How to Avoid Fitness Insanity
By John Bobey
Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Einstein was obviously a smart guy (maybe the smartest), but fitness was not his forte. He was well known to wear a length of rope to keep his pants up, and perhaps that was less because he was too pre-occupied with “genius stuff” to buy a belt, and more because his expanding waistline made constantly buying new ones too costly (after all, he was living on a teacher’s salary).
When it comes to staying fit, the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. Think about it. In your 20s you could probably drop a few pounds by switching to light beer and playing a little more pick-up basketball, but that same strategy won’t cut it in your 30s. In your 40s, a slowing metabolism and dealing with equipment breakdowns (a bad back, a knee that tells you when it’s going to rain) could be more than reason enough to skip the gym…that is, if you could fit it into your schedule in the first place.
The reality is that just as your body evolves through the aging process, your approach to health needs to keep pace. By keeping the following tips in mind, you’ll have a fighting chance at looking good with your shirt tucked in, from your college graduation to your kid’s.
1) To lose weight, eating less is more important than moving more. Of course you should do both, but no matter how many miles you log on the treadmill, there’s just no way you can continue to see a pint of Ben & Jerry’s as a single serving as you get older. You sculpt your body in the gym, but what you do in the kitchen determines how much marble you have to chisel away.
2) And when you’re at the gym, lifting weights isn’t just for looking good in a swimsuit on Spring Break. It’s just as important as cardio as you get older. Again, you should be doing both, but keep in mind that it’s about more than just burning calories, it’s about maintaining muscle mass. As metabolism slows during aging, you do yourself a favor by adding muscle—every pound of it you pack on, you burn an additional 50 calories at rest.
3) Sleep more. The days of being out all night, grabbing a greasy after-hours breakfast, and stopping home for a quick shower and shave before heading off to work are numbered after your 20s. Experts say that getting a solid eight hours a night makes you less prone to disease, lessens aches and pains by reducing inflammation, improves your disposition and cognitive functions, and boosts your sex life.
4) Revisit the Buddy System. That pick-up basketball you played in your 20s? It didn’t feel as much like exercise in part because you’re were having fun with friends. The more the merrier is still a good idea—syncing your workout schedule with a friend will keep you honest (you’re not going to strand a pal at spin class, are you?), you’ll motivate each other, and you’ll be surprised how much faster the time goes when you’re trash talking with a friend between sets.
5) Come to terms with the fact that, to age gracefully and stave off wearing an Einstein Rope Belt, you have to manage a sound diet and exercise plan forever. (You don’t want to be that guy at the reunion who looks like that guy at the reunion’s dad.) We like to say fitness is a journey and not a destination. This may be the best reason to vary your exercise routine: You're going to be doing it for a long time, and boredom is the enemy.
Getting older isn’t easy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative. (Imagine what Al could have done with a 77th year, even if it meant having to take the occasional Zoomba class). Once you have a routine, it’s a lot easier to adapt that routine over time than it is to start from scratch. No matter your age, the reward of staying in shape ain’t no theory (unlike “relativity”… whatever that means).
John Bobey is a writer/producer living in Los Angeles whose work includes The Today Show, Huffington Post, Saturday Night Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.