Finding an exercise regimen that sticks
Oct 16, 2023
7 minutes to read
My home gym setup: a yoga mat, some kettlebells, and a balance cushion
Table of Contents
As a 68-year-old man who has lived more years than his father and brother, I have come to believe that maintaining some sort of exercise regimen is one very important aspect of living a healthy life.
To that end, after a long enough time with doing what I'm doing, I think I can safely say that I have kind-of settled into something that is doable for me. While I'm not religiously consistent, I do believe that the balance that I have now is more maintainable than anything I've tried in the past.
So, what does it look like? Well, I'm glad you asked. Let's dive in.
2. Enter the Kettlebell
While I won't go into all the kinds of exercise methods and programs that I've tried in the past, suffice it to say that I've tried P90X, AthleanX, and high-intensity interval training. I've also tried a few other things, but those are the ones that I've tried for the longest periods of time.
For me, all of these ultimately lead me to burnout. My natural tendency is to go all-in on something, and that's what I did with all of these programs. I would do them religiously for a few months, and then I would burn out and stop doing them altogether.
It's just not a great way to approach exercise. Doing things too hard for too long is just not sustainable...for me, at least.
So, YouTube being what it is and showing us the kinds of things we tend to watch or like, I happened upon a video by Mark Wildman. I don't remember which one it was, but I do remember that I liked it and subscribed to his channel. He's a very straight-forward guy who doesn't pull any punches. And he has some basic beliefs about exercise that I really like. I also started watching some of Dan John's videos on YouTube. He's closer to my age and has spent a lot of time training kettlebell coaches.
I was taken by Mark's way of teaching to train with kettlebells. I learned that the gym that I belonged to had a kettlebell class and there was even an intro version. So I signed up and began attending these rather intense classes. I was hooked. The classes were challenging, but I was learning the various exercises and feeling the results.
I was playing some tennis at the time and the gym at the tennis club also had a few kettlebells. I decided that I didn't need the instruction any longer (other than Mark's YouTube channel), so I cancelled the gym membership and started using the ones at the tennis club.
They only had a few and before too long, they were just a tad too light for the progress I was making. So I decided to buy my own. I started with two, a 12kg and a 16kg. And the next thing I knew, I needed a 20kg. The nice thing about the 20kg is that it's adjustable up to 20kg, so I'd have something between 16kg and 20kg.
So what exactly do I do with these things?
3. All the Basic Kettlebell Exercises
If you do a little homework about kettlebells, you'll see that there are a handful of basic moves that when combined, make up a pretty good full-body workout. I'm not going to go into all the details of each of these exercises, but I will give you a brief overview of each of them.
Swings - This is the basic kettlebell exercise. It's a hip-hinge movement. It's a great exercise for the posterior chain, which is the back of your body. It's also a great cardio exercise, depending on how long, or how many reps you do.
Goblet Squats - This is a squatting movement that is done while holding the kettlebell in front of you. It's a great exercise for the quads and glutes. It's also a great core exercise.
Clean and Press - This is a full-body exercise that involves lifting the kettlebell with one arm to shoulder height and then pressing it overhead.
Rows - This is a pulling exercise that is done with one arm at a time. It's a great exercise for the back and biceps.
Snatch - This is a full-body exercise that involves lifting the kettlebell with one arm to shoulder height and then pressing it overhead, but unlike the clean and press, it is done in one fluid motion. I'm not doing these yet.
Turkish Getups - This is a full-body exercise that start out lying on the ground and gradually coming to a full stand, all the while with a kettlebell in one hand. That said, I have yet to tackle these.
4. My Current Regimen
I've got a couple of ways that I've been approaching my use of kettlebells. First, one thing that is important to me is to get in enough of this kind of training in a relatively short time. The primary reason for this goal is avoid burnout. If I feel that I "have to" doing something for exercise that will take an hour or more, it's just too easy for me to make an excuse as to why I can't find the time on a particular day.
Mentally, I keep this time-frame component in mind...every single day. I don't work out every day, but it's on my mind every day.
There are weeks where I will do the following workout two days a week, with at least one day in between those days:
- 3 sets of 20 kettlebell swings with the 20kg kettlebell
- 3 sets of 20 goblet squats with the 16kg kettlebell
- 3 sets of 12 clean and press with the 12kg kettlebell
- 3 sets of 12 rows with the 20kg kettlebell
I take 30 seconds of rest between each of the 3 sets. And I take 90 seconds of rest between each of the 4 exercises.
After this, I do a suitcase hold (holding the 20kg bell in one hand) for 90 seconds on each side. This is good for both grip strength and core strength.
Finally, I do what looks like a situp with the 12kg bell in hand, bringing it overhead to touch the ground behind me and then back up and pressing it up and out at a 45 degree angle. I do one set of 25 of these. And then I do 90 seconds lying on my back and doing flutter kicks.
The whole workout takes about 35 minutes and I feel like I've gotten a good workout in. I'm sweating and need a shower. I use an Apple Watch and my heart rate gets up there, particularly after the goblet squats.
Then, there are other weeks, where I feel that I need a bit of recovery. But need to do something...or else I'll stop working out altogether. So, after I shower in the morning, I'll do one set of 10 reps of each of the 4 exercises above. This takes me less than 10 minutes, but I feel like I've done something...and I'm just on the verge of breaking a sweat. Some weeks, I'll do this 5 days a week. Other weeks, I'll do it 3 days a week. It just depends on how I'm feeling.
The other part of my workout routine is an indoor-cycling class. The cycling lasts 45 minutes an is quite intense. This is followed by 15 minutes of stretching. Based on the data from my Apple Watch, since I started it about 6 months ago, it has helped my heart rate recovery time.
Oh, and I forgot the whole stretching and mobility thing. Every day (at least when I don't just simply forget), after my shower, I do a very brief series of yoga moves. They're not complicated and take just a few minutes, but it feels like it works out some of the kinks in the connective tissue.
Lastly, I'm still trying to play tennis once a week as my knees will let me. The fitness work definitely helps me on the court. I recall something someone once told me: "When you're young, you play tennis to get in shape. When you're old, you get in shape to play tennis."
5. This is All Useless without Good Nutrition
Sadly, heart disease runs in our family, on both my maternal and paternal side. I have been diagnosed with a certain level of heart disease in that there is evidence of plaque in my arteries. I take cholesterol management medication and that helps.
But I also know that I need to eat well. I'm not a nutritionist, but I do know that I need to eat more vegetables and less meat. I also know that I need to eat less sugar and less processed foods. I'm not perfect, but I'm not doing too bad.
I actually weigh less than I did when I got married 30 years ago. And generally, I feel pretty good. I've got some arthritis in my knees and one hand, but it's more than manageable for now.
I'm not sure what the future holds, but I'm doing what I can to make sure that however long I am around, I can do most the things that I want to do...maybe for a little longer than I would be able to if I wasn't doing this stuff.