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The Strength Training Guide for Women Over 40 #Health #fitness #wellbeing

Health & Fitness

The Strength Training Guide for Women Over 40 #Health #fitness #wellbeing

the strength training guide for women over 4015 strength training tips for women over 40 and nutrition and lifestyle considerations for stages of menopause.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010, over 41% of the U.S. female population was 45 years of age or older. But flip through a women’s fitness magazine or scroll through fitness-related articles and you’d think it’s a much smaller percentage, due to their underrepresentation. (I’m to blame too. I haven’t provided information specifically for this group until now.)

As we get older, our needs and goals change. Our strength training workouts will likely be different in our 50s compared to what we did in our 20s. To ensure we still make progress and remain healthy and injury free, there are some adjustments you can make to your workouts. Let’s begin with strength training tips for women over 40, then we’ll discuss nutrition and lifestyle considerations for menopause, since that brings more changes into the mix.

Strength Training Tips for Women Over 40

Every woman, regardless of age, should strength train and do it for the rest of her life (there are numerous overlooked benefits to strength training, so it should be part of your life). There are tips we can use as we get older to ensure we stay safe and pain-free with our strength training, and to maximize our efforts in the gym. While these following tips are for women approximately 40 and older, they’re also beneficial for trainees who have a history of injuries, arthritis, or lots of aches and pains. (I’m in my 30s and practice most of these tips.)

Keep in mind some of these tips may be more applicable to women in their 40s, and some to women in their 60s and up. Everyone is different, so do what’s best for you.

1. Don’t skip a general warm-up; consider lengthening it. Before you start strength training, perform a general warm-up. Low-impact activities would be ideal, such as using a stationary bike or other piece of cardio equipment. This doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes; just get your blood moving. If you’re feeling ‘stiff’ (and especially during cold months), add a few more minutes than usual. A good rule of thumb is to break a light sweat.

2. Perform more warm-up sets for strength training exercises. Some trainees find that as they’ve gotten older, they feel and perform better when they perform an extra warm-up set or two for their strength training exercises. Increase the weight gradually while decreasing the reps; it’s okay to do more warm-up sets than you used to. Take the time to prepare your body for the work it’s about to do.

As an example, let’s assume you’re going to perform goblet squats for your first exercise, and you’re aiming for 45 pounds for a set of 10 reps or so. Here’s how you can warm-up:

  • Warm-up set 1: bodyweight squat x 10 reps
  • Warm-up set 2: 15 pounds x 8 reps
  • Warm-up set 3: 25 pounds x 6 reps
  • Warm-up set 4: 35 pounds x 5 reps

You may want more (especially with exercises that allow you to handle more weight) or fewer sets (for exercises that require less weight, like a dumbbell shoulder press), but play with a gradual increase in weight and see how you feel.

Note: How important is warming up? Let’s put it this way: it you’re short on time you should remove a set of two from the workout instead of skipping the warm-up.

3. Use primarily joint-friendly tools and exercises. For example, using dumbbells for a bench press is easier on many trainees’ shoulders and elbows, when compared to a barbell bench press, because natural movement can occur in the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. For women in their 40s and beyond (or those with aches and pains), stick mostly to dumbbell exercises, cable machines, bodyweight exercises, suspension trainer exercises, and even some machines.

Another strength training tip: make good use of the neutral grip (i.e., palms facing each other) for upper body pressing and pulling exercises. Keep this in mind when selecting bars for cable machine pull-downs, seated rows, chin-ups, and when pressing dumbbells. For instance, some people find pressing a dumbbell overhead with palms facing forward aggravates their shoulders, but they don’t experience pain when pressing with a neutral grip; same thing with dumbbell bench press variations.

