Does Your Exercise Program Fit You?

Friday, April 15, 2016

As we age, we need to start looking more critically at our lifestyles to determine whether the choices we’ve made in the past are going to serve us in our future. While we have no control about aging per se, we do have some control as to how we age. According to Ayurveda, mid-life to old age (about mid-forties onward) is an age of depletion – our joints and muscles begin to degrade and atrophy – and the choices we make can either accelerate or decelerate the rate of that depletion.

While I often make fun of CrossFit, I actually do understand its appeal and if I was in my twenties, I’d probably at least have tried it a few times. After all, I was a high-impact-more sweat the better type of girl back in the 1980s. The problem was that I couldn’t see what I was doing to my bones and muscles at the time. I hopped out of bed every morning and didn’t feel what was happening to my knees. And it was pretty easy to just drop into a split without a warm-up.

The fitness industry pushes that working out should be aggressive – otherwise, what’s the point? I have even seen this mentality creeping into yoga and Pilates, which is really abhorrent.

Until I began studying Ayurveda, I didn’t realize I had a choice on how I exercised my body. I didn’t grasp why those hardcore workouts seemed to be leaving me feeling exhausted and walking like an orangutan when I got out of bed in the morning. My left knee and my right hip had a dull ache most of the time.

Then my studies in Ayurveda taught me that I had entered into the depletion phase of my life. Ego-busting, for sure, but my deeper intelligence was completely satisfied. Ayurveda does not suggest that one gives up working out hard but to understand that the choice you may be making may be careening you down the road to complete inactivity. Ayurveda suggests that we work out smarter.

I believe that human bodies were meant for walking and/or running as well as for strength. As such, we need both aerobic endurance fitness as well as resistance training. As people in our mid-forties and older, we would be wise to make choices that work both of those elements and do that without accelerating muscle atrophy, bone and joint degradation, fatigue and lowering immunity. It is a bit sad that older “athletes” (both the real athletes and those of us who think we are!) often accept that the new “normal” for their bodies is popping ibuprofen throughout the day to combat the growing list of aches and pains.

I have seen enough older people in their seventies and eighties who not only have energy and vitality but also great posture and a beautiful grace to their movement; a who appear to not be enslaved by stiffness or pain. I know that this is possible for me.

And you, too.