The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Hi Pat! I have been training since I enlisted in the U.S. Army back in 1976. As an entrepreneur of sorts with passions in life that continue to evolve, I am actually looking forward to the next couple decades.

You always encourage your readers to take a lifespan approach to investing in their health, with many forms of physical activity AND training front and center. I agree 100%.

Here is my issue. I get frustrated, sometimes really ticked-off, when my training session gets bumped. It seems that Murphy strikes through family, friends, work or travel. I know, that’s life. But why does it bug me so much? Heck, I am not a self-centered calorie-obsessed health nut.

My medical Hx: no MEDS, no major surgeries, but plenty of strains, sprains, bruises and breaks along the way, mostly from my manual labor and recreational pursuits. I was in a major car accident at 45. My orthopedist and PT both said that my recovery was incredible because I was in such good shape. My vitals are all well within healthy. At 6’ 165 lbs., I monitor my belt notch and weigh myself once a week. I eat REAL food, rarely snack or eat sweets, but I do enjoy the local brews on a weekly basis.

I would say that I hit all of your 7S Buckets, and do my best to keep them full and robust. First thing in the morning, I take my 100-lb mutt for a brisk 30:00 walk, a non-negotiable with Champ. I don’t consider this training, but it gives me a boatload of other benefits that shape the rhythm of my day.

My home gym is replete with ample weights, bells, bars and tools to get the strength-power job done. As for HITT and endurance work, I prefer training outdoors on skis, hills, trails or the local HS track. Based on the season, I will scale back my strength-power sessions, from 3X-2X, or ramp them up from 2X-3X in synch with HIIT and longer endurance sessions, for 4-5 sessions/week. On weekends, my wife and I are biking, hiking, paddling or skiing. I admit that I could do better on the stretching piece, though.

If I can’t train as planned, is there a counter-strategy or some sort of a minimum effective dose that will keep me from sliding backwards? Am I just being too rigid, or just plain ridiculous for even stressing over it? Got any quick tips?

Mike, 62

A: Mike, congrats on your investment over the last four decades! As for training glitches, life happens. Curveballs will be thrown at us repeatedly, no matter how disciplined we are. It’s our reserve capacity, our resilience, durability and robustness, our overall Hardiness that allows us to bounce back and land on our feet. You are nailing it.

I fully understand your unease when you can’t train, especially when you unexpectedly can’t train. Do not confuse this with exercise addiction, when exercise takes precedence over everyone and everything.

Here are FIVE quick tips:

1. You cannot undo 40 years of training by missing a few training sessions. It does NOT happen. If something or someone needs you, flip your mind-switch to ‘ok, I’ve got this. I’ll shift some things around the rest of the week.’ Missing a session should not become a major source of distress or result in a really bad mood. Afterall, it’s not life-threatening, and won’t even put a dent in your 40-year training investment.

2. As for a counter-strategy, INTENSITY has the greatest impact on maintenance when sessions are bumped [frequency] or shortened [volume].

For example, you must travel for work. You will lose two full days to airports, and another full day to meetings. But you can’t do anything about it, other than boost your steps walking around the airports. DON’T take the moving walkway, and DO carry a backpack.

OK, you’re down to TWO sessions that week. NBD! Make them count by working at the HIGH end of your training intensity. Plan for ONE HIIT session, and ONE power-strength session. For HIIT, get that HR up where you typically train. As for power-strength, make sure that the last rep of each set fatigues you, in good form of course. You WILL preserve your status in just TWO sessions. On to the next week.

3. In the event of an acute illness or infection, rest and recovery are paramount. Do NOT shortcut this process. Injuries, depending on their scope, simply demand some modifications to avoid empty Buckets.

4. The worst of the worst is BEDREST. This, you want to avoid at all costs. A sedentary lifestyle is akin to bedrest. It just takes longer to accrue the detrimental effects. No, not you, Mike, but that doesn’t make you immune to Murphy-strikes. Your Hardiness Pillars are your best defense.

5. As you add years to your life, mobility [suppleness] allows you to move freely from position to position. That #2 Bucket of Suppleness and Stability is the cornerstone of all-around movement integrity. Make breath and soft tissue work, stretching, yoga or tai chi like practices routine.

In summary, Mike, stay the course. It is full of peaks and valleys, bumps and lumps. Continue to prep and prehab for the 100-year journey. Growth does not emerge from smooth, straight and safe. Learning and discovery spring from change and random events, that force us to react and adapt. YOU are changing the way and the pace at which you age, and inspiring the younger blokes along the way to do the same. Kudos!

Bored with your training, or just don’t know where to start, contact Pat through www.activeandagile. com or For more on Pillars, Buckets and training tips from Pat, see previous editions of Mountain Grit.

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