Here are some joint-friendly exercises to use as a starting point:

  • Quad-dominant exercises: goblet squats, double dumbbell/kettlebell squats (‘bells held at shoulders), split squat, rear foot elevated split squat, lunge variations
  • Hip-dominant exercises: Romanian deadlift, single leg RDL, glute bridge and hip thrust variations
  • Upper body pushing exercises: low-incline dumbbell bench press (neutral grip may be best), push-up variations (with a suspension trainer), dumbbell overhead press with a neutral grip
  • Upper body pulling exercises: dumbbell row variations, inverted rows (ideally with a suspension trainer), face-pulls (with resistance band, suspension trainer, or cable machine), pull-ups (with neutral grip or suspension trainer), or cable pull-downs with free-moving handles (i.e., ‘D’ handles).

This isn’t an exhaustive list, because everyone is different. You may be able to do all those exercises plus dozens more, or some of those exercises may not work for you (for example, some people can’t handle any overhead pressing exercises). More on this in tip 11 below.

Listen to your body and use exercise variations and tools that feel best to you.

4. Use barbell exercises strategically, or modify them. The ‘big barbell lifts’ referred to most often are the barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift (i.e., the ‘powerlifts’); the standing press is a great one too. If you enjoy those exercises and can perform them pain-free, include them in your training. Some people, however, find them difficult to perform but want to train some variation of them.

The traditional barbell back squat: some trainees find this exercise bothers their shoulders, or back. If you’re one of them but still want to squat with a bar on your back, try safety bar squats. This is a specialty bar and not all gyms have one, but I love mine. Not only is it easier on the shoulders, but due to the distribution of the weight many people find this more comfortable for their knees and back. Here’s a video:

A video posted by Nia Shanks (@niashanks) on Feb 6, 2017 at 9:54am PST

Deadlift from the floor with a straight bar: some people just can’t do this comfortably, even if their form is stellar. A terrific alternative is a trap bar deadlift. If you have access to one and it has ‘high’ handles, as seen in the video below, try that variation first. The limited range of motion combined with the neutral grip makes this a great lift for many trainees.

Coach Eric Cressey performing the high-handle trap bar deadlift

Barbell bench press on a flat bench: some people experience shoulder pain with this lift. An alternative is simply using a bench set at a slight incline; sometimes this slight incline makes a huge difference because the angle is more shoulder friendly. If that’s still uncomfortable, stick to dumbbells.

Bottom line here: if you love the big barbell lifts and can perform them without issue, include them strategically. If not, use a similar variation of those lifts as shown above. If that still doesn’t work, train a similar movement with a different tool (e.g., goblet squats instead of barbell squats, or dumbbell bench press instead of with a barbell).

5. Determine the best combination of unilateral and bilateral lower body exercises. Examples of unilateral exercises (when you perform one leg at a time) are split squats, lunges, etc. Bilateral lifts work both legs simultaneously (e.g., squat variations, leg press). Some trainees can’t handle much unilateral training because it aggravates their knees, so they use predominantly bilateral lower body exercises in their workouts. But some trainees find unilateral work makes their knees, hips, and back feel better than bilateral lifts.

This is why you need to be your own guru; listen to your body’s feedback. Do what works best for you. If an exercise causes pain or discomfort, swap it out for something else.

6. Always use proper form, and make every rep count. So, you have your exercises ready to go and know what works best for your body. Ensure you’re using correct form on all exercises. If you’re not positive you’re doing a lift correctly, reduce the weight and focus on correct technique; slow down the movement a bit too, if that helps. ‘Make every rep count’: focus on every rep you perform; never rush through a set just to get it over with. The first rep of a set deserves every bit of focus and effort as the last. You should instill the ‘make very rep count’ mindset with the first warm-up set you perform.

 7. Finish sets strong. This is important for barbell lifts in particular. Recovery between workouts seems to take a bit longer as we get older, so one way to recover quicker is to stay away from failure when strength training. ‘Failure’ meaning pushing a set to the point when another rep isn’t physically possible with good form. Stay away from failure by finishing each set strong; stop a set knowing you could complete 2-3 more reps with perfect form. This way you’re still training hard but you’re also a) leaving room for improvement the next workout and b) not digging too deep into recovery.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • It’s fine to occasionally push harder to test your strength, or for a fun challenge. Don’t do this often, and do not attempt another rep you’re not confident you can complete with proper form. You can push exercises that use dumbbells, your bodyweight, cable and other machines harder than barbell exercises. For example: pushing a set of push-ups to the max is safer than a set of barbell bench presses.
  • For deadlifts, I recommend a cushion of at least three reps. Because this exercise can typically handle a lot of weight, stop the set when you can complete at least three more solid reps. When deadlifting: dominate the weight and set. Finish strong.

