I don’t know about you, but as each year passes, I find it harder and harder to stay in shape. My efforts to play sports over the last thirty years have not always ended well: surgery for tennis elbow, surgery for swimmer’s shoulder, plantar fasciitis and a broken wrist from hiking.
But what can I say? I like being active, I’m vain, I’m terrified of losing mobility and I’m hooked on endorphins.
I also have a role model to live up to—my friend Ann. She goes to an all-women’s gym, Healthworks, for an hour four or five times a week, doing a mix of aerobic and strength training classes as well as yoga.
Here’s a picture of Ann on a bamboo bridge in Vietnam last year. She just turned 80!
Sticking With a Fitness Program
If you’re struggling to get or stay in shape, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years.
You may possess a will of iron. I don’t. For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve used a personal trainer to keep me going. You can find one at a gym or online or get a referral from friends.
If that doesn’t appeal, search among friends, family and acquaintances for a workout buddy. Make a plan to work out together for six weeks. (Behaviors tend to stick after six weeks.) Decide what you’ll do and when, and write it down. Check in with each other weekly to review your progress. Be sure to celebrate when the six weeks end! If it has worked well, re-up for another six. If not, try another buddy.
You can also buddy up by phone if your pal doesn’t live nearby. S/he could even be doing something else for six week, like finding a new job or starting to eat healthier or de-cluttering. What counts is that s/he holds you to your objective and vice-versa.
Aim Toward Something You Love
You’ll work out more consistently if it’s for something you enjoy doing. Since 1998, the reason I do annoying, often boring, workouts is so that I can hike. Hiking is my favorite fun thing to do, my passion. (In fact, I love it so much I climbed the 48 mountains over 4000 feet high in New Hampshire.)
Apparently, Lauren Yates enjoys hiking too. The picture on the right is Lauren hiking with Sam Mendenhall Anderson, the niece of Tom Mendenhall.
There are loads of fun things to do. You might find pleasure in biking or soccer or golf or skiing or sailing or…
Set Goals and Track Them
I’ve learned to set goals for the coming year in the areas of my life that are important to me: professional, personal and physical. As the year winds down, I compare my achievements with my goals. It’s satisfying to dream up goals and accomplish them, whatever they are. And satisfaction breeds commitment. We all want more of a good feeling, yes?
Set goals for each coming week and jot down each day what you’ve done. Once a week review your log with your trainer, buddy or on your own. I’m often surprised when my trainer comments on things I did but totally forgot by the end of the week. Age plays a role in this forgetting, but it’s not an age-related phenomenon. In our fast-paced society, we tend to overlook what we’ve achieved and focus on what we have yet to do. It’s vastly encouraging to be reminded that, why yes, we actually did some of the things we meant to do last week!
One of my goals this year was to hike five days with the Sierra Club in the Northern Cascades in Washington, mountains I’d never seen before. Heat exhaustion knocked me out for one day in the middle, but I climbed the four other days and saw amazing views, one of which I share here. I’m still on a mountain high.
What About You?
As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to develop and maintain a healthy body with strong bones. How do you stay in shape? Share your process and your progress—let us know by commenting here.
In a New York Times article about older athletes, researchers find those who work out regularly are physiologically much younger than their chronological age. The article links to a calculator to figure out your own body’s age. Check it out. You might be younger than you think.
Any fitness goals you want to make public here? It’s a great way to commit yourself to doing something. And it’s a gift to the rest of us. We all get a boost from hearing what others have achieved or are attempting.