Staying (or getting) fit over 40 isn't the walk in the park it was in your 20s. Chances are your metabolism has started to slow down a bit, the demands on your time are overwhelming, and you may be facing injuries or illnesses that make exercise a challenge.
But fitness over 40 and beyond is far from impossible, and I've got five factors you'll need to cultivate to get you on your way to midlife fitness.
1. Commitment. Fitness is a choice you make for yourself every day. One of the lessons you learn with age is that you must set priorities, make difficult choices, and learn to say "no" to things that don't serve your long-range goals. A strong commitment to your fitness and belief that you can accomplish your goal helps you make the right choice (even when the choice is stay in your warm bed vs. get up and work out on a cold morning).
2. A Plan. This is the step where most people fail. It doesn't matter how much you want it, if you don't set up a plan that will help you succeed. This is all about logistics. Take a good, hard look at your calendar, and figure out where you're going to find the time. It you don't plan it out ahead, it probably won't happen. Eliminate all the pesky friction that sometimes makes working out difficult: Keep a gym bag packed. Buy five workout outfits so you never run out of clean clothes. Choose a gym that's on your way to work so it's not a special trip. Or learn to work out at home, with no equipment. Keep it practical and simple for the best odds of success.
3. A Timeline. Get realistic about how long it's going to take you to get fit so you don't get discouraged. Especially if you're trying to lose weight, the rate of change can seem glacially slow. But if you remember that your fitness is a priority for the rest of your life, then slow--and steady--change is a good sign. You're looking for a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix. A safe rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week; more than that is difficult to sustain over time.
4. Flexibility. No matter how well you plan, life isn't always going to play along. A project keeps you late at work; a child gets sick; a car breaks down. Part of your plan needs to be a Plan B (and maybe C). If you can't get to the gym, take a walk during lunch. If you're snowed in, toss an exercise video in the DVD player. If you're traveling for work, substitute exercise bands for your dumbbells. Experiment with lots of different ways to stay active so you'll have one that suits your mood and your circumstances.
5. Persistence.You've heard it before: you didn't get out of shape in a week, and you won't get back in shape in a week. You'll need to keep at it. Expect to have setbacks and develop the resolve to move past them. Fitness really is a case of "slow and steady wins the race." Do a little something everyday to keep yourself moving, and you will see the results in time.
Most of all, a belief that you are worth the effort and that you deserve to look and feel your best. You've taken care of everyone else all these years. Isn't it time you took care of yourself?
(photo credit: Microsoft)