Tip #1: Why is it so hard to get off the couch?

The obesity levels for the senior population in the U.S. is now over 40 percent. If you are a former high school/college/post-college athlete who has been on the couch for the past 20-30+ years, this series of twice-monthly posts will show you how to resume an active lifestyle.

Fortunately, numerous studies have confirmed that it is never too late to resume an active lifestyle. I will show you how to reduce your fitness age, a more reliable indicator of longevity than your BMI, by 20+ years over the next 12-24 months. You will definitely be healthier, happier, and an inspiration for your family, friends, and colleagues. What’s better than that?

What are the two biggest hurdles to resuming an active lifestyle?

The two biggest hurdles to resuming an active lifestyle are finding the time to train and having a motivating goal. 

  • When’s the best time to train? First of all, I want you to work out everyday. You are more likely to continue exercising if you make it a part of your daily routine. Then, I want you to work out first thing in the morning for 30 minutes or more, alternating days between moderate/high intensity workouts and resistance workouts during the work week. Longer endurance workouts (or competition) on the weekends. If you compete on the weekends, Monday is traditionally a day of rest. I have trained six days per week for the past 10+ years. 
  • I want you to define what fitness is for you. Do you just want to feel better or do you have a more ambitious goal, like completing a local Gran Fondo with friends? Until you determine what you’re trying to do, you’re in deep trouble. A recent study reported inPreventive Medicine Reportsfound competition was the best motivator for resuming and maintaining an active lifestyle. As a former athlete, competition is part of your muscle memory. It has been part of mine.

What have I learned?

I have always been athletic, though not a particularly successful competitive runner when I was younger. I won my first race, a two-mile cross country event, when I was a high school freshman. I had no further wins or even podium finishes in high school, college, or 10 years after college. I even moved to Eugene, Oregon, to train for the 1980 Olympic Team as a distance runner, but finished last in a warmup event just before the trials, ending that dream. Despite a turbulent personal life in my 40’s, I still completed a daily run, though it was becoming more of a fast walk. Nearing my 50th birthday, my weight was approaching 200 pounds, 50 pounds heavier than my post-college weight. I suffered a hiatal hernia playing evening church basketball, which ended my running career.

My doctor advised me to start cycling, which I did. I gradually started shedding the excess weight. More importantly, my fitness improved to the point that I entered bike races within a year. I had no idea how to train, but simply rode my bike every day. Those first dozen mass-start races were all about not finishing last. But, I learned about training, racing, and gear. For the full story, read the following: My Racing.

Almost exactly 50 years after my only win as a runner, I won my first bike race, a 20 kilometer (12.4 miles) time trial. This was my 48th bike race overall, my 26th consecutive time trial. I had ridden almost 92,000 training miles over a period of 13 years prior to this second ever win. What motivated me to continue exercising and aspire to win a bike race, especially in my 50’s and 60’s?

Looking back, I can see a blend of personal motivators. First, I wanted to regain the physically lean look of an athlete (self-perception). Second, I consistently improved my race results over the years as I trained smarter (self-efficacy). Third, I lost almost 40 pounds. And, fourth, I continued to enjoy a higher quality of life, with more vigor, than almost all of my peers.

The bottomline? I have achieved an active lifestyle that includes a level of athletic success which would have been viewed as impossible when I was younger. While I have had my share of major health issues (surviving prostate cancer and chronic rheumatoid arthritis), my daily medications are limited to a low-dose aspirin. You don’t have to race your bike to enjoy my level of health. But, you need to get off the couch and get back on your bike now.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about living an active lifestyle or about your cycling goals, training, racing, or gear, I’d like to hear about it. I may address it in a future post. Just drop me a note.

TIP #2 PREVIEW: How do you deal with scepticism from family, friends, and colleagues?