This Old Fart hopes my Wall St. Journal story inspires seniorsby J.W. Miller on 08/19/18
Good health is a blessing, especially as you get older. Regular readers know this through my periodic ramblings on running and exercise and through the tab on this website titled “Stay Fit.” So when I had an opportunity to send that message to a larger audience, I did it. The Wall Street Journal has a regular Monday column called “What’s your workout?” So a few weeks ago, I sent the columnist a proposal on my personal workout that I believe has helped me and would be beneficial to anyone who wants to stay in shape past their physical prime.
The writer of the column, Jen Murphy, responded immediately that it sounded like something they would use, and she would pitch the idea to her editors. A week later I received a thumbs-up response, the result of which appears in today’s Journal, along with some photos of your modest scribe in various permutations of working out. You can pick up a copy at your local newstand to see the published article, but here is an excerpt of my pitch:
Half a lifetime ago, I was an active member of the New York Road Runners Club when I worked at the National Football League office in New York (1981-86). The preferred workout for distance runners in those days was a method called “fartleks,” a Swedish term that simply means interval training. A ten-mile training run might consist of two miles at a moderate pace and then a faster race pace for a half mile, then repeat until you reach your goal. The purpose was to improve endurance and increase speed over whatever race distance I was running.
Earlier this year, I turned 70, and I still run, but I have adapted my old marathon training method to my current physical capability. I have revised and rebranded the fartlek workout to become the “Old Fartlek” workout for seniors like me.
I knew I would continue running in retirement, but I soon discovered how a high intensity workout was affected by the aging process. Trying to maintain a race-worthy level of conditioning became detrimental when the sprint portions of my fartlek workouts turned into hamstring pulls or other ailments that sometimes kept me off the road for weeks. Each time I healed up, I came back with lowered expectations that traded race training for a focus on good health for the long term. That is when the Old Fartlek workout began to evolve.
Today, the running portion of the Old Fartlek workout is merely a moderated version of my marathon training workout with an added component. I begin my Old Fartlek workout with a 15-minute stretching program that includes 70 pushups (one for each year), followed by a series of core and lower back stretches. The program progresses to a one-mile jog from my house to a community walking path where I walk one mile before jogging the third mile back home five or six days a week. I follow my daily workouts with 18 holes of golf (I’m a 13 handicap), after which I work on my latest writing project.
There will come a day when my Old Fartlek intervals will flip to two miles walking and one mile jogging, or even shorter increments, but that is the beauty of the workout. It is adaptable to the individual’s conditioning and goals.
Over the years, I have seen colleagues and friends who were not as old as I deteriorating physically because, in my view, they were not working to maintain good physical condition. I pledged that would not happen to me. Now, when I am around people my age, some of them remark “how good you look!” and ask my secret. I tell them it’s no secret. It takes commitment and a modest amount of work. The Old Fartlek workout is disciplined, but don’t wait too late to start. Most seniors have made financial plans to secure their retirement, but many ignore the physical investment they should be making to help secure their long-term health.
I hope you read the column and think about how the benefits that I have received might benefit you. As with any physical program, however, make sure you see a doctor or health professional to make sure it can work for you. Here's to your good health!