Younger Next Year was a book gifted to me probably a dozen years ago now. Written by Dr Henry Lodge and his patient Chris Crowley, it gives advice on “living like you’re 50 until 80 and beyond”. I can’t remember what’s in the book. I do know that I have tried to adhere to the broad direction of the concept for the past few years. It has paid dividends for me. Good health hasn’t been abundant in my family tree, lifespan particularly has been on the low end of the statistical range.
In recent years it has become more apparent that exercise is key to extending healthy life and reduce the risk of serious diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular problems. The science is clear. It has also become clear that physical and mental wellbeing are closely entwined. This latter subject is one I’m particularly attuned to; the positive effect physical activity has on mood.
I’m not a denier. I’m old and getting older and it’s quarter four and that’s that. I find “60 is the new 40” and all that stuff either self-deluding or patronising, depending on who is saying it. But I want to have the best possible experience and that will come by being active and feeling well and leaning into life. Not the old fashioned retire at 65 and a take it easy lifestyle. The sedentary retirement killed enough relatives. As did diseases related to being overweight.
It’s always good to see if any progress has been made. If you can measure it, you can improve it and all that. For last year I did:
49 weight sessions. Too few in the gym, but at least I became competent with a kettlebell;
3312 miles on the bike. 176 rides and 197 hours. You can see the COVID effect on my cycling – not many hours per ride, that’s the indoor trainer effect for me;
Therefore I exercised on 225 occasions, or 4.3 times a week on average. I’m pleased with that.
I meditated each and every day of the year.
The results? 10 pounds of weight lost. My lowest ever blood pressure measure of 98/68 in mid-November. Recorded some of the strongest peak power numbers since 2011 in the last few weeks of the year. In fact, in my October blog I wanted to beat my 2015 number and not only did I do that, but I also closed in on my 2012 number.
A reasonable year in general. Although in my ideal situation I would have clocked 4,000 miles on the bike. Being a God-fearing COVID accepter and with no events to train for, I tended to the indoor trainer, which naturally cuts the miles. Maybe in 2021.
It’s hard to put an event in the diary for 2021. I have my traditional Gran Fondo New York in there for 16 May, but I’m not confident we will all be travelling freely by then. It’s in the diary though. This year will all be about the right wellness numbers and trying to feel good mentally and physically.
I’m in good shape right now, my HRV (heart rate variability) was a record high for me just yesterday. It’s been consistently building for three months now. An accurate method of assessing fitness, and it’s also very good at letting you know when you’re overtrained (or under recovered). Good at signalling the onset of colds and other immune-related illness. Take a look at ithlete and take the time to check out the science behind HRV.
I’ve recently had the most extensive blood test that Forth Edge could throw at me and all is well across a broad range of blood markers. As an aside check the Forth Edge service, it’s good value for money as you only need a couple of tests a year.
I’m going to stick with my October goals and up the 5-minute power goal on the bike, and look to get the 150kg deadlift done. The second one will only happen if gyms reopen. I’ll ride GFNY either on the road or on Zwift. Outside of pure fitness, I seek to have a clean bill of health at my annual medical. Most of all, a goal is to not catch COVID. It’s not a trivial disease, I personally know younger people with serious long COVID issues and we still don’t understand the longterm effects.
In general, I’m adopting a Younger Next Year approach and seeking to manage my broad physical and mental wellness.
While I had three good years training with Coach Joe Beer, I have modified my training approach recently. I have less time for long, low-intensity training sessions. And I was beginning to sense that I was losing out more broadly. So many hours being devoted to endurance training meant I was losing out in other life areas. I decided to take a look at High Intensity Interval Training as an option.
I read Joe Friel’s excellent Fast After 50 once again and drew up a new training plan. It involves more intense interval sessions, and I’m finding myself doing aerobic capacity intervals and threshold intervals more often. It’s working well as it takes less time and I have more days off; so I’m able to have a good hard session in the knowledge that rest is at hand. My threshold numbers are moving up and as mentioned previously, my power has moved up.
With a lot less low intensity endurance work in my life, could I ride a century today? No. Do I care? No. I’m fitter and the numbers prove it, and my muscle mass is up and my weight is down. That will do for me.
I was going to type that I like to keep it simple. Then I realised my simple is not everyone’s simple, as my tendency to be curious is always in play. That means that I’m experimenting in some new – for me – areas.
Ensuring there is no deficiencies is building block one, as is doing a little more to support my immune system. My daily trio of supplements is a good Omega-3, a multivitamin and a Vitamin D. I’m very conscious about cardiovascular health given my family history, so I take Vitamin K2 as well. It is supposed to help reduce calcium deposits in arteries and given I have a small deposit in the artery cheerfully known as The Widowmaker, I thought it can’t harm me. There is a reasonable amount of science and no known negative effects, so why not?
Nootropics are an interesting category and I have been using Mindlab Pro Universal Nootropic, which claims to benefit cognition. I have used it for six months and I believe it works. Let’s put it another way: I perceive an improvement in my alertness and focus when I use it, versus the periods I don’t use it. Placebo effect? – very possibly, but to be honest if I ‘feel’ more alert, then that’s my reality and my operating state. I’ll keep the experiment going for now. As an aside, the customer service is patchy for this particular product. It can arrive quickly, but there can be issues, with my last order taking five weeks to show up.
I am also trying CBD oil at night. There is a wide range of claims around the compound and I was interested in the potential for reducing inflammation and helping sleep. I’m using the high-quality Naturecan oil and it’s damned expensive. I can’t tell you if it works. I fall asleep well, but I’m not sure if that’s down to the CBD oil or not. Interesting experiment though.
Age Is A Number
Younger next year is a great philosophy, it makes me conscious of lifestyle choices and encourages me to remain physically and mentally active. But I don’t kid myself, age is a number. 60 is not the new 40. I’m 63 and that’s a fact. Having a positive outlook on life helps for sure, the positive effect on wellness and lifespan from having healthy relationships is well known. But there needs to be more than just a positive outlook.
Without exercise, muscle mass breaks down and bone mass deteriorates. Sedentary living leads to a range of cardiovascular issues. The risk of cancer increases sharply in sedentary people. Inflammatory diseases become a problem. The science is clear – regular exercise will reduce the risk in all these areas.
Age is a number. I’m well aware of it. In the number of the years left for me, I’m going to all I can to have the highest quality life I can. I can’t do anything about a disease striking, indeed no human at any age can prevent that. But I can control some areas of my life to great effect.
We should all try to do a bit more and help to reduce the stress on our national health systems. To give more back to our families, friends and society, rather than being a burden. That is better achieved by being in the best shape we can be in. That’s my goal.
Also published on Medium.