Fitness for Seniors (Me)
I have an admission to make. (Well, it's not so much of an admission because you could look it up on Wikipedia in about five seconds.) Today, November 22, 2013 -- the 50th anniversary of Jack Kennedy's assassination -- I am seventy (70) years old.
Fifty years ago today, I was a senior at Dartmouth College, getting dressed to go visit my girlfriend at Skidmore for my birthday, when I heard the news. I went down to Saratoga Springs, New York, anyway and spent the weekend in a motel, watching television. I saw Ruby kill Oswald, easily the most dramatic moment of live TV ever.
I remember it pretty vividly, more vividly than a lot things in the fifty years since, some of which happened considerably more recently but, hey, I'm seventy.
Fortunately, I'm told I don't look it and I know I don't feel it. Seventy is the new sixty -- or is it fifty? I seem to have as much energy as I ever had. Since resigning as PJ Media CEO last February, I'm writing up a storm with book and film projects lined up. My tennis game is better than it was when I was twenty-five. Also, I'm only about five pounds heavier than I was then and quite a bit more muscular.
I haven't always been this way. Sometimes I have been pudgy and out of shape. Maybe more than sometimes -- decades. No longer. As I got older, I panicked. It was now or never. Either start moving my body seriously or, well, it's finito la comedia. I'm on my way out.
I started moving. Now I'm religious about staying in shape. I exercise six days a week, sometimes seven. Often I exercise more than once a day. In fact, the days I don't exercise, I am frequently depressed. I'm probably addicted to exercise at this point. At least I hope I am because I want to be addicted. I just love those endorphins and the rest of the goodies that get released -- serotonin, dopamine, etc. Exercise is a complete mood alterer for me. It beats therapy by a mile -- trust me, I've done enough to know -- and it's a helluva lot cheaper. (No, you're not going to see a selfie. I'm not running for mayor of New York -- or Toronto.)
So what do I do? The easiest part is playing tennis. I'm a lifetime player (since age 7 approximately) and I play now 3-4 four times a week, singles and doubles. When I play doubles it's usually for two hours, singles for an hour. Doubles can sometimes feel like not much of a workout, it's such a strategy game. Singles, against a good player, is always a workout. Every Tuesday morning at eight, I take an hour lesson with Godwin Omuta, a former member of the Nigerian Davis Cup team who is six foot three and has an amused smile on his face as he runs me unmercifully around the court.
On days I don't play tennis I do a variety of things, but my primary activity, which I highly recommend, is the Scientific 7-Minute Exercise program that was popularized in the New York Times last May. Based on the theory that short-burst high-intensity exercise is better even than the longer aerobic exercises like running, it is a series of twelve exercises done for thirty seconds with ten second intervals (jumping jacks, wall sit, push ups, sit ups, step ups, squats, front plank, tricep dips, running in place with high knees, lunges, push ups with a rotation, left and right planks). These are done without the use of weights, only a sturdy chair for the step ups and tricep dips, which means you can do them just about anywhere (hotel rooms while traveling).
People who are seriously out of shape will find even seven minutes of this extremely difficult. When I first did it I was in so-so shape and pushed myself through, but I felt it. Since then I have built it up a lot. Some people repeat the series two or three times in a row. I have expanded the length of each exercise so that now I am doing three minutes of jacks, sets of fifty pushups, a hundred squats, etc. When I'm on my game, the whole regime takes me 23-24 minutes with almost no rest between exercises. At the end I am drenched and desperately need a sports drink. (Gatorade may taste like motor fluid but it really works. I never play a serious tennis match without it.)
I am working up to doing this series for thirty minutes five times a week or so. I also keep a set of hand weights and an ab cruncher in my office, so I can do a few minutes of exercise at random moments doing the day. And I walk any time I can. Unfortunately in L.A., that's not much. Basically it means taking the stairs instead of the escalator in the mall parking structure.
So exercise is the key. In fact it's almost everything, especially if you're like me and have little self=discipline about food. The only advice I have in that regard is try to skip dinner once or twice a week. Also, If you're near a Costco, go buy their economy-size packs of frozen blueberries. They're supposed to be some kind of anti-carcinogenic miracle. Put them on everything or eat them straight and you'll live forever -- or at least until next week.
My other piece of advice is never retire. Don't even think about it. Of course, these days most people can't for economic reasons. So that's easy.