In the hierarchy of what’s important to be healthy, mindset and sleep is first, and clean eating is next. After that, it’s time to treat your body like the athlete you are meant to be. Notice I did not say “exerciser”. Let me explain.
Do what you love and make it challenging
First, find an athletic activity that you love. I really don’t care what it is. It should require some skill, some dedication, and be difficult. I’m talking about things like power walking, powerlifting, Crossfit, hiking, yoga, martial arts, an ultimate frisbee league, rowing, or whatever drives you to move. Maybe a combination of 2 or 3 of those through the week. Whatever you choose, move with intention. What I’m NOT talking about is the elliptical machine every day for 20 minutes as you watch TV (feel free to send hate mail – sorry not sorry). I’m talking about something that challenges all of your senses and requires balance, strength, coordination, power, speed, flexibility, endurance and hopefully some community. Something that will move you out of your comfort zone and mentally challenge you daily. Why do I call it being an athlete? Because I want you to think and move like one. I want you to think of your body as a tool for greatness and unlimited potential.
Athletes train and fuel – they do NOT diet and exercise
Now that you’ve decided on what work you’ll do, it’s time fuel your body with nutritious foods for your amount of athletic performance (no more, no less). Athletes train and fuel – they do NOT diet and exercise. Let me say that again. Athletes train and fuel, they do NOT diet and exercise. Therefore, you should match your training with your fuel. Find an amount of food that will give you energy for your workouts yet not leave you stuffed at the end of each meal. Do you need to eat like a 500 lb male powerlifter if you’re a 100 lb woman walking 3 miles a day? Nope. Do athletes perform well if they’ve starved themselves to an unhealthy calorie deficit? Nope. It’s fairly simple. On the days that you work harder, consciously plan a little bit more food into your day. By a little bit, I mean an extra large healthy snack – an extra apple or a few extra ounces of protein at dinner. I don’t mean an entire extra hamburger or 6 extra beers. On the other hand, don’t starve yourself either. You must fuel for your training – restricting food can be dangerous if you aren’t doing it under the supervision of a trained nutrition coach.
You need to lift heavy weights, and there are no excuses
Now let’s get back to the athlete part. It’s been scientifically studied that lifting heavy stuff (aka weightlifting) is a key predictor of longevity. I don’t mean the 5 lb dumbbells that you have in your basement, although that could be a great start if you’ve never lifted them before. I mean a weight that’s really hard for you. Dozens of studies show that consistent heavy resistance training improves strength, endurance, memory and confidence in elderly persons. What do I recommend? I recommend EVERYBODY (yes, even you) train with weights. Don’t know what you’re doing? Hire a coach. Join a Crossfit gym (or something like it). Specifically, I recommend hiring an Olympic lifting or a powerlifting coach , or really anyone other than the 19 year old at your local Gold’s gym. It might be scary at first, but everyone started somewhere and it isn’t too late. If you think it is, watch this video and this video and tell me what your excuse is to lift weights. Interview a few coaches before you start and choose one that asks about prior injuries, what your goals are and teaches you safety before putting any weight in your hand.
What’s the point of being an athlete?
As we age, our needs stay the same, but the intensity of those needs differ. Take the 25 year old who wants to deadlift heavy weight. That’s the same movement that he’ll need when he’s 75 years old and needs to pick his grocery bags off the ground. Back squatting when you’re younger develops into sitting on the toilet without assistance when you’re older. Strength over time is freedom as you age. Keeping the shoulder and pelvic girdle strong and healthy is independence to lift grandbabies, take walks and live a long and healthy life. THAT is why you need to be an athlete.
Photo credit: Becka Grapsy