My 2023 Year of Learning continued this month with a deeper dive on ways to hack exercise in retirement. Exercise is critical for our mental and physical health, but finding the time and discipline to do it daily can be a challenge.
As a matter of fact, this month I’ve found it a challenge to do my daily exercise routines regularly, despite being retired! I’m still laying in my bed with my laptop at 10:30am!
One of my self-imposed “rules” is that I have to do a minute of push-ups as soon as I get up, so I get those out of the way first thing! However, with no commitments on this first snowy day of the season, I’m delaying those pushups for as long as I can. And to further justify my lazy morning, I have another “rule” – to write at least one blog post a month about a focused learning project.
Writing this blog post about exercise has reminded me of its importance. It’s great that I’ve gotten into the habit of daily exercise. However, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to miss a day, here and there. In fact, I also have a rule to have at least one day (usually Sunday) to not worry about all my self-imposed rules.
Hacking Exercise for Health – Coursera Class
In the spirit of “focused learning,” I took a Coursera class: “Hacking Exercise For Health. The surprising new science of fitness“.
This was a motivating class! The short videos and assignments described different exercise hacks – ways we could most efficiently make exercise fun and easy.
Most of the class was a review for me; however, the importance of maintaining fitness and building strength are especially important as we age.
The class talked about techniques such as HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training, explaining the science behind building strength and endurance. I was surprised that strength-training can be really effective with resistance bands and by exercising using our own body-weight. Dumbbells and weight machines are not required!
If we are using weights, one of my takeaways was that the first set of reps in weight-building is the most effective. Even if we are just doing strength exercises for 5 minutes we get benefit from it.
Since I travel so often, I wanted to find a way to keep up my fitness and strength regardless of where I was. The class helped me feel much less worried about losing strength if I couldn’t get to a gym.
One of the easiest strength-building hacks is just to use your own body-weight and execute exercises like push-ups, planks, lunges, and squats.
When I first started doing a 5-minute strength-building routine, I couldn’t even do one push up! But every day I tried to do one more than the day before and within a month I was able to do 20. Now I do a minute’s worth of push-ups
every most mornings. I usually go at a pace of one per second, so get in 60 pushups!
I then go on to do the 5-minute plank routine that’s available on Alexa.
I sometimes add a YouTube strength routine or resistance bands.
I tried The Exercise Coach which uses “exerbotics” and two 20-minute workouts a week. Though this was a cool new way to get in strength-training, it was expensive and required me to go to a gym with the specialized machines.
Now I know that I can get in the benefits of strength-training with resistance bands and exercises I can do these anywhere. Twenty minutes, twice a week is all it takes!
Hacking Exercise by Doing What You Love
One of the best hacks for fitness is participating in sports you love.
Sports I love? My younger self would say, “I’m terrible at all sports!” PE was my worst subject. I hated it and was that kid that always got picked last for team sports.
However, as an adult, I discovered I wasn’t nearly as terrible an athlete as I’d believed. I started running at 39 and loved the races. The annual Bolder Boulder became a big tradition in our family.
I’ve written a lot about the benefits of hiking and walking and my obsession with walking at least 10,000 steps every day.
Even though I’ve given up running because of back problems, I LOVE so much about walking or hiking regularly. It’s probably been one of the best things I’ve done for my mental health. I’m usually either listening to a podcast, audiobook, or music or talking to a friend. The combination of exercise, getting outside, and socialization, are all perfect remedies for managing the stresses in my life.
And my bone density has improved! I no longer have to worry so much about a vertebra fracture, so can even do an occasional fun run! I had so much fun run/walking with my granddaughter at yesterday’s Trick-or-Trot. She doesn’t like running, but I taught her about my walk/run strategy (basically to pass the wimpy walkers in front of us.) She ended up getting 2nd place for her age group and I was 3rd place for mine!
Getting into the habit of daily exercise has been one of the best things I could have done, not just for my fitness, but for my mental health.
It can be tough to find the motivation, but with exercise hacks you can find ways to make fitness fun. It doesn’t require a gym to build strength and fitness. Even doing a little will improve your health and your mood. As they say at Nike, “Just Do It!”