8. Most of the time you should finish your workouts feeling strong and energized, not exhausted. If you feel beat up or worn out after every strength training session, you pushed too hard. If you work hard and smart during your workouts, and follow the tips above, you should complete a workout feeling great, not exhausted, most of the time. By not crushing yourself with each workout, you’ll be able to come back next time and do a little better. Gradual progress is where the magic happens, and keeps you safe and healthy.

9. Use the workout split that best fits your training schedule, and preferences. Some people use strength training as a tool to complement other activities, so they only want to work out 2-3 times per week. For others, strength training may be their primary form of physical activity, so they work out four or more times per week. Depending on how many days per week you want to strength train, some templates are better than others.

  • Two workouts per week: stick with total body workouts
  • Three workouts per week: total body workouts or an upper/lower split
  • Four workouts per week: upper/lower split or a three-way split like legs/push/pull
  • Five workouts per week: three-way split like legs/push/pull or some other ‘split’ routine

Strength training splits defined:

  • Total body workouts: as the name implies, you work your entire body in a single workout (e.g., goblet squats, push-ups, and dumbbell rows).
  • Upper/lower split: one workout hits the muscles in your upper body (e.g., push-ups, dumbbell rows, lateral raises, face-pulls, biceps curls) and the other your lower body (e.g., goblet squat, lunges, leg curls).
  • Legs/push/pull: the ‘legs’ workout, obviously, hits your legs. The ‘push’ workout would include exercises like push-ups, overhead presses, triceps extensions, etc. The ‘pull’ workout could include deadlift variations, rows, pull-ups, and biceps curls.

Not only is it important to consider your preferences and workout frequency, but keep in mind how you feel with any given strength training split. Whereas someone may feel excellent and recover without issue with three total body workouts per week, someone else may find they do better with a split so each muscle group and accompanying joints have longer to recover.

You can also alternate splits for variety, and to see what works best for you. In Buiding the Beautiful Badass we rotate total body workouts and an upper/lower split each month for maximum variety.

10. Be willing to adapt on any given day. Maybe you tweaked your back gardening or from winning a jousting tournament at your local Medieval Festival (hey, you may have some unique hobbies – I don’t know your life). The next time you enter the gym you see trap bar deadlifts on the menu. As you perform the first warm-up set you notice your back just doesn’t feel ‘good.’ The smart thing to do is adapt; don’t push through the workout. Nix the deadlifts for the day and do something that doesn’t bother your back. Perhaps you could try some unilateral work and back extensions. You can still train, but you need to adapt to the situation so you don’t turn the minor issue into a nagging injury. Adaptation is one of the most important factors for reaching your goals.

Be smart: if something causes discomfort or pain despite using proper form, switch it out for something else until you feel better.

11. Know your limitations, and work around them. Your anatomy, injury history, and other factors may affect your exercise selection. Don’t worry about the things you can’t do; focus exclusively on those you can, and get better at them. Maybe an old shoulder injury makes any overhead pushing and pulling impossible; you can still do inverted and dumbbell row variations, and push-up and dumbbell bench press variations. You can always do something, and it’s likely more than you realize.

12. Listen to your body; adjust when necessary. If performing three total body workouts per week leaves you feeling worn down, change things up. Try performing a workout every three days instead of every two, or switch to an upper/lower split so each muscle group gets more recovery time. Likewise, maybe you love squatting with a heavy barbell on your back and pulling a loaded bar off the floor and can do so without issues and take offense at suggestions that you stop or ‘tone it down’; keep doing it. Pay attention to your body’s feedback, keep track of what you’re doing so you know what’s working and what isn’t. Then adjust if necessary.

