Methuselah Fitness Project
The Methuselah Fitness Project
How This Project Came to Be
Specific details on how I’ve personally become interested in this topic, and to thereby develop this program, are not really important for this paper. Let's just say for brevity sake, that I'd had a rather dramatic revelation some years ago, at a relatively late stage in life, in which I'd learned the significant and unmitigated value of exercise as both a form of medicine, and as tool of self discovery. After losing over 100lbs and successfully dodging a number of serious health threats at the age of 52, I’d suddenly developed a passionate interest in the topic of health and fitness. Unfortunately, the fact that I’d never been athletic my entire life left me with an exceptionally steep learning curve! I’d also found myself facing a myriad of challenges in getting a body which has never known advanced movement patterns and which, quite frankly, had been absolutely neglected and abused for the last 30+ years, to perform a wide range of athletic endeavors in a safe and effective manner. Despite these challenges, I’d soon find myself, at the age of 56, to be in the best shape of my life.
I took up running, rowing, biking, swimming (I taught myself to swim) and was game for any suggestion that came my way. I’d grown exceptionally fond of a little “off the radar” sport of competitive stair climbing & I LOVED the intensity of climbing 50+ flights of stairs for time! The yearly Sears Tower stair climb had become a favorite & I’d regularly train using a StairMaster, Versa Climber and regular visits to the taller buildings around the city. It was not unusual for me to work out two and even three times a day. I simply couldn’t get enough!
In July of 2009 I was introduced to what was then, a new fitness regimen called “CrossFit” and at the age of 56 decided I’d liked the intensity. I was immediately hooked. Again, however, my movement patterns & lack of mobility kept me from progressing very far but I was enjoying myself and, with the help of some excellent coaches, I was able to slowly grow and ultimately keep myself from serious injury (besides a minor “Rhabdo” like incident & one complete tear of my shoulders subscapularis).
In July of 2010 I’d decided I wanted to become a trainer and received my CrossFit Level 1 certification. As an older athlete who was successfully growing in fitness, it was an easy decision on my part to try and work specifically with other members my age and older (despite the fact that I was still struggling with mobility and movement issues myself). I quickly learned the benefits of this type of training for older adults and was becoming skilled at ensuring both program effectiveness as well as my clients overall safety.
I had even had some success in publishing my findings to popular online fitness website “WodTalk.com” with an article about the suitability of CrossFit within my age group in 2012:
And then again a year later, I was able to contribute an article on “Tabata Times” regarding the steps one should take as an older CrossFitter to ensure your ability to continue performing these workouts for years to come:
The more I learned however, the more I’d realized that while CrossFit was a viable and valuable method for the older athlete, there were probably much better ways of ensuring that a 50+ year old individual be able to retain his functional fitness throughout a life that very well might span 100+ years! While I’ll be referring to CrossFit methodologies more regularly than I’d like in this paper, it is only to indicate how my approach is different. While I’m confident in this program’s ability to stand on it’s own merits, I find it important to use my previous training experiences to provide the logic of, and framework for these unique methods I espouse.
The “Functional Centenarian”
Before I go on to program specifics however, I feel I need to discuss why I feel a program like this is so important. Let me start by going back to a statement from that last paragraph and consider the part that says “ensuring a 50+ year old to be able to retain his functional fitness throughout a life that very well might span 100+ years!” To think about it, our longevity has increased considerably in the last two or three decades. A 100th birthday was remarkable and rare in 1980. Today it is nothing unique. We really are living longer and we are finding it increasingly important to find ways to keep us moving and independent as these numbers grow. We need to come to grips with the simple fact that each generation will live longer. But how can we capitalize on this and how can we make the best of it. The good news is, that if we've managed to make it to our 50 year mark, we've really only begun to live. Anything is possible and many are the stories of 50+ aged individuals taking up new endeavors and mastering them at levels that were once deemed possible in only a single whole lifetime. To think of an older “senior” individual learning a sport at the age of 60, with a “best case scenario” ability to practice this sport for another 30+ years into their 90's or even 100's is truly a remarkable prospect!
After personally witnessing the remarkably transforming power of exercise and a general healthy lifestyle, it has occurred to me that I am in the simple and vital business of enabling our older adults to not only grasp an ever increased longevity, but more importantly, to ensure these additional years that we've all inherited are lives of quality, usefulness and ultimately, that of a satisfying and meaningful existence.
