Maybe you have noticed over the past few years that your midsection has expanded and the typical exercises you used to rely on aren’t working anymore. Welcome to middle age, my friends, because it’s a curse that all of us have to bear. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still feel young again- it’s just going to take a different mindset and some new cardio routines.
For starters, it’s time to officially retire your treadmill, stair climbers, elliptical machines and stationery bikes. Just haul them straight to the curb and forget about them, because they could actually be a big part of the problem here. Let me explain.
As we age, our bodies naturally want to keep a little extra around the midsection as an extra source of energy. That’s why our thighs, waistline and buttocks start to expand a bit around our 40th birthday, and you’ll consistently gain 1-3 pounds per year if you stick to the status quo. Combine that with natural muscle loss (remember, muscle burns fat!) and it’s a fashion recipe for disaster.
What I mean by that is your twenty minute calorie burn on the treadmill ten years ago was great exercise…because your metabolism was already high and there was less fat to burn. But in our 40’s and 50’s, it simply lets you maintain your current level of fitness.
In order to burn off those extra calories that your body insists on keeping around, it takes short, high intensity workouts combined with some simple strength training to tighten up our core. So let’s run through a typical daily workout to keep you in peak health-
Power Up Your Core with Perfect Planks
Back in high school, your PE teacher likely had you do three sets of core busting sit-ups in order to keep your abs in shape. Then a little later in life, maybe you switched to crunches since it was easier on the back. What you didn’t know, however, is that planks are the ultimate tummy workout since they work all four abdominal muscle groups at once.
Now, you may have noticed that the sub-title above says, “Perfect Planks.” That’s definitely the goal here since cheating won’t strengthen your core, and repeated bad form can actually lead to lower back issues.
To perform a perfect plank-
- Get in a “push up” position with only your hands and feet on the ground
- Lower your elbows down to the floor in order to steady yourself
- Raise/lower your butt so it’s perfectly aligned with your feet and shoulders
- (if you’re doing it correctly, you will resemble a plank of wood)
- Tighten your stomach muscles and hold in this position as long as possible
- If the position is too difficult, start on your knees to work up to a full plank
Again, the goal here is to perform 3-5 sets of “perfect planks”, and in an ideal world you’d hold the position for at least 60 seconds each time. But if you can only hold the pose for 8 seconds before your rear end starts to raise/drop, then that’s what you do. Just keep the focus on perfect form.
Tighten the Torso with Squat Jumps
Remember earlier when I said that muscle naturally burns fat? That’s exactly why we want your abs, hips, thighs and butt as toned as possible to fight off fat in the midsection. So I’, going to introduce you to another exercise that nicely compliments planks- it’s the squat jump.
To perform a perfect squat jump, you’ll want to keep your back 100% vertical throughout the exercise. If you’re struggling to do so, practice the squat part against a wall until you can do it comfortably. Here’s the actual squat jump-
- Bend at the knees until your legs are parallel to the floor (like you’re sitting in a chair)
- Extend your arms down to the ground or at an angle behind you
- Jump hard towards the ceiling while extending your arms upwards
- Once you land, go back into the squat position and repeat steps 1-3
Try to perform as many squat jumps as you can in 20 seconds, followed by a 10-15 second recovery time. Start with 3-5 sets at first, and aim to work your way up to ten sets for 30 seconds each. I know it’s a tough ask, but you’ll begin to see (and feel) dramatic results in no time.
Restore Youth through Resistance Training
Finally, I want you to invest in a set of quality resistance bands to work your other muscle groups. For instance, the fat on the back of your arms can be toned through basic, everyday push-ups, but there are also numerous curls and rows that you can perform if you’re not quite in push-up shape. The same goes for working your legs, back, shoulders and other arm muscles.
I’ll try to put together a complete resistance band workout in the upcoming weeks.
One final tip for those of you that will hang onto your ellipticals and exercise bikes; aim for shorter-duration, high intensity workouts that quickly leave you out of breath. Five minutes on level 15 will yield much greater dividends than thirty minutes at the slowest setting…so be sure to mix it up a little and keep your body guessing about what you’ll throw at it next. This ensures that you’ll get the most out of every workout.
And one more thing for you ladies that don’t work out at all- it is never too late to start! There is no such thing as failure when exercising because every repetition directly increases your cardiovascular and overall health. So start slow if you have to; that part doesn’t matter nearly as much as actually getting started in the first place!