Train muscles. If you had asked me four years ago how important that is to me, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said that I maintain my muscles by running, walking and cycling. It’s only been four years since I’ve been doing strength training in the gym twice a week and I feel every day what a huge difference this makes. I went skiing last week for the first time in 20 years and I really felt that I am more powerful now, at 60, than when I was 40. How cool is that?!
Muscles disappear like snow in the sun unless you use them
It’s really scary how our sedentary life is responsible for the disappearance of our muscles. You may have seen how thin an arm or leg has become after being in a cast for 6 weeks; the loss of our muscles, if we don’t use them vigorously, happens at a terrifying rate . Between our 30th and 50th year of life we lose an average of 1% per year of our muscles and after our 50th this becomes even 3% per year. This is not because nature has arranged this for us: it is because we sit too much.
People over 50 have lost 10% of their muscles after 10 days in bed
Have you ever noticed how many people no longer have buttocks? On average in the Netherlands we sit on a chair or sofa for 10 to 12 hours a day: round buttocks become flat buttocks if we do not use our glutes. Muscle loss and aging eventually lead to little buttocks, thin legs, but fat storage around our waist. I see many peers slowly but surely heading for this model.
No, gyms aren’t dirty, they don’t smell and no one is watching you
Because I experience daily how wonderful it is to have strong muscles, I regularly make a warm plea for the gym. However, many of my peers, like me, did not grow up with the gym. When I was 20, 30 or 40 years old, nobody I knew went to the gym. We were playing volleyball or tennis but never saw a gym inside. That was only for bodybuilders. However?
I hear a lot of prejudice from women my age when it comes to gyms. I confess that I myself only walked into a gym for the first time four years ago and was pleasantly surprised at its professionalism. It was clean and spacious and they had ingenious machines that you can use to train your muscles in a safe way. There was good guidance and no one looked at me: everyone was just busy with themselves. Only that music, I confess, that is sometimes a thing 😉
Cardio is fine, strength training (with it) is better
Fortunately, there are more and more women (and men) who now know how to find their way to a gym. The choice is huge, from basic to luxurious, it’s a matter of seeing what appeals to you and suits you.
Quiet walking and cycling are part of exercise: also important, but with this you do not really build up your condition. Cardio training such as running or spinning, where you really get out of breath, is the next step. Especially if you make it a little harder every time, so that your condition gets better and better. That’s how I started. But at some point I felt I wanted more. I felt how good it was doing me and it just tasted like more. Then I started strength training. That’s where the magic really started. I’ll explain to you how this works.
When I started strength training, the magic really started.
Weight training; more guts due to more testosterone
In menopause, roughly between our 40s and 55s, our health care hormones estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin slowly decline. Relatively speaking, the hormone testosterone, which we women also have, actually increases. Testosterone provides self-confidence, decisiveness, libido and sense of competition. Also in women!
The big shift between these hormones is the reason why many women suddenly no longer recognize themselves during the menopause: they are sick of being there for everyone all the time and now they want something for themselves. Does this look familiar? If you want to read more about this, read this article: Don’t feel like worrying anymore? It’s because of your hormones.
training muscles; not to postpone the rollator as long as possible
Testosterone is produced almost exclusively in muscles after the menopause. Building muscle through strength training is therefore not only good for delaying the purchase of a rollator as long as possible; you benefit greatly from it every day! Research has shown that women who do strength training have more guts: they suddenly dared to do things they never dared before. Would you like that too? I was always afraid of everything, I was a scared weasel. Now finally no more.
Research: women who do strength training get more guts and decisiveness
The decrease in estrogen during the menopause causes a decrease in muscle and an increase in fat; often especially around the waist. By means of strength training you reverse this process exactly. Fortunately, we women don’t have so much testosterone that we become too muscular; we have less than 10% of what men have on average.
Less risk of diabetes, heart problems and chronic inflammation
Muscles at rest burn more energy than fat; more muscles therefore means a faster metabolism. Trust me, I can eat more right now than I’ve ever done before without gaining weight! Exercising also helps to balance your blood glucose levels, so exercise helps keep type 2, heart disease and all kinds of hidden inflammation at bay. Finally, strength training, much more than cardio, is suitable for getting your body (back) in a desired shape.
