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Healthy Ladies: age and energy levels and capacity for physical work


Ginevra
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I’m kind of thinking out loud, here, but add whatever insights you wish.

 

Many moons ago, I used to clean homes for employment. I was 25yo. Some of the houses were enormous; most were on the big side. Typical was probably around 3200 sq. ft. The few that were really huge were 5,000 or more and usually had a finished basement and/or in-law apartment connected. So on a typical day, I was working hard and continually for 4-5 hours. When I quit doing houses, I was about four or five months pg with my first child and it was too difficult, energy-wise, to do that while pregnant. I did not continue to clean houses after my child was born, although sometimes I did painting and construction cleanup for houses DH built; I did this, I guess, until I was 30-31, but this was quite intermittent, maybe twice a year for a few days in a row.

 

So, then I focused on raising babies and homeschooling, etc., and was not normally called upon to do that kind of continual, very physical work. My health has been generally good and I normally do exercise, but not at an extreme level.

 

Here’s where my question comes in: why is it so difficult for me to do continual, physical work for even, say, two hours? Is this just: welcome to 46? Can I never expect to have the energy for that sort of expenditure again in my life? I did some serious cleaning today in the (finished) basement. I don’t know exactly how long I was working, but my Fitbit recorded 199 minutes of exercise. I am guessing I spent three hours or so cleaning. (Hard-work type cleaning, like moving furniture, scrubbing dead insect dirt off the floor, extensive vacuuming with the hand tool.) However, I was half-dead at the conclusion. I could hardly bear the thought of bringing the vaccum and mop back upstairs, that’s how done I was.

 

Is this because, though I exercise, I don’t do high-level exercise for 2 and a half hours, and I’m simply no longer used to it? Or is this just what anyone my age would experience unless they were ordinarily a high-level athelete? I’m kinda bummed about it.

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It's both.

If you are not used to it, sudden physical activity is much harder. I notice it every time I get back to bicycling; I am fit and active, but when I have not used my biking muscles for a long time, it is harder than when I'm in the habit. It is activity specific.

And yes, with middle age, the activity becomes harder even when you are used to it, compared to how it felt at 25.

 

I find the biggest difference is that I don't bounce back as quickly. In my 20s, I could climb the entire day, sleep, and be ready to go again the next morning. At 49, I notice on the second day that I spent the previous day exerting myself; muscles hurt longer, I am more tired, and need more time to recover. I think that is inevitable and due to ageing.

 

I find that training makes a big difference.

Just as an anecdote: we took DS rock climbing. He is an athlete and trains five days a week, but he climbs only once a year or so. DH and I are old, but climb more frequently. Even though DS is much, much fitter than we are, he was exhausted hours before we old folks were tired - simply because it was a different activity than his sport and required using different muscle groups.

 

Edited by regentrude
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What kind of exercise do you do? Also, I've come to realize that "exercise" is not equal to physical labor.  What you described to me is physical labor. I'm pretty sure the average runner would also be exhausted by the kind of labor that you did in your basement.  Different kinds of physical work/exercise requires different kinds of muscles and movement.  

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It's both.

If you are not used to it, sudden physical activity is much harder. I notice it every time I get back to bicycling; I am fit and active, but when I have not used my biking muscles for a long time, it is harder than when I'm in the habit. It is activity specific.

And yes, with middle age, the activity becomes harder even when you are used to it, compared to how it felt at 25.

 

I find the biggest difference is that I don't bounce back as quickly. In my 20s, I could climb the entire day, sleep, and be ready to go again the next morning. At 49, I notice on the second day that I spent the previous day exerting myself; muscles hurt longer, I am more tired, and need more time to recover. I think that is inevitable and due to ageing.

 

I find that training makes a big difference.

Just as an anecdote: we took DS rock climbing. He is an athlete and trains five days a week, but he climbs only once a year or so. DH and I are old, but climb more frequently. Even though DS is much, much fitter than we are, he was exhausted hours before we old folks were tired - simply because it was a different activity than his sport and required using different muscle groups.

 

This is very true,  When I was a Judo Sensei, we had elite marathon runners come in and they were exhausted and winded halfway through the class.  Because I trained for Judo regularly, I could do our workouts without trouble, but there is no way I could run a marathon.

 

But yes, aging plays into it.  Recovery takes longer.  I suspect if you cleaned like that regularly, you wouldn't be as spent at the end, but you would not be quite as spunky as you were at 25.

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Both.  At 33 I cannot pull an all-nighter like I did when I was 20; I can maybe stay up 24 hours working if absolutely necessary (and well caffeinated, and I don't drink caffeine so have no tolerance) but then I must sleep.  I used to be able to just skip a night of sleep.

 

On the other hand, physical endurance is something you build slowly and lose quickly, in my experience.  Even just doing the most physical aspect of our business, cutting labels, which is not hugely difficult - if I don't do it for several weeks, when I do it again I can maybe handle 2 hours a day at most without getting sore and tired.  When I'm doing some of it every day, I can go 3-4 hours with no real trouble.

