By Tony Little
I fell in love with bodybuilding when I was still a teenager and after all these years, physical fitness is still a huge part of my life. I’ll be turning 57 years young in a few months and I’m just as passionate as I ever was about keeping my body in shape. To be honest, it’s more important now than ever, because like your classic car, it’s critical to make sure you keep your machine fine-tuned, as it gets older. If you do, you’ll keep it running in peak-form for years to come!
The comparison of a human being to an automobile is actually very accurate. When your car is new, you can abuse it and it’ll keep going…at least for a while. But as it gets older and you don’t give it the right gas or the right oil, or if you don’t check the tires regularly, what happens? It breaks down! And I speak from personal experience — your body is equally prone to breaking down much more readily as you age.
One of the most important things to consider is that as you get older, you won’t have the same level of energy that you had when you were young. Because of that, it gets more difficult to get to your workout because you’ll probably make a million excuses. Just remember, once you actually go through the workout, you’ll always feel better.
Keep in mind that our bodies don’t have the same flexibility, range of motion or performance level we used to possess. I’ve had a lot of complications from being in a number of car accidents, so I have to deal with back, neck and knee issues. With the passing of years, it’s important to work out smarter, not harder. This means looking into a simple program that incorporates cardio exercise, blended with progressive resistance and not overdoing it. When I was young, I would work out twice a day for two hours at a time. These days, I still do two-a-days, but one hour each instead.
Within each one-hour session, I will usually split the time equally between cardio and working out one part of my body, along with my abs. Abs, together with stretching, are critically important, of course, as they work your core. And the abs protect your back, which is especially important as we age.
For the cardio, I’m usually on a treadmill, elliptical, recumbent bike or Gazelle. For my progressive resistance exercises, I’ll choose one part of my body for each session — for example, chest, shoulders and triceps; back, traps and biceps; legs and calves. I’ll split them up in a three-day rotation, which I repeat, during the week. That’s six days total, with a rest day on the seventh.
As for equipment for the push-pull workouts or legs, I like to alternate between free weights and cable machines. Variety is important so you don’t become bored with your workout. It’s also essential to change-up because it will call for your body to adapt. If you plan carefully, you’ll wind up working every muscle group more thoroughly as you cycle through all the routines throughout the week.
Bear in mind that this is my workout – your body mileage may vary. We’re all different so you may want to modify it to suit your needs. For example, you may only have enough time for one workout a day, so you’ll have to get all the basics in just one session.
You might have to adjust your thinking about working out as you get older. You want to be in this for the long-haul, so your goals should be to feel better, look better, have more energy and be a more positive, in-control person. Remember the old concept of “no pain, no gain” from yesteryear? It’s a recipe for disaster, especially in your later years, as you’ll not only wind up with more pain than you bargained for, you’ll stand a good chance of injuring yourself in the process.
Diet and nutrition are also things we may need to modify as we get older. I like to eat 4-to-5 small meals a day, trying to maintain a balance of 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat, with lots of water. That’s straight-ahead healthy eating that will pay off not only with a healthy heart, but will also keep your body lean, strong and flexible. For me, that means foods like egg whites, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, bison meat, chicken breasts, fish and low-fat cheese. And don’t forget; be sure to include lots of fiber in your diet. That’s more important now than ever, too. Fiber is cool — it loosens your stool!
I embrace the Temple Theory when it comes to food. Five days a week, I treat my body like a temple, being very careful about what I eat. But on the weekends, I relax and eat what I want within reason. I find this to be an extremely important concept, as it allows you to enjoy life, while still staying in shape.
As we get older, it’s more important than ever to be sure we’re taking in enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients. I’m a big believer in supplementation, which helps to get you in the proper mind-frame to take care of yourself. I like taking them in mega-packs, which ensures that I get everything I need for peak performance. I also add in extra vitamin C, glucosamine and chondroitin for the aches and pains in my joints.
Recovery time is also something that must be taken into account as we age. Proper rest is absolutely essential to rebuilding your body, especially after workouts. Yet, it becomes more difficult to sleep uninterrupted through the night, while we simultaneously find ourselves getting tired during the day. Naps are great, so if you can possibly work that into your schedule, you’ll find it to be of tremendous help.
We’ve all heard that life is short, but you can maximize it. I think of fitness as an ideal approach to living – a wonderful way of keeping yourself in great condition, looking good, sustaining your high metabolism and staying injury-free. We can’t stop the aging process, but working out and eating right is the best way I’ve found, by far, to slow it down, while maintaining a high quality of life. So what’s stopping you? Go for it and always believe in yourself! You can do it!
Famous throughout the landscape for his boundless enthusiasm, Tony Little has been a television and fitness icon for more than 20 years. Inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2006, Tony is instantly recognizable everywhere he goes, with a legendary reputation for being able to turn adversity into victory. A favorite with both the public and media, the man known as “America’s Personal Trainer” has appeared on national television shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Today Show and Nightline. Tony is a superstar in the world of television home shopping, with his infomercials earning him 14 Platinum Video Awards and nine Gold Video Awards. More than 45 million people own products bearing Tony’s name and his success crosses international boundaries, with his infomercials having aired in 81 countries. Like Tony on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.