I’m a 47-year-old writer and newly-”elite” age group runner/sometime triathlete who started racing again at age 44. I currently live in Cincinnati Ohio.
I post an essay here once or twice a week about running, sport, exercise, and sometimes important stuff.
The name of this blog is “Decade” because I have a goal of getting to national-class by the time I’m in the F55-59 age group! It’s about that journey. It’s also about all the journeys we take, how time passes, and how we change.
“Decade” is my dare to keep writing, and moving, for the next 10 years.
Most of the books I've read have strict training programs that seem to just wear me out. So I find this book to be refreshingly different. Wow, I can actually go by how I feel rather than "got to get in that 20 miler today" or "got to meet my target of 55 miles this week". I now refer to my "adaptive" running schedule rather than "training" schedule. That's what it's really all about, adapting the body to new levels of running performance & not beating it up.A four-mile run or hour of Pilates or circuit training might be right there on your plan for today, and not at all what your body needs or wants. Those are the days that pushing yourself feels worse afterwards instead of better, and you stop wanting to do it at all (see my discussion of "exercise aversion"). A plan assumes everyone's body responds the same way to exercise and with the same timing; or that you know weeks ahead of time how your body will respond. Obviously, this cannot be true. A plan is really there to help your mind -- to give you a framework instead of a free-for-all. The problem is when the plan starts to hinder your mind, becomes a mind game itself , until your body's needs and responses are lost as a priority. Remember: the plan is not your goal; your health and fitness are your goal, and the plan is a helpful but imperfect instrument. Let's say you haven't been working out. You've decided to change your daily routine, getting up at 5:30 am instead of 7:00 am to hit the gym before work. Are you a morning person? Can you continue this without bludgeoning yourself, once the initial two days of excitement wear off? Maybe you're not sure; maybe you need to try it out. Personally, it's not my strongest time of day, but other people thrive on it. Maybe you've decided five days a week sounds good. Every single day before work is a nice round number. You want to get "in shape" fast. Before Spring and Summer fashions show up would be best. (If you've been reading this blog, you know what I think about "fast"!) You have a picture in your head of a Self that is perfect, the Self you're trying to Resolution yourself into being, and that Self definitely has no problems going to the gym every morning! Here's the thing: You're not that Self. You're you, the same not-in-shape, un-resolved you that went to bed on December 31. That's the Self that you need to work with. Perfect Workout Self is somewhere off in the misty future, and the only bridge is time and habit and subtle changes in today's course of action. I've been exercising exactly five and a half years as of Saturday! Tomorrow I'm finishing the 3-week Best Sports Workout in The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises. It was fun to follow this plan and I'm proud of myself for finishing it! In this case, I did all the workouts on the assigned days, which isn't always true (nor do I always expect to). But I also modified exercises I couldn't do any other way, like chin-ups with a rubber band and hanging rows with my knees bent. That's a big part of how I keep going. The plan is always there to serve you, not the other way around. You will need to try things and tweak them. You will miss workouts because your body needed it, and you will miss workouts when your mind was lazy or didn't plan well (or, of course, when life intervenes -- I'm just assuming that one!). You will need to look back at each week in terms of what worked and what didn't, and plan each new week accordingly. You will need to make time to work out, and you will need to change times if it doesn't work. You will need to adjust your workouts downward when you take on more than your body can handle; and you will need to adjust them upwards when they become too easy. You will need to change your plan or route when you become bored. You will need to find out what you enjoy, and what motivates you. You will need to learn from messing up, not stop from messing up. This is not a resolution -- this is relentless forward motion on an exercise plan.
Also, one I'm experiencing is the "religious zealot" experience during this time of year. I try to schedule my day so I can walk or workout each day. I'm starting to get things like, "It's the Christmas season. You can let it slide for a couple of days" or "You can work out harder after the first of the year." This is a common thought when I choose to leave a gathering at a decent hour, so I can get up early to walk/work out.Fortunately, Dave's family is supportive, and he's a determined guy. Here's the thing: These people are wrong! (and their attitudes won't serve them very well when they try to stick with their own exercise New Years resolutions). One of the changes that made me able to exercise for five years running was that I finally accepted the fact that exercise, more than any other activity, requires daily input (I'm including rest days here). I can write both my weekly blogs in one day if I want, or a month's worth in one very long day. But I can't do four hours of exercise on Sunday and be done for the rest of the week. That's simply not how our bodies work. In order to be successful with it, I had to finally work within reality, which is to say, I had to learn to plan days and times ahead to do it each week. (Though for the record, "binge writing" is a problem just like binge exercising, and leads to writer's block.) If you look at my planner (I still use a paper one, and sometimes think I will until Franklin-Covey wrenches the thing from my hands; everything else in my world is electronic and modern, even my grocery list, but I can't stop penciling things in; and this is how I know Generation X is growing old like everybody), you will see my exercise for the day, or the word "Rest," penciled in on each calendar date for the coming week. I take into account the plan or goal I'm working on, the daily weather forecast on my weather.com app, and the other events in my schedule, and write it out every single week. When I do my exercise, I get a "check" by it. I loooove my checks. This is how I've kept from falling off in December, or whenever a time is challenging. I lower my expectations -- but just not to zero. This year, not only was I tired of the long running workouts (in-the-rain), but I knew I wouldn't fit them in. So I selected a 3-week plan called "The Best Sports Workout" I found appealing from The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises that has me in the gym Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I strength train for 30 to 40 minutes in circuits to keep my heart rate up, then add 15-20 minutes cardio on the Spinning bike or treadmill. My weekends are free, and if I have an event during the week, I plan the hour around it. If I want something to do on an off-day, I walk. (At times when my schedule is even more constrained, I do less than an hour, and/or I do it at home.) This isn't going to keep me in racing shape, but it's going to keep me in shape to return to racing shape. It's also going to give me a mental break from racing, and shore up weaknesses that running doesn't address. I also don't know how I would survive emotionally without my exercise fix. I don't know how anyone does, or how I ever did before. Things are, let us say, not totally going the best right now in all aspects of my personal life, and I tend to hit an accumulated wall of anxiety and spiraling thoughts by late afternoon. Exercise is what saves my ass. That's another reason the gym has worked better lately, being around people instead of long, lonely runs by myself. Studies show regular exercise is as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression. That's pretty impressive, considering the negative side-effects and expense of drugs, vs. the positive side-effects of exercise! Some of my off-days I still take a walk or do mild cardio just for the effect on my psyche. Dave has mentioned, also, how exercise can help balance overindulgent holiday eating, so that the effects are mitigated. Like everyone, I have an eating plan lined up for the first of the year, but I'm not restricting myself from chocolate over the holidays! That would be cruel. But exercise burns up extra calories and also keeps me craving healthier types of foods overall. I also got better with holiday meals once I started thinking of Thanksgiving, for example, as a "turkey dinner," and not a food fest. Turkey dinners are healthy! I just have small amounts of stuffing and pie on the side. (In the same vein, I would not suggest anyone start an exercise plan during the holidays -- that would just be setting yourself up for failure! I'll talk more about New Years soon! Or that we don't all have weeks where we necessarily fall off -- I've been off as many as three or four in a row with the flu or injury. It's to say that, ultimately, your exercise needs to become part of your daily life and not a special occasion itself.) I suppose Dave could make another excuse about why he's leaving the party, but should he have to? He's the one doing the admirable thing. And he's also doing a completely reasonable thing, given how our bodies respond to exercise. If there's one thing I wish I could stop in people's mindset, it's the idea that "getting into shape" is something you can do in a couple weeks or months, just pick up and put down again, so it's no big deal to postpone it for another day.