The primary objective of this fitness regimen to this age group therefore, is to deliver a practical fitness that:
- Allows us the fitness for independence to do those things we have to do. An independent life requires tasks that have to be done on day to day basis. Life requires maintenance. Be it yard work, painting, auto maintenance or the generic category of “chores”. These are the concerns every senior struggles with. Almost without exception, the seniors I've met, (including myself) are ultimately worried they'll end up a burden to others.
- Allows us the fitness to do what we want to do. There's that ever present “Bucket List” that every vibrant senior I've met has for things they'd like to experience in life. Be it hiking, traveling, sky diving, para sailing, a mule trip down the Grand Canyon or simply playing 18 holes on the world's greatest golf courses. To some it could mean something as simple as attending the “mixed doubles” league at the corner bowling alley. These are the things of a full and meaningful existence.
- Allows us the fitness to do what life may call us to do. We never know what life may throw our way. Be it flood, fire, accidents, earthquake or terrorism, life simply doesn't care that were 70 years old. Face it... Stronger, fitter, healthier seniors will always not only have a better chance of surviving crisis, but have a better chance of helping others as we'd like to.
We have the amazing opportunity before us to watch and enable our senior clients/members who are currently 50 years old to be not only the “Elite” as compared to the general senior population, but to be the norm when it comes to fitness on their 90th Birthday among our ranks. This is exciting new ground and we need to seize this opportunity with all diligence and resolve. Another related aspect of successful aging that I feel needs to be mentioned here however, is the idea of “Compressed Morbidity”
Another concept which I believe, for seniors anyway, that is probably paramount (even more than longevity itself), is the attainment of what those involved in the sciences of health and aging would call a “Compressed Morbidity”. The basic concept here is to avoid, at all costs, the chronic, debilitating diseases that would result in spending decades of our inherited longevity in a life of suffering & dependence on others. A healthy senior, while faced with the inevitable and certain end of our lives, will generally suffer a shorter time between the onset of our fatal illness and our final breath on earth. Face it, the more debilitating of these chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Lung Disease, Osteoporosis, Obesity, Dementia, Heart Disease, Osteoarthritis and even Depression have been shown to be not only preventable through exercise but have been best managed by exercise once acquired. As this significantly sized “Baby Boomer” population enters their senior years, the cost of these chronic diseases, be it financially, socially, emotionally or spiritually, if not rectified, will be catastrophic. We NEED a solution. The choice is ours. To use an analogy I often use comparing our bodies to a classic automobile: We can sit idly in our back yards on blocks and slowly rust away for decades or we can go out and blow an engine cruising the highway while meaningfully checking off our bucket list items. The choice is ours. While nothing is ever a guarantee, we finally have an opportunity to improve whatever odds there are of not only living better, but of dying better as well!
Open Source & CrossFit
In the mid and late 1990's I was introduced to the wonder of Open Source software development. It was an exciting time of revolution within an industry that was facing the specter of big and wasteful software conglomerates that threatened to monopolize our future with sub quality junk software, and that, at premium prices. Then along came a fellow by the name of Linus Torvaldis who showed us the power of collaboration within a group of professionals that simply loved their "craft" and believed in the power of technology to make significant contributions to the world.
This concept of a collaborative endeavor aimed at contributing your skills towards a common good enthralled me with the movement from the very start. Your contributions to the project were based solely on your work and not on your position, your credentials or the office politics at any particular moment in time. The model delivered software that was efficient, effective, secure (read safe) and most importantly, it delivered value. Lines of code were counted, memory usage was scrutinized and the open nature of peer review was brutal but yet just. Words like "Beautiful" and "Elegant" highlighted a leaning towards what Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit would later call "Virtuosity", defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.”
But then again, what does all this have to do with Fitness or better yet, what has this to do with Longevity? I again see a group that simply love their craft and believe in the power of their “Technology” to make significant contributions to the world. Again I see a project that delivered a product that is “effective, secure (read safe) and most importantly, delivers value”. A July 2005 article in the CrossFit Journal sets forth the proper use of the Open Source model as related to fitness:
This piece sets forth the relationship as it relates to the Eric Raymond work "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and compares the development of the previously mentioned Linux operating system (which, by the way, according to some estimates, now powers about 80% of the internet today). The parallels are stunning. Unfortunately, the Open Source aspect of fitness programming is an attribute that has been somewhat overlooked and I believe the reason is (to again quote Ramonds' TC&TB), "Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch." CrossFit has, so far been the only application of the open source model applied to fitness and, for the most part, has been sufficient in its application to allow its adherents to become “The Fittest on Earth”.
