Am I Working Too Hard or Not Hard Enough – Part II

Harvest of barbells - Valinhos, SP

In my last post, I tackled the question of cardio exercise and how to know if we are overdoing it or underdoing it.

Now, we turn to resistance or weight training.

The truth is that this is really a trick question…or at least a really complicated one with not nearly as simple a formula as in the case of cardio.

Here are some factors to take into account:

  1. What are your goals in lifting weights?
  2. Are you looking to merely “tone up” or “bulk up?”
  3. Have you had injuries/illnesses that may affect your ability to do heavy lifting?
  4. Are you using the proper form (at any weight)?
  5. Related to the previous, are you in a safe environment where someone is able to spot you when necessary (i.e., be there in case you can’t get the weight back on the rack, or if you stumble, etc.)?
  6. How much time do you have, or how efficient do you need to be with your time? Can you get to the gym or your weight set only 1-2 times per week or 4-6?

This will sound self-serving, but except for those with extensive athletic/weight training experience, it makes sense to be in touch with a fitness professional. There are, of course, ways of determining the proper weight given the goals that are sought. Once a proper weight has been found, though, most programs integrate progression; progression basically means making the workout more challenging either by increasing weight, the number of reps, the number of sets, or adjusting the degree of difficulty in another way. No matter what one’s goals, progression is a core principle, so knowing where to start is simply that: a start.

From a personal standpoint, you may remember that I had bicep tendon surgery 6 weeks ago. The amount of weight that I am able to lift with my right arm is way below what one would typically expect; in PT, I am up to 2 pound dumbbells for certain exercises. If all I cared about was huge muscles, this would make me crazy; it is a little frustrating, but I know that eventually I will be able to get to higher weights that will allow me to reach my own personal fitness goals.

In the end, whether you are working too hard or not hard enough is a very personal question. It is not one-size-fits-all. For best results, consult a fitness professional. Personal trainers are a great bet. Don’t be afraid to reach out; you’ll be pleased that you did.

Another reason why Seniors should be Weight Training

In all my courses, we have been taught that working out–and especially weight training–is good for individuals at any age. Current trends are aimed at getting the 50+ crowd to understand the importance of resistance work along with cardio exercise.

I am currently recovering from foot surgery and will be unable to walk for four weeks. I have a scooter and crutches; they are tools, but they cannot perform all the functions necessary to get around. Thank goodness I have been working on building muscle strength over the years. I have found that I can balance on one foot for a while (thanks yoga!), push and pull myself up, hop around my car to get to the scooter in the trunk. It is the difference between having some independence and none at all.

This is an argument that should be made to seniors. Weight training isn’t necessarily about have a killer beach body; we need the strength to help us navigate the Activities of Daily Living. And when we do find ourselves with an injury, hopefully the hard work of resistance training we have put in will allow us to compensate for our deficits (in the long- or short-term).

As someone who has never had to rely on devices to help me ambulate, I have learned a lot in the last few days. I get why we have extra-wide handicap spaces. I get why we have ramps. The ADA has gone a long way to making public places accessible. If, however, we lack the basic strength to make use of these accommodations, what is the use?

We are never too old to lift weights. Muscle degradation does not need to be in our future. Seniors: get off of those treadmills a few times a week and get to the dumbbells! You’ll be glad you did.