When you hear of an older adult lifting heavy weights, it seems like an anomaly, but most of us have the ability to be that person. I just read a post about a 92-year-old woman who ran a marathon. You’ll see posts on social media with grandmas in their 80’s and 90’s deadlift crazy heavy weight. Do you remember a few years back, when a woman in her 80’s was still doing her gymnastics routine on Good Morning America? What these women are doing is showing up, challenging themselves and doing the work on a consistent basis. I’m not saying we all have to go to extremes, but we can all build muscle to stay strong, balanced, stable and independent.
To build muscle in perimenopause and menopause, we need to work at it consistently, continue with progressions, factor in enough rest and eat enough protein. Our bodies are different now than they were 20 years ago so we are going to modify our routine but that doesn’t mean we’re going to baby ourselves. Read an older blog post Best Exercise for Women in Menopause here.
Once you’ve established a base routine and you know you’re performing the exercises with proper form, it’s time to take it up to the next level. If you struggle with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or other joint issues, you will need to give yourself plenty of time to build a proper base. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns. But don’t use a condition as an excuse to do nothing. Our bodies are meant to stay in motion. Click here to learn more about starting an exercise program if you have osteoporosis. Working with a trained professional will get you results more quickly and help you avoid injury.
Let’s assume you’ve built your base. You’ve been exercising regularly for some time, and you feel confident you have proper form. How do you progress from there?
Pay attention to how your body feels. How many repetitions does it take for you to feel fatigue? I don’t mean a “burn.” Fatigue occurs when the correct muscles you are trying to work are now tired, you don’t feel like you can lift another repetition with proper form, or you feel like other parts of your body are going to take over to help you lift the weight.
Once you’ve determined the true number of repetitions you can complete with proper form is over 12-15 for three sets consistently over your next several workouts, it’s time to bump your weight or resistance up.
Increase your weight gradually. Let’s use a chest press as an example. If you’ve been lifting ten-pound weights in each hand and you get to 15 repetitions for three sets for the last few workouts, try the next weight up. Grab 12-pound weights and do as many repetitions as you can with proper form. If you get to eight or ten repetitions, that’s awesome. Stick with twelve pounds until you can complete 15 repetitions for three sets for at least a few workouts in a row. Then move to 15-pound weights and just keep repeating.
Once you’re lifting heavy and fatiguing at 8 to 12 repetitions, it becomes important to make sure you're giving your body the recovery and fuel it needs. Getting enough quality protein in your diet and ideally breaking your fast with protein is important. Greek yogurt with berries topped with chia seeds, unsweetened coconut and walnuts or almonds is a quick way to get protein, fat and fiber in your day. Or if you have time, an egg and veggie scramble is a great source of protein, fat and fiber too.
Recovery is just as important as lifting heavy. Giving your body 72 hours in between heavy lifting days will give you enough time to recover and you won't stress out your nervous system. Getting quality sleep is imperative for building muscle and keeping your body healthy. Read my blog post on sleep in menopause here.
You’re amazing and your body will adapt and continue to get stronger with the right amount of work, rest and fuel. You can continue to stay active and healthy into your much later years. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. I have clients in their late 70’s and 80’s lifting heavy and enjoying golf, ballroom dancing and playing with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
If you wish you had a coach to hold you accountable and support you as you grow into this new lifestyle, email me. I can put you on my waitlist for private coaching or for my group coaching program that I run every January. At the very least, let’s chat for a few minutes and see how we can get you started or move you forward on your journey.