My Personal “Itch”
Longevity is a different matter altogether and I’ll cover that in detail later in this paper. But something I’ve borrowed from the CrossFit methodologies is in relation to a concept called “The Black Box.” CrossFit has long employed the idea of “Black Box” testing. Beloved “Wikipedia” gives us a satisfactory definition of the Black Box concept:
'In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings. Its implementation is "opaque" (black). Almost anything might be referred to as a black box: a transistor, an algorithm or the human brain.'
We are not sure exactly what happens within the human body while we train (the black box), we know that the application in CrossFit parlance of “Constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity”, with a cycle of three days on with one day of rest, plenty of sleep and a prescribed diet will invariably produce a fitness defined as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.
This “Black Box” model takes into consideration the programming that an athlete is subject to and simply measures the output after a specified period of time. If the input/output is measurable, observable and repeatable, we can deduce a level of success to the programing (input) involved. The individual world of affiliate programming in CrossFit is the input to the Black Box in this Open Source fitness experiment and Coach Glassman has repeatedly laid down the challenge to demonstrate a better method of training via the CrossFit Games which represents our Black Box output.
The Standard CrossFit Black Box Model:
What About Longevity
In February of 2009 the CrossFit Journal featured a two part presentation by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman entitled “CrossFit’s New Three-Dimensional Definition of Fitness and Health” where Coach Glassman identifies the correlation between fitness and health. For anyone who is any way involved in fitness and/or health care, this should be required reading. While in this groundbreaking synopsis Coach touches upon age and the benefits of CrossFit to enable a “90 year old man with 65% of the work capacity of his youth, running up and down steps, successfully engaging the ladies”. Herein lies the problem. We know the Black Box testing method works to identify the fittest on earth. The output is observed, measured and repeated every year at the CrossFit games. Longevity on the other hand, can only be critically observed over time and our regimen is young.
The efficacy of a longevity program can only be measured for my 60 year old clients after 10 years on program when they turn 70 or in 20 years when they turn 80 (etc, etc). Only time will tell. One thing is for certain, I'll care less about the measure of fitness in relation to Power=Force*Distance/Time when I'm 90 than I'll care about another more relevant metric; “Mean Time Between Failure” (Injury/Illness) and “Mean Time To Failure”(Death).
The ultimate aim of the Crossfit.com main site Rx'd WOD is to provide adequate stress and physical stimulus to create a mature and fit individual at a fitness level that we should ALL be able to reach and then to push that envelope to new levels of fitness for the human body. Be all you can be! To program for our senior years however, we need to not only address becoming the most we can be, but to focus more on what stress and stimuli will build and maintain a body and personal fitness to last the longest.
In the standard application of mechanical engineering, to engineer strictly for performance uses horsepower, torque & MPH as the primary metrics (Power=Forc*Distance/Time) but engineering for reliability or longevity is a totally different realm with totally different metrics and overall different approach towards the end product. Think Ferrari vs. Volvo. There are simply different methods of engineering automobiles and of maintaining them once they’re made. High performance cars that are continually pushed to the limits are simply not going to last as well as those engineered for reliability. Likewise, cars engineered to last still need to be pushed but hardly to their limits and certainly not every day.
The Problem With CrossFit
Let me say from the start however that I am NOT a CrossFit hater. There is NO better program for general fitness. For the masters athlete in particular, I am 100% confident that the traditional application of CrossFit can be scaled, modified and effective to deliver a “Broad, General and Inclusive fitness”. I must however, through my experiences, conclude that CrossFit is simply not the best method for my older clients to realize a "Functional Longevity" into their 90's & beyond.
Before I go into the details of the program I’m proposing, let me take some final mention of what I’ve learned from my time coaching seniors via standard CrossFit methodologies. I’ve found these items in particular to be general hindrances to the goal of Functional Longevity:
- Three days on & 1 day off. The standard 3 day on, one off was designed to allow an athlete to perform at maximum intensities before needing to rest their systems. Seniors simply need more frequent recovery and work better with a simple 3 day a week Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule which gives the athlete one day of rest between workouts and a longer two day recovery period each weekend. Our athletes are also encouraged to utilize their days off with general “Active recovery” by running, biking, rowing or generally “playing at life”.