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What kind of exercise do you do? Also, I've come to realize that "exercise" is not equal to physical labor. What you described to me is physical labor. I'm pretty sure the average runner would also be exhausted by the kind of labor that you did in your basement. Different kinds of physical work/exercise requires different kinds of muscles and movement.

I lift weights and do body-weight exercises. I also walk, sometimes run, and do yoga. But yes, this was physical labor and a lot more sustained work than my normal exercise routines.

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I agree that it's probably that you are using different muscles than you are used to using.

 

It could also be how and what you were breathing.  How, as in were you taking the kind of short breaths people take when they're not having a good time / maybe annoyed?  What, as in the basement / dust / cleansers is a lot different from the air you'd be breathing on a hike.

 

But yes, age is part of it too.  Age will make you get tired faster and stay tired longer.  However, what you describe does not sound like enough to really exhaust or fatigue a person of your age without other factors playing in.

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I lift weights and do body-weight exercises. I also walk, sometimes run, and do yoga. But yes, this was physical labor and a lot more sustained work than my normal exercise routines.

 

While it seemed as if you were just rumminating, if you think that you would like to train in order to increase your physical endurance, consider HIIT workouts and lifting heavier.  Things like running in place with a bosu or throwing and catching heavy medicine balls.  

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While it seemed as if you were just rumminating, if you think that you would like to train in order to increase your physical endurance, consider HIIT workouts and lifting heavier.  Things like running in place with a bosu or throwing and catching heavy medicine balls.  

 

You could also consider training by cleaning my house for me.

 

I'd be willing to offer you that to help out... :lol:

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While it seemed as if you were just rumminating, if you think that you would like to train in order to increase your physical endurance, consider HIIT workouts and lifting heavier. Things like running in place with a bosu or throwing and catching heavy medicine balls.

yeah, I am mostly ruminating, but it did cause me to wonder how I could work out to train for better endurance of miscellaneous work.

 

God knows, I could have my hands full just “practicing†here at my own house, as it seems every area needs a good, deep cleaning.

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Don't be disappointed. The fact that you were able to sustain that level of work for 200 minutes is outstanding. It may not seem like it to you, but clearly the exercise you are already doing is making this type of sudden surge of different physical activity even possible. 

 

When we exercise, we often train specific muscle groups. Even the same movement, such as running, but in different conditions (treadmill vs outdoors) can make a big difference in the training effect. And the training effects are limited in time as well. Riding a horse once a year will result in very painful muscles each time you ride as the muscles won't be used to working.

 

The age factor is also huge. Our joints and other body parts experience stresses and damage over time that the body can't always fully repair. Those years of cleaning houses may have done some damage to your back, knees, etc, that you don't notice much until you do things that put them under stress. 

 

So it's probably a good idea to do big cleaning projects in shorter intervals, get someone else to move the furniture, and listen to your body before you reach the point of complete exhaustion. 

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 it did cause me to wonder how I could work out to train for better endurance of miscellaneous work.

 

I think the best training would be by doing the miscellaneous work.

 

The whole idea of "exercising" and "working out" is a fairly new one because people do not have much physical exertion in their everyday lives. Our grandmothers simply did their work and walked their errands; they didn't "train" for it by exercising.

My grandma carried the shopping for a family of six up a hill and seventy steps. She didn't need weights or stair masters.

Edited by regentrude
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Combination. I used to be able to clean the house in a day and I couldn't now even if I had the time frame to do it in. I get exhausted quickly. I actually worth a bit about my ability to go back to work if I need to from the point of view of various health stuff. I guess I would build it up again but it's hard to know.

 

I also think a lot of Vacuum cleaners have heavier suction for a deeper clean. I can relatively easily sweep my whole tiled area but I find vacuuming puts a lot of pressure on my back and hips.

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I'm 48 and do two to four hours of physical labor (horse chores) every day. It isn't taxing for me, but that's only because I have been doing it day in and day out for a long time. If I took a few weeks off and then started back up, I'm sure it would be a struggle getting used to the hard work again.

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I find the biggest difference is that I don't bounce back as quickly. 

 

Yes, this.  I exercise a lot and have for many years, but nowadays I really need a light day between the hard workouts.  

 

I have also noticed that it takes me a lot longer to warm up than it used to.  

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I'm 48 and do two to four hours of physical labor (horse chores) every day. It isn't taxing for me, but that's only because I have been doing it day in and day out for a long time. If I took a few weeks off and then started back up, I'm sure it would be a struggle getting used to the hard work again.

My SIL is like this. She doesn’t have an “exercise routine,†but she has impressive fitness from daily farm chores. I call her arms, “hay bale arms,†because she has arms like a lifter but it’s all from horse chores.

