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Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?(23 posts)

Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?eugene
May 14, 2001 6:40 AM
As someone in their late twenties, I was wondering what aspects of my physical well being would be most difficult to maintain in the years to come, e.g. cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, flexibility e.t.c. After the recent survey on this board which indicated that a significant portion of the posters were in their forties or fifties, I am curious as to what these people would consider is the most difficult aspect of their fitness to maintain and what would they suggest to a younger person like myself to keep in peak condition throughout my next twenty to thirty years. I know that all aspects of my fitness are important, and I should continue to work on them all, but from an older point of view, what do you wish you had concentrated on more in days gone by?
Boy do you know how to hurt a guy.bill
May 14, 2001 8:06 AM
What I wish I had concentrated on more in, as you so quaintly call them, "days gone by," was being twenty-something years old. Which has nothing to do with physical fitness.
But you asked about fitness. In some ways, I am now in the best shape of my life. When I was twenty, I, like a lot of people, stayed in decent shape without any effort. Now, it requires effort. I guess what I'm saying is that I am in (much?) better shape compared to other 42 year olds than what I was at 25 compared to other 25 year olds.
What I've learned after twenty years is that fitness as you get older requires disclipline. But I need to make it fun, because I don't have that much disclipline. And then I learned that, if you add a little more discipline, you get a little more fun. And I've learned that you can be a blob at 35 and be pretty fit at 42.
So, I don't think that there is any specific exercise or regimen that is going to make it easier at 40-something except learning to like being fit.
Have a lifetime of fun, which requires some work. That's what I've learned.
May 14, 2001 10:09 AM
A few weeks ago, my town had their spring triathalon. A couple of my (older) friends entered the team race division and brought in a ringer from CO to ride the bike. He was 57 and won the overall bike secton, taking 1:30 out of the best local (pro mountain biker/CAT 3 road racer.)

So much for using age as an excuse. I'm starting to get nervous every time someone with gray hair lines up next to me...
All of the above....DINOSAUR
May 14, 2001 8:27 AM
However the key is to stay consistent and never stop. Flexibility probably ranks first, followed by muscle strength then cardio. You don't want to stop for a long period, as it takes a long time to get back in shape. Your metabolizm changes and it is easier to pack on weight. Actually I really responded to weight training when I started lifting again in my eary 50's. Your diet becomes more important as you can't eat like a pig as when you were younger and expect to burn it off on your rides. I'd say now diet is 50% of my exercise routine. Motivation becomes a problem also, and it is probably the main reason why most guys/gals drop out. Injuries take longer to heal. You have to train smart. I can't put in the miles I did when I was younger, but everything slowly comes back if you give it time. The important thing is to stay active and partake in some type of physical activity that gives your a good cardio workout; running, swimming, rowing, walking, to just name a few. What really surprised me is two things, how people can really let themselves go when they become senior citizens and delvelope all kinds of health problems, or the number of folks who are in their 50's-70's and are in real good shape and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Most people use old age as a cop-out. If I had foresight I would have never layed off being physically active when I was in my mid-50's. I can't tell you how great it is to be out there on a ride on a bright, sunny warm day in the mid-morning in the middle of the week when traffic is light and stop and think what life was like when I had to work for a living. Exercise gives you energy, physically and mentally. All I can say is DON'T STOP!!!! You will hate yourself if you do...Remember age is just a number...The only thing it's good for is a discount on senior citizens day...
Boy do you know how to hurt a guy.....Len J
May 14, 2001 8:29 AM
I am 46 years old and honestly, I think this is a great question. I wished I'd asked it when I was your age.

The three things I notice the most now compared to when I was your age are:
1.) Diet affects my performance much more now. &
2.) It is much harder now to get back into shape. When I was late 20's, I found that if I didn't ride for a month, no big deal, a couple of hard rides & I was OK. Now, if I don't ride for a couple of weeks, it takes me a week or more to feel comfortable (fitness wise) again. I have found that it is much easier to stay in shape then to get back in shape.
3.) At my age, less and less of my peers exercise. There is not as much group physical fitness activity as when I was younger. When I was your age, it seemed like everybody was playing ball or riding or running, Now, I'm lucky if 30% of my friends do anything strenuous. I think that it is because of #2 above.

Hope this helps, Hang onto youth as long as possible. I still try.
May 14, 2001 8:53 AM
I'm 45 and have a desk job that requires a lot of hours. Children take a lot of hours too. For me, the struggle in my 30's was finding time to do things to be fit. For years I fit in lunch time workouts at a health club alternating weight and aerobic workouts and could do little else other than maybe sneaking in a few weekend rides. At least I kept in reasonable shape and I had the motivation to keep going. Now that the kids are older and depressingly they don't really want their parents too close (wait that's a different topic) and its easier to find time to ride.

