Paul is almost half-way through his first year on the Younger Next Year program. Here’s his interim report…
We were headed out on a multi-day hiking “summer camp” with our outdoor association. For reading, I had along a copy of “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge.
There must be some magic in the book. Despite reading admonitions like the following, I resolved there and then to start the program.
“If you thought there was no easy answers to getting Younger Next Year … um, you were right. It’s a torture. And it lasts the rest of your life. Serious exercise, SIX DAYS A WEEK, until death. How about them apples? How in the world do we sell a single book? But here’s the funny thing. We sell a ton of them and have, from the beginning. And readers write these amazing letters ALL THE TIME. About how much they like their new lives. And new waist lines. And the look. And the book. Weird.”
My experience has been similar.
I wasn’t exactly a couch potato six months ago. Despite being a nerdy non-physical kid, long before my 60s, I was a committed exerciser. I had acquired a Concept 2 rowing machine, which I used almost daily. I aimed for and generally achieved three to four hours of aerobic exercise a week, and supplemented that with another four to eight hours a week of hiking and biking in the summer. Getting out more on weekends got easier after we’d joined an outdoor club the year before.
Still, all this activity hadn’t been enough to combat the effects of growing older on maintaining my weight. From around 155 pounds in my 30s (down from 175), I’d crept up over the years, and was on track to enter my 60s at over 200 pounds. In 2010, I’d discovered alternate day dieting (a variant of intermittent fasting), and just before Christmas of that year, got back to 155. I blogged that journey elsewhere.
Staying in that region for the next couple of years proved challenging, but possible.
Then, last June, a friend recommended Younger Next Year. He wasn’t on it himself, but had received strong recommendations from others crossing the six-decade threshold.
By mid-July I was reading the book in the tent at the summer camp. The prescription was pretty simple:
- serious exercise for 45 minutes a day, … every day, … for life
- stop eating crap
- build and maintain connection to your communities
One other feature was the concept of a “kedge” – as Younger Next Year defines it, “a serious adventure trip with friends. Hike, surf, bike, ski, run a marathon – whatever turns you on, even if you’ve never done anything like this before (maybe especially if you haven’t) and get training.” At the summer camp, we had the opportunity to do more mountain hiking than I’d ever done before, it was the ideal way to kick off the program. I actually screamed and kicked very little. I just started – with several 15-mile mountain hikes – and didn’t stop.
One of the finer points of the exercise program is the need for at least two of the daily exercise routines to be strength training routines. I had no good options at that time, so I decided to postpone that modification until the Fall. Meanwhile, between hikes and bike rides, I cranked up my rowing program to a minimum of 45 minutes a day – about 10,000 meters at my rate.
I was soon looking for alternatives to rowing, especially during our travel season when I was so often away from my machine. I can’t run for miles without causing knee problems due to fallen arches. A good alternative is hill running or stair climbing, which allows me to get more exercise in a shorter time. By using a heart monitor, as urged by the book, I determined that I could keep my heart rate in the target range by finding a good hill or stairway, and alternating trotting down with climbing up as fast as I could. One advantage: it’s much easier to find a hill than a rowing machine. We have a great set of beach stairs nearby – over 300 steps with a vertical rise of 150 feet.
By the end of the summer, I’d fallen into a good rhythm, and seldom missed a day – and never two in a week. It was now time to take on strength training. A shoulder problem showed me the way. I’d been struggling with some rotator cuff problems since a game of trampoline dodgeball in the Spring. Massage and physiotherapy were slow in making a dint in the pain and flexibility challenges. My family doctor suggested strengthening my upper back muscles, so I sensed some synergy here.
I signed up with a very good local personal fitness trainer, and had her design for me a set of
strength training exercises I could do with little or no equipment. I wanted a routine that I could take with me on trips, and not tie us to destinations with fitness equipment. PJ came up with a couple of good one-hour high-intensity workouts that involve a lot of plank work, as well as one-legged and asymmetrical arm exercises. One of its virtues – if you can call it that – is that it’s high enough intensity that I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself or even think about it much until it’s all over.
I’m now two or three months into incorporating these workouts into my daily exercise routine three times a week. The results were apparent quite quickly. Within a couple of weeks, I was making progress on both form and repetitions. The icing on the cake came at the Christmas party for Cheryl’s swim team. When her swim coach showed up, it was the first time I’d seen her since last year’s party. One of the first things she said was, “You look like you’ve been bulking up.” So, in just two months, I’d put on enough muscle mass on my upper body to be noticeable to a trained professional. Sweet!
It’s a bit early for hard evidence, but I’m also expecting this routine to help with the weight control. As I’ve been adding muscle bulk, I haven’t been adding weight. So, my waist size is back at its lowest point reached three years ago, even though now I’m tipping the scale in the low 160s. For just under six feet, that seems reasonable.
Meanwhile, we’re planning our kedges for the New Year. We have a number of multi-day bike and kayaking tours arranged for the year. The most demanding will likely be a week of cycling in Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands, with far higher hills than we’re used to. Despite the challenges of a more time-consuming job, and despite her younger years, Cheryl has been hot on my heals in implementing the program. And she’s way out front with kedges, signing up for her first half marathon, her third sprint triathlon, and her first open-water 3000 meter swim race this year.
My family doctor thinks this is a great program. The only problem, he says, is where do you find the time if you’re not retired? I’m convinced, and the book has played a big role in this, that it’s a matter of not burying one’s head in the sand about ageing.
I’m off to climb the beach stairs now. What about you? Will you be younger next year?
By the same author: