Today’s column completes a two-part series discussing the guiding principles behind the 45 & Thrive training program designed to optimize wellness for those in mid-life and beyond (Part 1 is available here).
#5: Life beyond middle age need not be a series of physical and health declines. An active, vibrant second half to life is accessible and desirable.
I simply refuse to concede that life needs to be significantly less active, engaging or physically fulfilling after middle age. Full stop. Perhaps it takes a little more discipline. Perhaps it is aided by mindfulness. And of course, we all have individual circumstances which we must consider. But, for the record, I’m not going down without a fight. I’ve stayed active with my three sons as they have become adults: skiing, pick-up hockey, golf, training in the gym, and martial arts are activities we hold in common and continue to enjoy together whenever possible. I surfed for the first time when I was 45 and continue to try to catch a wave whenever possible. Two years ago I returned to playing hockey – after a 40 year absence. What a blast! I make a conscious decision to walk everyday. I enjoy physically demanding household chores or projects. Am I an outlier with genetic gifts enabling me to maintain this level of activity? No, I’ve made choices which support and reward this lifestyle. These mindful choices support robust longevity and a vibrant life. I truly believe that scheduled, focused physical training two to three days per week, considered choices of how we go about our day-to-day life, and mindful eating habits maintain a foundation from which the best parts of a physically-active life can be enjoyed for years to come.
#6: ’45 & Thrive’ – If your training session is longer than 30-45 minutes, it’s too long. Functional strength training is the foundation of realistic, meaningful strength maintenance. Quality over quantity; focus over distraction; strength over endurance.
I never cease to be amazed by people at the gym who waste their time (and often the time of others) through inefficient training habits. Gazing at screens, scrolling for just the right tune to make their next set bearable, lounging on machines or benches between sets, and taking increasingly long rest breaks between sets and exercise all add up to unnecessarily long training sessions. Such habits make for an inefficient and ineffective workout. A training session which begins with a modest HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session and maintains much of that intensity through focused training behaviour for the next thirty minutes or so will not only lead to meaningful results, but will keep you free to enjoy the rest of your day with vigour. The aim is to maintain a pace which results in a high-metabolic effect, while minimizing rest and recovery during the middle of the workout. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors did not rest in the middle of the hunt, unless they wanted to remain hungry. Not bloody likely! Generally, a rest of thirty seconds or so between sets during the workout is sufficient. If training with a partner, this is enough time for their set; there is enough time to adjust or change the resistance; or one can grab a quick sip of water. Then, get back to work. Between exercises, just take enough time to move to the next piece of equipment, set it up for your first set and get to it. No texting, selfies, email, videos or group chats while training. Finally, whatever you do, please don’t rest between sets by continuing to sit on a machine which might otherwise be used by someone else. The equipment in the gym is intended to be used vigorously rather than as an opportunity to lounge and laze about.
#7: Life is meant to be lived in many ways, through a myriad of experiences and behaviour, well beyond the gym or the kitchen. We should not be slaves to our healthiest practices. Our healthiest practices should enable us to live our best life.
The gym, or more specifically, training at the gym should be primarily a stepping stone to a full active life. Just as learning scales on the piano enables the composition and playing of beautiful music, so too should the strengthening and maintaining of a healthy, fit body through efficient, effective, functional training be the foundation of a robust, active life. As one looks back upon touchstone moments of their life, very few of us will be moved by a new personal best in bench press, or recall with awe that squat we did one day when the spotter didn’t need to help as much. However, we are likely to remember fondly the hikes we did with our grandchildren, the time we felt the freedom of surfing in our 50s and beyond, and the fact that we could comfortably travel abroad with our loved one’s without overdue concern about a medical or health emergency happening while away. In short, fitness gives us freedom. Freedom from worry, freedom from living a sheltered life and, and the freedom to tackle and take on the best life has to offer for as long as possible. So go ahead, take the steps to optimize wellness, and begin composing a symphony of beautiful memories.
#8: You don’t need me, or any other health/fitness/wellness professional, looking over your shoulder in order to make the progress you want. If you are motivated and consistent, you should become a healthier, independent, more robust, and self sufficient individual within six months of adopting principles such as those integral to 45 & Thrive into your lifestyle.
This final guiding principle may not be the most popular with my colleagues in the personal training business, but I strongly believe this. Personal trading and wellness consulting is first and foremost a pedagogical practice. It is teaching. Teaching based upon a fundamental understanding of functional training, nutrition, exercise physiology, anatomy and biomechanics – and linking these with the needs and goals of clients. The most direct measure of my success as a physical educator is redundancy. My goal when training and teaching the fundamentals of 45 & Thrive is to, eventually, be useless. Having taken the steps to outline the principles of training and sustaining wellness after middle age, the highest compliment I can receive is finding and recognizing that my services are no longer needed. I recognize that a sustained career in this industry requires ongoing revenue, but I would much prefer to have high client turnover having provided the fundamentals and nudged clients out of the nest in three to six months time than to be working with the same clients year after year. Ugh! That’s boring – for both of us. In my mind, if that is the case, then one of us isn’t keeping up their part of the bargain. Now, I realize that people learn at different paces, and sometimes goals change and a tune up is required, or, in fact, a complete program re-set might be in order as goals, lifestyle, and circumstances change. However, if I can’t convey exactly what I believe are the basics required to achieve and maintain robust longevity in a relatively short period of time, then I’ve probably failed and the client should seek advice and training expertise elsewhere.
There you have it: The fundamentals which I believe help support and ensure robust longevity for those of us mid-life and beyond. Keeping these in mind and making considered lifestyle choices will go a long way for many toward staying active, vibrant, and well during the second half of a long, active life. Coming up in my next column is a closer look at nutrition and diet in support of longevity.
Michael Patterson, M.Ed.
Lift long and Prosper
Michael Patterson M.Ed, has spent 30+ years as a fitness and health professional. He holds degrees in Physical and Health Education, Psychology, and Education. Find out more about Michael and follow him on his website at www.45andthrive.com, and on Instagram @45andthrive. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].
*Disclaimer: The information provided and discussed in this column is based on my personal experience, studies of physical and health education and my expertise as a lifelong fitness and health professional. Any recommendations made about fitness, training, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided through this column, should be discussed with your physician or other health-care professional.