The Decision to Train
“I’m gonna grab a workout,” he said. “I’ll be back in an hour or so.” During this time, he drives to the gym, fills his water bottle, pulls on shorts and a t-shirt, does thirty minutes on the elliptical while listening to his playlist, talks to a buddy he hasn’t seen since last week, and then dresses and drives home. It’s as much a social event as a physical event, and it’s not much different than taking a walk in the neighborhood.
While this is better than making a martini and sitting on the couch watching the news, it’s not the sort of “workout” that will lead to much. And most of us who do this kind of working out will only do it casually, for a few months at best. That’s what fitness centers count on; if all the people who bought memberships in January were still coming in June, there would not be room for them all.
What seems better is the person who arrives at the gym religiously at the same time each day, and each day puts in her repertoire of moves. Maybe it’s a weight circuit, or maybe it’s a cardio effort on the rowing machine. Odds are she will get a sweat going, and that she will leave feeling like she got her money’s worth.
And maybe she did. Certainly many of the people I know who are like her do work hard and do see results, although the results are that they don’t get in worse shape. It’s hard to get in better shape if you’re doing the same things over and over.
Then there are those who work hard and consistently, and vary their routines daily. These are the folks we call crossfitters, and I know a lot of them who are real paragons of fitness. The problem is that their fitness is difficult to attain after the age of 60, depending as it does on ballistic movements of joints that have years of mileage on them, and depending equally on the kind of perfect form that makes injury of those same joints, their tendons, and ligaments impossible.
As someone who competes both in track and field and in powerlifting, I am much more interested in what I would call “training.” As a younger person, when I was “in training” I meant a rigorous program that included working toward goals in both physical ability and nutrition.
As someone older than 60, that’s what I still mean—if I want to compete well and better my point total in the pentathlon (long jump, javelin, 200 meter sprint, discus, 1500 meter run) or if I want to set a new state record for my age and weight class at a powerlifting meet-- I have to train my body and my mind to achieve those things. I cannot “workout” and hope it will happen. I have to train.