One Small Change
The Age-Defying Workout
Admit it. You’ll never step into the box at Yankee Stadium (unless it’s a corporate one), walk the fairway with Tiger, or mouth “Thanks Mom” from an Olympic podium. Sorry, but that’s the cruel truth and, deep down, you know it. So why then do you continue to train as if you still have a chance? Why be a one-dimensional athlete who risks burnout and even injury because all you do, day after day, is log the miles, mash the pedals or heft the iron?
The body responds best when it’s under stress—not the dashboard-pounding traffic type but rather the healthy challenge of constant change and adaptation. This is true physically as well as mentally.
I have older friends who can run marathons in less than 3 hours and cycle hundreds of miles in an afternoon, but they struggle getting out of cars and are so well acquainted with their knee surgeons that they’ve made them their children’s godfathers. Is this fit? It seems to me they’ve traded functionality in life for fitness in one esoteric sport (and a few plaques). How athletic is that?
If competition is your soul food and excelling in one sport brings you peace and joy, then don’t let me disrupt that. But if you’ve been training the same way for years and have reached a plateau, gotten chronically injured or are feeling stale, then maybe it’s time to try something different.
With the help of Ken Croner, a strength-and-conditioning coach with Athletes’ Performance, and Sue Falsone, AP’s director of performance physical therapy, we’ve designed an exercise blueprint for real life. It’ll keep you fit and fresh, challenged and strong, all life long. Here are the components:
Movement Prep (Monday thru Saturday)
This is your warm-up, and it’s much more effective and efficient than pedaling a stationary bike or stretching statically. As the name suggests, it prepares your body for more strenuous movement by elevating core temperature, promoting blood flow to muscles, and lubricating joints and tissues. Plus, by training in multiple planes of movement (lateral, linear, rotational) it prepares you for the demands of life as well as your workout. (For more information and sample drills, click here.) “Basically, it’s a dynamic routine that hits every part of your body,” says Croner. “Use it as a 10-minute warm-up or, on lighter days, as your entire aerobic workout. It’s very adaptable.”
Strength Training (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
According to Croner, who worked with ageless quarterback Brett Favre, this is the most important aspect of conditioning. “Muscle tissue is active tissue,” he explains. “It burns calories even when at rest. As many people age, they avoid strength training because they think it puts on weight when the opposite is actually true.” Croner says it doesn’t matter whether you use free weights or machines (“they’re just different tools in the toolbox”) as long as you work your entire body three times per week with special emphasis on the legs (squats, deadlifts, etc.). Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. And don’t let yourself get lazy. Stay with a weight until you can do 3 sets of 12, then up the load and decrease the sets or reps until you build back. “Keep confusing those muscles,” he says. “That’s key.”
Energy System Development
(Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday)
Exercising your cardiovascular system is vital for overall health. Croner recommends doing a variety of activities at different intensities each week. For instance, Tuesday could be a pool workout with intervals, Thursday might be a medium-intensity run, Saturday may be walking 18 holes to build endurance, and then Sunday could be something casual and fun like playing volleyball. Indoors or outdoors, it doesn’t matter. “Focus on keeping your body stable and having good form in anything you do,” says Croner. Falsone adds that weight-bearing exercise such as walking, hiking or climbing stairs should be a regular part of your aerobic conditioning. “It helps maintain bone density and fight osteoporosis,” she explains.
Power and Speed (Do what you can)
“I hate to say forget about anything,” says Croner, “but the truth is it’s the most challenging athletic component to maintain.” Instead, do what you can, maybe devoting 10 percent of your training to speed and power development, he says, and replace the rest with intelligence. That’s what veterans like Favre do. They aren’t as quick as the young studs, but they more than make up for it with experience and smarts.
Recovery (every day)
You’ll notice that this plan keeps you active 7 days per week. There’s no conventional do-nothing day. That’s because with so much variety in your weekly workout, your muscles are already resting in a way. You’re not using the same ones day after day. To further nourish your body, get plenty of sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours daily but get nowhere near that amount. It’s during sleep, and especially the REM stage, which occurs predominantly in the latter hours, that athletes rebuild, repair and restore themselves most. Another great tool for recovery is the “foam roll.” This simple device helps alleviates muscle soreness and is like having a personal masseuse. Click here for a primer.
“There’s always going to be somebody who’s in better shape than us or who has a better body than us,” says Croner, 45. “That’s why our goal should be to train for ourselves. I played sports all my life, but the older I get the more I realize that I’m really competing against myself. Those who’ve managed to remain at the top of their game for a long time like Favre and Dara Torrez have done so because they’ve taken care of their bodies and trained smart.” This workout, combined with our Age-Defying Diet, will enable you to do just that.
About The Author
Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.