- The constant use of “Max Effort”. 95+% intensity on a regular basis is not required and simply not beneficial to maintain a healthy body for the long term. Regular bouts of 80% to 90% plus is what's missing from most senior fitness regimens and is what I believe, will set this program apart from others. Granted, we know that intensity is a relative metric but I believe the majority of senior athletes KNOW what high intensity is and are not afraid to push the limits. As far as max effort lifts, I usually go by a “Three second rule” so that if you struggle with the lift for three seconds without progressing, you're probably close enough to your max.
- The formula of “Constantly Varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity” is simply insufficient to provide the type of stimulus required to enable the human body to remain viable for 40 or 50 years. I’ll be stating what I believe is a better formula after some of my thoughts regarding longevity are explained.
- Traditional CrossFit programming will focus on a general rotating of the modalities of Gymnastics, Weightlifting and Metabolic Conditioning in cycles of workouts that rotate between single elements, couplets and triplets and are generally designed to regularly deliver stress to all metabolic pathways. While this still remains an important consideration when programming for seniors, there are longevity issues as well that ultimately take an overall precedence.
- Insistence on advanced movement patterns that are beyond the safe grasp of a majority of those in our age group. I have NO problem with the Olympic Lifts at any age (Snatch or Clean & Jerk) as long as they are done with proper form & the athlete demonstrates sufficient mobility to engage the required positions in a safe manner. If an athlete can’t perform a back squat with acceptable form however, they should in no way be introduced to the Snatch. The same can be said for a premature introduction to the “Kipping Pull Up” as another example.
- A disregard (a disdain in all actuality) for the overall value of traditional fitness weight or aerobic machines. While I concur that simple and basic barbell, gymnastics & bodyweight calisthenics provide the best overall stimulus for achieving an overall fitness, an older athlete who may suffer from mobility issues and a more frequent incidence of injury/hotspot or general limitation, the ability to use a weight machine to isolate muscles or perform strength work with the added help in assisted form is invaluable. There is also great value in utilizing an elliptical machine (for example) to simply elevate our heart rate if, for instance, running or rowing is out of the question due to minor injury.
This then concludes my hesitant but necessary inclusion of CrossFit related dialogue. I would again like to emphasise that the preceding discussions involving my experiences with CrossFit are only included as a necessary prerequisite to fully understand my conclusions within the context of the project I’m proposing.
Methuselahs “Five Pillars of Senior Fitness”
1). Defining Fitness in Relation to Longevity
The most significant concept we’ve learned to use as we approach a program with longevity in mind, is how we've come to define what fitness is from the start! For our approach, I’ve determined a list of 10 specific and unique attributes that are generally accepted by the fitness industry as a whole as an invaluable tool. (as developed by Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax). The 10 attributes that embody our very definition of our fitness are:
Strength Endurance Stamina Balance Flexibility
Power Coordination Speed Agility Accuracy
For those of us who are particularly interested in longevity, this concept is especially significant in some very important ways.
As we age, our bodies naturally and unavoidably begin to break down. We literally begin to regularly and unavoidably lose our fitness as years go by. Each and every one of us, by nature, is amazingly different in the way this breakdown progresses. After several years of coaching seniors, this one fact was exceptionally striking. While one individual lost his flexibility and could hardly even straighten his arms, another was flexible but could not stand on one foot without falling due to deficiencies in balance. Another individual amazingly retained his strength and was strong as a bull but had become slow and sluggish in in everything he did.The variety and severity of performance in regards to each of these elements were huge! With that said, this definition now gives us a concrete means of identifying, quantifying, maintaining and correcting those unique and highly individual aging concerns.
Another important factor this definition brings to the table is eliminating the ambiguity used when determining many the failings of this population. As an example; Falling among the Senior population accounts for the largest cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in that group. It is said that one of three individuals over 65 will be injured from falling each year. While we generally attribute these falls to a lack of balance, it is my contention that many could also be the result of degraded agility, coordination, accuracy, strength, endurance or flexibility. Was hitting the gas instead of the break, or putting the car in the wrong gear confusion or lack of accuracy or coordination? While we’ll never know for sure what specifics are the cause, you can see how our application of the concept of the “Black Box” can apply. Let us train these attributes and observe the outcomes. I’m betting we’ll see significant improvements.
