Dear Fitness Friday Girl,
I am not fit. I am not athletic. I am not strong. My body has never been my friend in this regard. I'm not exactly clumsy, but I'm not really coordinated either. I have rhythm since I'm musically talented, but I can't dance.
I've just never enjoyed physical activity. Even as a child it was not easy for me. Since I've been slender all my life I never had to worry about my weight. However, I'm now approaching 40 and things are changing. I have noticed a small gain, mostly around my middle. Let's just say I couldn't fit into my wedding dress anymore. Ugh. (Though I have birthed three children -- that's gotta count for something.)
FFG, the truth is, I haven't got the foggiest idea where to begin regarding exercise. Exercise looms like a fire-breathing dragon, like Mt. Everest in my path, and I am paralyzed with fear. My body is weak, my muscles are tight and sore, and my joints are swollen and painful because I have rheumatoid arthritis. I know I need to strengthen my body, not just to lose weight, but for my well-being and the health of my bones and muscles. I know that. But as I said, I haven't the foggiest idea how to start.
What would you advise a poor, pathetic soul such as me to do? Yoga? Walking? Wii Fit? (No running, please. Knees can't do it.) Weights? Could be a problem if my hands are very stiff. Some days are better than others.
Am I beyond hope now that I'm almost 40? Is it too late now to begin physical fitness after a life of sedentary-ness?
I know a fitness goddess like yourself is probably disgusted with a sloth like me, but have pity. If FFG wishes to answer me publicly, that's okay. Your kindness and expertise are appreciated.
Dear “Unfit” Girl,
Even though I hate addressing you that way, I want you to know that I was once in your shoes! Writing your letter I feel is 50 % of the battle.
Now before I even get started I hope you know that with Rheumatiod Arthritis you will need to contact your physician. The exercises that you will be able to do solely depends on the extend of your RA. They will also probably tell you the more you move the less stiff you may get. Now, keep in mind this is simple movements like walking, stretch, water areobics, etc. Keeping your joints active does help with this condition, but anything that is low-impact will be most beneficial for you. I have some issues with my hips due to some car accidents I was in. The harder I work them the stiffer they get. I always have pain in the when doing doing walking lunges or any kind of heavy squats. And for 3 days after the 10 K I ran on Halloween my hips ached beyond belief... which is why I probably never be able to to a full marathon! But let me share some tips with you...
I think that one of the easiest things to start off with when trying to get in the groove of exercising is simply walking. You can get great benefits by adding in a 30 minute walk every day. If you just starting out, walk at the same pace the whole time, then once your body gets adjusted start adding things to your walk to burn more calories. For example: You can start at your pace and gradually workup to a faster pace. You burn more calories when walking in intervals (intervals meaning: Slow pace for 5 minutes, your fastest pace for 2 minutes, and on and on). You can also burn more calories when doing uphill walks, or if you’re on a treadmill put it on an incline for a couple minutes, and then back down to a flat level.
Here are just “Some” of the benefits of walking:
• It's inexpensive, requiring little equipment other than a pair of sturdy shoes. There are no fees to pay, no courses to drive to, and it's as easy to do as strolling around the block.
• It's probably the safest form of exercise. Walkers stand little chance of developing shin splints, tennis elbow, or torn muscles, cartilage, or ligaments. About the only way you can hurt yourself is by tripping on the sidewalk.
• Walking is one of the most efficient, low-impact workouts available.
• Walking offers a host of long-term benefits, which were outlined in the study. Among the findings: women who walked briskly (3-4 miles per hour, or one mile every 15-20 minutes) had a 54% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. Walking also lowers blood pressure, improves the cholesterol profile, lowers the risk of osteoporosis, and may lower the risk of certain kinds of cancer. There is also evidence that walking helps reduce stress.
• Walking may also reduce the discomfort of the commonest forms of arthritis. In addition it can help with weight loss, one of the most commonly recommended interventions for osteoarthritis.
Read the Realage Article here
I walked after giving birth to my two children, and then would slowly increase my pace leading up to a jog for 3-5 minutes, and then walk again. By doing this it builds up your endurance levels allowing your body to go further distances. I used to huff and puff to get to 2 miles, and just a mere 2 ½ weeks ago I ran my first 10 K (6.2 miles), running for 1 hours straight! I am very aware that running might not be for everyone, trust me, it wouldn’t be for me if I didn’t have my “things” to keep my mind occupied. My things are: When I run on a treadmill I read a book. Yes, I said that correctly, it’s my daily reading time and I cherish every minute of it. Now when I run outside, I never leave home without my ipod shuffle. I usually download songs that have steady beats so that it helps me to keep the pace. Music is HUGE for me. So, find something that can “distract” you a bit, but yet help you to push yourself out of your comfort zone… find your niche!
As for the next step, I would add in some resistance training. I’m not asking you to go to the gym and crank out multiple sets on the bench press. You can go as simple as doing bicep curls with canned goods! There are also things like resistance bands where you can work the muscles a bit easier then lifting heavy weights. But depending on the resistance they can also be equally hard depending on what you’re looking for!
If you’re looking to tone do light weight with more repetitions. For example, use 5 lb dumbbells and do 20-30 reps of bicep curls. If you are looking to build your muscle then do heavier weights with less repetitions. Example: 10 lb dumbbells doing 10-15 reps of bicep curls.
Don’t forget that you can also modify bigger body weight moves. Like pushups: If you can’t do a regular push up, then drop to your knees and do them. Don’t ever get down on yourself for dropping to your knees. When I first started out I could only do about 5 regular pushups and then would have to drop down. Now I can do over 25 regular pushups without stopping!
When I’m lifting I also love to listen to music. I tend to listen to music that makes me want to push myself harder. Because thinking of working out in dead silence seems a bit boring to me!
I can’t express how glad & proud that you asked Fitness Friday girl this question. I know there are a ton of people out there who have realized they need to do something to get healthier and just don’t have a clue as to where to start. Every one is different, and everyone has their own niche, or something that makes them motivated. For me it’s running, lifting, P90X, dancing, Jillian Michaels, and all around just being healthy and fit. For you, it might be swimming, water aerobics, a low-impact aerobics class, or playing with your kids at the park! Whatever it is find it because you won’t regret it!
Always remember that there are “fitness junkies” like myself who are here for support and accountability. I wish you the best of luck with what lies ahead for you!
PS… Don’t forget to check out the suggestions that Sandy has when it comes to getting started in fitness.