Staying in Shape as You Age


We all want to be active in our senior years. Finding the right balance of weights, calisthenics, cardio workouts, and mobility and flexibility training is essential to longevity.  Here is a great question from a former Marine who has retired but is still active in his 60s:

Stew, I have been following many of your training programs since the 90's. Back then your higher rep calisthenics PT, long runs, and heavier mix of weight training were no problem. Now, I feel like I still want to do those workouts but think I need to pull back a bit as the post workout soreness is lasting longer and longer.  I have a feeling my running days are numbered.  I know you are nearly 20 years younger than me, but what is your long term plan with fitness as you age? 



Great question.  I think of this often, actually.  I have been cycling my workouts every quarter for the past 20 years now with great success, BUT, even with the quarterly changes of high reps, high miles, and weight training, I too see the need to pull back some. 

Here is my plan:

January – March: This is a running plan progression that I used to do 5-6 days a week.  As I age I will pull back to 2-3 days per week of running and opt for more non-impact cardio options like swimming, rowing, biking, or elliptical. It is good to keep the heart and lungs healthy with nice, easy, and steady cardio-vascular activity. Walking also helps if you are not into swimming or machines for cardio.  This will also be a calisthenics cycle with light dumbbells for muscle balance. But, the addition of yoga or mobility training will be more of a focus too. Personally, swimming and yoga will be what I ride into my 60s.

April – June: The progression continues, but instead of crushing higher repetition and near-failing calisthenics workouts, I will pull the reins on failure workouts and maybe only push my limits a few times a month vs a few times a week.  This is just a reduction in intensity more than anything.  Instead of really long miles of running, my longer distance cardio will be biking, elliptical, or swimming.

July – Sept: Pulling back on calisthenics and adding more weights will help keep the joints strong without all the joint-stress that advanced calisthenics can cause. Running is decreased this quarter to a few days a week with shorter distances and more non-impact options as above. This is a steady progression of adding weight, decreasing repetitions, and decreasing mileage of running while increasing the non-impact options of cardio and the time in yoga and mobility training.

Oct – Dec: Over the past decades, this quarter has traditionally been for heavier weights nearing max weight for 1-2 repetitions. As I enter my late 50-60's, I will pull back on one rep max lifts and do more 5-10 repetitions sets to keep the muscles and bones stronger. Running will be nearly non-existent this phase, but swimming will peak to longer and faster workouts and include more time in yoga classes and with stretching.

My advice to you sir is to keep enjoying your workouts, pull back on the intensity of some of the harder USMC workouts you used to do, drop the miles, and add in non-impact options for cardio and stretching. There are some great mobility courses online, and of course yoga is available just about anywhere. 

I think I will be the old man in the yoga course and the swimming pool. I always thought those guys had it figured out. Keep working!

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books:  Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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