Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Lately my fitness thoughts have been focused on rehabbing the bad foot so I can get back to running. I've blogged several reminders to myself to be patient about this. Today I'm thinking forward to when I can run consistently. What will maintenance of fitness look like?
Most of the easily located material on fitness talks about *improving* your fitness level. Get stronger, become more flexible, run faster, improve your endurance, lower your blood pressure and resting heart rate. For the average American, these are worthy objectives.
But it occurs to me that improving fitness is a bit like losing weight. If I'm successful, there will come a time when I'm as fit as I need to be. At that point, the challenge will be to maintain my fitness level. Aside from the fact that I can't run regularly right now, I'm pretty close to that point.
The classic response to a statement that I want to maintain fitness would be to point out that there's always something that can be worked on. To a certain extent, that's true. But there are limits to what is practical. At some point, the risk of injury outweighs the gain of shaving a few seconds off my running pace or deadlifting or benching 10 more pounds. When I get to that point, I'd like to maintain my strength, flexibility, speed, endurance, blood pressure, and resting heart rate without necessarily becoming stronger, more flexible, etc.
I want that magical exercise regimen that keeps what I have without injuring myself striving for more. Unfortunately, I don't know what that regimen is, or even if it really exists. I suspect that this is something like a maintenance diet; what works for one person probably won't be the same thing that works for another person.
One of my personal challenges for maintaining fitness is the voice of Mr. Testosterone telling me I'm not doing well enough. I caught him at it today. I was feeling like I wasn't doing much, as this is a non-running day. But when I look back at what I have done, I see three sets of 12 neutral grip pullups this morning that went very smoothly. The pushups were easier than a couple weeks ago, too. And I got in my TGUs and snatches while the steel cut oats cooked this morning, which hasn't been a given for me lately.
Maybe this is what fitness maintenance looks like. Do something every day, even if I'm not terribly motivated. Let the amount be steady for a while, and then switch to other exercises (e.g., DB renegade rows trading off with KB TGU/windmill combos) instead of straining for more and more weight. And live with the doubts about whether I'm working hard enough.
I don't know. I can push the hard thinking about maintenance to the back of my mind as long as I'm trying to improve. And right now I'm certainly trying to improve my running by gently rehabbing that bad foot. But eventually, when I can run regularly, I may face this same issue: Where do I stop pushing for more, and what does maintenance look and feel like when I get there?
Some people live with fitness cycles. They train for an event, be it a marathon or a triathlon or a 100 mile bike ride or a weight lifting competition. This produces a cycle of trying to get the fitness to peak for the event. Intellectually, I understand this. Done accurately, fitness reaches an attainable but not sustainable level for the event. Then there is post-event rest and recovery, before training for the next event.
I'm not opposed to participating in events, but I don't think that training for the next big event is going to be an ongoing way of life for me. I might end up putting a half marathon or even full marathon on my bucket list and training up to it, but I can't see myself in an ongoing event training cycle as a way of life.
So I think about what maintenance of fitness will look like if I'm not training for a big event, I can do everything physical I want to do, and I need to keep what I've got without risking injury trying to become higher/stronger/faster. It's a puzzle, and I hope I can stumble my way into a solution when I need one.