5.22.2009

Five steps toward being Younger Next Year


So the answer to living long and enjoying it to the end is a modest investment of one hour of rigorous exercise a day, according to Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge in their book, “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond.” Do that, they say, and you can feel like you’re 50 into your 80s. But as Jeff P. commented after Wednesday’s post on the book, “The challenge is making it happen, everyday.”

Jeff is gainfully employed, self-employed, and has kids, which makes that one-hour investment a day a challenge. “I am currently at about an hour per session about 3 times a week — if I am lucky.” Another reason for those of us currently between work gigs to count ourselves lucky: It’s the perfect time to begin the routine of incorporating an hour of exercise into our daily routine. Still, as author Chris Crowley, who is retired, acknowledges, that can be tough. He offers a few suggestions to make the lifestyle transition easier.

1. Join a gym. “A lot of you are going to fight me on this, but you have to join a gym,” writes Crowley. Count me among the fighters. I used to belong to the Y and loved it. Then I got claustrophobic. Working out inside — be it swimming, the elliptical trainer or weights — didn’t work anymore. And with a full compliment of Gore-Tex raingear, I don’t let a little — or even a lot — of rain stop me. But Crowley’s logic on this is sound: “You need a place to go, like a job.” And being around other people working out is the added incentive many of us need. Plus, you’ll have access to classes and a big room full of people eager to offer advice. Now, my laid off brethren (and sisteren) are no doubt protesting that they just got laid off, they can’t afford to join a gym. It’s not as pricey to join a gym as you may think. Gyms recognize that the economy has put a crimp in our pocketbooks and have made it easier for us to get in the door. Some have waived joining fees. More significantly, many have dropped their long-term contracts and now allow people to join on a month-to-month basis.

2. Take a class. Two reasons, writes Crowley. “First, you’re more likely to go, because there’s a set time for class and that creates a certain discipline. Second, you’re far less likely to dog it once you get there.” Another reason or two. If you try something on your own and don’t care for it the first time, you’re more likely to give up on it. Commit to a class, though, and you’ll at least go a second time — and maybe discover that you like it. There’s also the built-in support network. Others will be suffering, too. You’ll have company. And, you’ll become proficient at whatever it is you’re taking. Gyms offer classes, but for good variety and a less aggressive environment check your parks and rec for classes it may offer.

3. Pick a workout time. Most of us are creatures of habit. If we drill into ourselves that we walk for an hour every day at 9 a.m. or do yoga at noon or take a bike ride at 3 p.m., after a while we’ll fall, lemminglike, into step. If you’re unemployed, you have the luxury of picking a time that works best for you. Some of us are morning people and thought of running 3 miles at 6 a.m. is just what we need to get us out of bed. To others the thought of an elevated heart rate before noon is anathema.

4. Tap into a passion. Obviously, it’s so much easier to do something you love for an hour a day than something you’re indifferent toward, or worse.

5. Begin with a “jump-start vacation.” This is my favorite idea, and before the unemployed among us say, “But I’m on permanent vacation,” hear Crowley out. The idea here is to take a dedicated week, go somewhere and focus on being active. Crowley suggests a bike tour. A good idea for two reasons. One, if the tour isn’t for another month or more, you have great incentive to train. And even if it’s tomorrow, you’re probably good. Quick anecdote: Ten years ago I did the inaugural Cycle North Carolina, a two-week, 920-mile crossing of North Carolina. I was very curious about how others had prepared for the event and would ask the question at rest stops, at dinner, in camp at the end of the day. The answers varied wildly, but my favorite was Lee’s. “I ride my bike to work every day,” he said. That’s good I thought, probably 20, 30 miles a day. “I live less than a mile from work,” he added. Lee was often the last rider in every day, but he completed the ride. And there are all sorts of cheap “vacation” options out there. I’m a big fan of the camping vacation: Pitch your tent for a week in a national park, a state forest, wherever, and spend your days hiking, fishing, tubing, kayaking, rafting, climbing, mountain biking — whatever. It’s amazing how a week of living like this can imprint on your lifestyle. And if you have basic camping equipment (or can bum some from a sympathetic, employed friend), it’s a vacation you could probably pull off for $300 or less, food, gas and camping fees included.

Got your own strategy for getting started? Share.

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