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Getting Back to Fitness After 50

Around Christmas time, at home in Romania, we borrowed a friend’s hacksaw to try to cut my engagement ring off. Drastic measures to resolve a simple problem. I’d put on so much weight that my rings were wedged on causing me pain. The hacksaw plan didn’t work so I decided to lose the weight instead, a long tortuous process that sounded, back then, like deprivation and suffering.  My heart wasn’t in it and my resolve crumbled within days. Fast forward to July and I’ve dropped a large amount of weight in the last week. The wedding ring is off but the engagement ring is still stuck, give me another week on that one. I’m going to tell you how and why here.

Fit after 50 blog
2010. The last time I did any serious exercise. I was 44. I am NOT this trim now, but I’ll get there!

Discaimer: This post has very little to do with travel! 

Getting My Fitness Back After 50

I always lose weight when we travel, particularly in Asia, so our month in Egypt in April started me on the right track. The scary thing was, I didn’t realise how much I’d put on. On our first morning in Cairo I dug out my seldom ( never) worn linen trousers, a UK size 12. They strained over my thighs and stubbornly refused to fasten. It was a shock! Those trousers were big when I bought them, I’m usually a UK size 10 and Next clothes are famously generously sized. I got closer and closer to being able to wear them again during our time in Egypt, but when we got back to Romania the weight piled back on and I was back to square one. I resolved to start running again, but that’s impossible for me in the village with big scary sheepdogs, I had to wait for London and a fresh start.

In Paris, during our road trip I figured I should quit coffee and wine too, my menopausal sweats were not my favourite thing, so I decided to try that path and see if it helped. I haven’t touched either since, that was 10 days ago.

On our first day in London, within hours of arriving at our base for the next 5 weeks, we headed to the supermarket to stock up with good, diet-friendly groceries. We filled a trolley with food for the whole week, cheeses, vegetables, chicken and beef along with an assortment of fruits, olive oil, Greek Yoghurt and eggs. The majority was veg and we picked the cheapest options, plenty of cabbage.  A full week’s shop came to just £80. Eating better saves you money too. What wasn’t in the trolley was bread, pasta, rice, pizza or any processed food with the exception of a big box of cereal for the kids and a block of high-quality dark chocolate for emergencies, I’m realistic!

Next stop after the supermarket was the running store where I bought cheap tights and shoes. I had to buy an XL in the tights, that didn’t feel too good, but I knew that spending on gear would be an extra incentive.

That night I ran with my Ironman husband, the aim was just a lap of the park and back to the house, nothing too ambitious, to run at all would be a bonus and I was very prepared to walk. The photo above was taken in 2010, that was the last time I was fit enough to run seriously and in that shot I’m completing a half marathon in Far North Queensland, our old home. I was 44 and ultra-fit and lean. I missed that.

Fast forward to today. It’s Saturday, exactly 8 days of eating well and 7 days of running later. I have lost a LOT of weight, I feel fantastic and tonight I will run 5 Km, I passed the 5 Km mark on day 4 of running. And you know what? It’s been easy.

What I Did That’s Different to the Usual Approach.

I ran every day.

I’ve done a lot of exercise in my life, from aerobics, to step, to fitness groups, to boxing, to personal trainers. The only thing that gets me fit fast and makes the weight drop off is running.

Previously when I’ve been getting back into running I’ve been with groups or trainers that have recommended running every few days, maybe 3 or 4 times a week. I know from experience that this hurts. After you run, on day 2 you will be sore.  It will be so bad that you’ll struggle to go up and down stairs or even sit on the toilet, you certainly won’t feel like running. If you take some time off for this soreness to go before running again your soreness will be back on the second day after that run. My Ironman husband told me there was a simple solution to this, run every day. I didn’t believe him but it’s worked a treat. Since day 2 I have had no soreness at all. As you’ll see below, short, slow, recovery runs after big push days have been working for me.

Here’s what I’ve run.

