How frequently have you caught yourself limiting your recreational activities or fitness pursuits using your "age" as an excuse?
We've all heard it: "Sorry, I'd like to go hiking, but at my 'age,' I'm happy to walk to the mailbox" — or any other of the countless reasons people use to justify inactivity. But despite all the excuses, the fact remains that activity can provide all of us with an improved quality of life at any age.
In our training center, clients will frequently use a quality-of-life activity to set goals relative to their physical condition. One client might want to be able to lift their grandchild as painlessly as possible. Another might want to have enough balance and leg-strength go fly-fishing again, and yet another might be highly vulnerable to falling and wants to develop the strength in her arms to prevent injury when the inevitable happens and she does fall.
What we have learned about fitness programs in general, is that motivation becomes easier when a quality of life goal or activity is the end-game. By setting event-based, or situation-based goals, a person's time in the gym can take on new meaning and provide purpose behind the physical demands of achieving a QOL goal.
Some of the recurring excuses I have observed can be overcome with a little patience, the right information, and assistance from others. Listed below are a variety of complaints that have come up in past conversations:
• "I hurt too much." This is almost like the chicken or egg analogy. Do you hurt because you exercised, or do you hurt because you haven't tried? Regardless of why you're in pain, one thing for certain is that there are many different activities and intensities one can apply as a means of fitness. Whether it's using a stationary bike to avoid full weight-bearing, or sitting to standing multiple times to rev metabolism and build leg-strength, there is an array of choices for any physical condition. Additionally, physical therapists, occupation therapists and physicians who specialize in the management of pain can help lessen the effect nagging injury have on an exercise program.
• "It's too late." It's never too late. The media is flooded with countless stories of people who have triumphed over physical ailments and used determination overcoming physical challenges or obstacles at every decade of life. Whether they were smokers who quit and now run marathons, or those traumatically injured who committed themselves to rebuilding their body, it's never too late to start.
• "I can't afford the equipment." Take a look at a gymnast, member of the U.S. armed forces after boot camp, or someone who must lift heavy tools for their job. Those bodies were honed by the cheapest resistance machine there is – gravity.
• "I'm too busy." My money says there is a window in your day that is not nearly as productive for you and not nearly as beneficial that could be spent exercising.
• "I can't build muscle at my age." Baloney. You can not only build muscle at any age, but you already have a significant amount of muscle that is waiting to be used. A huge piece of fitness is activating the muscles already in your body through proper resistance training and activities. Generally, people lose approximately 1 percent of their muscle mass per year after age 40 — but the greatest reason for this is because of inactivity. A well designed fitness program can significantly slow muscle loss at any age.
After all has been said and done, the greatest motivator to pursuing fitness is that it enables a person to have a greater spectrum of activities they can enjoy throughout their life.
My 86-year-old client Margie probably summed it up the best when she said, "I have been fortunate to have been given a body that has allowed me to live a long time. I figure that since I am that lucky, I might as well do as much for this body as I can, so that I can enjoy this life for as long as I can."
Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at 360-750-0815 and via email.