A significant way to look at the aging process is with an analogy I call “The Escalator of Life”. If we consider the following graphic we can see that during the first half of “the ride”, so to speak, other than a minimal amount of activity and some relatively decent nutrition, we really need do little to achieve a certain level of fitness. At some point in our lives, we each reach the age that signifies the apex of our fitness. At this juncture we simply have no choice but to recognize that the state of being “Over the Hill” has arrived. We can deny the reality as much as we like however, the fact remains that there comes a point in life where the natural tendency of the human body is to decline.
2) We Either Use It, Or We Lose It!
I believe the phrase "Use It or Lose It" should be the senior fitness enthusiasts recurring & constant mantra. If we consider this most important concept in light of our previously stated definition of fitness, we begin to see our need to utilize activities that specifically call upon each of those 10 unique fitness defining attributes.
Younger athletes, in general, need not specifically practice drills involving balance, agility, accuracy or coordination as these are naturally developed within the performance of life and the execution of normal athletic programming (outside of higher level professional or college athletics of course). Seniors, on the other hand are facing a deteriorating set of physical and neurological systems that can greatly benefit from regular and specific attention to each of these said attributes. This is especially true to those who are out of shape and have not been generally active and applying attention to them at all (balance, agility,stamina etc).
This is especially significant when we’re considering that downward segment of the aforementioned “Escalator of Life”.
To “Use It Or Lose It” in this context simply means that we need to simply turn around and start climbing up that down escalator at a slow, smooth and consistent pace!
It’s really not even a difficult proposition to consider. Our requirement is to simply utilize our bodies in a casual manner, across each of the 10 previously defined facets of fitness, and to do so on a regular basis. How often, as we get older, do we neglect the facets of balance, agility, flexibility, speed or coordination by never even using them in a casual manner. A major tenet of this program therefore is to regularly and systematically schedule simple activities to ensure we’re keeping each of these 10 elements regularly engaged and ready for use in the real world.
3). Maintenance Vs. Growth
It’s now time to make the important distinction between Maintenance and Growth.
Here is our quandary in a nutshell: After a certain age, we are basically running up a down escalator in attempting to maintain a position as far as possible from that bottom step!
We know from the start that it will be impossible to keep up with it forever, but we've also learned that if we simply keep moving against the constant downward pull, we can delay that inevitable "end of the line" quite nicely.
But what if we're not happy with our actual position on the Escalator? What if we've found ourselves WAY too close to the bottom and are worried that a single slip or misstep (Or injury) would prematurely end our ride altogether? Perhaps we’ve been afflicted with a health issue that’s prematurely thrown us off track, or simply waited till we’ve turned 90 years old and are uncomfortable with the view from the bottom. No matter what position you’re in, the first (and easiest) order of business is to work on the maintenance of what fitness you do have in regards to our defined elements of fitness! Easy as pie!
On the other hand, the prospect of propelling ourselves UP that down Escalator(growth) is another story altogether and can, in itself, present significant risks that can ultimately result in a lower position than where we originally started! It then becomes all too clear; Our goal is simply not a matter of avoiding that bottom step, but managing to reach as high a position on the escalator as we can.
A common mistake (almost universal actually), is that most fitness programs primary and usually sole focus, is to get in shape in as fast and efficient a manner as possible. It needs to be recognized here that there are risks to anyone of any age that are associated with beginning a fitness program of any kind. This is especially true for our older population and the level of care towards providing a slow, careful, systematic and consistent approach to growth can not be underestimated! The number one enemy we will face on this journey is injury! An injury that keeps us from at least maintaining our position on this unrelenting fitness continuum (no matter how modest an effort we’re attempting), can easily cause us to lose ground we may NEVER manage to regain again.
A serious shoulder injury for example can sideline us for several months. When this happens we are facing a triple threat:
- Our ability to heal in the first place is severely diminished. A serious injury will take longer to heal and rehab of the injury in question will be more difficult as well.
- While healing and inactive, the fitness level that we have struggled for years to attain in the first place WILL suffer at an alarmingly fast rate (damn that escalator!).
