Training, regardless of what you do, is commendable. Walking, running, strength training… it’s all good. But if feeling like a limber jungle cat well into your golden years is a priority, you definitely need to adhere by a few guidelines. Better yet, these aren’t even guidelines. These are the Ten Commandments you absolutely need to follow in order to feel healthy and awesome into your golden years.
1. Thou shalt not train through pain
This one should go without saying, but too many meatheads and overachievers view training through pain as a badge of honor, as if it makes them tougher. Training through pain only makes you dumber and less resilient over time. You don’t continue to drive your car when the check engine light comes on to ‘toughen it up’, do you?
Pain is your body’s check engine light. If something hurts, don’t do it. Simple enough. This commandment might be the most important one when it comes to feeling good and moving well in the long run.
2. Thou strength takes priority above all else
Remember when we said all forms of training are commendable? That still holds true… buuuuuuuut strength training is the most important form of training there is when it comes to longevity. No other form of exercise preserves lean muscle, burns fat, improves joint health, improves basal metabolic rate, and helps you hold onto your youth quite like strength training does.
When you’re able to handle and move heavy external loads, moving your bodyweight is typically a hell of a lot easier and manageable. To put it simply, when you’re stronger, you tend to move better. Getting up off the floor, getting up from chairs, getting in and out of cars, up the stairs, carrying kids, walking… it all becomes easier. And while you might not need to lift weights every day into your later years, you DEFINITELY need to do all the things just mentioned every day.
You can still jog, cycle, and do yoga… ain’t nothing wrong with that. But those things need to take a back seat to increasing and maintaining your strength.
3. Training shall mimic thy life’s activities
When you hear the term functional fitness, this is what the term should mean. Training that mimics the day to day activities your body goes through should be what a majority of your training consists of. Sitting, standing, walking, carrying, picking things up, pushing things, pulling things… kinda sounds like squatting, loaded carries, deadlifts, pushups, and rows, does it not?
While balancing on a bosu ball and juggling dumbbells might look cool on the internet, it has very little carryover to life. Although for 99% of us, training for health and longevity means training on hard ground and routinely performing the staples of movement: squatting, hinging, lunging, pulling (rows), pushing (pushups and presses), loaded carries, and some direct core work. Don’t overcomplicate things or get fancy just for the sake of getting fancy…like this guy.
4. Pull more than thou push
Before we dive into this one, let’s clarify. Pulling means exercises that involve pulling things towards you, like rows and chinups. Pushing means exercises that involve pushing things away from you, like pushups, bench press, and overhead presses.
When it comes to feeling good in the long run, you absolutely want to perform more pulling than pushing. The reason for this is that the muscles involved with pulling tend to be responsible for keeping the shoulder joint and shoulder girdle in quality positioning as well as aid in in proper movement mechanics.
The muscles involved with pushing things can also do the same thing, but when they become tight from overuse or weakness, they can cause a lot of postural issues as well as shoulder and neck pain. Having a strong back by comparison serves as your safety net to protect against these things.
For every 1 push you perform, perform 1 to up to 3 pulls to even things out.
To take things even further, make sure you perform 2 horizontal pulls for every 1 vertical (2 rows for every chinup/lat pulldown).
5. Thou shall carry heavy things
Quite frankly there is no other exercise more simple than loaded carries as the instructions are as follows: 1) pick up something heavy and 2) walk.
You literally can’t mess it up.
But if we had a dollar for every time a client asked, “Uh, what is this working exactly?” And our answer is always the same. EVERYTHING.
In order to carry a heavy load your body needs to provide stability at the ankle, knee, hip, spine, and shoulder in order for you to propel your body forward without collapsing under the weight of what you’re carrying. This means your hips are firing, core is engaged, shoulder stabilizers going… literally every muscle is being worked. This makes carries incredible for increasing strength, burning calories, improving endurance, etc. You can’t get any more functional than this!
There are endless variations that can hone in on any goal you have, just depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.
6. Thou shall be powerful and quick
This commandment goes overlooked by many, many individuals. It’s rare that most general fitness enthusiasts will incorporate things like throws, jumps, and sprints into their training program. Slower modalities (traditional strength training, jogging, etc) tend to dominate most exercise routines, and while there’s nothing wrong with this, you’re missing out on several amazing benefits that explosive training offers.
Explosive training recruits entirely different muscle fibers when compared to slower training which can help preserve muscle mass and burn fat more effectively. Plus, you train your nervous system during explosive work which is paramount in your ability to recruit muscles quickly and forcefully. This not only helps preserve your youth, but also comes in handy during unexpected emergencies when you need to move quickly.
7. Thou shalt not neglect dedicated mobility work
One could argue that consistent, quality strength training could serve as dedicated mobility work in and of itself, but here’s the thing. In order for mobility work to truly carryover into your later years, you really should be doing something every day. Strength training usually takes place at the most 2-4x per week for most people unless you’re a paid fitness model or body builder…which is an extremely small percentage of the population.
Mobility work should consist of soft tissue work (foam rolling), breathing exercises, and working on taking joints through their full available ranges of motion. Stretches, bodyweight strength training, and controlled articular rotations are are low intensity things that can be done on a daily basis to keep those joints moving like they should be.
8. Thou shall recover harder than thou train
When you train, you essentially beat up your body causing your abilities, strength, endurance, etc., to decline for a short period of time. Your body then uses calories and sleep to build itself back up past itself original baseline, making it more resilient and stronger in the process. This is the simple overview of progressive overload, or the foundational training principle for any and all exercise.
When you train too hard and too often while neglecting recovery, that training downslope that you see in the graph above will be too large for your minimal recovery efforts to offset. This makes you weaker and beats your body down over time. This is not the recipe for longevity, in fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Training is important, but if you’re not putting in the effort to let your body heal heal itself past its original baseline on a regular basis, you might as well cross longevity right off your list of goals.
Foam rolling, stretching, performing mobility routines, engaging in lower intensity cardiovascular work (walking), eating nutrient dense foods, and sleeping should all be top priorities for you.
9. Vegetables shall be plentiful in thou diet
While this is technically not training related, it’s too important to not mention.
Vegan, vegetarian, paleo… we don’t care what your preferred method of dieting is. But we do know one thing. If you’re trying to look and feel good into your 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, you BETTER be eating your veggies.
If scientists could create the perfect fat loss food that was low in calories and packed a whollop in terms of nutritional value, it would still take a backseat to what vegetables naturally provide. Vegetables contain nutrients that man made supplements can only dream of providing. Not to mention they contain fiber, phytochemicals, and flavonoids… all while containing very little calories. They are the ultimate choice for weight loss/maintenance and overall health, hands down.
Not only do veggies help your body with the major events like fat loss, but they also help your body do all the minor, under the radar things necessary to keep you running like a well oiled machine. Things like improving joint health, decreasing inflammation, and enhancing the health of numerous cells throughout the body… veggies do it all.
10. Thou shall remain consistent
Last but not least, we come to the perhaps one of the most important commandments on this list: The C word.
NOT THAT C WORD, GOOD LORD GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER.
We’re talking about CONSISTENCY.
Consistency is perhaps the single most important factor contributing to your success when it comes to health and fitness. Success in fitness, and often life, is not about the single big event you do on a semi regular basis, but more so about the numerous smaller things that happen regularly. These smaller events pile up and compound just like a snowball does until before you know it, they’ve made a huge difference.
“You are what you repeatedly do. Therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
You won’t see your abs if you binge every single weekend and every other Wednesday.
You won’t lose weight if your sleep is erratic.
You won’t get stronger if you skip training sessions.
Get consistent. Stay consistent.