Last week I gave you quiz to assess how fit you are in each type of fitness that’s important for a long, happy, functional lifetime. How Fit Are You? Part 1
This week I’ll discuss how to improve in each type of fitness so you can work on what’s important to you.
Health Maintenance Objectives
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the benefits of regular exercise include “improved cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, flexibility and balance. These are important factors in functional ability. In addition, participation in regular exercise can also positively affect pain control, self-confidence and sleep patterns.” Moreover, appropriate regular exercise will help maintain healthy weight and strong bones. Note that the different benefits come from different types of activities, i.e., not just cycling. You can read about the ACSM’s recommendations here:
Athletic Maturity Quiz Elements
The quiz last week was about your “Athletic Maturity.” Athletic Maturity is a way of gauging how well you measure up to the health maintenance objectives of the ACSM. Because physiological decline starts when you’re about 50 years old the concept of athletic maturity applies to anyone age 50 and older. The more mature you are as an athlete the more you’ve taken care of your body, and the slower your decline as you age.
1. Years riding. How long you have been riding and doing other aerobic exercise?
You can’t change this retrospectively — it is what it is. However, this only one of nine factors.
2. Annual riding. To assess your general aerobic fitness, how many miles (kilometers) do you ride per year? Other aerobic exercise also counts.
The ACSM recommends 2:30 to 5:00 hours of moderate aerobic activity every week of the year or 1:15 to 2:30 hours of vigorous activity every week or some combination. If you ride 2:30 hours a week at 15 mph your annual total is 1,950 miles. You’re in good shape as far as the ACSM is concerned; however, you could improve by building up to five hours a week 52 weeks of the year.
3. Longest annual ride. To also assess aerobic fitness, what is your longest one-day ride of the year in miles (kilometers) with a speed of at least 12.5 mph (20 km/h)?
You build fitness progressively. Follow these rules of thumb to increase your annual riding and longest ride. If you’re fairly new to cycling, use the lower percentages. If you’re very mature athletically use the higher percentages — but listen to your body.
- Week to week increase weekly volume by 5-15%.
- Month to month increase monthly volume by 10-25%.
- Year to year increase annual volume by 10-25%.
Your muscles atrophy as you age unless you continue to work them. The ACSM recommends twice a week muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity involving all the major muscle groups. These should include legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders and arms. The next three types of fitness assess the strength of most of these muscle groups.
4. Number of pushups. To assess your upper body strength. For men, how many standard push-ups can you do with only your feet and hands resting on floor? For women, how many modified push-ups can you do with your knees and hands resting on floor.
5. Weight for 20 step-ups. To assess your lower body strength. Hold a weight in each hand (using dumbbells or grocery sacks) or wear a backpack filled with canned food. While doing 20 complete step-ups, how much weight can you hold?
This column provides an illustrated variety of upper and lower body exercises: Anti-Aging: 4 Essential Year-Round Home Resistance Exercises
6. Plank. To assess core strength, how long can you hold the plank?
I hate the plank. This column explains more about how to assess your core strength and provides a variety of illustrated core exercises: Anti-Aging: Core Strength in 1 Hour a Week
You don’t need to lift weights to meet the recommendations; any form of activity that works your muscles helps. I carry bags of groceries to the car and then upstairs, good workouts for my legs.
You don’t need to do a full session at one time. You could do upper body two days a week, legs two other days and core on other days. Or you could do upper body and core in the morning and legs later in the day.
You can also multi-task — my friend John does squats while brushing his teeth. Pete does his core and stretching during commercial breaks while watching TV with his family and enjoys ice cream in between the commercials.
Although the recommendation for resistance training is twice week, research indicates the total time you spend a week is the important factor; not the number of days. I.e., doing more different exercises of the same body parts once a week for 1:30 hours has the same benefit as two sessions of 0:45 hours a week. The key is more different exercises, e.g. squats plus step-ups. Doing more sets of the same exercise has minimal benefit.
7. Body mass index (BMI). BMI is the ratio of height to weight to estimate body fat. Since athletically active people may relatively more muscle and less fat, the standard BMI may overstate the unhealthiness of a given body weight for fairly muscular people. Here are three other tests:
- DunLap Condition – My belly done lap over my belt.
- Belly Bounce – Standing in front of a mirror if I jump up and down a little my belly bounces.
- Furniture Disease — When your chest drops down into your drawers. This from Kerry Irons.
I manage what I eat in six simple ways.
- I eat six times a day to keep my blood sugar stable — breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, before bed snack.
- For snacks I eat filling foods, e.g., raw veggies dipped in mustard and fresh fruit so I’m not as hungry at a meal.
- I practice push-aways. Before I’m full I push away from the table.
- When we go out to dinner I take a container for left-overs to bring home and I fill it with left-overs before I start eating.
- I buy groceries from the perimeter of the store, not in the aisles. Fresh veggies and fruit, dairy, baked goods, meat, poultry, etc. are on the perimeter. Processed higher calorie less nutritious foods are on the aisles.
