The alarm clock goes off, you roll over out of bed and as soon as you start to raise your back off the bed you moan in agony as your muscles feel like tight strings on a guitar.
For many, body aches and pains are a normal everyday occurrence. Things just don’t feel right, joints hurt, muscles are stiff and to top it all off, you are feeling tired and run down.
What happened to you?
How did you go from being an energetic carefree teenager to a moaning, groaning adult?
Well today in this post I’ll go over some of the realities of age on the body while giving some tips on how you can better manage your aches, and pains while also enabling your body to fully heal so that you can live a mostly, pain free life!
What’s happening with your body?
We all know, as we age our body starts to “break down” in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s due to the stress of career, kids, or past injuries...our body is put through a lot throughout the years.
For many avid exercise goers the pains felt in joints and muscles might be due to the excessive exercise or overuse of particular movements/body parts.
If we look at this from a strictly age related problem - the issue becomes more clear. Over time your tendons and ligaments become more stiff and rigid. Basically what this means is that you won’t have the same flexibility in your movements as you once did as a younger person.
For example if you bend over to pick up a pen when your 15 - you don’t even think about it.
When you bend over to pick up a pen when you are 55 years old - you might feel as though your back is tearing because of how tight it is.
This is because those tendons and ligaments in your body are stiffening and impacting your range of motion.
The same can be said about your joints and the eventual arthritis that everyone will face in some way. Basically what happens is the cushion between joints (take for example a knee joint) will degrade over time. Unfortunately, there is no solution and preventing this degradation from happening.
This degradation will result in localized pain that can range from “a little reminder” that something’s going on all the way to downright sharp pains at all times of the day.
Oh the joy of getting older…
What can you actually impact?
So here I am painting a pretty bleak picture…
If joint degradation, muscle tightness, tendon stiffness are all going to happen no matter what...why should we do anything to help this?
Well, we can in fact make positive changes that ultimately will make you feel better (maybe not make you feel as good as when you were 20 years old).
It all boils down to a few major topics of interest : Strength building, flexibility training, healthy weight, and proper recovery.
I will briefly go over each major area that you can control and impact, while then leaving you with some tips to incorporate these important aspects!
If you’ve been reading this blog and following us, you already know how I feel about strength training.
Strength training is so vital when we talk about aging gracefully.
Strength training works to increase muscle size and strength (ability to output force upon an object).
Think about it: do you want to be able to stand up out of a chair without needing to push down on the arms of your chair? Do you want to be able to “hop” out of bed to start your day?
Building strength can aid this tremendously.
What happens when you lose muscle in let's say, your legs. Because your leg muscles are no longer strong you might “feel” your joints. The knee joint might be in pain when you go to sit or stand up.
The force put through your body to stand is not being supported by the muscles in your legs. Because you have less power to stand up - you will put more pressure through your knee joint, resulting in discomfort.
So then as you build strength in your legs, the joints around those muscles will become more stable and more resistant to putting force through them BECAUSE your muscles will be able to act properly to support your body in space.
I can go on for days about the benefits of strength building - however the main takeaway here is that strengthening the muscles around your joints will alleviate the instability and discomfort that many people feel as they age.
Being flexible attacks the problem of those stiff tendons and ligaments. If we go back to the dropping of the pen example above, being flexible in your back and hamstrings will enable you to get down to the floor to pick up the pen more easily.
Staying flexible is like the ying to the strength yang.
They both coordinate together to enable movement that is both strong and agile.
If you are waking up every morning with tightness in all different spots, you might need to include some mobility training / yoga work!
Some mobility work is better than none - if you can carve out a few minutes a day to work on stretching some tight spots you will no doubt feel a difference after a few weeks of consistently working at it.
The nice thing about strength training (yes I get too excited about this stuff!) is the fact that strength exercises such as deadlifts, squats, rows, pushups can all increase the flexibility that you have in those muscle groups.
Think about it - in order to perform these exercises with proper form your joints/tendons/ligaments all need to be loose enough for you to get into position.
So what this means is that if you are doing strength based exercises, you probably will feel more flexible overall.
Stay agile and make it a point to embrace the stretch. You’ll thank me 10 years from now when you are still able to bend over and pick up the pen without 1 thought!
Staying at a healthy weight
We talk so much about nutrition here that it’s no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight is a huge indicator of health throughout the years.
When you are heavy, you are inherently putting more pressure on all your joints, every single step of your life.
Check out this fact : For every 1 pound of weight you are putting 3 pounds of pressure through your knee with each step.
Seriously think about this one if you are overweight right now - the amount of pressure through your body is 3X the amount of weight you are.
So then if you were to lose 10lbs of weight - you would be taking away 30lbs of pressure, IN EVERY STEP, on a daily 24/7 hour basis.