- The recovery of this all around loss in fitness that we’ve lost is considerably slower and a much more difficult prospect. To regain a level of fitness that took us a year of hard work to attain 10 years ago at age 50 for example, can theoretically take two years of equal effort to regain at age 60. It is important to mention here however that it nonetheless can be done!
As a long term prospect therefore, the program I am proposing has its first and foremost focus on doing the "easy" and simple "Use it or lose it" functions of maintaining our current fitness position in life. Growth, on the other is handled in an entirely different manner. A successful coach to this population must seriously approach his clientele with a “Mother Hen” mentality that aggressively considers their safety as a number one priority. Let us move on to our fourth of our five pillars of senior fitness: “Favor These Three Elements”.
4). Favor These Elements
Most fitness regimens normally approach the topic of “Senior Fitness” the same as we apply to the general population:
- Strength Training
- Cardiovascular Conditioning and Endurance
- Flexibility & Mobility
I too have come to the inclusion that this is indeed a most valuable approach. We will, without question, obtain the biggest "bang for the buck" with a regular and consistent inclusion of them in particular. Each exercise session should therefore contain an element of Strength training, Cardiovascular Conditioning & Flexibility. A major challenge then will be how can we be sure to include the other aspects of each of those usually neglected 10 elements of fitness on a regular basis.
Special Considerations Regarding the “Big Three”
Since the program tends to focus on Strength, Cardio & Flexibility by visiting these during each session, special consideration regarding the approach to each is in order. Since I am not making a strict differentiation between “Maintenance and Growth” with these three, my attitude and approach needs to be focused on small, regular gains with an appreciation of being in this for the “Long Haul”. In general, proper form and execution is of the utmost importance and the learning of skills as well as the acquiring of correct movement patterns are recognized as major “Growth Class” accomplishments (For strength training, for example, proper execution is more desired and celebrated than added weight or capacity).
For individual program special considerations:
- Strength Training - I usually try to break up the year into quarterly cycles.
- To build basic strength and a good baseline I like to start us out with a basic 5x5 program where we start with low weights and work our way up to a good 95% effort. The same weight is used for all five sets with the first being easiest with a view to significantly challenge us by the 5th set. Basic lifts include Deadlift, Shoulder Press, Squat (variation depending on ability), Barbell Row and Bench Press. This is a good general program that will build both muscle and strength.
- Since the senior population suffers from decreased muscle mass I try to focus on the 2nd & 4th quarter as a higher rep variation of 3 sets of 9 to 12 reps to failure. The same weight is used for each set and failure will occur with less reps after each set. When 12 reps is reached on the first set, a small amount of weight is added for the next session and used, for that lift, until 12 reps is again achieved. ( I may, in the future inject some drop sets with this cycle).
- At least 4 months of a serious strength program like Wendler 5-3-1
- Cardiovascular Endurance - Short spurts of a more intense interval type work is valuable. Keep in mind that the subject of intensity relies on relative metrics. While intense to one individual may mean 50 yard sprints, to another individual it may mean a 5% grade on a slow moving treadmill. What is important, is that we are providing a relative sense of intensity. I’ll occasionally work with the Tabata protocol & will even occasionally include longer sessions where heart rates can remain elevated for 30 minutes or more. It is important to note that I strongly encourage my athletes to include at least two sessions of extended cardio outside of class each week. Be it running, rowing, swimming, biking, soccer or hockey… Nothing will replace longer sessions where the heart remains elevated for 30, 40 or 50 minutes at a time.
- Flexibility - Bottom line is we need to regularly and systematically work on our mobility. Yoga is encouraged and I find great value to both dynamic (before activity) and static stretching routines (after activity). I also STRONGLY encourage a daily, personalized, individual mobility routine at home before we even get dressed!
5). Lone Wolves Seldom Survive
A primary component of the Methuselah Fitness Project is in creating community. We are approaching the prospect of a long term (40+ year) commitment to attending and participating in a program that is both physically challenging and numbingly routine (over that long of a period, for sure). Having others to hold accountable, to encourage when things get tough and to help celebrate victories & mourn defeats is invaluable. Nothing unites people like a shared and significant long term challenge or goal.
While I have seen the power of community work well within the general population, studies have shown the power of socialization to be a major factor in terms of longevity to seniors in particular. Add to this the aforementioned commitment to a significant shared interest and I am predicting a manyfold return on the investment.
