New Year New Me

New years eve fireworks on Copacabana beach

As the year draws to a close, once the merriment and revelry has died down, our thoughts and attention will turn to New Year resolutions. How many of us will have a health and fitness related resolution this time? How many of us will stick to it? I'm a big believer in making your exercises goals public and holding yourself accountable to them. It’s worked for me in the past and it has too for other guest posters on Office Worker Health. This week my colleague Mark Hillen is going public with his exercise goals for the New Year. Can you do the same? Read what Mark has to say and please leave a comment below.

 Let me introduce myself, I'm Mark, age 50+ (OK, 52) and have had an on-off relationship with health and fitness over the years. From being very fit in my early twenties to very out of shape for long periods, I've faced the same challenges that a lot of us have, allowing life and often work to get in the way of my health and fitness goals. While this is perfectly understandable, it’s time for a change, and nothing like public accountability to help, or so I'm told.

A little background on my current position. I have a desk-based role and drive to work so the natural opportunities to stretch my legs are limited. In fact my commute is short and would suit a bike but I haven’t managed to do that yet. I'm lucky to have had no major health concerns and have also avoided any injuries that would restrict my ability to exercise.

My current fitness regime (if you can call it that) consists of playing football twice a week. One game is 60 minutes outdoor with my work colleagues, most of whom are much younger and fitter than me and the other is 90 minutes indoors with friends of various ages. Both of these are enjoyable and can give a good workout, assuming I remember to put the effort in! I also periodically do a 6-week Bootcamp session (maybe twice a year) and always enjoy it, but my natural lethargy tends to kicks in about halfway through and I don’t follow up. Crazy.

The funny thing is that I always feel better after exercise, especially doing a sport I enjoy. The feeling of ‘aliveness’ and wellbeing that I get when I have these periodic bouts of healthy physical activity can last for days at a time and extends into other areas of my life, including my work, so why I don’t do more of it is a mystery I'm hoping to solve!

I’d classify my diet as OK. On the one hand I'm extremely fortunate that my wife is a very good cook and we eat very well. But, I sabotage that by eating too much of the good food and don’t regulate my very sweet tooth. An over fondness for white carbs doesn't help. So that’s where I’m at today – it’s probably better than some but I know it’s not enough. So I have a New Year New Me plan.

First, I’ll keep up the football. That’s simple, I enjoy it, it’s become part of my routine and I miss it when I don’t do it. In fact maybe that’s the key, make exercise a part of my daily routine, a non-negotiable, like meeting a friend or attending an important work meeting. If I can make time for these, surely I can also make time to improve my physical and mental health?

Next; incorporate some other regular cardio exercise into my life, either by re-joining Bootcamp or by scheduling regular runs or bike rides. Did I mention that I hate running? I’ve done a few (very few) 5 and 10k runs but found them very hard. I’ve heard about the elusive ‘runners high’ but have never experienced it, perhaps I just haven’t run often enough? Maybe a running buddy as suggested by Rob in a previous post might help? Anyway, this is also on my list.

Thirdly, I will modify my diet to reduce the white carbs, to eat more vegetables and substitute some red meats for fish. I have yet to fully investigate the diet part but I need to stop reaching for white bread and pasta at every opportunity when I'm in charge of feeding myself. I also need to be more mindful of the sweet treats, to understand that they don’t form part of my 5-a -day!

I know these are limited changes but small changes have the best chance of working. If I can increase my regular healthy activity to a place where it becomes the norm, then I will think about setting myself some more challenging goals, perhaps beating my best (very slow) 10k time, or more importantly, actually enjoying running!

I’ll report back here periodically to track (hopefully) the progress I'm making and hopefully to inspire other vintage / retro couch dwellers that there is life after 50 and that it can be a healthy and active one!