Every January, millions of Americans make a resolution to lose weight, or get in shape. And every February or so, millions of them fall off the bandwagon. The most common excuse: “I don’t have time to exercise”.
If you’re one of the many, and lack of time has always given you a way out, retirement does change the picture. Leaving the daily grind of a work schedule can be great, if you have a plan. You may have a general idea in mind that once retired, you’ll do that workout thing. Somehow.
Maybe you’ve never been able to figure out how to exercise while working at that responsible job you had, what with all your other duties in life. What is going to change you now?
If you’ve never considered what motivates us as people, in general, it’s time to examine this. Generally, at the most basic level, it’s pleasure or pain. Feeling good about how you did your job may have been a motivator for you. Or perhaps it was fear of failure, fear that you wouldn’t be able to support yourself or your family, or fear that you wouldn’t feel adequate as a human being if you didn’t do the job.
One Secret to Healthy Aging: Exercise in Retirement
When people retire, they need motivators to get going in the morning. A retiree or one anticipating retirement may never consider what motivation they will need to build a successful and enjoyable retirement over the long run and how to put off aging health issues.
I am suggesting one. It’s improvement of one’s physical self. It’s a triple winner because it can provide three of the biggest ingredients that keep people happy in retirement: structure, purpose, and connection to others.
If you have already considered this and think it’s a good idea, here are some specific thoughts about how to pull off a long term, winning plan to get in better shape and ward off aging health issues.
Step One: Take Stock
This is first about your body. You need to know what you’re going to be working with here. If you haven’t had a physical for awhile, this is the time, and a great start for your retirement. A general checkup and discussion with the doctor about your plan to get in better shape is not only useful, it’s essential. No one wants to land in the E.R. the first day out. If there are any hidden problems, like high blood pressure or heart disease, you will know your limitations, if any.
This is also about your mind. Take stock of what makes you work. What has motivated you in the past? If it’s wanting to feel good and have more energy, put a lot of motivational stories and images in your environment. Weight loss success stories, healthy aging articles, older athlete videos, books about being fit after 50 and the like will help support your plan. Read about endorphins, those feel-good hormones that come from vigorous exercise and print the definition. Post it where you can see it. That’s a goal, to experience the feeling those exercise-supplied natural chemicals give you.
If fear and guilt, embarrassment about not doing well enough on the job spurred you to greater heights while employed, here’s one for those motivated by pain. Take a full length picture of yourself in your underwear standing in front of a mirror and post it somewhere you can look at it often enough to want to change what you see. Weigh yourself and write it on the calendar. Take your measurements and put them in a log. Collect data like this about yourself and think about it. Note just how far you have to go to get to your goal.
Step Two: Remember Your Younger Self
Most of us enjoyed playing as kids and we went outdoors whenever we could. What did you like to do? Ride a bike? Be on a team? Go off by yourself and wander solo to favorite places? Did you like splashing in a pool? We all have a style of play that is part of our child within. We need to rediscover that playful part of ourselves, perhaps too long suppressed by adult responsibilities. Remember what your favorite things were and see if you can fashion a fitness plan that taps into them to help you age healthily.
No, you’re not a kid, but if you liked the water, think about a master’s swim program. If you liked being with other people while playing, think about joining an adult exercise class. If you prefer solo activities, consider a quality piece of exercise equipment, such as a treadmill or exercise bike. Try one out at a local gym you can join on a trial basis before you buy anything. Your child within has to like this to have it work in the long run.
Step Three: Get Educated About Exercise
We’re older now, and our bodies are definitely not the same as when we were younger. We need to accommodate. We need to start slowly and accept that it takes longer to adapt and recover from any physical stresses. One can learn about exercising for those over 50 by searching for safe exercise programs on the Internet. Or, one can hire an experienced and certified personal trainer to teach us, one on one, how to devise and maintain an exercise program suited to our individual needs. For instance, back problems, knee problems and other limitations need not stop us, but it is critical to learn the best ways to exercise so we can avoid injury as we age. This takes patience, but it’s well worth it.
Step Four: Get the Right Equipment
No matter what you choose to do to make exercise and getting in better shape a part of your retirement lifestyle, you need at least some equipment, even if it is just a good pair of walking shoes. Invest in the essentials to go with your plan. Have the right footwear or other equipment that fits, that you can use comfortably and that you are interested in using. It can make all the difference. Your program may be hard when you start, though everything gets better with practice. You never want to have lack of equipment or gear stop you from your goals. Skip the fad pieces that promise quick results. There is nothing miraculous or quick about this. Worthwhile goals take time and effort.
Step Five: Make Plan and Commit To It
Steps One and Two are the basis of this part. This needs to be something you have liked in the past or that you are willing to do as a new challenge. You need to be able to look yourself in the eye and tell yourself you have a goal and for a limited time, such as 30 days, you are going to commit a specific number of hours or days to the plan. In this way it might feel like a project at work felt. You had to produce. This is the same, but you are the only boss, the only critic and you are answerable only to yourself. I am a firm believer in the concept of written goals. Post the goal in a place where you can see it daily. Mark your progress on whatever form you may be used to using. It can be a spreadsheet or a paper log. This is how you are answerable to yourself. See your own data.
Step Six: Applaud Your Every Step Forward
Let’s imagine you’ve been a couch potato for years, and you’ve just done three ten-minute walks this week. Tell yourself that’s so great and keep up the good work. Acknowledge the progress, and focus only on the good. Positive thoughts and words do work, especially if you are the one telling them to yourself. No comparing with anyone else. Find something good to tell yourself about your plan and your progress, however modest, every day. This is a time when it’s perfectly ok to talk to yourself!
We Can Help You at Aging Parents
If you’d like inspiration, ideas, and a consultation about maintaining physical and mental wellness in your retirement, contact us at AgingParents.com. We practice what we preach, and we would be happy to help you.
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