As I have been examined performance based training in these past articles, I have thought about the idea that most of the information on fitness we receive comes in the form of the science of fitness but not so much on the personal needs of the individual. Even the diet programs advertise “a one size fits all” approach that of course is not possible to sustain. Each of us IS different in make up and desire with specific individual physical needs and challenges.
I propose that when we look at ourselves that we TRY to see the uniqueness and not the “sameness” that so many us DO see. No two people are alike and this means NO ONE solution will work when it comes to understanding, designing and implementing a course of health and fitness programming. Develop your OWN perspective of what you WANT and move on that knowledge!
Athletes use performance based training principles everyday in their preparation for their individual events or sports. Water polo players DO swim as a part of their training but they are NOT swimmers. Sprinters DO repeats – as do long distance runners – but they are focused on completely different goals. The sprinter is interested in explosive starts and acceleration and the long distance runner is interested in endurance and maintaining speed over distance.
These examples of the principle of specificity of training make sense if you are an active participant in either track and field or water polo – or some other pursuit. I see establishing “milestones” for training results as an effective means of determining what a positive outcome is – and accomplishing individual goals.
Weight loss is a result of training appropriately and eating a proper, balanced diet that allows for renewal and regeneration of the tissues that were stressed during training and finally, proper sleep and needed rest – especially as we get older! Each of us responds differently to the “training stimulus” but we will ALL respond in some form and lose weight – if that is our pressing need! Is that all we want from our efforts or do we want more from them? Stopping at weight loss is short sighted because there is so much more to life well lived!
The result of deciding in favor of a healthier and fit body is a life that reflects a renewed sense of purpose that is capable of achieving great things AND becoming happy, healthy and fit in the process. I will share some of the methods I use in my own training that I use to measure my own progress in order that you may think about your own needs – and goals – going forward. In deciding what you want to accomplish in your own life that pertains your future health, set your course for results that are meaningful to YOU – and GET GOING! There is no time to waste!
THE AGING PROCESS
What DECREASES: Resting metabolic rate, caloric output, bone density, joint integrity and range of motion, muscular strength and endurance, cardiac output, flexibility, balance, speed, power, quickness, and functional responses to external stimuli. Loss of visual acuity, hearing, and a less effective immune system capable of fighting infections and other invasive attacks from viruses, bacteria and other potentially life threatening events are also a part of this process.
What INCREASES: Body weight, fat storage – body fat, blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of injury, risk of serious illness – stroke, heart attack, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and other potential killers, joint damage and debilitation, stress – emotional, physical, and mental, and finally loss of sleep for extended periods.
Each of these two processes are occurring each day if we are not active. If we are not engaged in preparing our bodies for the years ahead, we are falling behind. The loss of lean mass and the resulting damage that will occur to our joints IS real and accelerates over time when we continue to sit and do not move. Joint replacement surgeries are on the rise and show no signs of slowing. The loss of cardiac output (blood volume) is crucial because it affects our ability to train our hearts over time. The rise in blood pressure and subsequent damage to the arteries increases the possibility of stroke or heart attack – the leading cause of death in the U.S.
This is why I have set my priorities the way I have. I value the hard work my heart has done over the years and my body has responded in kind to this focused and disciplined training process. I am prepared for my 80’s because I valued my youth and middle years BEFORE I arrived at my 70’s. The training does NOT stop the aging process but it DOES slow it down and this is why I train every day if I am not hurt or sick (which I am not). With each day that passes we lose some part of our health and our capacity to exercise work. With each attempt to restart our activity it takes LONGER to get back to where we were. Each day represents an opportunity to do SOMETHING about this pattern and it depends solely on YOU – and the choices you make TODAY!
MEASURING YOUR PROGRESS
Know your numbers! I do not mean just blood pressure, cholesterol, or body weight. The more important number to me is WAIST SIZE. If your waist is greater than 35 for a woman or 40 for a man then it is time for you to get moving! Set in motion the steps you will take to address how you will approach your fitness needs while deciding what success will look like. Be willing to commit to your new purpose and make a plan that is reasonable and achievable – and get going.
I am burning on average 900 calories for every 6 miles I run while also creating a calorie deficit as a result that needs to be filled in order to help my body repair and recover. There are 3500 calories in a pound and I KNOW that many people eat that – and more – every day without even thinking about it! It takes me running six miles (at under 7 minute pace) to burn the equivalent of one quarter of a pound! Think about that! How many people can do this every day to help their bodies lose weight or achieve a level of fitness that they want to maintain? Increasing time or intensity is difficult at best for most people because of what they have to face just to live everyday!
Changing your body’s response to the training stimulus takes time and patience but it DOES work if you work the program and stick to your plan. The resistance training process WILL show you results within 30 days (twice a week) if you are committed and working at the proper volume and intensity for your ability. I will always come down on the side of increasing strength FIRST as we age because without strength we WILL become old before we reach what I consider an old age!
Cardiovascular capacity: 6-7 mile runs with 6:30 per mile pace in mind. MY GOAL: 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday.
Strength: 250 pound bench press – 20 times. 400 pushups in 30 seconds. 200 hanging dips. 450 pound leg press 200 reps. 1500 ab seated bench crunches against 65 pounds.
Flexibility: Low back, hamstrings, quads, hips flexors and balanced musculature.
Balance: Ability to stand on one leg for 30 seconds and do basic movements of life without restriction. Toe to toe walk – eyes closed.
NOTE: My youth was spent being active in team and individual sports (baseball, football, and swimming). We were tested in PE class during my 7th through 9th grade years with the help of the President’s Physical Fitness test. We should all do something similar annually!
What will your milestones be? What will you do to prepare your body for its future and how will you decide your priorities going forward? Sitting is NOT an option. Once you become overweight or obese – or sick and disabled and frail – the road becomes that much longer. Just as the athlete prepares for his specialty I am preparing my body for LIFE and that life includes travelling, speaking, teaching and writing further on the principles of healthy aging. Each day presents all of us with a new opportunity to affect positive change in our lives and if we take advantage of the time and we don’t waste it, we WILL be successful. ANY plan will work IF we WORK the plan!
I don’t think about what might happen to me because I want to live the best that I can TODAY. Tomorrow will come – or not – and that is okay with me since I want to live today – as healthfully and as happily as I can. Today is all that matters and how you decide to fill it is up to you. No one can set your course for you – except you.
No one can make you take action because you control that process too. I am hopeful you will stay in the present and THINK about your prospects as they ARE today and then DECIDE what you will do about it. I am grateful and hopeful because I WORK at this part of my life and also physically challenge myself so that I can live my dream. What is YOUR dream and are you living it? If not, get going and start TODAY. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled – and healthy and fit – so make no excuses and accept the challenges your life presents to you because you ARE worth it! Travel well!