- I read the labels and try not to buy anything with added sugars.
Unless you’re obese, the quality of your diet is more important than your weight. You can learn about good nutrition in these columns:
- Anti-Aging: Nutrition, part 1: Daily Food and Drink
- Anti-Aging: Nutrition, part 2: Supplements: Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
8. Sit and reach. To assess flexibility sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you with straight knees.
The ACSM recommends maintaining the flexibility necessary for regular physical activity and the activities of daily living. My friend Carl has trouble bending over to put on and tie his shoes. He switched to slip ons and bought an 18” shoe horn. He’s determined to get better and is taking a Pilates class twice a week and a Rolfing session once a week.
This column explains how to stretch and illustrates the nine key stretches: Anti-Aging: Flexibility in 30 Minutes a Week
9. Balance. To assess your balance, how long can you stand on one leg with your other foot lifted slightly off the floor?
Balance is also called stability. How stable are you as you move around? How stable are you if someone bumps into you? This column explains why balance and stability are important and provides a series of activities to improve your balance: Anti-Aging: Why Practicing Balance Is Important
We have a 12” x 15” x 2” foam balance pad. I’m slightly unstable standing on it while I cook or do the dishes.
Fitting it all in
You don’t need to do a complete session of an activity at once:
- Break it up: I work at home. Because I’m home most of the day it’s easy to get sucked into doing stuff around the house, e.g., I’d think “I don’t have half an hour so I’ll skip my stretching and core.” I’m adjusting my attitude so I do the essential stretches and core in the time I have available.
- Multi-task: Be creative. You could practice standing on one foot while waiting in a line. Or walk briskly to the car three times for small loads instead of just one trip for everything.
- Increase intensity: Riding harder instead of riding longer and doing fewer repetitions with more resistance both save time.
- Exercise Snacks: Several small studies suggested three very short sessions of intense exercise are about as beneficial as one longer session of the same total duration.
- Activities of daily living: One large study suggested brief and sporadic amounts of vigorous activities are associated with substantially lower mortality. I.e., one to two minute bouts of intense activity as part of daily living. These include very fast walking, stair climbing, etc. Carrying a load more than 5% heavier than your body weight is vigorous exercise as well as some gardening and house cleaning activities.
- Mix it up: I often have a long to do list of small stuff. I’ll do a set of leg hard exercises and while I recover I’ll cross one item off my list.
I’m multi-tasking now. While I type this column, I’m comforting Pearson, my 15-year-old cat in my lap. And comforting myself. He has feline diabetes. Daily insulin shots might prolong his life a little, but he and I would both hate them. My colonoscopy is tomorrow so I’m also drinking the foul stuff to clean out my bowels.
My Cycling Past 50 four-article bundle includes:
- Healthy Cycling Past 50 reviews the physiological changes that come with increasing maturity and describes the different types of exercise to slow the aging process. It includes three sample programs depending on your goals and how much time you have.
- Performance Cycling Past 50 includes two specific performance plans: training for a fast 50-mile ride and training for a century.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50 describes what kinds of foods you should eat for healthy nutrition and details what your daily diet should be and what you should eat on rides.
- Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 describes the benefits different activities and how to do them in the winter: cycling outdoors, cycling indoors, cross-training and resistance training. It includes two different 12-week plans and guidance on how to adapt each to your physical condition, time available and goals.
The 93-page bundle Cycling Past 50 is $15.96, $4 less than the full price of all four articles.
My Cycling Past 60 Bundle Part 1: For Health and Part 2: For Recreation describes how if you exercise correctly you can slow the effects of aging. I describe how your whole body ages. Cycling only keeps the cardiopulmonary system relatively young. If all you do is ride, you lose muscle mass, bone density, flexibility and balance, which you need for activities of daily living. I give you six different health maintenance objectives for different components of your physiology and comprehensive fitness programs that address these objectives. I include three balanced, full-body exercise programs for different cyclists of different athletic maturities. I also provide nutrition tips for healthy aging as well as advice on the importance of rest, recovery and sleep. The 47-page Cycling Past 60 Bundle Part 1: For Health and Part 2: For Recreationis only $8.98.
My Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond 3-article bundle includes:
- Peak Fitness 39 pages Contains four specific programs to improve your fitness in one or more of the following ways:
- Improved endurance
- More power
- Faster speed
- Higher aerobic capacity (VO2 max)
- Training with Intensity 27 pages Doing the right kind(s) of hard riding slows the aging process and delivers an array of benefits at any age:
- More efficient training.
- Stronger heart.
- Greater lung capacity
- More powerful muscles.
- Fit for Life 34 pages Exercise options to strengthen your body’s functions that keep you fit for life and activities of daily living, including your aerobic, skeletal, muscular, neural, core and balance systems.
The 100-page bundle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond is only $13.50
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 over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.