For the past decade or more, I’ve fumbled around for an exercise program I could stick with. Given my size (6’3” and about 215 lbs, as of this writing), I’ll need to be strong and flexible as I get older. Otherwise, the nurses helping me out of my elderly bed will have to be pretty strong or have a pulley and gurney handy.
Exercise clubs have not worked for me. I like yoga but feel I need more resistance and cardio training. I’ve cobbled together workouts from Joyce Vedral, Body for Life, Men’s Health, and many other books and websites.
Two books came my way recently that changed my attitude to exercising and have provided me a very good workoout that energizes but doesn’t fatigue.
The first, which I saw at the library, was Five Factor Fitness by Harley Pasternak. It promises a lot and mostly delivers, despite its rather gimmicky “5” theme: a 25-minute daily workout, done 5 days/week, 5 meals a day, and a set of recipes with meals containing only 5 ingredients.
What attracted me was the book’s modest size (the recipes take up about half of the book) and the modest time requirements; although he advertises 25 minutes, it’s really more like 35, but that’s OK, that’s doable. I also like the balance in the workouts. He recommends only 2 weight-lifting exercises per workout using dumbells, which are my tool of choice and all I’ve used the last several years. His routine emphasizes low-intensity lifting, with low weights but more sets and reps. The workout requires at least 5 minutes on the treadmill at the beginning and end of the routine, getting your heart rate up to its optimal workout zone for at least 5 minutes the second time, and an abdominal (“core”) exercise, which is also high rep and multiple sets.
What I like about the workout is that the goal is not to push yourself to exhaustion, as seems to be the case with all the other routines that promise a quick 6- or 12-week turnaround. At the end of my previous hour-long workouts, I’d be fatigued and sore and would really have to drag myself to the next workout. By contrast, the 5-Factor workout leaves my arms and legs pleasantly buzzing with energy. When I was doing my workouts in the morning, I felt energized for the rest of the day. My earlier wake-up time has pushed my exercising to the afternoon, but it’s short enough that it’s done and I’m showered before supper.
But while perusing the Amazon comments for the book, I ran across Cal Dougherty’s review (and his other fitness book reviews) where he cites a book called Joe X by Avery Hunnicutt.
Joe X is one of those books that couches its lessons in the form of a novel and dialogue between a mentor and a novice. It’s a form I find tedious in the extreme. Although many Amazon reviewers liked the novel, I skimmed through it to get to the nuggets of fitness philosophy I was interested in. (And the good stuff is all recapitulated at the end of the book in an appendix.)
Hunnicutt advocates going light on resistance, paying attention to your body, raise the weight for one exercise only and then only minimally, and look at this as a 30-year or even 40-year fitness plan instead of as a 12-week full-body turnaround.
So, I’ve adapted aspects of both of these books. I follow the 5 Factor plan because I’ve learned my body likes to be exercised regularly and the routines offer enough variety and challenge that I haven’t tired of it so far. From Joe X, I’ve taken on the idea of low-resistance weights and keeping my eye on the long haul.
For the past 4 or 5 weeks, I’ve been using only 5-lb. weights, which I would have laughed at before. I bought 25- and 30-lb weights a few years ago because I felt my chest and back needed more resistance. I don’t believe that anymore. It’s more important to me now to establish the habit and routine of regular exercise rather than taking my muscles to failure.
The blend of these two approaches is, for me, a modest change in my exercising that’s yielded enormous benefit. I feel good physically, my sleep patterns have become more regular, and my moods have evened out–the latter is another reason that regular exercise is good for me, as I tend to be sedentary.