This isn’t what I thought 46 would feel like when I was a kid.
I thought I’d feel older. More “grandparently.” After all, the average age of a first-time grandparent is 47, and I’ll be celebrating that birthday in three short months. So why do I feel fit, strong, healthy, and vital instead of tired, broken down, and fragile like the grandparents I remember?
Strange as it sounds, it’s because I’m lazy.
By lazy, I mean that I like getting the biggest results from the least amount of effort. For example, I want to enjoy my food instead of feeling like I’m making a sacrifice every time I eat. And I want to enjoy my exercise instead of feeling like it’s an unpleasant chore that has to be done to accomplish my goals.
Over the years I’ve gotten better at my laziness. As a sports medicine doctor, I’ve figured out some simple ways to look good, feel good, and perform at a higher level than I would have ever thought possible at a “grandparent age.” While there’s no shortage of trendy diet and exercise advice out there, my formula for looking great and feeling young really isn’t that difficult. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the principles are the same. Here are the simple rules I follow myself.
It comes down to 3 basic ideas:
Have Sensible Goals. Choose to be the best version of you, not the best version of someone else.
Tasty Food. Choose meals and snacks that keep you healthy and lean.
Enjoyable Exercise. Choose workouts that help keep you strong and flexible.
Choose to be a better version of yourself.
When it comes to setting goals for your future self, don’t try to look like someone else you admire. Instead, seek to “max out” the body you were born into. Otherwise you might end up choosing to look like a marathon runner, when in reality you’re built like a linebacker. Picking the wrong body goal is a guarantee for failure and disappointment. Your goals should be flexible and change as you discover how your body responds to your new diet and exercise program.
Looking good should simply be the result of having a healthy body. Being “ripped,” for example, really just means you’ve built some muscle and have kept your body fat in a healthy range. Short cuts are tempting, but they're unhealthy and unsustainable.
Food isn’t just fuel.
It should taste great, too. Sure, what we eat powers our movement, builds muscle and repairs injuries, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland, boring, or difficult to prepare. I love eating, and that’s because I’ve found some simple recipes that make each meal a delicious, hearty and satisfying experience.
When it comes to meals, I shoot for three things:
- A regular variety of vegetables. Veggies are more nutrient-dense than fruits. Darker veggies pack a bigger punch, and each color has a different nutrient profile. Keep at least three colors in your fridge at all times to improve metabolism, fuel muscle, and speed recovery.
- Limit grains and sweets. Want a flat tummy? Here's your ticket. Rice, cereal, bread, and pasta turn to fat more easily than other foods, and they can leave you with a bloated belly and make you sleepy after a meal. You'll crave them for about two weeks after cutting back, but then your cravings will go away.
- Hydrate! Men, get at least 3 liters of water a day. Women, at least 2 liters. Approximately 70 percent of Americans are dehydrated. Remember that you are mostly water. If you don't consume enough, your body doesn't have what it needs to repair daily wear and tear, keep your metabolism humming, or rebuild you after a workout. Don’t forget, water helps keep your skin soft and supple too.
Movement is your friend.
Remember, your body is really just the vehicle your brain drives around. And like any vehicle, driving it regularly helps keep it in tip-top shape. Keep your activity interesting.
When it comes to crafting a good exercise program, here’s all that really matters:
- A regular variety of movement. Pick activities that sound fun to you and don’t be afraid to try new things. There are far too many ways to be active for you to be settling for exercise you don't enjoy. Pick weekly activities that cover all movements: bending, reaching, extending, and turning.
- Have hard days and easy days. Sticking with the car analogy, your body is capable of drag racing as well as leisurely cross-country road trips. Both types of exercise benefit you in a different way, and should be a part of your weekly regimen.
- Allow for rest. Half of any good fitness program is the work you do. The other half is letting yourself recover from that work. Building some “relative rest” into your schedule helps keep you from getting injured, and actually speeds up your gains.
We all want to feel young and live longer. The good news is that it’s really not that difficult, and you don’t have to win the genetic lottery to get there. Who cares if your parents don’t have the body you’d like to have at their age? Your genes play a relatively small part in how you’ll turn out, and that means it’s up to you to change yourself. It’s never too late to start.
*This article first appeared on Dr. Bockmann’s website, 46AndRipped.com