Athletic Beyond 45

2020-02-02 13.12.35Middle age is going better than I expected.

Why?

Because choices that made sense when I was younger have been replaced by a lifestyle that’s a better fit for where I want to take myself.

Let’s run though the major adjustments.

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You might not want what you think you want: athletics is the best way I have found to keep myself engaged and apply energy. Look around and you can see plenty of examples of middle aged men getting themselves into trouble by not managing their energy.

So I will sign up for a race to keep myself out of trouble? Not so fast…

  • Engaging in athletic competition is different from being athletic.
  • Fit for competition is not fit for an engaged life with meaning.
  • To be the sort of father/husband I want to be, I need to avoid athletic competition.

The requirements of racing well, and my competitive peers, exert an inevitable pull on my life. A pull I enjoy but one that takes me away from where I want to be in 5-10 years time.

There are different ways to define excellence and the traits that ring most true to me don’t have a clock attached to them.

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The most specific component of race fitness is the least valuable to my wife and kids. 

In your mid-40s you will notice a change in how you respond to training. Specifically, sustained tempo is a lot more fatiguing. This intensive-endurance pace is a core part of training for performance.

As a middle-aged athlete sustained tempo will gobble up your energy and leave you spent for other aspects of your life. If you are in the clutch of negative addictions then this can be a very good choice to make! However, you will have nothing left towards building a life that your future self will value.

This reality was tough for me to face. I know how valuable tempo training is to athletic performance. It was made easier by stopping racing, and reminding myself that I didn’t want the family lives, and marriages, of my competition.

Letting go of deep fatigue enabled me to re-establish consistency, which was being shot to pieces by minor injuries, slow recovery, illnesses and low motivation => all of which stemmed from giving myself more load than I could absorb.

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About those injuries… stop hurting yourself.

Somewhere in my recent past, I realized I was constantly managing low-grade calf injuries. At the time, I wasn’t training for a race, or even doing much mileage. There was no reason to endure the constant setbacks.

You’re likely to have similar moments and the performance gurus will encourage you to grind through. I’d encourage you to pause and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Where is this likely to take me? Elective orthopedic surgery?
  2. What is my goal here? Alienate my spouse and estrange myself from my kids?
  3. Is there a better way to achieve my goal? Or perhaps a better goal to achieve!

In my case, I replaced the running with hiking and functional strength training. I can do these before my family wakes up or alongside my family. My best athletic memories of my 50s are shared experiences, in nature, with my family.

With a young wife, and three kids, I’m slowly filling the state of Colorado with happy thoughts. When I’m 70, they can carry the backpack!

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Reality is enough for me. If you’re tempted to use drugs then something needs to change.

Shooting your knee up like an NFL lineman, boosting your hormonal profile to beat an athlete who’s spouse just walked out the door, taking health risks to train alongside college kids…

  1. Where is this likely to take me?
  2. What is my goal here?
  3. Is there a better way to achieve my goal?

A focus on athleticism puts me in a continual state of rehabilitation from the process of aging naturally => functional strength, quickness, range of motion and extensive endurance.

Being freed from external requirements lets me do the right thing for my health, year round.

  • Place a demand on yourself, then recover while working on a project that benefits your larger life.
  • While expanding your life beyond athletics, remove whatever screws up your sleep patterns. My 4:30am wake-up makes poor choices obvious, immediately.

This approach will enhance your biochemistry naturally and not mask errors.

To learn by iteration, it is essential to physically experience my mistakes.

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Victory and Vanity

How are you going to feed that part of your personality that craves recognition, thrives in adversity and wishes to dominate others?

Can you see your desires? Have you considered what is driving your desires?

You might simply be over-scheduled and seeking socially acceptable personal space.

It’s worth looking deeper.

When I looked deeply everything was there, positive and negative. There are many ways to spin our motivators.

Recognition can come from my children, who are hardwired to be impressed by me. I look pretty jacked to a seven-year old.

Personal growth through facing adversity can come from the final few reps of a set (or simply getting out of bed some mornings). My endurance mantra… many people would like the ability to do this right now.