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I think it's a combination of what you're used to and age.  That first round of raking leaves each season leaves me more wiped out than teaching three hours of dance classes in one evening. When I jump my teaching schedule from 2 hours of dance a week in the summer to 8 during the school year, my muscles are screaming for 2-3 weeks.  In the past I would've gotten used to it faster.  When I go to dance conferences and take intensive workshops, I can keep up with the 20-somethings, but I go to my room and DIE at night and they go out clubbing.  I'm much better off than sedentary 20-somethings, but I'm just not matching the stamina I had at that age.  I still think the pain of moving is FAR greater than the pain of sitting still all the time.  

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Right there with you...it seems that my gardening limit is about two hours, because I only do continued work (physical labor with no breaks) about every three months.  (You did great with five hours! I'm very impressed.)  My two hours were root-digging under a tree, so they were tough.  On the second day, I did a different flower bed, one without substantial roots, but I had not had a chance to recover from Day One...not a good move.

 

Come spring, I'm going to find some perennials to go in my flower beds, plants that--like the old monkey grass which was formerly there--don't require a lick of work. 

 

 

Edited by Halftime Hope
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When I was in my early 30s, when dh and I bought a new house, we landscaped the yard.  We installed edging, put in 20-30 bushes, planted 10 trees and move I have no idea how many tons of rock.  It took a couple of months working on weekends, but we were well able to do it.  Now, we just hire out because #1, I can afford it now, and #2, There's a real possibility I would be too muscle sore and exhausted to take care of my oldest ds.

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I think there's another factor that might come into play: doing it for yourself vs. doing it for pay. It's difficult for me to sustain motivation in projects that I'm not required to do. My job requires some amount of tedious work and physical work. I just do the tasks, even when I don't want to or am getting tired, because it's my job. At home when I'm working on my own numerous tedious and/or physically demanding projects, I am far quicker to take a break. I feel mentally and physically "done" much sooner, and it can't be entirely attributed to real physical limitations.

 

Obviously aging and conditioning are much more likely culprits giving Quill's description of the situation, but I know for me the home vs. work comes into it as well. I used to clean houses for a living as well and I never was able to do my own house with the same energy level that I did my paid work. It's why I know I could never run my own business. I'm too lazy without outside accountability.

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Well, I am a fit and active 50 year old, and cleaning kills my body. I run long distances (half marathons), hike long distances in the summer (can outhike some people half my age), and snowshoe for hours at a time. I also have been strength training for many years. Now these things do make me tired, but it's a good tired. And although my muscles might get sore, it's a good feeling. Cleaning, especially deep cleaning, hurts my back, my wrists, my elbows, and I just feel exhausted when I'm done. I think part if it is because the active things I do for fun fuel me mentally, and cleaning does NOT. It just always has to be redone and I really don't like to do it. But I do like things clean.

 

I do also think age has a little to do with it, because I notice that I can't work as long cleaning or doing outside work as I used to. I have to take more breaks. It's also just not as satisfying to me anymore as it used to be, which is why I greatly want to downsize. Still workin' on the hubs on the downsizing. ðŸ˜

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I’m kind of thinking out loud, here, but add whatever insights you wish.

 

Many moons ago, I used to clean homes for employment. I was 25yo. Some of the houses were enormous; most were on the big side. Typical was probably around 3200 sq. ft. The few that were really huge were 5,000 or more and usually had a finished basement and/or in-law apartment connected. So on a typical day, I was working hard and continually for 4-5 hours. When I quit doing houses, I was about four or five months pg with my first child and it was too difficult, energy-wise, to do that while pregnant. I did not continue to clean houses after my child was born, although sometimes I did painting and construction cleanup for houses DH built; I did this, I guess, until I was 30-31, but this was quite intermittent, maybe twice a year for a few days in a row.

 

So, then I focused on raising babies and homeschooling, etc., and was not normally called upon to do that kind of continual, very physical work. My health has been generally good and I normally do exercise, but not at an extreme level.

 

Here’s where my question comes in: why is it so difficult for me to do continual, physical work for even, say, two hours? Is this just: welcome to 46? Can I never expect to have the energy for that sort of expenditure again in my life? I did some serious cleaning today in the (finished) basement. I don’t know exactly how long I was working, but my Fitbit recorded 199 minutes of exercise. I am guessing I spent three hours or so cleaning. (Hard-work type cleaning, like moving furniture, scrubbing dead insect dirt off the floor, extensive vacuuming with the hand tool.) However, I was half-dead at the conclusion. I could hardly bear the thought of bringing the vaccum and mop back upstairs, that’s how done I was.

 

Is this because, though I exercise, I don’t do high-level exercise for 2 and a half hours, and I’m simply no longer used to it? Or is this just what anyone my age would experience unless they were ordinarily a high-level athelete? I’m kinda bummed about it.

 

 

I feel your pain sister.  And according to my 73 yo mother who always had MUCH more energy than I ever did, it only gets worse. It is helpful to learn to pace yourself and to be kind to yourself.  And to be thankful you don't have to do that sort of physical work for a living.

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