"Good morning, Ladies! Does anyone have any injuries, problems or areas of concern we need to watch out for this morning?"
The voice is that of Shelly, an annoyingly perky 20-something with 0% body fat, talking through her cordless mike. Having given up on the 7-minute scientific workout, I am here at the gym to be tortured into shape for 55 minutes.
Shelly is giving us her standard welcome to "Damage Control," a perfect class for a Monday morning after a weekend of too much -- too much steak, too much pasta, brownies, chips and wine. Aside from a few young moms, today's class is filled with my contemporaries -- baby boomer women.
I gather a mat, a squishy ball, neon weights of various sizes, a body bar and a Pilates circle, and lie down on the mat to stretch. I start to chuckle as I repeat the welcome from Shelly in my head: "Good morning, Ladies! Does anyone have any injuries, problems, or areas of concern we need to watch out for this morning?" Does Shelly really want to know if we have any injuries, problems or areas of concern? Could the question be anything but rhetorical? I look around the room. No, it could not.
Because if Shelly really wanted to know if our group of boomer women had any injuries, problems, or areas of concern, we might never get to the exercise. If we were really to tell the truth about what hurts (and the following physical concerns are based on actual conversations with friends in the past couple of days -- and trust me -- I've left out a whole host of psychological and emotional complaints), the complaining might overshadow the moving.
If we, the exercise ladies of the boomer age, were to tell the truth, this is how it might go down:
"Good morning, Ladies! Does anyone have any injuries, problems, or areas of concern we need to watch out for this morning?"
My hand would shoot up like the nerdy kid who knows the answer in middle school -- I love to talk about what hurts. "Oh, oh oh--- my Plantar Fasciitis is back on my left heel. I have Orthotics, but I don't think they are working. And I have this rotator cuff issue with my left shoulder. It hurts when I go like this." And I would demonstrate how I can't reach behind me for my purse.
And then the floodgates would open:
Purple sneakers: "I'm going to have to go out to pee halfway through class. And sometimes when I do jumping jacks, I leak."
Leopard pants: "I have this intense pain running down my butt. I think it's Sciatica."
Anorexic looking one: "I haven't pooped in three days."
Lady who carries in the big Coach bag: "I have Bursitis in my knee."
And then, we would really be on a roll:
"I haven't slept well in a month."
"It's been a year for me!"
"I can't rotate my neck."
"My lower back is killing me."
"I have hip pain. Squats are out."
"My wrists hurt. No pushups for me"
"Sore elbow. Can't do plank."
"I just had my eyes done. I'm not supposed to be exercising yet."
"I just finished chemo."
"My fingers are arthritic."
"My gums are bleeding."
"I can feel a migraine coming on."
"I'm pretty sure I'm always dehydrated."
"I have an infected toe."
I would feel the need to wrap it up so we could get a little exercise in.
"Listen, Shelly, we all have a lot of stuff going on. Don't expect too much from us today."
But in real life, everyone takes Shelly's rhetorical question as intended. No one says a thing. Not one complaint is heard. The music starts up with a beat, Shelly starts squatting, and we open our mouths only to breath heavily and grab much needed sips of water. We all get through Damage Control as best we can, kicking ass as we get in shape, despite the damage of our middle-aged bodies.
Just another reason we are better after 50, right?
Yoga offers a myriad of wellness benefits: flexibility, balance, centeredness, strength, mindfulness and others. Yoga is a great option for aging bodies, as it promotes working within your own comfort zone. Postures and sequences range from gentle and relaxing to more intensive for advanced yogis.
Another way to promote flexibility and overall health is incorporating some simple stretches into your daily routine, be it at home, at the gym or even outdoors. Stretching prevents injury, can relieve back pain and boosts energy. Note: It's important to stretch properly to avoid injury. Check out some good examples of stretches here and these common stretching mistakes.
Biking is a great low-impact, cardiovascular workout, not to mention it's a lot of fun. There are a few ways to incorporate biking into your routine. Joy rides in your free time are always a good option -- alone or with a group. You could consider joining a local bike group or riding to nearby destinations instead of taking the car. Stationary bikes also have great health benefits. Already a cycler? Here's how to get more benefit from your bike ride.
One of the most beneficial exercises is something humans have been doing for centuries: walking. Simple modifications to your routine, like parking further away and walking the extra distance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can really add up to boost your overall health. For an even greater benefit, take brisk walks that get your heart rate up.
Pilates is another low-impact exercise that's ideal for aging bodies. It's similar to yoga but puts more emphasis on gaining control and balance of the body by strengthening the core muscles. Pilates can be done in a class or at home with a video or other guide. This piece offers a great run-down of the activity, along with images of some classic pilates stretches and workouts.
Tennis is a classic sport, well-loved for being fun and great for you. It's a strong aerobic workout and helps keep you agile, especially important as you get older. Tennis is also a very social activity -- great for the body, mind and spirit!
Swimming is easy on the body and is also one of the most comprehensive workouts, hitting all the major muscle groups: shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes. If you're getting serious about swimming, it's important to learn proper techniques, but even free-styling in the local pool or outdoors in the summer is a great way to exercise.
Dancing is one of those activities that doesn't feel like working out, but is an incredible aerobic exercise. It's a good option for those that want more physical activity but don't like the gym or in the winter when it's harder to get outdoors. There are a bunch of styles to choose from: ballroom dancing, contra dancing, salsa, ballet, tap, country and others.
As the body ages, running and jogging can take a toll on the joints, knees or back and potentially cause injury. An elliptical cross-training machine is an alternative to running, which still gets your heart rate up but at a lower impact.
You can take a simple walk to the next level by bringing weights along to build strength in your arms and boost the cardio benefits. Strength-building techniques like pushups, squats and lunges are easy to do at home or can be squeezed into buckets of free time throughout the day.