I think the bottom line is that there is no magic to what you do. I think there is benefit to using both strength training and aerobic exercise, but beyond that find things to do that keep you motivated because finding the commitment to stay in shape is the hardest part. Just look at most 40 and 50 year olds.
There's a light at the end of the tunnelPaulCL
May 14, 2001 11:19 AM
I guess I should be careful what I wish for, but here goes...I seem to be in the same place you were in your 30's (lunchtime workouts, one early AM weekend ride, maybe a weekday ride). I am in reasonable shape and am very motivated to get stronger. The question from a father of three (ages 8, 6, 2 1/2)... it better now that you have time to workout, or worse because the kids really don't want Dad too close??? I want the best of both worlds, do you think its' possible???
but the light is not the trainDCP
May 14, 2001 2:36 PM
You know that when your children become teens they will seek their own space. As a parent that hurts, but you know its coming and you know that its normal, so its OK. For me, fitness was clearly secondary when they were younger, and I don't regret that a bit. Now that I have more time to ride, one of the things I think about is how much fun I had with my kids when they were younger. Enjoy yours, even when they are whining and generally being a pain in the neck.

Now, as to the bigger question, Can you have it all?

Although I really enjoy my job, it takes much more time than most. As they say in the car ads, your mileage may differ. An extra hour a day adds up to a lot of fitness if, of course, you have the commitment to do it. Now that's hard.
Bill - obviously no hurt was intended.eugene
May 14, 2001 9:45 AM
To all who replied, thanks.
There was me thinking that specific exercises were the key to staying fit & healthy, while I was in fact missing the obvious that you've got to enjoy your exercise so that you can do it regularly.

Every year when I watch the Dublin & London marathons, I'm full of admiration for those folks in their 50's, 60's and 70's who have the heart and stamina to complete it every year. I will turn 30 later this year and for the first time in my life I recently thought about what I would be fit to do when I'm that age. I'm not super fit for a 29 year old or any sort of elite athlete, but I do really enjoy being able to appreciate the benefits of life to the full and thanks to a few wise words on this board I now have a firmer idea of how to stay that way.

Thank you. This board is about so much more than bikes.
Too late--you'll be dead in 60 years no matter whatCory
May 14, 2001 10:01 AM
I'm with Len and Dino--I'm 56, and I wish I'd thought about this 30 years ago. I was fit then, but it's turned out I wasn't working on exactly the right things. Running 50+ miles a week for 20 years doesn't do a BIT of good for your knees over the long haul...
I agree with whoever said to emphasize flexibility. Cardio is equally important, but a lot of us do that, and very few really think about stretching. I always hated it--still do--but once you pass 50, you start to stiffen up if you don't work at it. Easier to maintain than regain.
I'd also put in a vote for resistance training. I'm a Clydesdale--6'4", 220-235--and I've always been pretty strong. As you get older, though, you have to work to keep from losing ground. Doesn't take a lot (even yard work helps), but three 30-minute weight sessions most weeks makes a big difference. I don't always do it, and it shows in quality of life when I don't.
Finally, stay on top of your weight. I gained four or five pounds a year for awhile, and congralated myself for not getting fat as fast as most of my friends. But five pounds a year for 12 years is 60 pounds, and you'll be surprised how fast 12 years go by.
That's "congratulated" myself; duh (nm)Cory
May 14, 2001 10:03 AM
re: Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?ken vining
May 14, 2001 10:49 AM
Flexibility -- stretch every day. I never went to the gym or did any real exercise until about age 40 when I started putting on weight. The only problem I have now is flexibility. I was able to build muscle and endurance, but the flexibility is slow to improve.
re: Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?jfo
May 14, 2001 11:39 AM
Oh to be in my 20's, 30's or even 50's'll find that your life changes and maybe cycling won't be #1 over the decades. I got involved in cycling--touring to be exact in the early 80's. Had gone through an era of semi-pro baseball, competitive racquetball, raising children, professional employment w/lots of travel.

When I found out about cycling, was too old to go fast but not too old to go far and long but slower. Cycle 2000 miles per year including several centuries and a week of 400-500 miles with a group. (Stay at motels and carry everything in panniers on yearly trip.)

Cycling centers on 50-70 mile days, talking, seeing and enjoying. Everyone involved has granny gear for the extra weight and hills. Youngest in group is 38 but no one worries and all keep at same speed.
We wait for the slower riders to get up the steep hills.

Time changes us all and when you can't do 20 MPH of long miles, you can do 12-15 mph with stops at old stores, small towns, cemetaries, and historic sites. It's still fun and we'll ride till we drop...JFO
Make it fun. My testimony...DINOSAUR
May 14, 2001 8:14 PM
I remember when my dad took me down to Monkey Ward's in the early 50's and I selected my first bike, a Roadmaster Jet Pilot. Big, huge, giant beast that it was. It took a little time to learn how to ride it. Then it was riding, exploring, sunrise to sunset. Cycling was fun and play. Then it became a mode of transportion when I was in grammer school all the way up to jr high. I stopped riding in high school, as back in those days only geeks rode bikes to school. Then in the early 60's while I was in the USMC I bought my first road bike. A Bianchi that probably weighed about thirty pounds. I kept that bike until I was married, then I took up running and eventually sold the bike.
Here came the 70's, disco fever and Eddy Merckx. I starting riding again and put in some serious miles. I rode off and on alternating with running until the early 90's and I gave my Guerciotti that was hanging in the garage gathering dust to some kid that had a drug problem. I retired at the end of '98, turned into a couch lizard and micro beer drinker. I purchased a road bike the following spring and decided I needed to get back in shape again. I decided to forgo a computer for the first six months and just go out and ride for a few hours a day and forget about distance and speed. Needless to say it hurt, and I sucked terribly. Slowly (and I mean slowly) and surely I improved. A two hour ride would wipe me out for the whole day. Then I crashed in Feb of last year, I was off for two months and I got back on, finding out that I was still sucking, but even more so. Still no computer. I thought and pondered why was I cycling? Was it for fitness and health? No not really. There were other ways I could exercise and probably get in better shape. Then I thought about my first bike, and making cycling fun again. I began to ride my bike with passion. Each day when the sun came up it was a new day. Each ride was special. I learned to treat my bike like the finely tuned high tech piece of machinery that it was. I learned how to use finese. How to ride those hills and make my bike dance. I learned how to ride with a smile on my face when I was descending and focus and contentrate. I learned how to spin and honk. Cycling became fun again, play. To explore and investigate, and to maintain a piece of equipment with love and respect as it was a piece of myself. I still don't ride with a computer. I think I entered the "Zen Age" of cycling. Just pure riding for fun and passion. Oh, I look at my watch now and then, I know how long it takes to get from point A to point B. I know when I am losing ground and I need to push a bigger gear. But for me cycling has come full circle. I am a child again. Cycing is just something that I do, it is part of my identity. I think that is the secret. You must love, and cherish each and every ride like there is no tomorrow.
Exercise and good health are just a benefit of my passion. I ride just for the love of riding. That is the secret, at least for me.
Make it fun. Laugh, enjoy and ride like there was no tomorrow. If you don't love cycling, then find something else, you don't belong in the sport.....
Oh, I still see someone riding my old Guerciotti around the back roads where I live. Looks like the kid sold it. It looks well maintained. Someday I'll encounter the rider, and tell him I have the serial number of that bike memorized and watch his face. Then I can tell him a tale or two about that bike...heck I'd even buy it from him .
Thanks. I needed that....Len J
May 15, 2001 6:05 AM
Your post has made it onto my wall over my wokbench. I hope I remember your joy everyn time I don't feel like riding.
Oh, yeah!Humma Hah
May 15, 2001 8:07 AM
Absolutely. And that plays a very large part in the reason I ride a bike with a frame identical to the one I got when I was 12.

Yesterday I took it exploring. I've lived in this area since 1980, except for the 2 years in California. My wife and I have shared this townhouse since the Reagan was president. Yet I'd never ridden the bike more than about 2 miles from the house. Yesterday I went on a little loop of 18 miles, exploring 2 roads I've never been on at all in all that time. Today I'll find a couple more.
Love your chosen exercise too much to make any excuses ...Humma Hah
May 14, 2001 12:13 PM
... I did a lot of riding as a teen, even more when I got into college. I was reasonably fit then, but as I was preparing to leave college I bought an off-road motorcycle.

When I moved to Northern Virginia, the bicycle-hostile roads cured me of being an avid cyclist in about a week. Because I convinced myself that enduro motorcycling was also pretty good exercise, I did not find a way to continue to bicycle. Then, upon moving to a place where cycling was possible, I did not pick the sport back up.

