Making My Life Work Better

2019-11-27 16.58.34You’ll find a lot on my site about strength training. It’s a habit that’s served me well for 25+ years.

This year saw some changes. I went stale in my tried-and-tested program. I recognized my mojo was flat and wasn’t making much progress.

A few years back, a friend had done a backcountry ski program with Mountain Tactical. So I bought the latest version of that program, got to work and learned a few things. Currently, I’m using their in-season ski maintenance program. I’ll skip observations about the plans themselves and focus on general points that might apply to you.

How am I allocating my time and where is that likely to take me? Athletics, relationships, every single thing.

What is the purpose of your protocol? These days: (a) enough stress to get the benefits of exercise (cognitive & mood); (b) vanity; and (c) maintain my ability to ski & hike at a very high level.

With the MTI program, the sessions were so challenging that I needed to drop all other exercise. Dropping supplemental training probably seems obvious but, in my demographic, it’s common for people to do 1-2 extra sessions per day, and still think they are not doing enough!

The results were great. Even the nights with total exhaustion were “fun” => they made me feel like I was doing something.

Giving myself a full 24-hours to recover between sessions boosted my recovery AND reduced the mental stress of having to grind out a lower quality session when tired. It reminded me of my single-sport focus periods when I was an elite triathlete.

Within my training, I made a big demand on myself (for about an hour, 3-4x per week) then backed way off for the rest of the day. If you are finding, like I was, that all your sessions are blending into mediocre performance, with limited gains, then this tactic might help.

Seems obvious but it takes a lot of courage (for a compulsive exerciser) to back off. For example, I have a fear of weight gain and can use cardio to enable excessive eating.

Each one of us has blindspots. Mine are range of motion, quickness and coordination => fundamental components of high-level skiing. The program I bought contained box jumps, lateral jumps, side-to-side jumps, dynamic lunges, stretching and body-weight hip extension exercises. The act of seeking help gave me a nudge to do things I’d skip on my own. This works in our larger lives:

  1. Notice when your protocol stops working
  2. Seek expert advice
  3. Trim non-essential components

As an elite athlete, my “recovery” included 12-15 weekly hours of easy cardio. Easy cardio isn’t easy but that’s a different topic!

My easy-training hours have been replaced with walking, time with my wife and housework. This shift makes it easier (and more likely) to succeed within my larger life, which aims at a world-class marriage, thinking better and educating my kids.

What I value is reflected in where I allocate my time.

Vision Sixty

2019-08-20 07.58.18Seven years ago, I asked my smartest pals to share their experiences with sabbaticals. It was a very useful exercise. Rather than a sharp, and sudden, sabbatical, I made a choice to change slowly. I gradually shrank my working life and replaced it with more family engagement.

Over the last year, I’ve been tapping my supervet buddies in a similar exercise. I am asking about their 50s => any lessons, any tips, how’d you find it?

2019-08-20 06.26.25The answers have been all over the map.

  • Everything gets easier
  • Worst decade of my life
  • Best years of my life

ZERO consistency in what people say, but clear themes when I look at what they actually do. They keep on, keeping on.

Despite what we tell ourselves, there is little practical decline through 60. Obviously, I’d be miles behind my 37-year old self in any sort of race. However, even in my sedentary pals, it’s more of a “slowing down” than a decline (in function). I saw this in the supervet athletes I coached. A clear, annual, decline didn’t start to happen until ~70 years old.

In comparing me-with-me, there’s very little lifestyle change forced upon us. The changes are more about coming to terms with “less.” Less vision, less skin tone, less aerobic capacity, less recovery capacity…

Middle age struggles tie back to seeking “more” => relationships, heart problems, injuries, dissatisfactions… the damage comes from the stresses of striving.

My happiest older pals have found a way to come to terms with what they have, and what they’re not going to have.

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If “more” is going to challenge you then it will be obvious (injuries, depression, a-fib, drama, binging, addiction).

I like to remind myself, “Reality is enough.”

My mind is ALWAYS spinning ideas for more. I pay close attention to how “more” makes me feel – exhausted, neglecting my family, worried I’m going to get caught out.

2019-08-17 09.20.59Get your winning done early and pay attention each time you taste a lack of satisfaction after striving.

Look deeper into your drive, passions and interests => what lies beneath your compulsions?

For example, I like spending time in forests – my speed of movement through the forest is something I track, but has no impact on my satisfaction.

What’s your gig? My gig is sharing a connection to nature with people I love.

The “lack” is deeper than the “more” we seek. I had to back off to find out that satisfaction was behind me.

2019-08-15 17.22.14How would you describe your desired outcome over the next 5-10 years?

Active, polite, easy-going, positive. These are the traits of my older pals that I enjoy spending time alongside.

Strength & Training Strategy at 50

2019-07-07 09.01.30Strength gives me better choices.

Specifically:

  1. Maintain muscle mass
  2. Challenge my connective tissue
  3. Strengthen my shoulder complex (to survive my inevitable crashes)
  4. Get the bio-chemical benefits from working large muscle groups anaerobically

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My base period needs to be longer: I was very consistent with strength maintenance across the ski season. As a result, I lost less strength than prior years. However, I was WORKED at the end of the season and my mojo stayed flat for a long time when I returned to more focused strength training.

Two, maybe three, “good” sessions per week: At 50, I go flat quickly! I need to be humble with the load I put into myself.

I split upper and lower body days: in order to do quality exercises, and recover, I split my workouts across the week:

  • Monday/Thursday – lower body
  • Tuesday/Friday – upper body
  • Wednesday/Saturday – plyo (~7 minutes total per day)

Very little sustained intensity: I lose a lot when I get sick and can’t train. Put another way, my ability to go training is more important than my training ability. A calendar of events would certainly push me to do more (likely for less benefit).

I go to the gym to be around people (even if I don’t speak to them!): the core of my program has been the same for 20 years. It would be easy to set it up in my garage. However, part of my “feel better” seems to come from the gym process. The most time-efficient setup isn’t always best.

My aerobic goal is “about an hour, every day.” I’ll go longer when I can hike trails with my wife or son. I do a bunch of walking on top of the aerobic exercise.

Learning to navigate the physical decline of middle age is a benefit of middle age.

The days that start with training are clearly better.

Pay attention to better.

2019-07-07 08.54.56

The Second Stage of Aging

Barbie Movie NightMy post on The Middle-Aged Athlete was inspired by James Hillman’s book on The Force of Character – author discussing his book below.

The book has nuggets throughout that offer a insight into the experience of “getting old.” The central premise is aging will make us more of what we are. “What we are” being Hillman’s definition of character.

So I asked myself, “What are my central traits?” and, more usefully, “What traits work against the life I’d like to live?

If you’re like me then, at least initially, you’ll come up with a shopping list of admirable traits – things you like about yourself. So far, I haven’t had the courage to verify this list with my wife!

More useful is to reflect on the traits that might lead one’s self into trouble. Quickly, I came up with two…

  • A preference for isolation
  • A tendency for internal over-reaction

Combine those two, magnify them, accept them for another 20, 30 or 40 years and you’ve got one heck of a cranky Old G.

I suffer disproportionately from my negative traits – particularly the internal reactions, hidden from most people. Fortunately, there’s a well-known fix for training one’s mind.

To the traits above, my wife advised that I “should watch my tendency to let myself go.” So true, my love, so true.

As things inevitably unwind, our personal truth comes to the foreground.