I am a 58-year-old female who has been exercising four to five days a week for the past nine years. My program includes both free weights as well as running. Bench pressing and military pushups are a favorite. Two years ago I was injured and unable to workout for six months. During that time I gained 5 pounds and lost the definition in my arms that I worked so hard to attain. When I was able to exercise again, I picked up where I left off with weight training and running. However, I am not making any strides in regaining that definition or losing the weight.
For the past five months, two to three times a week, I have exercised my arms - biceps, triceps and deltoids - using light weights (15 pounds) and lots of reps (15) and doing three sets of each exercise. Because of my injury, I am unable to run fast. It is more of a jog now, and I still get winded. I used to have good, much faster runs where my breathing didn't miss a beat, but not now. I am discouraged and beginning to blame it on my age. Can you tell me how to get my definition back as well as improve my run?
Thanks for listening to me. I had great expectations with this program but was disappointed with the results. My husband is an avid exerciser and he has given me all of the tips that he can. Last night he said, "Ask Cindy," so here I am. - Frustrated Exerciser
Dear Frustrated Exerciser,
I have to say, I am impressed with both your perseverance and your fitness goals. Training is certainly frustrating when we feel as if we are working consistently and progressively and not achieving the results we desire. It's even more maddening when what worked once upon a time doesn't work anymore. But let's take a closer look at your progress.
Coming back from your injury after being inactive for six months accomplished your first major goal. Many never resume physical activity after a serious injury. Your second goal was to pick up where you left off with both cardio and strength workouts. You checked that box as well with the exception of running speed.
If your injury will permanently prevent you from the goal of getting back to your previous running speed, it's time to redirect your energy and modify your goals. Training the heart and lungs can be done in a variety of ways - for instance, in a pool, and working around the injury can be an exciting alternative.
On the other hand, if you'll have full rehabilitation from your injury, a little patience combined with your perseverance will eventually pay off. It does take more time to recover from injury as we age, but it is possible.
Another elusive goal for you was muscle definition. Keep in mind that building muscle does not guarantee anyone will see it. Having a muscularly defined body is dependent upon the amount of body fat a person has and that extra 5 pounds can be the difference. Anyone who has great definition also has a very low percentage of subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat.
You didn't mention eating habits as part of your training, so I will assume there may be room for improvement there. To shed body fat and reveal muscle definition, you must be in negative caloric balance, which means your body is consuming more calories than it is taking in. This is crucial for weight loss. The meal plan below, which includes protein with each mini meal, is relatively simple in terms of preparation and is a healthy way to shed some body fat that may be sabotaging your workout efforts. Don't forget water with each meal.
Morning: Small bowl of oatmeal. Use cinnamon, cloves, raisins, etc., to spice it up and keep it interesting. Yes, it's a carb, but you need the energy and it is a good one. It has fiber to keep your body regular and remove cholesterol. My favorite is Steel Cut Oats with a few slices of turkey bacon and skim milk/coffee.