My Workouts Are Getting Harder and What I’m Doing About It

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So this is the 40’s, huh? I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect this. Not only do I gain weight easily, but I’m more and more tempted to put my workouts on the back burner. The fact is, my workouts are getting harder to do. But I won’t let it stop me.

I’ve been active my entire life, from playing sports in school to trying all kinds of fitness classes and programs throughout adulthood. But lately, finding fitness motivation is hard. I’m tired, overwhelmed, and busy. Skipping they gym is so tempting – and not because I’m busy with other things, either. It’s just tempting to skip. Period.

Listen, I can come up with 101 excuses to not work out. I am easily bored, for one. And often I feel very self-conscious about my body. I shouldn’t, I know. But, I’m at least 40 pounds overweight, my arms are saggy and my mid-section is thick.

Some days, I just flat out don’t want to go. But what I’ve learned from pushing through is that in most cases, showing up is the hardest part.

If I can just get myself in the gym door, that’s half the battle. But then I have another battle when I get there; getting my mind right and staying positive, because honestly, I can’t do the things I used to do. I’m feeling my age in my body.

What Is Happening to My Body?

Push-ups are hard. (Even the girl kind.) Planks piss me off. A few months ago, I jammed my ankle trying to do burpees. I have developed tennis elbow. And don’t even get me started on how I can’t run anymore because of my posterior tibial tendonitis. I mean, what the what is happening here?

My body doesn’t move the way it used to. My balance and mobility have declined and I’m angry about it. I don’t like limitations and I’m not ready to start feeling the aging process. I feel like I should be able to move like the athlete I once was.

The reality is, I’m creaky and stiff. Sometimes I limp for no reason! My joints groan and pop. Running and jumping are off the table. I have a cranky hamstring that I pulled a few years ago. I heard it pop while doing a stretch, and it’s never been the same.

Do you hobble to the coffee maker when you wake up? Me too. Gawd. I sound decrepit. I find myself asking – will I ever get back to the old me? Where’s that girl that used to be in there? Where is she hiding? Will she ever come back?

Getting Back in Shape After 40

I’ve been scouring articles on fitness and aging. Can we get back into shape after 40? You bet we can!

Now, I’m fairly certain I’ll never reach the ranks of fitness model body type I dream about. And personally, I don’t think I’ll be doing any triathlons. (Although one of my childhood friends is killing it competing in them – and she actually does look like a fitness model, proving that we can do amazing things in midlife.)

I believe that depending on the level of effort someone puts into diet and exercise, they can crush incredible goals. Whatever your goals may be, achievement is possible with consistency and dedication. It just requires commitment to the journey and lifestyle.

My Fitness Mindset

Mindset is sooooo important. If I feel tired, or just not mentally motivated to work out, I have a mantra that I use:

Just move.

Seriously. That’s it. Those two little words get me going and here’s why: moving my body, in any way, is moving in the right direction.

If I’m not moving, I’m going backward. I’m declining. I won’t ever overcome these injuries, improve my balance or get stronger if I don’t keep moving.

I have another mantra:

Progress, not perfection.

I continuously remind myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I tell myself to stop the comparison game running in my head.

When I see other women do things I can’t or look a certain way (the way I would like to look) it shouldn’t derail me from trying to improve and better myself. It’s my journey. Mine alone.

Everyone has their own unique journey to follow. Mine won’t look like yours or anyone else’s. It’s a hard thing to remember, but it’s important.

My fitness level has varied over the years and I’ve started over more times than I care to count. But each time I remind myself, “Start where you are. You’ve been here before.” Then soon, I start seeing results. I make gains in strength and see my body changing.

I don’t like to look in the mirror, but when I do, I say, “It’s you vs. you. There’s a competitor in there. Find her.”

What Are the Best Exercises in Our 40s?

I’ve spent hours and hours looking for the answer to this one, trying to find some silver bullet that will whip me into shape in the least amount of time. Here’s the thing: There are no quick fixes. I didn’t get this way overnight. I’m not going to get back to my “dating weight” overnight, either.

My advice? Do what you enjoy! What I have found is that if I don’t enjoy it, I won’t do it. Plain and simple. Been there, done that.

