For years, we have spoken with people in our community from around the world with the idea of discovering the best practices for a vivid, vital, engaged life. What are the commonalities among the most exceptional north stars of our community? What can we mere mortals learn from them?
The great Bill Buettner used a similar method in his Blue Zones book as he searched for commonalities in communities with abnormally long life. Using Bill’s inspiration, we are in constant contact with our AGIEST community around the globe, listening to their stories of their best practices in all areas of life. What we find is in the area of fitness, our people – from rather diverse backgrounds and cultures – share a great deal in terms of motivations and methods.
Here we describe the #1 fitness secret that the most vital members of our community have shared with us:
Good Habits. They all have deeply ingrained habits. This was the main difference between how they described their activities in their 20s compared to their 50s. What may have worked for them back then no longer did. For instance, they may have been active in the past, but it was whatever they felt like doing from one day to the next rather than a defined regimen. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if your goal is to have some fun and expend some energy.
But as they reached their 50s, our people became more goal oriented, and the goal was to maximize their lives, to be the best version of themselves they could be, and to prevent the effects of inactive aging. This was not about trying to be super-humans like Laird Hamilton or Diana Nyad. It meant understanding what they wanted to achieve, and more often, what they want to avoid.
The first step to making a Good Fitness Habit, is identifying the main issues of physical aging that one wants to avoid. This varies from cardiovascular issues, muscle loss, bone loss, balance, flexibility and, most often, all of the above.
After 50 years, even though the body’s needs continually evolve, our people have a good idea of what works for them. Some people need to be outdoors in the sun and fresh air, others are gym rats and many need to exercise with others. They all know what motivates them, and what gives them the most enjoyment and benefit.
Most surprising is that at 50, they did not slow down and take up mall walking or some other recommended “after-50-exercise.” We found they did the opposite, doubling down, and in most cases, massively increasing the intensity and commitment to a formal training program – a defined program with goals and directed methods.
This was the #1 secret: they had a plan and an established habit with a goal. On Monday they did X workout, on Tuesday they did Y…and so on.
These were all busy people, who each carved out time each week for a structured program in the same way others do a meal plan for the week. These programs share a commonality of targeted efficiency designed to achieve goals.
Not only were these training programs structured, they were also measurable. They tracked their times, distances, weights, reps etc. They had notebooks, Fitbits, iWatches, and tracking apps. Day after day, week after week, they performed and monitored the programs they had designed. Maybe it was running, in which case they knew exact distances and times, their personal bests, their averages and their goals.
These are regular people. Our people were not fantastically rare, genetically gifted people, although they were clearly fit. They had simply made the decision to make fitness a priority in their lives so that they could have a long functional life. It was not about regaining some glory from youth, it was about doing the work they felt was required to live a great life now and in the future.
It took about a year to really lock in these habits, and it also took about that long to make material changes in their fitness levels. A year may sound like a long time, but not that long in the minds of someone who thinks they will be around for decades more life.
This new habit or training program may have seemed to start spontaneously, but most often, it had been carefully considered for a long time, informed by decades of living and learning. Most importantly, it was theirs, specific to them, not an off the shelf by the book program. It was a highly personalized and often unique routine and habit. Over the next few weeks we will write about some of what these programs were.
What goals do you have? How can you be your best self? Is this hard? Yes, absolutely! It is hard. However, hard is not impossible, as our AGEIST community continually illustrates.
Share your stories about how our fitness regimen has evolved over time.