From 1979 to 1995 I did pathetically little riding, maybe averaging 20 miles a year, picking up slightly in mid-95. Then I moved to SoCal in 1999 and brought the bike. I fell back in love with cycling there. At age 47 I am now in better shape (measured by distance, climbing ability, and speed, on the same old bike) than I was at age 21. There was hardly a road within 30 miles of Mira Mesa which I had not explored in a 2-year period, compared to the NoVA address where my riding radius was about 2 miles in spite of 20 years at that address.

Now I'm back in Northern VA, the moving van just brought my riding gear in yesterday. So, if you good folks will excuse me, I need to load up my gear and my new map and go find me some roads I've found excuses not to ride on for too many decades.
Time is not on your side.Brian C.
May 14, 2001 12:21 PM
(You're probably too young to remember the Rolling Stones. :-)
If and when you have them, children will take up a lot of your time, not to mention giving your wife the attention she deserves. Naturally, that will curtail your recreational pursuits.
Meanwhile, wedded bliss might see you hanging around the house a lot more nurturing and bonding, which means if you don't watch yourself you'll develop a paunch. And once you get a paunch, they're damn hard to get rid of.
An understanding spouse might let you out of the house (guilt free) once or twice a week to go riding or hang out with the boys.
If I could do it again, I would have watched what I ate and learned to pick my spots to get out and keep active.
Pick the right partnerIxnixit
May 14, 2001 1:36 PM
All of the advice that centers around "don't stop" is absolutely dead on. However, if you chose to enter into a long term relationship, make sure that person respects your desire to exercise and allows you the time, space and money to do it. My first wife did not, so I basically blew off cycling for 15 years. It was just too hard to fight the battle to spend some of my time how I wanted to spend it. Children of course make it even worse due to the extra load of guilt you might receive by spending your time outside the home. Easier to go along and avoid the unpleasantness.

My second wife encourages me to spend as much time as I want on my bike - she clearly sees the benefit of having me in good shape physically and mentally. I wish I had been smart enough at age 24 to see this, but I wasn't so instead I had to start my conditioning again at age 39. Better late than never, but I wonder where I would be instead of where I am in terms of speed, endurance and general cycling ability had I not taken an exercise vacation for all those years.
Amengrz mnky
May 14, 2001 6:22 PM
I married a gal who is a riding machine. She can and will slowly grind me and the other guys into the ground if we don't stay ahead on our hydration and nutrition. The only time I ever get in trouble for riding is when I don't bring her along. She took pity on me and my plastic OCLV and helped me get a proper ti ride. She made me realize that it isn't a one or the other thing. Now we want kids, for admittedly selfish reasons. Me so I can have someone else take the heat around the house for making messes, and her so that she can strap that little bambino onto my bike and slow me down.

You don't get into or out of shape over night - it's the life style that counts.
Avoid injury and don't burn out.ttl1
May 14, 2001 2:46 PM
Injuries that keep you from exercising are a big no-no so do your best to be safe. If you feel like you're getting sick of cycling take up another form of exercise for awhile to avoid burnout. Keep it as fun possible.

tl1-45 yrs. and counting
re: Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?grz mnky
May 14, 2001 6:16 PM
I'm in better shape now than in my 20's what with all the binge drinking, skirt chasing, and Tailhook parties. And I still run across guys 10 or 15 years older that can totally destroy me. No lie.

The most difficult part thus far was to keep from getting injured or killing myself. As you get older you hopefully get smarter. you don't heal and bounce back as quickly so you have to use your noggin. That saying about old age and tricky overcoming youth and enthusiasm is true. Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining friendships with other fitness oriented people is best. Booze is like a shotgun blast to the body so use moderation, but some times you have to get blasted.

Probably the best thing to do is to not ping-pong between extremes: Ironman one year, Jenny Craig the next is a tough way to go. Work on streching - Yoga is very benificial. Crashing sucks and only gets worse - one day you realize (when some of your buds buy it) that you're not bullet-proof nor will you live forever. Skin grows back, but it's painful and slow. Ultimately you're as young as you feel - I often recieve "compliments" that I act 17! Getting a HRM and learning to use it right really pays off and you can avoid the over training/burnout cycle.

Getting in touch with your feminine side might help, but the wife gets pissed when she catches me in her undies.....;-)
re: Older folks - how should I maximise my fitness?davidl
May 14, 2001 8:23 PM
I definitely qualify as an 'older folks'. Based on my experience, I advise stopping smoking 2 packs a day and drinking alcoholically before your 47th birthday. Don't mess around with women too much, stay away from dope and get plenty of rest! You should be able to ride more, and will have more money to spend on gear!