This may be a day-to-day process. Do what you can on any given day; some days you may be able to improve your performance, other days (or even for extended periods) you may have to focus on maintenance. Some days you’ll feel amazing; others like a hot steamy pile of poo. And, please, do not get caught up in what other people are doing. This is your journey.

13. Consider including low-impact activities in your regimen. Extra movement is always a good thing, and I suggest using primarily joint-friendly activities. Things like cycling, yoga, swimming (even ‘sprinting’ in a shallow pool is phenomenal exercise), and walking are excellent. I’ve worked with women who were avid runners their whole life, but as they got older their knees would be in excruciating pain after a run. If you’re in a similar situation, consider swapping out running for low-impact activities. And keep tip #11 in mind: don’t worry about what you can’t do; focus on what you can.

14. Have fun. Make sure this is something you ‘get to’ do instead of something you ‘have to’ do. Don’t underestimate the importance of enjoying your workouts. Strength training is something you should do for the rest of your life. For that to happen you must, at least for the most part, enjoy it. Recruit a friend to work out with you or set some performance-oriented goals you want to achieve. Find a way to ensure it’s an activity you get to do.

15. Access your success metrics. Whether you’re 25 or 65 you still want to look great, but as we get older we develop other ‘markers of success’ that weren’t necessarily priorities in our 20s and 30s: having more energy and less pain, relieving stress, doing something just for yourself, being able to perform daily tasks with greater ease, having stamina and endurance so you can tackle new adventures. And, hey, if the only thing you give a damn about is looking great and couldn’t care less about the other benefits strength training offers, that’s fine too. Know what’s important to you, and what you want to accomplish with strength training.

But if all you’ve focused on is losing weight, fixing your flaws, and looking better, explore other success metrics and see what you discover. And, yes, these metrics may change over time. For example, my Mom’s client Weezie (my Mom’s a trainer too) came to her 17 years ago because she wanted to get in and out of her SUV and bathtub without issue. Weezie is still training with my Mom today; she’s 93 and kicking ass.

Note: many wonder if they’ll become less flexible with strength training. No, in fact, strength training increases flexibility. Check out this graphic and this one from Chris Beardsley of Strength and Conditioning Research.

There’s lots of information crammed in those 15 tips, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Strength training is a skill, and it’s a continuous learning process. Take your time, work at your own pace, listen to your body, and enjoy what you discover along the way.

New to strength training? Use this: The Women’s Beginner Strength Training Guide.

Let’s discuss another event women encounter as they gain wisdom and become more badass: menopause, and the pre- and post-menopause stages. Many changes occur throughout these phases and there are nutrition and lifestyle changes you can make to help during that transition.

Nutrition and Lifestyle Considerations for Stages of Menopause

This section provided courtesy of Leigh Peele.

Most research and laymen articles on peri-menopause or menopause is directed at women controlling symptoms of hormone and mood changes and discusses how to minimize the side effects. Women are talked to as if the transition is temporary but the development is dynamic and permanent. The goal isn’t to ‘fight’ the stages of menopause, but adjust as each phase passes. Bear in mind that because some factors are common doesn’t mean they’re definitive.

Meaning: the circumstances are prime for common factors during menopause (e.g., low bone density, weight gain) to occur, but you don’t have to contend with those outcomes.
hormone changes during perimenopauseThe chart above reveals a hormonal environment prime for gaining weight and losing bone and muscle mass. This explains why studies show a trend of women gaining weight at the end of their 30s through early 60s (post 60s there’s a common downshift and hormones stabilize). Until then however, that stage includes alterations in the distribution of fat mass, rises and falls in hormones and, essentially, the ‘normal’ being turned upside down. Let’s face it: women are used to their hormones fluctuating between puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Instead of treating it like a curse, let’s accept it and learn how to treat it.

Here are four nutrition and lifestyle tips for those in perimenopause.

