Tim Collins is a personal trainer in Omaha. He blogs every Thursday for LiveWellNebraska. Read more from Tim here.
“Check out that lady's muscles.”
“Oh my gosh. Look at her. You go girl!
These are common reactions when people see my 60-year-old client, Chelly Longoria of Omaha, for the first time. I get asked how she's able to build so much muscle at her age. And it's true: Over time, we naturally lose lean muscle (approximately .5 to 1 percent a year), coordination and flexibility. But we only fall victim to this if we allow it. And I'm a firm believer that it's never too late to start building muscle.
In fact, this is the philosophy I used to encourage Chelly five years ago, before she ever transformed into a lean, mean, muscle-building machine.
Several years prior, she went through menopause, neglected exercise and had unhealthy eating habits. This challenged her confidence and quality of life. But overnight, a switch turned on. She was afraid that if she didn't start making an effort, she'd eventually develop health complications like diabetes or coronary artery disease, and she'd regret her choices 10 to 20 years down the road.
She started by working out at home – walking on a treadmill interval-style (alternating durations of high and low intensities to establish an aerobic baseline). She did this 30 minutes a day, six days per week. On top of that, she cleaned up her diet. This allowed her to lose over 50 pounds in around 26 weeks.
After losing the weight, she set a goal to become stronger and muscular. Initially, she was concerned that building a muscular physique at her age wasn't realistic. But determined to diminish that fear, that's when I got her started on a muscle-focused fitness program.
We started out with full-body endurance, strength and flexibility training three times per week for one month – mostly performing exercises that utilized her own body weight (without machines or free weights) and stretch bands. The philosophy was to strengthen every muscle in her body simultaneously, thus allowing her to gradually adapt to lifting more weight. With each week, her body fat decreased, and most importantly, she developed mental and physical strength. She can now do more than 50 pushups and has a great front squat technique (even though she hates doing them)!
She considers herself to be in her mid-20s as opposed to 60, an attitude that came along with her new and improved body. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the true fountain of youth.
Take it from Chelly: Regardless of your years or gender, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Don't use the aging process as an excuse to let fitness take a back seat. Set goals, exercise to the best of your ability and stay determined!
Try this weekly challenge, the Longoria, and document your progress:
Perform two sets of the following, circuit style. Then add up total reps completed from each set. Write it down, and beat that number next time around.
• One minute of front squats. Position a barbell across your shoulders and hold with your hands. Keep elbows up, allowing the bar to rest comfortably on your shoulders. Squat down to a 90-degree angle then return to a standing stance. Repeat with a comfortable weight or modify by using just your body weight if necessary.
• One minute of of bench pressing. Lay supine on a bench. Descend the bar above chest line until elbows flex to 90 degrees. Then press until arms extend. Repeat with a comfortable weight!