A recent magazine article described student athletes who are in great condition until they complete their schooling. Then, without the discipline and structure provided by coaches, they quickly go to seed. I was fortunate to be surrounded by active friends, so when my time for high school athletics expired, I was able to continue with semi-organized activities, like intra-mural college sports and independent softball, and pick-up games of basketball, tennis, and golf. Later, when group activities became more difficult to coordinate, I shifted to solitary sports, like biking, running, swimming, and lifting weights.
But it is never too late to develop a workout regiment that fits your lifestyle and your body. Based on my many years of experience, I have developed the world’s greatest workout regimen for an average 56-year-old retiree:
- Biking. Biking is the cornerstone to a workout regimen because (a) it is low-impact, and (b) you can do it for long periods of time without getting exhausted or bored. I’ve tried stationary bikes, but find it difficult to stay on a stationary bike for an hour without getting bored. So find an outdoor route of about 15-20 miles, which will take a bit more than an hour to complete (and burn 600 calories). Ideally, the route should be hilly and avoid most car traffic. Fortunately, I live on the edge of San Antonio and on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, so I have a plethora of excellent routes.
- Swimming. Swimming is an excellent complement to biking. Both activities are low-impact, but most people (non-expert swimmers) find swimming to be an intense, intermittent activity as compared to a long, steady bike ride. Most people swim about 25 to 100 yards before needing a rest. After a rest of a minute or two, they are ready to go again. I suggest 10 repetitions, which will take about 20-30 minutes. This is perfect interval training, which most experts recommend.
- Lifting weights. Lifting weights is necessary to put some muscle on your bones. In the past, experts have recommended that you lift every other day or shift daily between different muscle groups. They also recommended at least two, and even three or four sets for each exercise. I have found that it is better for long-term maintenance of muscle (as opposed to building muscle) to do a single set with a full complement of exercises each day. I do the following 12 exercises most days; they should take about 30 minutes to complete. The rule of thumb for determining the amount of weight is – if you can’t do six repetitions, the weight is too heavy; if you can do more than 15 repetitions, the weight is too light:
- Bench press (chest);
- Military press (shoulders);
- Pectoral fly (pecs);
- Rear deltoid (back shoulders);
- Row (back);
- Pull down (back shoulders);
- Torso twist (waist);
- Bicep curl (biceps);
- Triceps (triceps);
- Abs (abs);
- Back straightener (lower back); and
- Hang from bar (stretch ligaments).
- Yoga. My fitness club offers almost 20 one-hour yoga practices a week. The practice styles include athletic yoga, sculpting yoga, hatha yoga, athletic yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa levels 1, 2, or 3, and yoga & meditation. All of these yoga practices strive to improve your flexibility, strength, balance, and mood.
I try to do the biking, swimming, and lifting almost every day. And, depending on my schedule and energy, I usually participate in 2-6 yoga practices a week. Combined, this regimen gives endurance from the biking, intense interval training from the swimming, and muscles from the lifting. Yoga ties it all together.
I admit that this world’s best regimen is missing one important item – reflexes and quickness. For many years, I used to play basketball at noon at USAA. Going against another person, man-to-man, in a game of basketball helps keep your reflexes and quickness. I always felt that, if I ever got into a fight downtown, my basketball playing would help me a lot more than my biking or weightlifting. Fortunately, I never got into that fight, so I never needed to call on cat-like reflexes. Now I’ve given up basketball because my body can’t stand up to the pounding, and let’s hope I don’t have to call on my slowing reflexes some night downtown.
As Clint Eastwood said in one of his Dirty Harry movies (Magnum Force), “A man’s got to know his limitations.”