40+ Fitness for Women: Strength Training, Health & Weight Loss for Women in menopause & perimenopause

#61: How to Safely Start Weight Training After Age 40

April 09, 2024 Lynn Sederlöf-Airisto Season 1 Episode 61
#61: How to Safely Start Weight Training After Age 40
40+ Fitness for Women: Strength Training, Health & Weight Loss for Women in menopause & perimenopause
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40+ Fitness for Women: Strength Training, Health & Weight Loss for Women in menopause & perimenopause
#61: How to Safely Start Weight Training After Age 40
Apr 09, 2024 Season 1 Episode 61
Lynn Sederlöf-Airisto

Resources mentioned in the episode: 


One of the biggest concerns women have about starting weight training is safety. Understandably, they don't want to get hurt when lifting heavy things. 

In this episode, I discuss the things that you should keep in mind when getting started with weights when you are in midlife - even if you have been an active exerciser: 

  • Some exercises that I would avoid
  • How to get your body used to this new form of exercise
  • What to do about pre-existing injuries
  • Listening to your body - what's normal and not

Weight training is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself to keep your body strong and functional as you age. 🤗

Support the Show.

Ready to start lifting weights?

For weekly tips to your inbox: subscribe to my newsletter>>

Follow & chat with me on Instagram: befitafter40_withlynn/

Support the show: Buy Me A Coffee

Looking for dumbbells or a walkpad? Here are my recommendations >>

Show Notes Transcript

Resources mentioned in the episode: 


One of the biggest concerns women have about starting weight training is safety. Understandably, they don't want to get hurt when lifting heavy things. 

In this episode, I discuss the things that you should keep in mind when getting started with weights when you are in midlife - even if you have been an active exerciser: 

  • Some exercises that I would avoid
  • How to get your body used to this new form of exercise
  • What to do about pre-existing injuries
  • Listening to your body - what's normal and not

Weight training is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself to keep your body strong and functional as you age. 🤗

Support the Show.

Ready to start lifting weights?

