Fitness isn’t luck, or is it?
Kensington, Maryland, March 13, 2020 — It’s Friday the Thirteenth, an auspicious day to note one of my favorite mottos: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
That brilliant observation is attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca. All I know is that in my experience, it has been more accurate than not.
With our official Appalachian Trail season opening next Saturday, I suppose one could spend the winter hoping that luck would be enough to get this septuagenarian ready to hike with the ridgerunners, lead Road Scholars and do the physical work required to keep the trail clear and in good repair.
Before I answer, please allow some digression.
The vast majority of trail maintainers, who contribute a quarter million volunteer hours each year, are retired or persons close to retirement for one reason. They have the time.
While maintainers come in all stripes, ages and tenures, the younger ones tend to take a hiatus when marriage, children or job responsibilities heavily dent their free time.
The challenge for some retirees is that they age out too soon. On average they retire at 65 and they are gone a few short years later. Sometimes it is bad luck. I inherited the AT section I maintain from a dedicated guy who was unfortunately struck by cancer. Other times we grow infirm as we age whether it’s arthritis, illness or general decrepitude.
The idea is to leave as little to chance/luck as possible. Since most of what we do is physical, the idea is to be in the best condition achievable. That requires work and dedication.
You can’t half-step and expect to run with the big dogs. With the big dogs, you don’t have to be the strongest or fastest, but you do have to keep up.
Disclaimer. I’m a life-long athlete. I was a professional soldier required to be fit as a condition of employment. I’ve never been seriously out of shape, so I’m starting from a higher plateau than most. At the gym, my fitness coaches have told me for more than a decade that I easily out perform most of their 40-year-old clients. That’s because, for me, it’s business. I am neither normal nor lucky. Regardless…
My workouts are planned by a coach. I set the goals. The coach decides how we, as a team, get there. I depend on my coach’s knowledge and far too often on their motivational ability because sometimes I’m lazy.
The twice-a-week workouts are 45 minutes of intense exercise organized into two to three sets of three exercises per set with 12 to 15 reps each. That’s 36 – 45 repetitions of each exercise.
In between gym sessions I used to run daily. That’s no longer possible due to a congenital condition in my feet. Instead I speed walk hills and bike paths near my home. Occasionally, but not often enough, I add a third workout with weights at home gym.
The workouts are functional. They are designed to mimic actual movements and activities or to strengthen specific muscles needed for certain activities.
Here’s a sample.
Goblet squat with 55 lbs. Strengthens quads and core. Preparatory for lifting and climbing hills. The 45 lb. weight plate I’m standing on helps isolate the target muscles.
Skull crushers with 60 lbs. Designed to strengthen triceps and shoulders. For upper body control. Wanna swing a pick?
Presses on the floor. 40lbs. each side. Triceps, shoulders, and chest. Good for pushing and rolling, not to mention crosscut sawing.
Plank with a 30 lb. weight vest. Great for back and core. Two minutes
Chops pulling 55 lbs. Good for digging and weeding. The towel cushions my surgically repaired hand.
Giant shoe laces. Stamina and lifting.
Twenty pound medicine ball toss. Back and arm strength. Lifting and digging.
That’s enough. Put me in coach.
Good for you, young man. My 2-3 gym sessions a week keep me feeling strong for my 73 yrs. I’m proud of my accomplishments.