How We Stay Fit

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.

staying fitHere’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.

Get Help

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.)

Spring 2014 - Lauran Yates Hiking with Sam Mendenhall Anderson - niece of Thomas Mendenhall - in Montana 110513Apparently, 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!

Cheryl SuchorsOne 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.

Cheryl Suchors

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How We Stay Fit — 5 Comments

  1. Re: fitness comments…
    After suffering thru the mother of all colds (out of commission for a good month!) last Spring, I signed up for a half-marathon at Nov month-end. I’m expecting it will give me incentive to get fit again. Worst case: a nice event T-shirt. It will be fun.

  2. Stefanie, such a great plan to set yourself a goal you actually have time to train for. I always find it helpful, close to the event to write myself a list of Hopes and Fears surrounding the event. I’ve been surprised in the past at what some of my “goals/hopes” were. Ditto the fears. Best of luck and let us all know what happens! Cheryl

  3. I am more fit now than in college. I have a home gym that I use almost every day. I started improving my core 10 yrs ago after spine surgery. I take Pilates and cross train. I have improved my lean to fat body content. It is like a part time job!
    You’ve got to show up! I just hiked at hi altitude in the mountains of Ethiopia. Next is the ten day Tour de Mont Blanc. I love active vacations and hope I can continue all this for many more years to come. The California life style is inspiring.
    Farm to table food choices are also helpful

  4. Cheryl, thanks for your inspiring article and breezy, inviting writing style. My husband and I moved to our sweet small college town nestled against Pisgah National Forest south of Asheville 11 years ago. In 5 minutes I’m in the forest, and the area brims with like minded outdoors enthusiasts. Every week I am awe struck by the beauty of the mountains, so hiking is a pleasure. I just sent this quote from naturalist John Muir to my kids: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

  5. When my knees would no longer let me run in my early forties, I took up rowing with a club knowing something with a group would keep me both showing up and socialized with other like-minded women. Seattle is the perfect place – lots of water, lots of local masters clubs and rowing year round depending on the time of day. I still love it and still compete, and am not the oldest in my club.

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