For weekly tips to your inbox: subscribe to my newsletter>>

Follow & chat with me on Instagram: befitafter40_withlynn/

Support the show: Buy Me A Coffee

Looking for dumbbells or a walkpad? Here are my recommendations >>

#61: How to Safely Start Weight Training After 40

[00:00:00] Welcome to 40 plus fitness for women. I'm Lynn, your host, and I'm a certified menopause fitness coach helping women over 40 build the bodies that they want to spend the rest of their lives in. How's that for a mission, huh?
And today we are going to talk about whether weight training is actually safe for women over 40. This is one of the top concerns that women have when they're thinking about starting weight training.
Now I've got to start with a little story because here it is. Beginning of April, 2024. And over the weekend, we just changed my car tires from my winter tires to my summer tires. And one of the things I've talked about earlier on the podcast is the, what kind of a job this is because I store my winter tires or my summer tires, whichever ones are not being used in a shed at the back of my backyard.
[00:01:00] And. When it's time to change the tires, I need to get them out of the shed and carry them up this little hill up to the parking lot where we've either changed the tires there at the parking lot or I've loaded them in the car to take them to a tire shop to get them changed. In any case, those tires are not light, right?
You lug those things up a little hill and yeah, they weigh something. And the thing that has been so wonderful is that every time I do this job, since I started weight training, it feels easier. I mean, each and every time, and this time was no exception. Now I have this, uh, boyfriend nowadays, and he's kind of old fashioned in the sense that he believes that he should be, you know, carrying the tires up the hill for me.
He also weight trains. He [00:02:00] has plenty of muscle, even though he's older than me. Uh, but anyway, and we really. Really had a discussion about whether I could actually carry those up. Not whether I was capable of it, but whether that was an okay thing to do. So anyway, I explained to him that regardless of having this wonderful gentleman who wants to do things for me in my life, It is really important for me to be able to do these on my own.
And I get such a kick out of lugging those tires up the hill and it not being difficult. And in fact, I always kind of hope that maybe one of the neighbors will come out of their yard and see, Oh my God. That middle aged woman who has those teenagers is lugging her tires to the car because everybody here in Finland knows how heavy those tires are, especially when you have an SUV and the tires [00:03:00] are a bit bigger.
Anyway, so he got to be the cameraman this time. And if you want to see some video of me lugging my tires up to the car from my yard, you can check out the reel that I posted about that event and I'll link it in the show notes. All right, so, but on to the topic of the show, which is really about, is it safe for women over 40 to start weight training?
Well, I think this tire lugging episode, or if any of you are into gardening, you know, You know that there are situations where you need to pick up heavy things, right? You need to pick up mulch or dirt or the plants or whatever. And sometimes it can be in like not the greatest positions, right? You've got to hoist them up and into the car and lift them so [00:04:00] that you can pour out the dirt or whatever, or even like moving the planted, um, flower pots around.
like a deck I mean, that takes some strength, right? So obviously there are life situations where we need to be able to lift heavy things. And another one of them is even bringing your groceries in from the car. So. There certainly is no reason why we shouldn't have to do those things, right? And for sure, everybody, like all humans, benefit from weight training.
And especially when you're in midlife and beyond, your muscles, you know, the thing is that If you're not weight training, you are actually becoming weaker every day, every week, every month. It's not just that you're sitting still, right? Oh, I'll start next year, [00:05:00] you know, and that you'll be starting from the same place that you are today.
No, you'll be starting in a worse place. So it is definitely, You know, a good idea to get started and to get started right away. Now there are ways to get started and ways to get started. And , I think when you are 40 and older, and especially if you're a woman who is going through perimenopause or even in postmenopause, because for sure you can start, and then I did, you need to be a little bit aware of your body and the fact that you are not 20 anymore.
Right? Right? So. What menopause has been doing to your body, well, what life has been doing to your body, first of all, is that your amount of muscle mass has declined over time, and it's predominantly the muscle fibers in your muscles, which are responsible for the You know, the [00:06:00] strength and the power. So your endurance fibers, they tend to stick around longer or not disappear so much with age.
It tends to be the strength and power fibers that go. And you notice that, right? I mean, people all around me are talking about, Oh yeah, I noticed I'm getting weaker. You know, if you notice that you're getting weaker, you really are getting weaker and it's because those muscle fibers are going. And then if you're a woman, which I assume you are listening to this 40 plus fitness for women, you know that, or you should know that as your estrogen levels decline and estrogen actually disappears as you go through menopause.
Then what happens is that the protective. Force of estrogen, where it is taking care also of your tendons and your ligaments. And your bones that is disappearing. And what that means for your tendons and your ligaments [00:07:00] is that they're stiffer and a bit more brittle because they don't have estrogen.
They're taking care of them. And so this should be not a reason for you not to start, you know, don't be worried, like, Oh my God, they're going to break. That's, that's not the problem. In fact, the weight training is going to be the way that you take care of your tendons and your ligaments. But it's good to be aware that those might not be in the same kind of shape as they were when you were 20.
I mean, they for sure are not in the same kind of shape as they were when you were 20 or 30. So when you are 40 plus starting the weight training, it's a good idea to start with, you know, fairly safe exercises. So, for example, I wouldn't suggest that you start with like back squats or deadlifts, like traditional deadlifts, especially if you're not working with a coach.
I mean, now if you are working with a coach and I [00:08:00] would even say an in person coach who can like stand there with you, watch you, spot you, make sure that you're doing it correctly, You know, I just wouldn't take that risk to do it on my own. Right. And I would not, I also don't program that for my clients because I am not standing there watching them.
Right. And there are plenty of other exercises that train you. So those two exercises, if you never do them in your whole life. No problem, you know, like really no problem. Right. But when you get started, so once you've got your list of exercises and you're getting started, I know I talk about progressive overload here a lot, and for sure you want to be progressively overloading, but in the very beginning, when you're starting, you should be kind of more gentle on your body.
Because your muscles are probably weaker, your [00:09:00] tendons, your ligaments, your joints need to get used to it, all these things. So give yourself some time when you get your program, , get to know the exercises, have form checks done. So if you're training with me, for example, either one to one training, then you can send your videos directly to me, or if you've bought one of the online learn to lift courses, then in the Facebook group, you can submit form videos, but check your form.
