I’m a Fitness Trainer Who Didn’t Begin Working Out Until Later in Life. Here’s Why You’re Never Too Old To Start

One of the clearest memories I have from when I was younger is going to soccer practice for the first time and having the coach ask us to do push-ups. I looked at my dad, who had brought me to practice, and said “you don’t use your arms in soccer.”

That was the last practice I ever went to. To say I wasn’t into sports as a child would be an understatement.

A timeline of my own fitness journey

I was active and rode bikes, rollerbladed, jumped on the trampoline, and generally enjoyed games like tag. However, when it came to sports, I quit every one I tried—with the exception of gymnastics. I was a gymnast for a few years, but looking back, I can tell you one of the reasons I probably lasted so long was that there was no running at my gymnastics practices. Not enough for me to be offended by at least.

Once I hit my teens I decided I was going to leave athletics behind and pursue theater arts. While there was some dancing and maybe some stage combat from time to time, that was really the extent of what I did… until my senior year of high school.

When I was a senior, my best friend, who was a cheerleader, convinced me to try out. Though I had no real desire to be a cheerleader, I wanted to do something with my friend, so I tried out. To my surprise, I made the squad.

I distinctly remember that summer being the most working out I’d ever done in my entire life. We had two practices a day where we did calisthenics, held angles (if you know, you know), practiced our routines, and ran a lap around the park (which felt like three miles but was about half a mile at most).

After my short stint as a cheerleader, I retired from almost all physical activity throughout college—I saw the inside of the gym about 10 times in four years. I would decide I needed to work out, keep a routine going for a few weeks, start to see results, and then stop. This cycle repeated all through my 20s and into the first year of my 30s.

When I turned 31, I found myself living alone in a new city in a new state. Other than work, I had nothing to do, so I once again decided it was time to start a workout routine. But this time (spoiler alert) it stuck.

My first order of business was downloading the Couch to 5K app. Every day, I (very) slowly started to run more. I also lifted weights in my apartment gym a few times a week, and this time when I saw results, I kept going because I wanted to see more.

Being the good millennial that I am, I took pictures of my progress and started sharing them on social media. A few people told me I was inspiring them to start their own fitness journey and that was enough for me to decide I needed to have a career in fitness. At this point, I had been working in radio for almost 10 years.

Suddenly my life became trying out different fitness classes and apps and spending my free time working out. I saw how being consistent with my workouts changed not only my body, but my mental health as well. I truly started to love training and realized that even though I wasn’t a lifelong athlete, I could start at the age of 31 and continue to get stronger.

Why exercise is important—no matter how old you are

“It’s never too late to start your fitness journey,” says Erin Carvelli, coach at Orangetheory Fitness in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Starting a fitness routine later in life can be very beneficial for both physical and mental health, as it helps promote longevity and vitality as we age.”

As a fitness coach myself, I often speak to people in their 40s and older who think it’s too late for them to start working out and it won’t make a difference—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I started doing strength training when I was 51,” says Liz Hilliard, owner and creator of the Hilliard Studio Method. “I am walking proof that it’s never too late. I’m 70 now and I strength train four times a week.”

In fact, around age 30, everyone starts to lose their muscle mass, and muscle is key to health, Hilliard explains. (Harvard Health Publishing backs this up.)

“It’s never too late to start your fitness journey. Starting a fitness routine later in life can be very beneficial for both physical and mental health, as it helps promote longevity and vitality as we age.” —Erin Carvelli, coach at Orangetheory Fitness

How to get started with a fitness routine if you’re a beginner

If you’re not sure where to start, Carvelli recommends beginning with low-impact exercises and gradually increasing the intensity as your fitness level improves. “This approach helps prevent injuries and allows your body to adapt gradually,” she says.

“You don’t have to make a big plan,” Hilliard says. “Drop down and see if you can hold a plank. That is resistance training. That is letting your body weight and gravity work as resistance. Can’t do a push-up? Neither could I. Put your body up against the wall, hinge your body toward the wall, and bend your elbows. Start there. Just start, and start with the most simple things. It’s the most important thing you can do for your body.”

If you have the means, both Carvelli and Hilliard suggest investing in a coach or classes to help guide you if you’re getting into fitness for the first time or coming back from a longer hiatus. This way, you’ll have a qualified trainer to correct your form, make sure you won’t injure yourself, and answer any questions you have.

The bottom line

Now at the age of 38, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. Instead of training for aesthetic purposes, I’m training to ensure I’ll be strong enough to get up off the toilet unassisted well into my 80s.

The girl who dreaded running half a mile at cheerleading practice has now run two half marathons and multiple 5Ks and 10Ks. I’m grateful I never let the imposter syndrome of not being a lifelong athlete get stuck in my head and stop me from pursuing my wellness goals.

No matter what stage of your life you’re in, it’s never too late to start. So get out there and get moving.

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