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How to achieve ‘functional fitness’ in middle age without injuring yourself

The 40’s might be the new 20’s but let’s face it, middle aged is as middle age gets.

These days, it’s all about getting fit without killing myself in the process.

As I enter my mid 40’s I find high impact sport choices, giving way to shorter more effective workouts. Now, “Functional fitness” is the same term used for workouts at many CrossFit gyms, but I don’t mean that. I’m talking more about safely squatting, lunging, pushing and pulling your own body weight. Cardio too but less high impact. Think of it as being able to do a squat that’s safe and effective for when you’re sitting in a chair, getting into a car, getting off the couch – these are all functional movements.. not so much as flipping a tyre 10X your weight (don’t think you’d be doing that regularly in your normal day to day, some how LOL). When you’re young, it’s all about the adrenaline rush – sure I get it, I was young once too. But as you age, practicality & good sense takes over.

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Here are my 5 tips on how to achieve ‘functional fitness’ in middle age without injuring yourself!

1. Take It Slow

If your getting back on the horse after a long time away from exercise or the gym, take it slow.
Even if a gym does its due diligence and asks you about your goals and your medical history, it’s ultimately your responsibility to communicate what your injuries and limitations are. A good trainer will know how to design a workout for you, give you modifications or request that you see a doctor before you take part in whatever it is you’re about to embark on.

2. Learn to Distinguish between DOMs and Pain from Injury

Normal is a nice fatigue after working out- may manifest as a burning/tingling in the muscle, shakiness and fatigue. What’s not normal during an exercise is joint pain. Warm up is crucial before you start exercising – more important if you live in colder climates. Also incorporate yoga and stretching religiously into your routine, 2-3X per week.

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3. Set Mini Goals instead of Massive ones

Old Goal: Go from being a cardio-hater to running a half-marathon before 2018.

New Goal: Find a good training plan and commit to safely increasing your mileage.

While setting ambitious goals is good, the key to success is about enjoying the ride. The idea is that if you’re only fixated on reaching a far-off future goal, you’re not getting the boost of encouragement that comes from recognizing your progress along the way. Also you’re less likely to injure yourself if you set realistic goals that progressively increase in intensity and difficulty with each month.

4. Pick the right sort of exercise – Ride HIIT

It goes by many names – RPM, SPIN, CYCLE, but it’s basically Riding on a bodybike in a gym, and using resistance to mimic terrain eg., climbs, sprints to get your body into that “oh so coveted” HIIT fat burning zone is what I’m talking about. It’s been tested (by myself and many others too of course) to elevate the heart rate to 85-90% minus the strain or impact on knees, ankles joints etc.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love running – being outdoors is liberating, but I’ve just learned to moderate the types of exercise I do. Why go for 3 hours smacking the concrete hard, when you can go for 30 minutes, minus the wear and tear. Just as effective at sculpting the body and keeping the physique in optimum condition. I am currently an instructor at FireStation Gym at Mt Kiara, if you’re interested in coming for my classes More info here.

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Ride HIIT classes – done in 30 minutes.. can’t ask for a swifter, more efficient form of exercise! 

5. Properly Rest from Your Workout

Rest days are an essential part of training. While they may seem like you’re slacking and make you worry that you won’t build strength or increase speed or lose weight, time off allows your body and mind to fully recover and grow. The same fatigue happens on the body when you don’t allow it to recover from high-intensity exercise. Never taking a day off sets the body up for disaster. You become more susceptible to severe muscle soreness, a suppressed immune system, improper sleep, a decrease in strength and performance, and injury. Rest days also benefit your mind: Scheduling a mandatory break from training will help you get excited to jump back into your program.

So what constitutes rest? How inactive you are on your rest day depends on the intensity of your workouts leading up to it. For example, if you are killing it in the gym day in and day out, your rest day should be a day completely off from the gym. You might go for a casual walk at most, but no great effort to do more physical work than necessary should be made. However, if your workouts have been light to moderate intensity all week or you’re a beginner exerciser, you can take a more active recovery day. That might include playing a sport outside, taking a yoga class, or going for a short hike.

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