Domination is a tricky one, especially when surrounded by women and children. At my best, I turn it inwards and seek to overcome my negative traits, specifically my urge to resort to force, rather than skillful engagement.

We often let each other off by saying things like.. “everyone is different”, or “you need to find your own way.” I disagree. We are very, very similar within our cultures and wired to follow social proof.

If you want to change your motivation then change your location.

I’m parked in the fittest zipcode in America, training in nature, with a young family, thinking daily about a handful of men who are presenting their best selves to the world.

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Finally, remove the friction between your current habits and the life you want to lead.

I have a home gym, I wake up at 4:30am and there aren’t any email/social apps on my phone.

I created a situation where there was nothing for me to do between 5 and 6am in the morning.

So I write, or train => activities that leave me satisfied in hindsight and help my future self.

Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.

 

It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face

 

Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can’t do anything “out there.”

 

What you can do is pause and ask, “What do I want?”

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.

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Simple, not easy.

Strength Training – Base One 2018

My ideal ski day is… skin 3,000 vertical feet, ski back down before the resort opens, second breakfast, alpine ski 20,000 ft of bumps, lunch with my wife, and finish with 10,000 feet of steeps in the afternoon.

Being able to enjoy this day is the goal of my training.

My program is focused on range of movement, strengthening connective tissues and slowing the loss of lean body mass.

Four things from 2017:

  1. The plan worked – radical change isn’t required.
  2. I can gain muscle in my late-40s — train, eat normally, get jacked — we have been conditioned to believe strength loss is inevitable. Signs of decay are evident in my skin and recovery but my strength is hanging on. I’m fueled on real food, coffee and water – that’s it. Don’t even bother with vitamins.
  3. Acute soft tissue injury is my greatest risk – therefore, compound lifts, with full range of motion, are more important than putting up big numbers.
  4. My strength peaked four months before I started skiing a lot. A longer base period fits for injury prevention and a target of being really strong in September/October.

To keep me honest, I’ll keep you posted.

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Base One (36 Workouts)

  • Twelve of each session
  • Twice a week for six weeks
  • Split across the week
  • Twelve hours of time invested (Huge Return on Investment)

Lower Body

  • 4×25 squat #95
  • 4×25 leg press #140 (sled #118)
  • 4×10 single leg press just the sled
  • Leg ext 4×25 each side #20 alt by side
  • Single hip bridge each side 4×10 alt by side
  • Calves 4×25 alt by straight/bent knee

Upper Body

  • 4×25 pull downs (front)
  • 4×25 assisted dips
  • 4×25 sit ups
  • 100 push ups (for the day)

Plyometric Half Blaster (x5 on 30s rest)

  • 10x Air Squats
  • 5x In-Place Lunges (5x each leg, 10x total)
  • 5x Jumping Lunges (5x each leg, 10x total)
  • 5x Jump Squats

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My Endurance Corner articles on strength are here – the links will go down eventually as it’s an old version of the site – good stuff that helped me when I was a high-performance athlete

Better Sleep

I started waking up earlier, kept my mouth shut and watched a cascade of positive effects roll through my house.

I got the idea after calling myself out about my self-prescribed sleep “aids” and from Jocko’s book.

The hook in Jocko’s book was his observation that 4:55am is more than ten minutes better than 5:05am.

I began to wake up in the “4s” in February. After two weeks my body adjusted and I don’t need an alarm to do it.

Monica asked me “why” => “All I was doing was scrolling social media for 90 minutes after the kids went to sleep.”

I was wasting a key advantage => I need less sleep than my kids.

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The game is “do whatever before 5am then one useful task.”

As the family wakes up… it’s on and I’m drawn back to the family (sometimes from the middle of a workout).

Jocko’s point –predawn is the only time we truly own.

Other tips…

If you want to go to sleep then wake up – same time every_single_day – with travel, I stay on my home time zone.

I always have a cushion of sleep available by going to sleep at the same time as my kids and waking up at the same time as usual.

 

Training For Health – Check Yourself

Here’s how I manage my tendency to end up depleted, sore and emotionally tapped.

