Sue Loncaric is an Australian blogger and the inspiration behind Sizzling Towards 60 and Beyond. She writes about positive aging and embracing health in all areas – body, mind, spirit and in our relationships. Today, Sue brings us the first guest post in my new fitness series: Fitness Goals Over 50 | Running a Marathon.
I ran my first marathon at 55 years old.
Do you shy away from leading a fit and active lifestyle because you think you are too old?
Are you placing limitations on yourself by focusing on your age rather than your ability?
If you answered ‘yes’, then I hope that after you read my story you might be inspired and motivated to make some healthy lifestyle changes and start living life to the full.
Like many young girls, growing up I did dancing – ballet, tap, jazz and highland dancing. I then achieved my dream and opened a ballet studio at 15 years old, which I continued for about 15 years.
I was never athletic at school and tried to keep fit with aerobics back in the 80’s after I had my family. However, like many, life took over and I just didn’t have time (my excuse) or MAKE the time to keep fit and healthy. I would probably rate myself around 3.5 stars for health and fitness back then.
Of course, now I am 60 and over the last 10 years, my attitude toward health and fitness has certainly changed. Having lost my Mum at 60, Dad at 66 and my brother more recently at 65, all to various forms of cancer, as I neared midlife I was very conscious that I needed to make sure I did all I could to live a healthier lifestyle.
I wish I had known when I was 30 what I know now but the important lesson I have learned is it is never too late and we can achieve anything if we stop placing limitations on ourselves.
Fitness Goals Over 50 – When did I catch the running bug?
Just before I turned 50, I worked with some girls who were almost young enough to be my daughters. The wonderful thing was they never thought of me as an older person. I was Sue, the individual. They encouraged me to start running and booked me into Bootcamp, 2 mornings per week.
When I reminded them of my age and that I was old enough to be their mother, they wouldn’t accept it! I have these girls to thank for starting me on the running path, having the confidence in my ability and not accepting excuses such as ‘I’m too old’.
I then started running with some ladies I met through my daughter. We call ourselves the Saturday Sisters and are still running together each week 8 years later. One Saturday I told them I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 55. I had run a half-marathon at 50 and so my next goal was the full marathon.
Once I had told them my goal, my pride would not let me back out and so I started training and preparing. My friends trained with me for the long runs and one of them actually entered and ran the marathon with me.
At 55, I ran a full marathon. Crossing that finish line, to the cheering of my husband, daughter, and friends, I felt such a feeling of elation. I had achieved my goal in the time I wanted and although I was tired it couldn’t overshadow my excitement and happiness.
I know that running isn’t for everyone but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to include daily movement in our lives. The key is to find something you enjoy and can have fun with, and you will be more likely to stick to it.
Fitness Goals Over 50 | 7 Tips for Achieving Your Goals
Although I ran a marathon, you might have a different health or fitness goal. I would like to share with you 7 tips to help you achieve any fitness goal after 50. These tips are based on my marathon training but basically can be adapted to any fitness goal. You don’t need to run a marathon to be fit and healthy!
Disclaimer: Sue Loncaric is not a physician and any information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before embarking on any exercise plan.
Make the commitment
Nothing is achieved with a half-hearted attitude and if you set a goal you need to make the commitment. This means putting into place a realistic training program, eating well and being mentally committed. In some ways, you need to be selfish because so much time is required to train for a big event
Get the okay from your doctor
Before you start any new form of exercise or increased training after 50 you really need to have a full medical checkup and get the approval from your doctor. If you haven’t been active for a while, this is vital as it is easy to pull muscles or sustain injuries. You need to build up your fitness and this takes time.
Have a support group
I could not have achieved running the marathon without my husband. He accepted and encouraged me to achieve my goal and helped by preparing healthy meals and putting up with me getting out of bed at 4 am some mornings to fit a run in before work. If I didn’t feel like training, he would encourage me and remind me of what I was working towards.
My Saturday Sisters were so supportive and trained with me each week. Working out with a group of friends helps to motivate you to keep going. This was vital as the longer runs kicked in as running 38 kms on your own can be difficult. As I had made a commitment to meet them at a certain time for a run, I would make sure I was there.
Ask for professional help from a personal trainer if you aren’t sure where to start.
Take baby steps, form the habit and achieve your goal
When you have made the commitment to your goal, it is easy to get carried away with the initial enthusiasm, only to find that soon that enthusiasm starts to wane. Breaking the goal into baby steps allows you to achieve at a regular rate, celebrate the success and keep moving forward to the end goal.
When I first started running, I couldn’t run more than 25 meters between two lamp posts which wasn’t very far at all. I made the goal to start by alternating walking and running. For example, a 5 – 10-minute walk to warm up then a jog then back to walking. I gradually increased the distance I could run.
By taking it slowly and adding distance each time I ran (or walked) I felt like I was achieving something more. This, in turn, motivated me to keep going. It also gave my body time to adjust and build up strength for longer walks or runs. You might also like to read my posts on Walking Your Way to Fitness from Beginner to Advanced Levels.
Strength training and Stretching is important
Strength training is so important after we reach 50 because it strengthens our bones, improves our posture and helps reduce the chances of osteoporosis. Strength training improves core strength so I made sure that I did some gym work revolving around that. Exercises like the plank, tummy crunches, squats and light weights all helped to improve my overall strength in addition to the running.
Yoga and stretching also helped to reduce the chance of injury and keep my body flexible and my mind calm.
Educate yourself about what fuel your body needs
Having never run a marathon before, I researched training programs from the internet and found one that would be suitable. I needed to educate myself on what foods to eat to provide me with enough energy during the training runs and also the marathon itself.
To be totally fit you need to vary the type of exercise and watch what you eat to help your body perform at its optimum level. My husband was great and made sure I had everything I needed to keep up the energy levels.
Keeping hydrated was a top priority so getting into the habit of drinking enough water each day was vital. It also meant giving up alcohol which dehydrates our bodies. Save the champagne for when you have achieved your goal.
Taking a rest day or two to help the body recover is vital as is getting a good night’s sleep. This is the time the body repairs itself so make sure you factor in days to rest and recover.
Believe in yourself – Mental strength is the key
To me, this is the most important tip of all. When we reach midlife we start to focus on the number rather than living life. We start to question our ability and our self-confidence can take a dive. It can be daunting trying something new.
Setting a goal and working through these tips will build resilience, self-confidence, and motivation.
What is one thing you can do today to start living a healthier and happier lifestyle?
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