  • Day 1. Lap of the park. I ran, slowly, to about 1.5 Km before running 100m, walking 100m to a total of just under 3 Km. Towards the end I included a hill sprint. Hill sprints are the magic sauce of improving your running.
  • Day 2. Same distance, pretty much the same run/ walk plus hill sprint.
  • Day 3. Same, but I ran the whole way, hurting like crazy because the soreness had arrived.
  • Day 4. 5 Km run . Yes it was hard but I was determined to do it, plus hill sprint.
  • Day 5.  Back to the original 3 Km, very slow, very gentle.
  • Day 6.  The original run plus a bit extra, 4 Km no walking, but we did pause to play on the swings with Boo for a while, he ran 4 Km too. I raced him on the hill sprint, he beat me, but it’s getting so much easier. Also walked for 3 hours while shopping in London.
  • Day 7. 5 Km again, but faster.
  • Day 8. Rest, an enforced day off ( Boo’s birthday!)
  • Day 9. 5Km again, excited to run after a break, much faster, much easier ( sub 8 minute Km s for the first time)

So you see, no huge distances but I’ve kept it ticking over. I’ve had music and I’ve had an app to track my runs ( try run keeper) so I know exact distances and times. Every day I’ve been out for a short half hour walk too. I’ve also had my amazing family to support me, without Chef at my side I would have stopped and walked every day so far. I run very slowly, but that doesn’t matter, I’m getting out there.

Here’s what I’ve been eating.

I know myself. If my food isn’t delicious and abundant I’m not a happy camper. I also knew I’d crave carbs like crazy. The carb cravings only lasted around 4 days, I’m fine now, but my secret stash of dark chocolate has been a huge help. I’ve eaten unlimited, huge quantities of vegetables ( not potatoes, no carbs), usually cooked in olive oil along with eggs, bacon or other meat. I’ve given up on being vegetarian for now, I just can’t do it at the moment with cooking for the kids. Other meals have been based on delicious things like mushrooms with blue cheese and garlic. I’m not going high fat, I can’t believe that saturated fat is good for you so I’m sticking with my olive oil. My cheese affair is still rampant, it’s just not on a pizza base any more. After my run around 4pm I don’t bother with dinner, I’ll maybe have a few olives and cheese or some fruit and Greek yogurt. Yes, I may be hungry, hungry is good. So no “diet” food and I don’t feel in any way deprived. Dinner is tiny, breakfast and lunch are big. It works for me.

How Has This Affected the Menopausal Symptoms?

Little difference to be honest. I’m probably going to put coffee back on the menu. I’m still getting the sweats but I generally feel great so I’m not so hung up on them.

How Has This Affected our Finances and Life?

I can’t believe how little I’m spending. No more popping to Tesco Local for a sneaky bottle of Merlot and grabbing some humus, olives and French bread, or worse, crisps, as an evening munch-fest. We’re spending way less than usual so I’ve been treating myself and the kids in other ways. I finally got myself that fabulous, flat wash bag I’ve wanted for so long ( I love it!) and I’ve treated myself to new make-up and delicious (packable) things from Lush  to make life lovely. The kids still get cakes and sweets, I just don’t join them. It’s an all round win-win. Chef and I are spending far more time together too, running and talking. His interest in extreme triathlons is no longer quite as alien to me as it was, we’ve grown even tighter. Boo comes with us to the park, D is being very teenager-ish and refusing to be seen with us, but that’s normal. Life is good.

I’m Not Trying to Tell You What to Do

I’m not going to tell you to follow my diet or exercise plan, it’s not a plan, it’s just what’s working for me. “People” generally don’t recommend running every day but I’m not pushing myself, I’m taking it nice and easy and using slow runs to recover. I thought you’d be interested, that’s all.

How Much Weight Have I Lost and Why No Before and After Photos?

I don’t know how much I’ve lost but it’s a lot. It’s very noticeable, in just 4 days it was noticeable. Those linen trousers fit, particularly round my thighs but I still can’t get that engagement ring off. I’ll get there.

I try not to get hung up on figures so in the same way that I don’t monitor my site’s daily traffic I don’t count calories, measure food or weigh myself, I just know what works. I see my clothes fitting and I see my reflection improving, I don’t care about the irrelevant numbers.

In 2 Weeks I’m Doing a 10 K

My first 10 K since 2010 and I can’t wait. I’m going to nail it!

I promise you that on that day there will be photos, by then I won’t be caring about my big butt, wobbly belly or gargantuan thighs, I will be a runner, and that will be amazing. Update: I’

‘m well into my 50s now and still run. I can bang out a 10Km run ( slowly) usually without too much trouble. I’m still overweight. Not as heavy as I got in Romania, but strong and fit enough. Want to see how some of the fittest travellers out there stay fit and healthy while travelling ? We have a full post here.

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