I’ve been doing some physical activity regularly: jogging or running, cycling, calisthenics, mobility stretching or yoga, and lately a lot of hiking, and I’ve seen my fitness get a lot better, based on resting heart rate, heart rate variability, VO2 Max and just generally, feeling better. Losing weight helps. These days I do a mix of fitness activities, and try to eat whole foods as much as possible.
In your 50’s, stuff starts to break and heal more slowly, so I do mobility work to try to keep limber. The mobility routine I do is about 13 min long on a yoga mat, and is as follows in case you’re interested in trying (be sure to breathe with purpose throughout):
- Sky to mountain to pike 60 sec - stretch up, stand straight with good posture, then forward bend at your hips to stretch your hamstrings.
- Pike rotations 30 sec - start standing, transition to forward bend, and touch left and right, repeating back and forth while stretching your back and hamstrings.
- Pike to squat 60 sec - standing, to forward bend, to squat, to forward bend, to standing. Repeat.
- Deep squat with rolling 60 sec- stand to squat, then maintain the position but reach with either hand forward to stretch, left and right.
- Deep squat with thoracic rotations 60 sec - from squat position, place one hand down between knees, then rotate your shoulders reaching with the other hand up, looking at that hand. Repeat a couple times, then do the other side a couple of times, and repeat. It should stretch your shoulders and lats.
- Child pose 30 sec - from squat position, go down on your knees, then do a yoga “child pose” and rest.
- Seiza 30 sec - push up from child pose into “seiza”, formal Japanese “on the knees” sitting. Do your best to sit back on your heels. Stretches your quads and ankles.
- Half camel 60 sec - from seiza, go back up onto your knees, place the left hand on your left heel, and stretch the right hand upward for a yoga “half camel” pose. Repeat with the other hand up at about half the time.
- Figure four and neck stretch 60 sec - put your left hand out at the top edge of your mat, sit on your left haunch with your left knee at 90 degrees and left shin parallel to the mat edge, and with your right knee near your left heel. Rotate your neck to stretch. Put your right hand back, shift to the other haunch and continue stretching your neck for the second half.
- Sit mid-mat with soles together in “butterfly” pose 60 sec - Stretch your hips and massage your feet.
- Forward bend 30 sec - put your feet forward and bend down to grab your ankles, giving your hamstrings a good stretch.
- Reverse table 30 sec - Put your hands back to the edge of the mat behind you, fingertips pointing back, and with your feet planted, press your pelvis up into “reverse table”. Hold.
- Sit-ups 60 sec - here I do “Sandow” situps, which are slow and controlled situps from a lying flat position with arms up, transitioning to a forward bend then slowly returning back.
- Cat with rolling 30 sec - go back to a “seiza” like position but with your knees wide. Put your hands forward on the mat, and stretch like a cat, rolling or twisting your upper body back and forth for a good upper back stretch.
- Downward dog with rolling 60 sec - plant your hands and go up into downward dog pose, but “roll” back and forth to stretch each hamstring separately and press your other heel into the mat. Repeat back and forth.
- Cat cows 60 sec - come back to a position with both your hands and knees planted, with each about shoulder width apart, and a few seconds of cat, exhaling hard, followed by a few seconds of cow, inhaling hard. Repeat.
- Cobra pose 30 sec - transition to cobra pose for a lower back stretch.
That’s it. If I skip a while, I find it really painful to get back into it, but it really feels great after a few days. Try it!
Here’s a few things I learned while trying to get more fit.
- Nose breathe for more energy (gasping for air has the opposite effect).
- You can exercise “low” (in a fasted state with low blood sugar) if you’re doing something that’s relatively easy, keeping your heart rate low. But if you’re doing something harder, eat something before you go.
- Use the toilet before you go out, but know where the toilets and water fountains are on your routes. At least in Japan, that’s convenience stores and parks, and sometimes even shrines or temples. That said, I saw a couple places that had closed their toilets “due to COVID” so, be aware.
- Do dynamic stretches before you run or cycle, not static. Besides a little light jogging or hopping, leg swings fore and aft or side to side, high knees jog, butt kick jog, knee up then out (repeat L and R) over 50m, lunge after lunge over 50 m and so on.
- If you’re going to static stretch, it seems to be better to do it at night before bed, but not right before any fitness activity.
- Roll your legs out using self MFR or myofascial release. I like the “rumble roller” brand roller for this and use it on my quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings and calves.
I’ve learned a few things about running since I started doing it more seriously:
- A mid- or forefoot-strike with a higher cadence protects your knees. Conversely, a “heel strike” puts more pressure on your knees and ankles, because it’s like putting the brakes on, every step.
- Use a forward lean and gravity to help propel you forward. It’s like you’re almost going to fall, but you catch yourself.
- Don’t swing your arms too wildly as it’s just a waste of energy.
- A ton of padding in shoes is not always beneficial, but to use “barefoot” shoes with minimal padding, you need strength in your feet and legs.
- Look at the outside temp and add about 10 deg C and dress for that.
Some tips about (road) cycling too:
- A high cadence in an easier gear is more for aerobic fitness, while a lower cadence in a harder gear is more for muscle training.
- Since you sometimes coast on a bike ride, it can be less intense compared to running, but of course you can make it as hard as you want.
- Get a bike fitting and don’t buy a bike that’s too big. Some maker charts are just wrong.
- If you’re itching to spend money, spend it on safety, rather than lighter components. Don’t worry about weight unless you’re a pro. For normal people, losing 10 kg of fat is a much bigger gain than buying the kit the pros use, if you have a reasonably good bike. Top-of-the-line gruppos are about 500 grams / 1.1 pound lighter than standard ones (i.e. Shimano Dura-Ace vs 105 or, Campagnolo Super Record vs Chorus).
- Don’t think about dressing for cycling the same way you do for running, as it gets colder on the bike when it’s cold out. Since you can go pretty far quickly, it can be really miserable, if you are caught out in the cold.
- Be sure to take sufficient spares to replace a punctured tube on the road. I have a tube stored in a ziplock with talc inside, a little tool kit, CO2 cartridge to fill the tube, a manual pump, coins, tire levers with duct tape wrapped around one, rubber gloves, extra rubber in case a tire gets ripped, porno patches, eye drops, tissues. I take a Silca cycling wallet I keep in my jersey, and in it I have my id and credit card, cash, a paper mask, and my phone in it.