1. Ghrelin (i.e., ‘the hunger hormone’) is elevated, which means hunger is up – it’s not ‘in your head.’ An important factor with your diet is understanding that your hunger is likely higher for a reason. Studies have shown that until menopause reaches a ‘stabilization point,’ ghrelin levels fluctuate with a significant rise during the peri- stage; post-menopause (usually age 60+) it tends to level out.

This means the increased hunger may not be ‘in your head’ despite variance in the population.

2. If hunger isn’t ‘in your head,’ pick a lifestyle that satiates. Hunger signals are tricky; we know rising ghrelin increases hunger, but how it affects each person is different. Gut bacteria, hydration, sleep, and other factors affect ghrelin. While everyone’s lifestyle needs to include sufficient sleep, proper hydration, and a satiating diet, it’s especially important for those going through menopause. Look at it this way: the more you strain yourself, the more recovery you need. Menopause, in all stages, is a strain. Know your needs, and address them. Organize your lifestyle (nutrition, exercise habits, sleep) to accommodate these needs.

3. Bone density and muscle mass are at stake, but it’s not just about strength training. Progressive strength training has shown to provide benefits such as increased bone density and muscle mass, but it’s also important to consume sufficient protein and vitamins and minerals. While many focus on getting plenty of calcium, they often neglect magnesium, K1, K2, and others. It’s best to acquire vitamins from whole foods to help with uptake, versus supplementation, so aim to eat mostly real, minimally processed foods.

Protein is also important; make sure to reach the minimum daily requirements, as a start. Studies show that .6 to .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is a good target. For example, a 135-pound woman would aim for approximately 80-108 grams of protein per day. This may not be doable for everyone, but it’s important to get sufficient protein. At the very least, reach the low end so your body is properly supplied with protein.

4. Sleep must be a priority. Many people get too focused on the minutiae of health and fitness, but if they put half that energy into getting more, and better, sleep, they’d reap tremendous benefits. Sufficient sleep has shown to help with hunger levels, testosterone, wrinkles, fat loss, recovery, and much more. Make sufficient sleep a priority and you’ll be rewarded.

Real Women Share Their Experiences Throughout Various Stages of Menopause

Sometimes it helps to know you’re not the only one experiencing new events during perimenopause, or knowing what others experienced and what helped them through those periods can give you knowledge going into that phase of life. That’s why I asked Beautiful Badasses over 40 in my coaching program to share their experiences and observations with perimenopause. You’ll see many experiences unique to each individual (because perimenopause will not be identical for any two women), but also a few noticeable trends among most of them.

“I’m on the cusp of pre-menopause. Here’s what I’ve noticed: I take longer to recover. If it’s a particularly tough workout I might need to skip two days rather than just one. This one is the most frustrating for me. I must do more warm-ups beforehand and more stretching after. For me the big one I wish I had known before was don’t think mobility work isn’t necessary because you’re still young and supple. I wish I had worked on this more along the way and that I had it built into my routine. Now it matters — a lot more than I ever thought it would. The other thing I’ve noticed is exercising made menopause easy (and perhaps I am just lucky genetically), but I credit my exercise habits and trying to eat well (lots of fruits and veggies, etc.) with very few or no menopause symptoms.” -Lynda A.

“I’m 64 and on HRT (from hysterectomy). I also suffer from a degenerative disk in my back, have arthritis in the knees, and have some shoulder issues with the right shoulder. All I know is that through Nia’s programs I’m able to lift safely and grow stronger. It takes me a little longer because I must be mindful about moving up in weight because of the conditions, but the strength still comes. Even today in my yoga class I noticed I’m able to execute a couple of movements that typically were difficult, so I can feel that I’m stronger. I do have to be a little more careful to avoid injury because it takes longer to recover, and I must do more ‘prep’ to get the body juiced enough for the workouts, but I get there!

“My husband and I are Army retirees. Discovered weightlifting when I’d been in about 14 years, at age 38, and haven’t quit. One thing we noticed as we neared retirement from the Army was that those who quit working out quickly got fat and old, so we told ourselves we wouldn’t quit, and we haven’t. Each new place we’ve moved to among our first priorities has always been which gym to join and what’s our work routine so we can schedule our workout time. The main thing is, if you quit doing things, then you CAN’T do them. I’m stronger now than I was when I began at 38. Now, my body isn’t as flexible or supple as it was at 38, so I can’t just rush through and slap on the heavier weights and go at it. I must approach each level with mindfulness and correct form, but even those younger would benefit from that. The key is not quitting — continuing physical exercise throughout your life, modifying or adapting as necessary for the inevitable changes that come with aging — but not quitting! People often ask, how can you still do that? We reply, ‘because we’ve never quit.’” -Kittie M.

I notice it takes longer to recover, and agree mobility is so important. I’m a longtime triathlete for 17 years and have been doing weights for close to 30. I’m starting to focus much more on mobility and recovery now. I have arthritis in my right hip from a stress fracture and I get really stiff in the winter. I also have osteopenia which has resulted in a couple recent broken bones. After reading info I realized my yo-yo dieting over many years was a major contributor. I now focus on balance and maintaining my weight. Also, I find I have to be careful going heavy with weights all the time because I struggle with tendinitis. But inserting heavy sessions here and there works much better for me. I did have menopausal symptoms but definitely know my commitment to exercise helped me get through it.” -Cheryl S.

“I’m 59, postmenopausal for 4 years. For me, losing weight/fat takes forever; I lost 10 pounds in 1 year (eating the food and strength training work). Benefits: I have some distinct muscles, I’m still redefining my butt; it’s helped with weight loss. I do it because it makes me feel better (little did I know that would happen), so much better than jogging did/does. My mom has osteopenia so I make sure I ‘build’ my bones up with strength training. I know that no matter how much I don’t want to work out, I feel so much better after I’m done. It builds me up; ups my mood.” -Linda

“Losing weight at 49 was light years easier than at 50. I’m 52 and had my last period at 51. So, for me, menopause and the 50s are really hand in hand. I agree with the comment that recovery takes longer. Warm ups are more necessary. I don’t think it takes longer to see gains, but maybe I’ve just become more patient. I’m certainly much more forgiving of my limitations and inabilities. I’m also much less self-conscious in the gym. I’m old enough to be the young hot shots’ Mother, and in most cases I’m willing to bet I’m in better shape than their Mothers — so THERE!

“I would add, and I think it’s the biggest point to make, it’s really shocking how easy it is to fall apart and ‘go to pot’ after 50. Women in their 40s should be proactive and get in shape and healthy sooner rather than later. No need to take my word for it — just look around at the women you know a few years older than you are.

“I’ve always been a good sleeper, and I found myself nightly waking up with horrible hot flashes and absolutely NOT being able to go back to sleep. This never happens to me. I can always go to sleep. Well, one night I woke up with a massive hot flash, and I looked at my Fitbit to check the time and just cycled through it. My heart rate was 111. Well, no wonder. Who can go back to sleep with a heart rate of 111? So, I focused on relaxing, slowing my breathing and rhythms, and I fell back to sleep. When I woke up I googled hot flash and racing heart rate. Reputable sites started with ‘call your Doctor’; well, she doesn’t come in on Fridays. So, that waits to Monday. Second was cut out caffeine in the afternoon. Hmmm, I‘d been hitting the green tea about 4:00 lately. So, no more caffeine (except chocolate, chocolate NEVER counts) after lunch. Problem GONE. Instantly. The lesson in this long speech is check everything — heart rate, water consumption habits, eating close to bedtime, bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.” -Elaine

Not being self-conscious is very true for me. I know I look great no matter my age because I’ve taken care of myself and I don’t give a flip what others think of me anymore. I’ve been racing in triathlon for 17 years now. I had a friend recently ask me if I should really be doing that any more at my age. I have friends that are around 70 that are still racing! They inspire me.” -Cheryl S.

