself at home. Ashtanga yoga is a lot more fluid and flowing than a standard Hatha yoga class. It is jam-packed with poses that challenge my body and mind and it makes me feel completely energised afterwards. There are so many different types of yoga that you can benefit from and a multitude of exceptional studios that offer classes.
Yoga is the perfect balance to all the other types of exercise I’ve mentioned here as they complement the fast-paced, strength inducing side with passive, gentle, extensions, but also a lot of strength and weight-bearing work too. The flexibility and range of motion that you gain with yoga is phenomenal. Especially if you do a lot of weight-bearing or strength training exercises, which naturally shorten your muscles. Yoga is there to bring everything back into balance.
The main reason I love yoga is for my mind and heart. To ground me and bring me back down to earth. To remind me about who I am and what’s important. I have learnt the most beautiful and profound lessons on my mat and I continue to learn with each time I practice.
Where yoga is concerned, I would recommend attending a class where you can, especially if you’ve never done it before.
If you can incorporate all of this into your week, then you will no doubt be rocking and rolling towards your fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond! The forties are a magnificent time of self-assured living so we only need to help our bodies keep up with the progression!