Staying at a heavier weight has detriments at every turn of the road. I won’t go into how to maintain a healthy weight, just scroll through these blog posts and there are many, many posts about how to create a lifestyle that fits you best.
Truthfully this section can be it’s own blog post - recovery is so underrated.
Who has time for recovery? Or...what even is recovery?
Recovery that I’m talking about here includes the following:
Ice / heat injuries
Your body is an amazing machine, really…
When given the proper rest it heals itself. I like to think of the quote “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
And add a section that includes…”with the proper recovery”.
Your body needs rest and recovery - but who has the time for that?
I know that sleep is tough for everyone to get more of - crazy busy lives require long days which require you to sleep less! Sleeping gives your body the time and space to be able to heal itself, clear the brain, clear inflammation, get hormones in balance and many, many more things.
Another thing that I urge my clients to do all the time (sometimes they listen, sometimes not!) is to properly apply ice and heat to nagging injuries.
Has your knee been bothering you for the past 2 weeks?
Has your back been stiff for a month now?
Ice and heat can be your best friend in recovering much more quickly, feeling better and ultimately being able to do the things you want to do without lingering pains.
Tips into how to implement
Let’s go over a few simple tips on how you can best take care of your body through it’s aches and pains!
# 1 : Ice first, then Heat
For any injury in a muscle or joint, icing the area will help speed up the healing process. If you had an injury occur during a workout, or during regular normal day activity be sure to ice it within the first 48 hours of the injury.
Even if you can only fit in 20 minutes of icing, this is better than zero minutes of icing.
Heat is useful after using ice as it will help to loosen the muscle rather than promote healing to the area.
If you have a lingering joint issue, I would advise icing the area on a normal basis until you feel relief or feel that the pain has subsided to a lesser degree.
Remember that choosing to ice/heat an area is all in your control. If you are sitting on the couch watching TV...throw on a bag of ice/frozen veggies to help heal that area more quickly!
#2 : Stick to a bedtime
Sleep is best for those who get between 7-9 hours. I know that number might scare you but if you set a bedtime that will enable you to get closer to those numbers, even if it’s just 20/30 minutes more, you will feel the difference over time.
Set a time for you to get into bed so that you can make it a habit (which is the name of the game with change!)
Once you start making this a nightly routine, you’ll find that you actually enjoy settling into bed at this earlier time because you’ll have more productive energy the following day. (Including letting injuries heal!)
For example I make it a priority that around 915PM I will get into bed Sunday night - Thursday night. This enables me to get somewhat decent sleep for my 415AM wake up!
#3 : Add 5-10 minutes of mobility work each day
Do you have 5 minutes to spare in your day?
I know you do...even for those who have crazy busy schedules if you can’t find 5 minutes to do some mobility work, you might have bigger issues that I can’t help with!
By consistently working on mobility/flexibility you can retrain your body to open up and become more comfortable with the added movement. This in turn helps you long-term become a more agile person.
For example clients of mine will either add an early AM mobility routine upon waking up to help loosen up for the day ahead OR add a nightly routine of mobility to prepare for sleep.
Bonus points if you do 5 minutes both in the AM and PM.
(Comment if you want a video showing my morning mobility routine!)
#4 : Stop eating when you are satiated
This one is harder to do but a practice that you can attempt at every meal of the day.
The main reason why people gain weight isn’t because of the TYPE of food they eat but the AMOUNT of food they eat.
Getting into an unhealthy weight can plague many different aspects of your life so therefore it’s super important to stop eating when you are satisfied and not FILLED.
I like to have my clients think about their fullness on a 1-10 scale. When you are eating your meal, ask yourself how full do you feel...1 means you are starving and 10 means you are stuffed to the brim and are unbuttoning your pants.
You want to hit around a 7/8 out of 10 score to eat what the body needs without over eating.
#5 : Remember the control that you have
Okay so admittedly , this isn’t a specific tip but more of a mindset hack.
With all these things being said:
remember that YOU have control over these things.
You have control over putting mobility work into your day,
you have the control to stop eating when you are satiated,
you have the control to exercise.
I know that sometimes life gets in our way and we feel like victims.
Well I’m here to tell you that you are only a victim if you let yourself become one.
I need you to stop being a bystander in your life and implement even just 1 of these strategies so that you can actually start feeling better.
Your body is your domain
The human body is an amazing work of art - it can heal itself, change itself, and adapt itself.
When given the proper stimuli, the body will react and always fight to heal you and have you feeling the best that you can.
Think about where you want to be in 10, 15, 30 years from now….
do you want to be debilitated by injuries that never were taken care of…
overweight because you always had that second plate even though you were already full…
not able to move on your own because of muscle weakness?
I don’t say these things to scare you but instead to motivate you and remind you that it’s IN YOUR CONTROL!
Taking care of your body is one of the best, most noble things you can do for yourself and your family.
A little change now goes a long way...it’s never too late to get started on impacting and healing your body for the better.