With summer around the corner, I thought it was a perfect time to talk with a personal trainer about the best ways to get in better shape. I don’t know about you, but between my middle-aged middle and my sagging upper arms, (or as my British friend A used to say “bat wings”) I’m always on the hunt for ways to firm up.
“My daughter Courtney is a personal trainer,” said my friend D. “She works with boomer women.” Wow-o-wow, I wonder if she would be interested in sharing some fitness tips,” I asked. D connected us and voila. Not only did Courtney agree to an interview, she also offered a giveaway for a complimentary virtual 30 minute personal training session. One lucky reader is going to win a custom session with Courtney. Be sure to read to the end and enter!
From engineering blueprints to building stronger bodies
Before I recount my interview with Courtney, I have to tell you about her background. While she has been a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and nutrition coach for the past six years, Courtney transitioned into this profession as a second career. You see, in 2012, she graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering. During her work in the construction industry she realized that her real passion was being in the gym and helping people become stronger, more confident versions of themselves. She loved the field so much that when she and her husband moved to Boston several years ago she switched careers and hasn’t looked back.
As for her enthusiasm for working with boomers, Courtney says, “Since exploring my love of fitness and health, I have come to the understanding that I specifically love working with the 50+ community. I had a great relationship with my grandparents growing up and I believe that bond influenced me to want to work with this generation. The more I work with this group of people, the happier I become.”
Fitness tips from a personal trainer Courtney Johnston
Now that you know a bit about Courtney, let’s hear what advice she has to help the post 50 female population stay in shape. Here are excerpts from my interview:
I have so many body parts that need toning, especially my middle-aged middle. Is it possible to target a specific part of the body to lose inches, weight or belly fat?
Courtney: “This question is popular. Unfortunately we cannot target a specific body part to lose inches or body fat. We all wish we could shrink our bellies or our arms or legs, but that is not the way your body works.
When we work out or diet, our bodies are genetically designed to start shrinking in specific places first and others last. The best way to lose inches in general is to do a full body workout program that includes strength training and cardio. Be sure to include strength training exercises for your entire body. If you want to lose inches in a certain area, do more exercises for that area, but still do a full body workout.”
After menopause with loss of estrogen there’s more risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. I have osteopenia based on my bone density scan. How can we build bone strength as we age? I do yoga – is that good? Any other recommendations?
Courtney: “Any exercise is good but strength training is best for improving your bones. When you are resistance training, you are training your muscles to lift more but you are also training your bones to handle that added pressure as well. If you are nervous at first, don’t be afraid to start with as small weights as you need. It’s all about you vs. yourself, so start where you are comfortable. It’s about progress over perfection.”
What are benefits of lifting weights for a woman over 50, 60 or 70?
Courtney: “There are so many benefits to lifting weights:
First, strength training builds lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is critical to keep your body functioning well and having the least aches and pains.
Second, as we discussed earlier, it builds bone density. “Got Milk?” used to be the thing to build strong bones, now it should be “Lifting weights?”
Third, it decreases body fat. Who doesn’t love that?
Fourth, it speeds up your metabolism. Which is one of the reasons why it decreases body fat. When your body burns more calories per day, you will inevitably end up burning more body fat.
Fifth, it improves your mental health. This is huge right now. With everyone concerned about Covid-19 and so many other issues, we all need to have our mental health at top tier and lifting weights will help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Sixth, it helps improve balance and coordination. Keeping your balance and coordination through your later years is important to minimize risks of falling.
Seventh, it also helps reduce the risk of many diseases and can help improve the symptoms of others including arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Every woman over 50 should be strength training at least two days per week to increase her lean muscle mass and help her body move as functionally and gracefully as possible. The two best places to start increasing muscle are your glutes (butt) and abdominals (core). Strengthening these two muscle groups will help you relieve knee pain or back pain, and you’ll start really feeling stronger in your everyday life.”
I can’t run anymore. Is walking just as good?
Courtney: “Yes, just getting in your steps is the most important thing for you cardiovascularly. Don’t worry about running if you can’t, just move. You can incorporate the elliptical, stair master or the bicycle as well.”
What’s a good exercise routine/regime?
Courtney: “A decent exercise routine is a four day split with two days strength training and two days cardio. Each workout should be at least 45 minutes to an hour, if you can.
Don’t forget to incorporate some stretching and mobility into your workout as well. We all need to stretch our muscles but most people forget. That’s the benefit of doing yoga, you are getting some body weight resistance training with some stretching at the same time.”
I feel like I don’t do enough cardio workouts. It’s challenging to get my heart rate up when exercising. Can you explain more how heart rate impacts wellness.
Courtney: “Heart rate is an interesting topic. There are different heart rate zones and each one helps your body in different ones. The first thing we need to talk about in terms of heart rate is figuring out your max heart rate. The easiest way to do this is by the equation 220 – AGE = Max Heart Rate (MHR). Here’s more information about heart rate and zones:
Tell me more about MHR.
Courtney: “Most people in the 50+ population wouldn’t need to go above the 80% MHR zone unless they are training for a specific event like a marathon or cycling event.
The most talked about zone is Zone 2 because that is where most people will burn body fat. That zone might actually feel very easy for most people and that makes sense because that’s what we call steady state cardio. It means that you should feel like you can comfortably stay at that heart rate for an hour or more.
If you try to work in different heart rate zones, it will only make your heart stronger. That’s why it’s better to do some walks at your Zone 2 pace, while on other days doing an elliptical or bike workout at Zone 3. The walks will most likely be longer than the elliptical or bike workouts because the elliptical or bike will invariably be harder, so they should be shorter.
I hope that gives you a glimpse into different heart rate zones.”
Any other wellness advise for maintaining good health after 50?
Courtney: “Drink more water! Most people don’t drink enough. Our brains need 100 ounces each day, so the closer you can get to that number, the better.
And try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. The goal for all adults is 7 – 9 hours per night. Sleeping helps our bodies recharge and reset for the next day. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be hungrier and irritable because your body hasn’t reset, so it actually thinks it’s been up for 24+ hours.”
Thanks Courtney. I learned a lot. I’m going to think about your advice and suggestions when I exercise from now on.
If you are interested in scheduling an online personal training session with Courtney, you can contact her on Instagram @court.johnston_
Enter the giveaway for a complimentary virtual personal training session.
As I mentioned earlier, Courtney has graciously offered to give one lucky reader a complimentary virtual 30 minute personal training session. To enter, complete the Rafflecopter below or leave a comment about your favorite exercise or any other fitness/wellness tip that helps you stay in shape during your life after 50.
What a great find in Courtney! Thanks for this informative article, Judi.
I think I’d be a real challenge for her. Due to MS, I haven’t really exercised in a while. Numb feet, loss of balance, and heavy bouts of fatigue.
At 63 I’m overweight, and getting COVID (now long COVID) didn’t help. I try to walk (with my cane) every day. It’s not far but at least it’s something.
I do drink water since I’m prone to kidney stones.
I need help! Desperately.
I don’t mean to drone on, it’s just that your blog post really hit home. Many thanks to you and Courtney.
All the best,
Cathy, I’m sure Courtney could tone down the exercise and work with you. Sorry for your pain and for your long Covid. Sending you healing hugs.