I love fast-paced activities, like Zumba and BodyCombat. I also love fitness classes that are super challenging but low-impact, like Spinning. Experts also strongly recommend resistance training for women over 40. Did you know up to 40 percent of muscle mass is lost between the ages of 40 and 80? Helloooooooo, slow metabolism.

If you aren’t experienced with resistance training, check out videos on YouTube like this one that demonstrates squats, bench press, chin ups, etc. Or, consider hiring a personal trainer even if only for a few sessions to show you the ropes. My gym offers a BodyPump class several times a week, which I love, because I struggle to stay motivated to workout with weights by myself.

How Can I Find Motivation to Exercise?

Here is the primary thing that motivates me even when it’s hard. I remember my “Why.”

What is “My Why?” Quite simply, my “Why” is my family.

My daughter is 10. She still loves to run around the park. Guess who she wants to run with her? Me. I want to be around for a long time with her and my husband.

I still have a lot of places and I want to go and things I want to do. Plus, I want to feel good. Plain and simple. Life is short and I want to get the most out of it. That means being as healthy as I can be.

I want to set an example for my daughter. I want to exemplify strength and show her that just because you get to midlife doesn’t mean life slows down. It doesn’t mean you slow down. It’s a time to take your life back or expand it. To be strong and brave and tough. To not back down.

Staying Motivated to Workout

Even with the best intentions, even when you know all the reasons you should be working out, it can still be challenging to stay motivated. Here are some little nuggets I keep in mind when I get a little down to help me stay motivated.

Working out always, always, makes me feel better.

Seriously. I cannot think of one time that I worked out that I left feeling angry or wishing I had skipped it. I feel amazing every time I exercise.

Someone may be watching you.

What I mean by that is, you never know when you might be a positive example to someone else. There have been countless people I have admired in the gym, unbeknownst to them.

I have watched people who have lost a lot of weight through hard work or people who exhibit amazing attitudes and encourage others. I admire people who struggle but keep going. These people inspire me. They encourage me to keep going. So you never know you may be inspiring on their journey! Be an example for someone.

I can always modify my movements.

So that means if I feel stuck or behind or unable, I can almost always find a way to modify the movement if I’m not strong enough or fit enough or even if I’m just tired. For example, I do my push-ups on my knees. Or I modify from high impact moves to low impact moves, such as from jump lunges to stepping lunges. Just make it work for you and keep moving.

I can always rest.

If my body is not feeling up to speed, then I take the day off. I try not to more than two days back to back, though. The most important thing is to listen to my body.

Last summer I went on a mission to lose 40 pounds in an unrealistic amount of time. I lost 20, despite working out almost every single day, sometimes twice a day.

I ended up overdoing it, inflaming my ankle, pulling muscles in my neck and back, and wearing myself down to exhaustion several times. Not healthy. Don’t do that. Be kind to your body.

I tell myself that I am worthy.

I remind myself that my health is a priority. Blowing off my workouts and putting busyness ahead of them only gets me more of what I don’t want……weight gain, instability, frustration, and physical limitation. I am worthy of self-care!

Other Helpful Ideas for Fitness Motivation

Good music is a must. I downloaded the Amazon music app and created a playlist from their free music selection. (Because, frugality.)

Scheduling workouts. Each week, I take a look at my schedule and see what fitness classes will work for me, time wise. Then I add the class my phone calendar and set reminders. I also keep track of my monthly progress with a printable tracker. You can download one free here.

Use a fitness tracker. Personally, I love MYZONE. I got mine at my gym. It’s a belt with a monitor attached that records your heart rate zone, calories burned, duration, etc. You can monitor your weight loss and connect with other users. In the past, I have also used Fitbit or my Apple Watch activity tracker.

Find a tribe. Whether it’s one accountability partner or an entire Facebook group from your Zumba class, who you surround yourself with makes all the difference. They can pick you up when your down and the connection makes it all more fun. The energy of like-minded people can lift you up like nothing else.

Ultimately, I know I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago, mentally, emotionally, or physically. But that doesn’t mean I have to throw in the towel. I may not be able to move like I used to. These day, it may take longer to recover, but I’m still moving.

I know that if I just keep moving, I’ll get where I want to be. It’s like climbing a mountain; you don’t climb the huge mountain all at once. You scale it little by little.

When we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we will find the motivation to keep going. So go on. Get moving!

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