After four years of strength training, my experience is that my 60-year-old body now finally looks the way I always wanted it. But more importantly, it feels powerful and that’s worth 10 times more to me than the sleeker exterior.
By the way, you are never too old to start strength training. Even at 70 you can still make a good start. There are elderly people who got rid of their wheelchairs just because they got a few weeks of strength training! And Ernestine Shepherd is still a winner at 80!
Muscle cells contain many mitochondria = energy
More muscles does not only mean that you get tired less quickly from walking some stairs or moving for a day. Muscle cells contain plenty of energy factories: mitochondria. Fat cells do not or hardly contain these. The more muscle you have, the more energy you will generally experience. That is exactly where top athletes get the energy to train every day or sometimes even several times a day.
Having muscles means not only strength but also endurance.
I regularly get emails from women who run twice a week or do cardio for hours on end but still don’t feel as fit as they would like. And not too tight in their own skin. In addition to looking closely at their diet, I also advise them to delve into strength training. Adding leg muscles and removing the swimming ring really requires strength training.
training muscles; also for cheerfulness and cleverness
Having a lot of energy has not only physical but also mental benefits: more focus, more ability to concentrate, more clear insights, being able to make decisions faster. If you don’t want to go to the gym because the physical part of more energy doesn’t interest you so much, do it to stay mentally strong and healthy! There are many studies linking exercise to mental and emotional health.
Do you suffer from depression or mood swings? Research shows that exercising after just 5 minutes can have a positive effect on your mood. I speak from experience: it really works! Emotions are energy in motion; set your body in motion and your emotions move with it. Just try to stay depressed when you’re hopping.
If you don’t like your emotions, get your body moving. Movement changes emotions.
Strength training, but how?
I am not trained as a fitness instructor or personal trainer. I am just an enthusiastic experiential expert. So I can’t tell you how to build strength training the right way. But every good gym has people who can help you. Find a good gym. Let us guide you. Take an occasional lesson from a personal trainer (I do too) to correct you where necessary and to let you experience that you can often do more than you think.
In my opinion all gyms should be overflowing with people over 50. We need it so much. Not ready to hit the gym yet? Then simply start at home with small exercises that strengthen your muscles. In the video below I show you an example. You can also do this at work. Or do they not have straight walls with you?
Combine strength training with good sleep and vice versa
The hormone dance during the menopause can temporarily cause you to sleep poorly. There is nothing better for a good night’s sleep than exercising during the day. Strength training requires sufficient sleep and sleep is better if you do a lot of strength training. Sometimes I came home so exhausted from a workout that I first had to sleep for half an hour. Top athletes also seem to regularly take an afternoon nap
No protein shakes unless…….
What do you do with your nutrition if you start exercising more or do strength training? Everywhere you google for muscle building and nutrition, you get the advice to eat more proteins and carbohydrates and even start using protein shakes. I do not agree with this, unless you exercise for at least an hour every day or you want to gain weight. The well-known ‘weight gainers’ for top athletes to gain weight is a protein-carbohydrate shake.
Only use protein shakes if you train hard and/or want to gain weight.
Proteins are the building blocks of our body and therefore also of our muscles, that’s right. However, we often get more than enough protein with a healthy, varied diet. Proteins can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and kernels. An excess of certain proteins, like carbohydrates, can act like sugar in your body, a process called gluconeogenesis . You don’t want that, especially not if you want to lose weight.
It is difficult to determine how much protein is good for you. A basic rule for strong strength athletes is about 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. But who exactly adds up all the proteins of a day? I never do. I find it difficult to measure all that. I eat a lot of vegetables, a lot of healthy fats, an average amount of protein and few carbohydrates in a wide variety. I feel if my body needs a piece of meat or some extra eggs. If you don’t feel this yet, feel free to weigh what you eat if it makes you feel better.
An exhausted body does not want to exercise. Eat more energy first
Try to feel whether your body wants to exercise vigorously. If your body is exhausted, due to too much stress, crash diets or years of insufficient nutrients, first provide more rest and healthy food. You can stretch your limits a bit, but 8 times out of 10 your body really needs to get moving. If you want to know how and what I eat, read my book Eat more energy or follow the Masterclass Energy Boost. In both my book and the Energy Boost masterclass you will also learn more about mitochondria and how important they are for your energy level.