With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one comes new opportunities, new goals and new plans. It’s also a time for reflection; what did I achieve in 2017? What did I learn? What do you wish you could repeat and how can you make it happen again?
It occurred to me recently when pondering the evolution of my own fitness journey, how much my incentive for training has changed over the last 10 years. A decade ago I was training for sports performance, during my late twenties it was predominantly for aesthetics (everyone goes through that stage right?!) but nowadays it’s about something far deeper and meaningful than how I look in my swimming trunks and, dare I say it, is almost touching on the spiritual...
Nowadays I train for mental clarity, a sense of presence and aliveness in the moment and for active longevity. I want to enhance the relationship between my body and mind and in doing so create a heightened sense of living by interacting with the world and people around me in ways that I could not do if I chose to neglect my health and fitness.
Sure aesthetics come into it at some point but nowadays it’s far lower down the pecking order of priorities and actually becomes a natural by-product of looking after my aforementioned prime goals regardless. As a basic rule of thumb, 'Be healthy and happy, train often, rest well' and your body functions will slowly mould themselves to represent your lifestyle habits. No quick fixes, no 4 week body blitzes (we all know that’s just a tacky magazine selling ploy by now don’t we?!). Just sheer consistency with the basics of a fit and healthy lifestyle.
In this post I particularly want to explore the theme of training for ‘active longevity’ - a theme I’ve seen become more and more popularly prioritised in recent times as a training incentive particularly within the coaching fraternity. It’s a bit like when The Beatles were searching for the meaning of their lives and once they had achieved all the fame and fortune asked themselves ‘is this really it?’, before setting off on a much deeper spiritual journey of enlightenment and self discovery...I guess many coaches feel the same way after many years of having to focus on aesthetic based goals for both clients and themselves they are left thinking 'this can't be it, what is the real destination for my training? It can't simply be just to look a bit better?' So many top coaches I speak to seem to now agree on one thing - we are all training to live and not living to train!
What does this mean? Simply that we are using our physical training as a means to improve our life experience, along with the mind it's the prime tool in the toolbox and when put to good use can have phenomenally outstanding effects. Therefore our training becomes a vehicle for the journey and not the destination of the journey itself.
So what of this goal of 'active longevity'? Well, it is not intended to be some desperate attempt to cling onto ones youth. In fact it no longer becomes about maintaining ‘youth’ at all but rather enjoying the opportunities of self-development that only age can present us with.
"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it." J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
It is true that as humans we have a simple choice of 'use it or lose it' when it comes to our muscular structures. It is also true that the exercise we do now is not only for todays gain but is also locked away in the bank to benefit us many decades from now. What a shame it would be to allow the mind to resign itself to 'losing it' before the body has even been given a chance to show its worth. I've seen too often that the mind gives up long before the body does - surely our lives are too fleeting to adopt such a mindset?
Here's some more food for thought.
How do we quantify the ageing process? If it is based upon a belief in the reduction of our capabilities and a decline in our ability to physically express ourselves then what can be said of when we continually improve our fitness and wellbeing toolkit and instead use age as an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of our body (and mind)?
I have a client who, in his mid sixties, is doing more complex and advanced movements whilst producing a higher energy output now than when we first started training together in his fifties. We have a joke together that whenever I compliment him on performing a particular exercise well he always finishes my sentence with,
" ... for my age."
At which point I always reject the age argument and remind him that he is performing better now than he was 8 years ago - therefore if we are quantifying age by a representation of physical ability and expression is he technically reversing time? I like to think there is an element of this and he has found his fitness Neverland.
Living a fit & healthy life is a wonderful thing; it gives us and our bodies (and minds) the opportunity to optimise our life experience both now and in the many years to come.
So next time you consider your training goals and motivation take a moment to think this - what’s really going to bring more value to our life? That slightly more defined pectoral step or thigh gap? Or the ability to live your life to the full with pain free movement long into your twilight years, or to be up and off on that adventure today, tomorrow or in the decades to come...
“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
Thank you for reading,
To keep updated on the latest fitness and training news, connect with Lawrence on social media @fafitsake.