Baby Boomer Fitness

“You want to live? Come with me!”

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By Peter Delannoy

Aging well requires that you participate in a high quality fitness program. In this day and age there are a plethora of programs to pick from. The key ingredient is to pick a program that is fun to do. There are two factors to keep in mind as you start this new phase of your life.

  • See a doctor and get a complete physical examination
  • Choose a program that combines strength, aerobics and mobility

The doctor part is important especially if you have been relatively inactive for many years. Perhaps you are obese or have diabetes or some other type of chronic condition. Don’t let this stop you from starting a fitness program. The only question that needs to be answered is: What type of progression should I use to safely start a program? Once you understand your physical limitations then finding the right gym is the key to implementing some type of program. After establishing a support system with a doctor and a gym then it just boils down to selecting a system and sticking with it.

When I talk about a fitness program I don’t mean hiking a few days a week or running on a tread mill at a big box gym. There is no argument about whether or not this type of activity is beneficial to you but you won’t see major gains in your fitness by these activities alone. I need to be clear: you should be participating in activities and a fitness program at the same time.

The system that you choose needs to include strength, aerobics and mobility together and you need to participate in that program several days per week. Boomer 100 endorses CrossFit because it is a system that actively combines strength, aerobics, and mobility into a comprehensive program that gets good results (see CrossFit for Boomers).

Choose a program that excites you on a visceral level because whatever you choose to do should be fun otherwise you won’t keep up with it. Ultimately the fun factor may be the most important aspect of this because you are making a long term commitment to your health.

Because any such program is going to be intense you need to know your physical status. With this in mind go see your doctor, tell her what you are going to do, and get a complete check-up. This information will help you plan a safe progression regardless of the type of exercise program you ultimately choose. The key thing is to make sure you establish a solid relationship with the trainers in the program. They need to understand your limitations so that modifications can be made to the workouts.

Next Boomer 100 recommends that you find a gym that has access to massage therapists, one-on-one training, and well educated trainers–they should know range of motion and kinesiology very well. I would specifically ask if the program has experience with baby boomers.

A qualified trainer will measure your mobility, strength and physical capabilities and integrate this with the information from your doctor. It takes time to work up to your potential and you need to know which movements need special attention. For example, my overhead lift needs work because I cannot straighten my arms yet (see photo below).

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The author working on the clean and jerk with an empty bar

My arms should be more straight slightly behind my ears so that my biceps are closer to my head. This is the reason I am only pressing an empty bar and performing other movements to improve my mobility so that eventually I will be able to perform a correct clean and jerk.

A quick internet search using “fitness programs” will generate a long list of possibilities. The gym of your choosing should have access to a massage therapist to help mitigate injuries and help with range of motion issues. In Phoenix, Arizona, this author found Keats Snideman who is experienced with older clients and was also able to provide me with valuable feedback regarding the CrossFit gym that I joined.

Keats Snideman working on the authors trigger points

The purpose of the massage therapist is to aid you in forming a strategy to be successful in your fitness program, increase mobility, and to perform massage to mitigate injuries. You need to remember that it has been many years since you worked this hard and if you are in a quality fitness program then its going to hurt and you will have minor injuries.

In my case, most of my injuries stem from damages that I incurred when I was young and when you factor in the inactivity of our mid-lives you cannot expect to be injury free in your baby boomer years. This means that you must be prudent in picking a fitness program whether it be CrossFit, GMB, working with a trainer in a big box gym, or a local program.

Visit the establishment and talk with the individual that will be your trainer or the owner/director of the program. Ask them about their experience with baby boomers because we have different needs than someone in their twenties or thirties. Take some introductory sessions and pay attention to progression–you need to be monitored closely with special attention to form because movement done incorrectly will not benefit you and lead to injuries. If they know what they are doing they will ask you to do some movements in order to evaluate your range of motion similar to the kinds of things your personal trainer put you through. Ideally your personal trainer may know of the gym, or even work at the gym that you attend–which is the best case scenario.

Basically choosing a program that works for you means that you need the combined information of your doctor, trainer, and fitness establishment. Once you have chosen the program then make the commitment. I recommend 3-4 days a week given that boomers require more rest between sessions than someone significantly younger. All of us are different and finding the right sequencing of days is just trial and error–find what works for you and stick with it. Right now, at 58 years of age I average four days per week at CrossFit not counting the other activities that I participate in. The main thing is to have fun and stay with it. Results don’t happen over night and take time. So jump out of your seat and let’s get going!

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