Have you ever started a workout plan that’s like, “Two Weeks to Vacation!” (Oh wait, that’s me right now, ha.) So many fitness plans try to sell us on similar ideas: 6 Weeks to Ripped Abs, 12 Weeks to Total Body Toning. You know what I mean; we’ve all seen the magazines.
Let’s say I meet my two-week, buckle-down training plan and fly off to my vacation happy as a clam. What happens when I come back? Am I not required to workout anymore until my next vacation? No training goals for my everyday life?
Those magazine articles never talk about “next steps” once you achieve your goal; how to maintain or continue your path of improvement. We aren’t educated on anything around fitness but the short-term gain, and often the reasons given to be fit are purely superficial. Making a goal to get in shape for an upcoming event is fine, but it’s extremely short-sighted. Maintaining health, better yet, improving total well-being, should be viewed as a lifetime journey.
In my practice as a massage therapist, I work with an older demographic of clients and see a myriad of age-related health challenges. There’s folks with knee and low back issues, and a lot of neck and shoulder pain. Movement isn’t as easy for them; joints seem to be decreasingly flexible.
I’m constantly making mental notes, when I spend time with older people, especially those in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I see how the process of aging affects their daily routines, their overall sense of well-being, their happiness and joy for life. Physical change due to age is inevitable. Every person handles it differently due to a multitude of contributing factors. What powerful insight to have as a younger person! It’s like seeing into the future.
Understanding how the human body ages, and what limitations and challenges I can expect, provides me (and you!) with a unique opportunity to plan ahead. By taking preventative measures today, I can look forward to a healthy future. My older self would like to have basic things like good posture and mobility, so that I can walk upright and breathe. As I age, I hope my eyesight and hearing will remain crystal clear for as long as possible. I desire to be able to move around with as much ease as my older body will allow. I wish for my mind to remain sharp.
So, that’s my super long-term goal, my 3,224 Week Plan. Now, I have a greater purpose for continually improving my overall health. Truly, to reach my long-term long life goals, I need to focus on a much, much, much bigger picture. My daily health practices should be aligned with my ultimate goal of being healthy in my old age.
For nutrition, I return to the basics, whole foods, locally grown, chemical free. To simplify an incredibly complicated subject (and to help keep it real in a super-confusing and deceptive American food maze), I refer to Michael Pollan’s approach. “Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.” You can read more on that here.
I would add to that stay hydrated. Drink water, straight up. When I last visited my great aunt – who turned 102 this month! – she said she always has a glass of water when she walks by the kitchen sink. Hey, it’s worked for her all these years, I adopted that one right away.
For most everything else we consume, do so in moderation. On occasion, indulge. And, don’t make yourself feel guilty for it afterwards.
Find movement that you love, that you can stick with. Try new ways to move until something really lights the fire in you.
Lift weights. Weight resistance exercise is so key to building healthy muscles and bones. I’ve known people who started lifting weights in their 80s and saw marked improvements in their overall health. This important part of the puzzle is often ignored.
Maintain flexibility, in mind and body. Rest when needed.
Enjoy life! Get involved; don’t stand on the sidelines.
Love hard. Be vulnerable. Make connections. Practice gratitude.
Seek out your tribe of like-minded people, the ones who can see in you potential you didn’t even know you had, and then help you reach it.
Always ask these questions: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it still working for me? Plans need to change and adapt as we change and adapt. What worked for us yesterday may not work today.
Nothing is set in stone, life is fluid; we should strive to be, too.
Keep in mind the ultimate finish line.
My hope is, 3,224 weeks from now, I’ll be standing tall, living with little to no pain, still learning new things, meeting new people, and enjoying every minute I have left of this incredible human adventure on Earth.
Won’t you join me?