“I’m perimenopausal, 50 years old, and been strength training consistently for a year and a half. Benefits I’ve experienced: I sleep much better; my lower back and neck pain are much reduced; when I do have my period, I get much less bloated and slightly less crampy than I used to; my mood swings are much more stabilized. I credit strength training with the confidence to let my hair go gray naturally and not obsess over the wrinkles and spots; this is how I look, take me or leave me.

“This is very different from how I used to feel about it, and I spent a LOT of money in my early 40s on magic creams and potions trying desperately to look like I was still 23 and fearing people wouldn’t like me if I wasn’t pretty enough.

“Things I’ve noticed: I need to pay better attention to form more than I used to, my shoulders tell me fast if I’m sloppy especially on overhead presses; I need a lot more mobility and flexibility work than I used to. What I wish I’d known: pre-menopause can last for years! Seriously I’ve been here since I was 42 and I still have occasional periods; diet makes an even bigger difference than working out, the difference in how I feel when I eat crap vs. nutritious food is more immediate and more obvious now than ever; if you haven’t already committed to taking care of yourself and prioritizing your health, pre-menopause is THE TIME.

“The penalties for self-neglect are huge and the rewards for self-care are equally huge, so if you’re one of those many of us who always takes care of everyone else first, pre-menopause is a great reason to try and reorder your priorities.” -Chandra R.

“I’m 56, had a partial hysterectomy in my 40s. I’m not taking HRT. I haven’t experienced a lot of menopausal symptoms; hot flashes occasionally, sleepless nights occasionally. I do know if I don’t listen to my body and skip a workout when it tells me to, I pay dearly for it if I force myself to keep training instead of taking an extra rest day. Thanks to reading Nia’s articles, I’m not beating myself up anymore if I need an extra day or two to recover, especially if I’m training heavy.

“There are times when my joints hurt bad (old injuries) and in my younger days I’d ignore the pain and train anyway; I don’t do that anymore (shouldn’t have done it then, but hell when you’re young you feel invincible). As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed loss of flexibility and increased stiffness if I don’t move a lot every single day. I too am a lot more confident these days, and I truly don’t care what other people think of how I look. It’s strange, even though I’m over weight, at 56 I have much more self-confidence that I had in my 20s when I was lean and mean.” -Connie B.

“I’m someone who was never really fit, but also never really overweight. As I got into my 40s (and had my last baby) that changed; I gained a lot of weight while pregnant and had to really work to lose it. What I see now (pre-meno) is that I can’t coast. But I’m absolutely in the best shape of my life at 47 and am fully confident that I have LOTS of gains to make yet. I’m looking forward to being strong and healthy (God willing) and NOT going downhill. We all have to age, but I plan on being strong and active — FIT — as I do it.

“I see a big difference in my vision for myself and for what ‘fitness’ is — Nia, credit to you for that. There’s a shift from using lifting to lose weight (though it is still that) to seeing it as an avenue for longevity, a process to enjoy, with many goals to work toward. I feel inspired by a new kind of vision for what I can be as I get older, kind of like Ernestine Shepherd. I think in some way I did kind of hang on to the myth of ‘I’m too old…’ I’ve just read the two thick Tom Venuto books and they really drove home the idea that we limit ourselves by setting goals and dreaming dreams that are too small. I’m riding the tide of that and feeling pretty expansive right now.” -Robin MS.

Additional Resources for Menopause:

  • Precision Nutrition’s All About Menopause
  • The North American Menopause Society
  • Coach Marianne Kane suggests using the My Cycles App to track the ebbs and flows of mood, energy, etc.

Remember: your strength training journey will be different, at least to some degree, from anyone else, and what you do in your 40s will likely differ from what you did in your 20s; what you do in your 60s will be different from your 40s.

There may be learning curves, and you may have to tweak things as you go along. Don’t let this intimidate or dishearten you. This is a fun, rewarding journey. Exercise patience, listen to your body, and progress at a comfortable pace. Be sure to work closely with your primary physician; get regular physicals and blood work and discuss any changes or concerns with your doctor.

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The post The Strength Training Guide for Women Over 40 appeared first on Nia Shanks.

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