Putting it All Together
Session Basics - What the program would look like
- Each group class would consist of 3 to 8 individuals with a coach to participant ratio to at least 1 to 4. Groups would ideally be comprised of individuals of similar levels of general fitness capabilities. While large differences can be accommodated, those requiring more one on one attention should be limited to 1 per coach (if class size dictates 2 coaches, only 2 less accomplished participants could be accommodated)
- There would be three sessions per week. Mon., Wed. and Fri. are perfect as it gives participants a day off between workouts and two days extended recovery on weekends. The schedule can obviously be skewed to Tues., Thurs. and Sat. if participants of that group would find it workable.
- Actual class times would be 1 hour with a general format of 10 minutes warm up, 20 minutes on strength, 20 minutes on general conditioning as well as 10 minutes cool down, stretching or meditation. Participants should be encouraged to arrive early to work on personal mobility “Junk” or specific warm up challenges and also encouraged to stay after to work on skills & technique. Care should be taken therefore in scheduling classes back to back.
- A part of my program that is still in development is to determine a means of acquiring easy but accurate metrics for each of the 10 fitness attributes for each member. This will not only identify strengths and weaknesses from the beginning, but will make it easily to recognize growth or decline over the coming months and years. I would also use the initial “one on one” collection of these metrics for every participant as an opportunity to determine their appropriate group and to individually instruct them on the movements they will most likely encounter during class. This could take a total of 10 to 15 “one on one” or “two on one” sessions as their introduction.
So, how does a general template for programming around all of these specific 10 elements of fitness work? Simple, but not so simple. This template regularly cycles through each of these attributes on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. Since Strength, Flexibility & Cardiovascular Endurance are regular elements, we need only systematically cycle through the remaining 7 attributes to include as session elements on a regular basis:
Stamina Balance Power Coordination Speed Agility Accuracy
In general, we could therefore define a general synopsis of this program as follows:
“Systematically varied, universal movements, performed across 10 defined elements of fitness at lower intensities to maintain a fitness for longevity with the addition of carefully progressed cycles of growth across those same 10 elements including a focused attention to Strength, Flexibility & Cardiovascular Conditioning”
Programming for Maintenance:
- A usual routine will include daily incorporation of the "Big Three" (Strength, Cardio & Flexibility) into the workout (As I’ve previously discussed in the “Favor These Elements” section).
- I'll then cycle through each of the other 7 elements every 7 weeks with a Weekly "general" focus to give attention to. This will afford extended attention to each attribute every 7 weeks (approx. every two months).
- I'll then also finally cycle through each element of our 7 elements on a Daily basis. This will additionally afford us an opportunity to casually touch base with these 7 elements every seven sessions (approx. every two weeks)
Programming for Consistent Growth:
To program for growth however takes considerably more care and requires a slower but longer emphasis to adequately, effectively and safely achieve a desired growth (or higher position on the Escalator of Life). For growth therefore, I'd propose we cycle through these seven attributes on a Monthly basis with specific individual athlete metrics to be collected at the beginning and end of each month. This will afford our participants the opportunity to grow in each of these aspects every 7 months (Almost two times each year!)
A monthly template for March would look something like this:
Programming for The Future of The Methuselah Fitness Project
As you can see from the above example, it can be quite a challenge programming activities that effectively challenge and utilize characteristics of the particular group of attributes for the day. Creative opportunities abound! I’m intending to introduce a myriad of new tools, skills & drills to accomplish these aims. A small list of activities off the top of my head include: Soccer drills, Balance Beam drills, Hand Eye Coordination “Reaction Ball” drills, Juggling, Hackey Sack, Jump Rope variations, Yoga, Tai Chi, Obstacle Courses Etc, Etc. My ultimate and final incarnation of this program will include three scaled options for 1) Those wanting to work at home on their own. 2). Those who have access to a “Garage Style” gym where anything is supported. 3). Those who are working out in a standard commercial gym environment with scaling options for each incarnation.
My ideal scenario would be to eventually have a team or “Board of Trainers” to help and discuss the possible variations and the unique advantages or disadvantages of each combination. Regular submission and opportunity for peer review and the refinement of the program would be a most valuable future inclusion. After the first year (14 months or two unique cycles, actually), it is my intention to repeat and refine the program. To learn, grow and continue to develop via use of the Open Source model, the very best possible fitness regimen for members of the senior population.
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