Tip #24: How do you actually resume a more active lifestyle?

Obesity levels for the senior population in the U.S. are 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 (1st and 15th of the month) tips 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?

How do you actually resume a more active lifestyle?

If you are truly ready to resume a more active lifestyle, what do you have to do to get started? Here are eight steps to consider:

  1. Determine your current fitness age.
  2. Get your doctor’s approval to exercise and identify any risk factors (complete the 2020 Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q).
  3. Set realistic goals and timelines.
  4. Confirm support from family/friends.
  5. Interview health & wellness coaches and/or personal trainers.
  6. Commit to your goals.
  7. Start living an athlete’s lifestyle.
  8. Document your “experiment of one.”

As part of Step 2, complete a personal assessment, like the PAR-Q, and determine the following :

  • Your current health status.
  • Your fears and preconceived notions about your health status.
  • Your current activity level.
  • Your obstacles to health and fitness.
  • What health aging means to you.

To increase your physical activity, you need an increase in moderate-intensity (50%-70% MHR or 4-6 RPE) activities:

  • Begin with 50 minutes/week (10-minute sessions on 5 days of the week) of aerobic activity, such as brisk walking (if overweight).
  • Gradually increase to 150 minutes/week (30-minute sessions on 5 days in the week).
  • Then, increase further to 200-300 minutes/week.
  • Strength train at least twice/week (not on consecutive days).
  • Increase non-exercise physical activity throughout the day (i.e., stand instead of sit, take the stairs, and walk or bike to do errands).

What have I learned?

When I transitioned to cycling in 2001 after a lifetime of running, I was probably a bit reckless to enter my first race, a 45 mile road race, less than three months after I purchased my first bike. I had to sprint to the finish line to avoid coming in last. Average speed was only 17.15 mph.

Over the years, especially when I became a Masters time trial specialist, I think the three virtues that have helped me sustain an active lifestyle over 20+ years have been patience, humility, and self-discipline.

At my second or third race that first year, I asked a fellow competitor if he could tell me how long it takes to become a competitive bike racer. He said “three to five years.” If I was looking for a magic elixir that would help me win races and I had been 20-30 years younger, his answer would have ended my racing career that first year.

One of the advantages of years of life experience is an appreciation that any kind of expertise or competency takes years to achieve. I didn’t win any races during the four years I was learning how to train and race. In fact, it would take an additional four years and 24 races after I switched to exclusively racing time trials before I won my first race. Without patience, I would not have won – ever.

There is a truism in competitive cycling that there is always someone faster than you. This was true for me for my first 22 road races and criteriums. And it was certainly true for my first 24 time trials. But, on September 8, 2013, I was the fastest, completing a hilly 20 km time trial in 0:35:01 at 21.29 mph average. The following year, I won 6 races out of 12 entered. If I didn’t win, I finished on the podium. The next year, 2015, I entered the time trial races at National Senior Games with high expectations. I tied for 10th place out of 40+ competitors. In 2017, I competed in the USA Cycling Masters National Time Trial Championship against the best racers in my age group in the country, again with high expectations. I finished 21 of 22 competitors.

While I was routinely victorious at the local, state, and regional level, racing at the national level is its own lesson in humility. Rather than quit in disgust, I figured out what I needed to do to compete at that level. I will make another attempt for a podium finish at the national level in 2025.

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 from you. I may address your questions in a future tip. Just drop me a note.