Strength TrainingGet really strong once a year. It is inconvenient to get my strength training done. However, I’m a true believer that life is better when I am stronger.

Sitting at the end of uphill ski season, I’ve made a big trade in strength, for aerobic performance. I tell myself that I got “something” for the trade but life is better when strong!

Don’t Race Down – if I’m going to have a bad accident, it will happen at speed. I write about this a lot because I have to remind myself! Satisfaction comes from proper preparation, not blazing at my limits.

Ditch Volume Goals – Early season, I had an idea that it would be “fun” to ski 2,000,000 vertical feet. I soon realized my initial goal would screw up my family life (by getting me to obsess about more, more, more).

Remembering that it is easier to replace an obsession than transcend it… I shifted to a frequency goal of skiing 100 times (lots of shorter ski days).

I’ve learned this lesson before when I ditched racing to create space for my young family. A goal, that has me turning away from the love of my family, is counterproductive.

No Sports Nutrition – if I find myself craving sugar, I reduce my workload. Sugar intake is a clear line beyond which I have moved away from health. Working within this restriction, I get a lot done!

The above “restrictions” reduce my tendency to create my own depression and emotional drama.

I feel better within my body, while giving more to the people around me.

Tips for Getting Jacked 2017

Everything about my life is better when I am strong.

I wanted to pass along what worked across my six month campaign of Getting Strong.

#1 – the biggest change, and challenge, for an endurance athlete… cap your cardio sessions at an hour and drop all group training. No more than two cardio sessions per day but you can walk around as much as you like! This is the only way I save the mojo to truly push myself in the gym and get-it-done.

#2 – add plyometrics // the leg blaster program that I used is here – combine with traditional gym work (focused on squats and leg press) – total time investment for the plyometrics was 12 hours over six months – outstanding return on investment!

#3 – track total movements // my plyometric routines built up to 420 movements in 15 minutes – during base training, my traditional exercises were focused on getting to 100 movements per exercise (sets of 20-25 reps with short rest) – the total gym session would be 400-500 movements (during base/prep training) – I did best my splitting plyometrics away from lifting days.

#4 – use a four-day cycle // for example…

  • Base; Cardio; Plyo; Cardio
  • Heavy Legs; Plyo; Cardio; Cardio
  • Upper Body Blaster; Maintenance Legs; Plyo; Cardio

#5 – gains come from working the legs // my entire body benefits from improved leg strength. I didn’t focus on my upper body until I had been focusing on my legs for 20+ weeks. The upper body gains came fast from a month of adding push ups, burpees and the PT Pyramid.

Most my gains are hidden: better range of movement in my knees, improved energy and being able to toss my kids around.

It was a lot of fun and I ended this block feeling jacked, rather than exhausted.

Applying Wealth Wisely

A reader recommended a book about Living with a Seal. The book is an entertaining read, but I did find myself swearing far more than usual afterwards (burpee test!).

The book is about a marathoner who spends a month training with David Goggins (former seal). Having done extreme training, I think it’s safe to assume the rest of the guy’s life was on hold during his month with Goggins!

Complete control of your schedule and the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time.

Whether you want to train with a seal, start a business, write a book or simply get really, really good at something… the ability to control your schedule is the starting point for your journey.

Can you take a month “off” to focus on “one thing”?

A month is a good unit because it’s about what it takes for me to start a new business, write a book or bump my level up in anything.

As an elite athlete, I’d spend 13-week blocks focusing on my sport. By that time, I was already good, and seeking to become the absolute best I could be.

You need time because a second use of wealth is accessing, then following, the ACTIONS of world-class teachers.

Advice without action is entertainment.

I’ve been guilty of throwing money and other people’s time at anything I found unpleasant. It can be a winning strategy but it was a band-aid for unnecessary complexity in my life choices.

If you’re a do’er then work towards control of your schedule so you can learn-by-doing alongside the best.

Parenting is similar to learning to swim — we’re not going to become world class on a couple hours per week!

Make sure your mentors have the sort of lives, and character, that you’d like to emulate.

Chose wisely!