A boomer fitness expert says, train smart, not fast

If any baby boomer knows a thing or two about fitness, it would be Doug Setter of Vancouver, British Columbia. He has climbed Mount Rainier and run five full marathons. He writes for BoomerCafé that when we exercise at our age, we have to do it differently than we used to. And smarter.

“What the hell?” I had asked, checking my client’s pulse as she sat slumped against a gym wall.

Panting, the sixty-year-old explained that after our workout, she had performed an additional fat-burning HIIT she had read about.

Doug at age 50 holding an L-Seat.

HIIT, which stands for High Intensity Interval Training, is fine for twenty-somethings, but as boomers age it’s important to be choosier about our workouts. Some are only effective if approached right and/or are guided by a certified trainer who is aware of any prior injuries or sensitive areas. I call my exercise series “The Faulty Five,” because the “faults” in our bodies as we grow older must be taken into consideration.

Here’s how it breaks down.

1) High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT means following a circuit of intense exercises for short time periods. Trouble happens when good form is sacrificed. For example, while practicing a HIIT-style barbell workout, I became tired and sloppy with the front squat. Then pain shot through my right knee and good-bye to my next half-marathon.

2) Plyometrics

This type of training combines jarring and forceful movements to build agility and sustained muscular endurance. However, one false move and you’ll need days or even weeks to recover.

3) Skip running on hard surfaces

I’ve lost many good kick-boxing students from training on cement floors instead of wood floors or rubber mats. You’ll get better joint relief from running on grass, sand, and gravel. But keep moving as you age. An Olympics doctor who once ran over 90 miles a week on roads now walks with the aid of two canes.

4) Martial Arts

Do not be fooled by the slow gentle movements of internal martial arts like Tai chi. I needed months of physiotherapy after dropping into a low stance without warming up properly. Taking martial arts classes with older trainers who understand the aging body will often prevent injury.

5) Yoga

Avoid yoga’s advanced postures without coaching or preliminary work. You can pull muscles doing yoga (as I have) just as easily as any other sport.

In summary, older muscles, tendons, and joints take longer to recover than their young counterparts. Train smart and the progress and fitness will come.

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Doug is the author of the fitness guidebook “FIT FEMME AFTER 50: A BUSY WOMAN’S GUIDE TO A STRONG, ATTRACTIVE, PAIN-FREE BODY.”

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