Let’s review. Your goal is to stay as fit and healthy as possible for the rest of your life, what the gerontologists call “squaring the geriatric curve.” You can control the rates of decline of your different physiological systems. How? By following the Four Pillars, which I’ve been detailing in a series of columns over that past month. (Each of the numbers below is a link to thatspecific article in the series.)
So far I’ve covered the first three pillars, Consistency, Intensity and Recovery. Today, I’ll finish the series with a focus on the fourth Pillar, Enjoyment.
The Four Pillars
Staying as fit as possible — slowing your personal geriatric curve — rests on four pillars:
1. Consistency According to the American College of Sports Medicine (almost) every week you should:
- Exercise aerobically five days a week for at least 2:30 hours – and 5:00 is better.
- Strength train all your major muscle groups two to three days a week.
- Stretch all parts of your body two to three times a week.
- Get at least 90 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a week, which you could accomplish with your aerobic and strength workouts.
- Do balance and agility exercises two to three times a week, which could be part of your strength training.
- You should do intensity workouts (almost every week), which can be substituted for the endurance workouts.
- You should take more time to recover and do specific recovery things, because as you get older it takes more time to recover.
You may be thinking, “That’s a lot of ‘should’s’! Where does enjoyment fit in?
Remember what Ned Overend said in last week’s Recovery article: “I embrace a higher-intensity / lower-volume training regimen partly because I like to suffer ….” Both pros and amateurs race because they enjoy riding their bikes and competing.
You, too, enjoy riding your bike. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t get out and do it. But you aren’t competitive and don’t like to suffer. In this column I’m giving you permission not to suffer!
Minimize Doing Stuff You Don’t Like!
I hope that you can find different fun activities that meet the ACSM recommendations, as well. But to paraphrase Duke Ellington, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t fun (ain’t got that swing).”
I hope that you’ll be healthy and fit for the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond. Be honest: how much of that time do you want to spend doing things that aren’t enjoyable, just because they’re “good for you?” I try to maximize the number of precious hours that I spend each day in enjoyable activities and minimize the time I have to spend doing stuff I don’t like.
If you don’t like doing some of the recommended activities, think of them as means to ends that you do value. The second half of the Overend quote about why he does high intensity workouts is, “…but also because of the race results I’ve achieved with this philosophy.”
But Some Activities Are Means to a Desired End
Here’s a practical example: The ACSM says that you should strength train all your major muscle groups two to three days a week. You find this boring and perhaps painful. But if you don’t do this, your muscles will atrophy.
So what, you might say? Do I really want to look buff? Probably not. On the other hand, doing the minimal core strength training will allow you ride your bike without lower back pain. Doing the minimal lower and upper body strength training will allow you to do activities of daily living that involve lifting without relying on others.
Maybe the end isn’t worth what it takes to achieve that particular result. I have a buddy with a pot belly.He’s decided that it isn’t worth dieting to be at his healthiest weight and to not have a pot belly — he’ll just have a pot belly the rest of his life. It’s okay to make such a decision, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect your health or your ability to do the tasks of everyday living.
Maybe you’ve decided that riding up hard climbs or hammering with your club mates isn’t worth the pain of intensity workouts. That’s okay, too.
And Sometimes You Can Find an Enjoyable Substitute
Maybe you hate doing one of the above types of recommended workouts. I coach a long-time client who hates core and stretching workouts. For years I’ve included 15-minute sessions four days a week of core and stretching exercises. Every week he returns his log sheet having spent zero minutes on those activities. Last year, he discovered a Pilates class that he enjoys because of the instructor and the camaraderie. No longer does he have to do “workouts.” Instead, he’s doing something that’s enjoyable.
The four pillars for a long, healthy, fit life in priority order really are:
1. Enjoyment — if you don’t enjoy an activity, why do it?
2. Recovery — if you don’t allow enough recovery, even activities that you enjoy won’t be much fun.
3. Consistency — if you do an activity consistently, then you’ll be able to enjoy doing it for many years.
4. Intensity — I won’t fault you if you stop with #3.
I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you on how to stay fit for life. Now I’m taking my wife on a XC skiing vacation, an activity that we both love.
My four-part CYCLING PAST 50 BUNDLE includes:
Healthy Cycling Past 50 – what happens as we age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into our daily lives to stay healthy and active for many years.
Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 – how to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of aging.
Healthy Nutrition Past 50 – what to eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
Performance Cycling Past 50 – how to train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.