Getting Fit Over 50 and Finding Your Balance
If you came here looking for some self-help, zen style, hippy dippy, inner balance bullshit, sorry, you’re in the wrong place.
In my last fit over 50 post, I discussed recovery. Today, I’m going to take a look at another often-overlooked skillset, your physical balance.
Balance – Use It or Lose It
Here at AgeHIGH, working out and staying fit isn’t just about looking and feeling good in the now. It’s about building a physical and mental foundation to keep you active and healthy for years to come.
With that said, an obvious key ingredient to maintaining an active lifestyle is your mobility. Losing it can have a massively detrimental effect on your life.
Not only does losing your mobility put you at an increased risk for depression, but in a recent study, losing it has been shown to decrease your life expectancy by as much as ten years.
The reality, someday those little movements we take for granted, like climbing stairs, or walking the dog will become more difficult, and eventually impossible to perform.
Here’s the good news. With training, your balance, and your ability to get around can be improved.
We’ve all heard the expression “use it or lose it.” In an effort to extend my years of independence, I now work out my balancing skills daily.
Over 50 Balancing Exercises
It all started just over a year ago when I was out on a run. I noticed a ramp leading up to a 12-inch wide concrete railing that leads across one of the bridges on my usual running route.
I had passed this obstacle hundreds, if not thousands of times. But for some unknown reason, on that day, I decided to run up it.
When I reached the top of the ramp, I was surprised at just how bad my balance was. It was a struggle to stay on the railing while barely maintaining a walking pace. I was genuinely alarmed, and from that day forward, that rail became a must-do on my 9-mile route.
After a year of practice, I’m happy to report my balancing skills have improved dramatically. Not only that, but I’ve also noticed many unintentional benefits. So much so, I have since added dozens of balancing drills to my daily run.
I Grew Up to be the Weird Running Guy
Before I go any further, please know that I am fully aware of how weird I must look when I’m out running. However, given a choice between questioning stares or the possibility of needing help to cross the street when I’m older, I’ll take the stares any day.
Balancing Exercise Progress Video
Now back to the beginning. On that first day, I would estimate my speed across the railing at about 3mph. Today, according to my Garmin, I am hitting speeds of 14mph. That’s in line with my top sprinting speed on flat ground, and all it took was practice.
You’ll have to take my word on how bad my balance was in the beginning. But I do have a video of how much I’ve progressed in the past 8-months.
In the video above, the left is footage from April 11th, 2019. To the right is from just the other day.
The first crossing shown is 1.5 miles into my run. During this pass, I always run a straight sprint across the rail.
The second crossing is 7.5 miles into my run. On this pass, I sprint while doing 4-5 jumps off and on the rail while crossing. The goal is to maintain speed.
As you can see in the video, working out your balance can be strenuous if you choose, but if you’re out of practice, start slow.
Parking curbs are great for beginners. You don’t even have to be out running. Hit a couple of curbs on your way into the grocery store.
If curbs are too difficult, start by balancing on painted lines.
You’ll look crazy, but fuck it; you could be saving your life.
Benefits of Balancing Exercises
If you’re still not convinced that balance drills should be part of your workout regime, here’s a list of the top five unintentional benefits I’ve noticed.
1. Balancing Exercises Prevent Injuries
I’ve always considered myself lucky when it comes to running injuries, but recently, my thinking is that it’s more than luck. I firmly believe it’s all the extra dynamic movements I do while running that keeps me injury-free.
Not only does having good balance prevent you from landing wrong, but jumping up and down, and doing sprints while balancing requires a whole new set of muscles.
It also strengthens ligaments and tendons and prevents overuse by breaking up the injury-causing, robotic repetitiveness, of running.
2. Balancing Exercises Work Your Core Muscles
They say that abs are made in the kitchen. Maybe for some, but me, doing these balancing exercises made all the difference in the world.
As I just mentioned, working on your balance engages a whole new set of muscles — specifically, your abdominals.
After a run, the “pump” in my mid-section is far beyond that of any other workout I do.
3. Good Balance Equals Good Posture
It goes back to developing a stronger mid-section. By increasing your core strength, your posture will improve naturally.
And this better posture ties directly into the next unintentional benefit of doing balancing exercises.
4. You Look Better When You Move
With better balance, you will move through the world with more confidence.
You will be more graceful and purposeful in your movements.
You will look better.
5. It’s Fun
By doing these balancing exercises, I have added a whole new dimension to my daily run. I love it. I can see and feel myself improving every day.
It breaks up the monotony of daily running and creates mini-goals along my route to help keep me motivated.
Go Find Your Balance
Hopefully, I have convinced some of you to give these balancing exercises a try. Since adding them to my fit over 50 workout routine, I have made vast amounts of progress in my overall fitness.
Will it help me maintain my mobility and remain injury-free as I age? I’m not sure, but I feel the likely answer is yes.
Either way, it doesn’t hurt, and if it provides an added incentive for me to get outside and move it has to be good.
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