Athletes, Health, Lifestyle

The Retired Athlete: A Story of Fit to Flab to Fit: Back to a Healthy Lifestyle

Whether your an athlete or just someone who likes to stay healthy and in shape, it takes time and effort to reach results you strive to achieve. For some, this comes easy. For example, athletes, both recreational and competitive, have a training schedule that is usually consistent enough to reach and maintain that healthy lifestyle. However, for others, it may be a great challenge to reach the healthy objectives they desire. Many people live an unhealthy lifestyle: not eating the proper foods, overeating, not exercising regularly, etc. Even genetics play a role in this scenario. Some people are born with a high metabolism and some with lower metabolisms. There are other factors such as medical issues that play a role in someone’s quest to a healthy lifestyle.

For me personally, like many career athletes, it was a way of life that provided me the tools to get in shape, stay in shape, and look fit and healthy. This is what extreme sports does for an athlete. However, it doesn’t last forever. This is my story of a Fit to Flab to Fit Lifestyle. A common scenario for many retired athletes.

As long as I can remember, back when I was very young, I had a dream of being a great athlete . I had admired bodybuilders like Mr. America and Mr. Universe. I thought it would be great to be like that someday. Maybe it was because I was such a runt. I was the smallest child in every school I attended. I was very active, maybe too active, but it allowed me to excel in sports. There was no doubt that I had a fast metabolism and it was an asset for my sports development and physical well-being.

There were many years growing up as an athlete where I didn’t have an issue with my dietary practices. As a matter of fact. I could eat to no end and never gain a pound. It was a nice luxury. I had teammates and friends that did have to monitor their diet. Some people gain weight easily so a proper diet was a daily concern.

As a world class athlete and the extreme training it required, it provided me with a great physique – and it lasted for years. Even years after retirement, I was able to keep that same body type with little physical effort. Although, I did coach students in gymnastics, which is in itself a physical activity ( I did little else to stay in shape. My diet had not changed and I still felt comfortable eating whatever I wished.

When I hit my 40’s , thing’s began to change. I didn’t seem as hyper (active) as I had for so many years. I noticed I was slowing down in my actions. My eating habits hadn’t changed though and I noticed that I was gaining a little weight. I welcomed this change because I was always so small and thin. I was actually excited!! However, this excitement didn’t last very long.

It is simply nature that our bodies and metabolism change as we age. For some people, this change can happen quickly and drastically. For others, it can happen gradually. In my case, it was a gradual change. Throughout my 40’s, I had gained only a little weight but still felt good and in shape. I didn’t have any concerns regarding my health during this time so my lifestyle stayed the same as it has been for years.

It was in my early 50’s that things began to change more drastically. Seemed like it happened overnight, and all of a sudden I noticed that I had a bulging gut. Wow!! How did that happen? I actually had to start buying new clothes!! My pants and shirt sizes had grown. This was a change I was not happy about. I began to notice that others I am close to in my age range have gone through similar transformations.

I have also noticed that some people I am close to began to have health problems. This became very alarming to me and I realized I needed to start making some changes regarding my own health.

The first thing I did was schedule an appointment and have a physical done. This was terrifying! I am sure that many people, especially of my age, are terrified of this issue. What if they find something seriously wrong? However, it is something that all people need to have done, especially as they get older.

I was fortunate enough to have a clean bill of health. My blood pressure was a little high (I think because I was so nervous at the DR’s office), and my cholesterol was a little high. What a relief. Now it was time to make some lifestyle changes.

Being a gymnastics coach for years allowed me to stay somewhat strong from all the spotting but I never did any cardio training. This became a priority. Not just to help lose weight but for the purpose of better heart and lung health. The other and most important change was my diet. If I was going to lose that belly gut I developed, I knew I had to change my eating habits.

There are many tools out there that help people lose weight and get healthy ( Not only was it important to control how much I ate but what I ate as well. I strayed away from fatty foods and researched healthy recipes. The tool that worked best for me to control my diet was the MyFitnessPal app. Not only did it have most any food you can think of, it also calculates calories burned for particular activities and workouts. It actually designed the total calorie intake required to meet the desired weight I wanted to achieve. I followed this closely and consistently. It truly worked for me!! Within just a few months, I completely lost that bulging gut and reached my desired weight goal.

In addition to my diet, I had made an obligation to develop and maintain a consistent workout schedule that included both cardio training and strength training. My body is pretty torn up from the aggressive gymnastics training during my competitive career. Although not chronic or severe, most of my body has aches and pains ( I consistently had to wear a back brace when coaching and had bouts of spasms periodically. I knew that the type of training I wanted had to be low impact.

Instead of driving to a gym often, I decided to turn one of our rooms in our home into a workout room. I had the help of one of my gym clients who was a fitness trainer, develop a circuit training guide for me to follow. He introduced me to another great training app called the Tabato Timer. It was specifically used for my circuit training and I was able to program in my own individualized plan.

I also had an exercise machine called a Cardio Glide that I began to use and incorporate into my circuit training. This provided me with the cardio exercises I wanted in my workout. My strength training exercises consisted of using exercise therabands. As I progressed, I was able to use the strongest bands. Not only is this effective in strength building, it has a cardio factor as well.

The most difficult part of committing to any workout schedule is time management. I hear this often and was an excuse I used for years. I realized, however, that the time committed is very small. A good workout can be done in 20-30 minutes. In addition, it doesn’t have to be every day. A good training program can consist of committing to 3 or 4 days per week. Plenty of time to completely change a lifestyle. My training schedule consists of a workout every other day. It has worked for me and it can for many others that can commit to a plan.

Living a healthy lifestyle, especially for aging people, should be the number one priority. Without good health, productivity and happiness will suffer. I’ve made a drastic change to improve my lifestyle and it is amazing how much better I feel.

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