I love football analogies, man. I probably use them too much. I ought to invoke the images of a symphony or a wild-flowered meadow more often.
But some football analogies just make sense to me at a visceral level. Especially this one: pursuing long-term body-and-soul health (at 40, 50, 60 and beyond) is like committing to the run as a football strategy.
When a team declares “we WILL run the football,” they commit to guiding principles like: Having a more-patient approach to victory – not trying to “win quickly”…Depending less on flashy or gimmicky approaches – what you see is mainly what you get…and Reducing costly mistakes – fumbles are less common and less damaging than interceptions.
Let’s consider what lessons this holds for the pursuit of decades-long fitness. I see five of them.
There are great reasons to keep fighting gravity, man.
Going up hills works different muscles than staying on the flats (and it works the same muscles harder, too). It provides natural interval training. You don’t need some trainer shouting at you “now go harder” – Mother Nature takes care of that. And not least, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and can-do power to help sustain fitness motivation as life unfolds.
But it’s not easy. As the saying goes, if it were easier, more people would be doing it. To keep you among the relative “few who climb,” here are tips for use before, during and after that hill looms up in front of you.
I guess if there’s any one thing you figure you “know how to do” already, it would be breathing. You’ve been doing it successfully for a while now, yes?
But we adults have often gotten away from breathing the way a child or an animal does: using our diaphragm and the lower part of our torso (“belly”) to initiate inhales and exhales. Why? Tight pants, self-consciousness, spending a lot of time sitting…there are multiple reasons.
Belly breathing noticeably helps during endurance workouts (consciously try it the next time you hit that tough hill on foot or your bike). It also is great during any “mindful breathing” activity like meditation, or straight-up breathing exercises aimed at stress reduction or sleep inducement.
The Atlantic Monthly recently published an article entitled “New Nutrition Study Changes Nothing (Why the science of healthy eating appears confusing—but isn’t).” The author makes the point that media businesses, in their quest for audience, have incentives to depict never-ending new revelations and controversies in nutrition.
Granted, there are some fundamental reasons why “definitive” nutrition science remains elusive. And there are legitimate different points of view on some nutrition questions. Like the prominence of carbs in your diet or whether certain fats are good or bad for you. So I don’t advocate ignoring the topic of nutrition entirely, man.
But at the same time, I want to do my part to reinforce this truth: There are a few clear Nutrition Do’s and Don’ts you should follow starting with your next meal, man. Don’t let uncertainties or controversies elsewhere in Nutrition Land interfere with that.
In our quest to stay fit and vital as we age, sometimes we can’t help but experience feelings that counter-productively undermine our resolve.
It’s natural to fear and lament that our basic physical capabilities are diminished compared to our younger selves. But while this is true, you’re less over-the-hill than you think, man. This should be a manageable fear. Anyway, what are you gonna do about this – exercise less and let yourself get less fit because you can’t run a mile as fast as you could 20 years ago?
Also, like people of any age, we sometimes battle that sluggish feeling that whispers “don’t work out today…there’s always tomorrow.” But as we age, doubling down on fitness becomes ever more important, so effectively responding to that sluggish feeling is key.
Here’s the feeling that threatens our long-term body-and-soul health more than any other: the fear that we are getting more fragile, more VULNERABLE to injury and other activity-limiting aches and pains.
This is so dangerous because we can observe that it’s least partly true…but at the same time we can’t let it dictate our fitness habits and start a self-fulfilling downward trend. So how to deal with this shadow of vulnerability we feel? The trick is to neither ignore nor surrender to it.
Here are five things you can do starting now, to face up to this most-human feeling of vulnerability.
There are a bunch of reasons why you might NOT work out today. Some are good, and many are not-so-good. Of all possible reasons, the one I really hate works like this.
1. You plan to work out that day. Then as the planned time nears, you start to feel a physical and/or mental sluggishness. Nothing dramatic, but you just don’t feel like working out. You start to flirt with the idea of taking the day off, considering various possible justifications.
2. But rather than explicitly, decisively declaring a day off – sometimes you need one, even if unplanned – you let minutes tick by without moving toward your workout OR deciding not to. Deep down, you might know what you’re doing, but you don’t admit it to yourself.
3. Then all of a sudden, voila, it’s “too late” for your workout. You missed the window of time you had before your next work, family or personal obligation. Even though you caused this, you don’t feel glad about the “can’t workout now” reality. You immediately feel like you’ve let yourself down.
This ever happen to you? If so, you just fell victim to That Sluggish Feeling (“TSF”).
I’ve devised a new response to TSF when it strikes. I don’t seek to move directly from sluggishness to exercise. Instead, I do a short, easy “bridge” activity in-between, to change my energy and get me into a better frame-of-mind to decide if I’m really, intentionally going to skip that workout. Here’s how it works.