I mean, you can even check it yourself, you know, take a video of yourself doing the exercise, compare it side to side with the instructional video of how to do that exercise and make the corrections, , yourself. You know, if, if you have an eye for that kind of thing. But you want to really learn the exercise, get comfortable with it, and then start to load it little by little, heavier and heavier.
So and this applies, you know, [00:10:00] I'm, I guess I err on the side of caution because you know, now that I took the break from upper body training for almost two months and I'm going back into it and I had the surgery, I am little by little going back up. And it really has been like, I started at about half of what my weight, what weights I was at.
And then I've been week by week building up, even though I would have probably been strong enough to go faster. I wanted to make sure that my body is okay with that. You know, I have. decades here of training ahead of me still. So it, you know, it's not like I need to sprint to, to get there. So just keep that in mind that you want to let your body get kind of acclimated to doing the weight training.
And that may take a few weeks. And one thing I've noticed with, my clients who have been doing weight training, You know, sending me form videos. And then I [00:11:00] have re that I've worked with here in person actually lately, , is that even though they are women who work out regularly, right. They're in the group fitness classes, running, whatever yoga.
It's still when they start to do the weight training, they noticed that. Yeah. They're. They're weaker than they thought, and they've had to take quite small weights, for example, shoulder press weights. And they noticed that the ability to do the exercise like in a very smooth motion that takes a few times of doing it, you know, where you get this nice smooth, Steady, confident movement pattern going.
So give yourself time when you're doing it. All right. And the other factor that you should take into account is that, you know, we're not, we're not 20 anymore. We've [00:12:00] had life happen to us. If you've been like me, an athlete or worked out earlier, or even been gardening. Or you can even hurt yourself walking down the street, right?
Or at home tripping on the stairs, you may have some old injuries and those you do want to take into account. You want to take them seriously. When you start the weight training, our bodies They have miles on them, right? And so as you start your weight training, pay attention to what your body is telling you.
Yes, weight training sessions are work, but they shouldn't hurt. You, you should feel, it should feel comfortable. If you start to feel something that doesn't feel right, or certainly if you start to feel pain, then you need to pay attention. And I really. Um, myself, somebody who will very quickly [00:13:00] go talk to a physical therapist or a doctor, depending on what the issue is to make sure that it's okay to proceed.
And sometimes it really is okay to proceed. So for example, I had a situation last winter where I had just been walking on my walk pad and Then I was going to the weight room that evening. So I was actually a lower body day and I was doing my warmup of just doing some split squats to warm up my legs, body weight, split squats, really no big deal.
And I felt that My knee feels funny today. So I left out the exercises that required me to bend my knees and did my training. And that evening, my knee kind of swelled up and it got painful. And the next day it was even more painful. So I went to the doctor. To a orthopedic surgeon had it taken a [00:14:00] look at, I got some drugs, pain killers to see if the swelling would go away on its own.
And it did, but it still didn't feel right. So we actually had an MRI done on it and he declared that, Hey, there's nothing wrong with your knee. There's no like new injury. It's just. You're, you're 52. I'm now 53, but at the time I was 52 and he said, just get back in the weight room and do what you can. And so what I ended up doing was I would work, for example, leg presses.
So this was my right leg or right knee that was bothering me. So I would do, um. leg presses separately, the two legs separately. I did totally normal unilateral leg presses with my left leg. And then with my right leg, I couldn't bend it as far. So it was like this very, very small range of motion, like presses that I was doing for a while.
And [00:15:00] each week I was able to do a little bit more range of motion, a little bit more, a little bit more. I mean, it probably took me two months to get back to a full range of motion. And I still listen very carefully to what that knee was doing. We'll accept and we'll not accept, but you know, that's not going to stop me from weight training.
And for sure, the orthopedic surgeon was like, get back in there. You need to maintain your muscles so that your knee health stays good. So then that felt really good to me. So if you ever are in doubt, if you have some, something strange going on, then definitely go talk to a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon and find out what your limits are.
Bye bye. Another example is one of my clients who has had her, uh, shoulder dislocate. I think it's three times now. And it happened like in group fitness classes, like literally doing a side plank or something, and it just junks, you know, dislocated. And it's done that a few times. So for [00:16:00] her, like her weight training program is such that her physical therapist gives her, her shoulder exercises.
And then I train the rest of her body. Okay. And so we're able to work it very nicely like that so that she gets the exercises that her shoulder injury needs, but she also gets to train the rest of her body. So you can definitely work with all kinds of injuries. And also, for example, one client who had, um, Her ankle mobility on one side was significantly less, uh, just from arthritis than the other side.
So we made adaptations, but absolutely important for her to continue to keep her muscles and her body strong. Just had to think about, you know, what can she do? What can't she do? Okay. So I think that answered the question of, is it safe to start weight training after 40? [00:17:00] Absolutely. It is. Choose safe exercises.
In other words, I mean, there's so many safe exercises. I mean, I guess the only two that I would really kind of leave out myself that come to mind immediately are I wouldn't do a back squat and I wouldn't do a deadlift traditional deadlift from the floor. If you're like a beginner weight trainer, you beginner in weight training, you can.
Train all those same muscles using a lot of different movements. And then you just want to take into account the fact that your body is not 20 anymore and start up gently, , not just, you know, go from zero to 200 in a week, because you may. Get injured, get sore, right? So you want to kind of build your body up.
If you think about those tendons and those ligaments, as you start to train and start to stress them a little bit more [00:18:00] with the weight training, they're going to adapt and get stronger as well, your bones. So, but you want to like kind of have a ramp up for them before you start going all out. And then finally take into account any injuries that you've had in, in the past.
And I would be quite quick to go consult with a physical therapist or an orthopedic surgeon, some kind of doctor. If you notice that you have an injury, just to make sure that it's not something new or whatever. Um, and make sure that it's okay to continue training or to get instructions on how you should train that part of your body in a little bit. different way to account for that weakness or that injury that you've had.
Okay, so I hope this has dispelled some fears around training after 40. It is certainly, certainly Possible to start even in your eighties. I am still trying to [00:19:00] convince my parents, but they're a little old fashioned that way. They're, uh, 77 and 82. So, but they could definitely be doing it, but of course they're going to be starting slowly with smaller weights because they're already quite weak from letting their muscles decline over all these years.
, and so we would need to take that into account as they get started. Anyhow, with that, I will leave you and hope you a very happy spring and happy training.