First, humor me while I lay out the credentials that allow me to take ownership of this master plan. For starters, 2013 marks my 30th year in endurance sport. Best I can figure, I have completed a few dozen triathlons, over 75 marathons, probably 80 or more cycling events, and something north of 100 ultramarathon running events.
What a wild ride it has been. I could tell you about hypothermia on my bicycle, something close to heat exhaustion 85 miles into a trail run, or waiting out lightning strikes in a cave atop a mountain. But today's blog isn't about me, or the zany tales I have amassed. Rather, it's about the greatest fitness routine ever created, and better yet, a plan that is designed for the masses.
Here's what the long view has allowed me to understand: The best fitness program ever created is the one you stay engaged in over a long period of time.
Most of those who started in endurance sport with me in the mid 1980's are long gone. When their speed lessened and age group placings were no long possible, they faded away. Some "bucket list" endurance sport, finish a couple of high profile events, then exit. Countless others have come into, and then out of, a fitness lifestyle over the decades. When you identify those who keep engaging year after year, it's a low percentile.
I'm here to advocate that if you are exercising, find that place you can maintain. If you're not, let me help you gain the foothold needed to bring a fitness component into your life, for the long haul.
A few suggestions:
1) Set a minimum amount of time you will invest every day. For starters 15 minutes might work and 30 minutes is an optimal goal. Fill that time with whatever is sustainable. At first it may be stretching, an easy morning walk, or a smooth swim. Make it as easy as necessary, but don't miss the commitment. You are building the plan on your own terms. At one point I had a 3.5 year streak going where I didn't miss a day of running. My minimum was a 30 minute jog. I can remember several evenings, out at 11:30 pm, getting it done to keep the streak alive.
2) Set a daily goal for time, not distance or reps. To often, we become slaves to statistics where it's essential to hit a certain distance, at a certain speed. Or that we must complete X number of reps and X number of sets in the gym. Throw that mindset in the dirty towel bin. Instead, be gentle with yourself. It's a life commitment. As we age, we slow, so hitting the "marks" may no longer be possible. Set your mind on the time commitment each day, then fill it. If you're tired, take a slow spin on your bike or go to a yoga class. You hit your goal through engaging the 30 minute session. Congrats, now you can go about the rest of your day.
3) Don't skip days. This may be controversial, but I don't believe it skipping exercise days. It's a psychological thing; many times individuals miss one session and that break momentum. Then it's easier to miss the second day and before long, good bye fitness and hello blubber tummy. Once again, manage the effort in the session if you're tired. I may take an "off" day, but ride my commuter bike on errands. Not a massive sufferfest, but still the exercise regime is sustained.
4) Build slowly and always maintain. As the days tick by and you've held your commitment to the 30 minute (or whatever time you choose) sessions, you will become stronger in mind and body. Confidence will come into the equation. When you are ready, incrementally alter your workouts. Maybe it's a few minutes of ab work, or a short burst of speed at the end of your walk. It's your plan, your outcome, and there are no rules with the exception of one, to keep the streak alive. Months may pass and you'll set a new self-agreement; your sessions are stepping up to 60 minutes a day, with a 30 minute minimum. Or, you may want to stay on 30 minutes forever. Just remember, the plan that works is the one you keep in motion over time.
There are tons of people slouched on the couch, wishing there were a way to get back into the fitness game. There is and I'm an advocate of it through the greatest fitness plan ever created.
Drop some comments or questions after the post. I'd be glad to help if I can.