The Secret of Eternal Youth

Old fart, flat water

This scruffy, old fool doesn’t look much of a guru but wondrous things have been revealed to him.  Of course, if you live into your sixties, many wonders will be revealed to you, too.  No one needs me as a guru.  You need information.  To the point – here is some information I have chanced upon.  On Saturday, I had to take my belt in a notch.  On Sunday, I ran my quickest three miles for quite some time and the run felt fairly easy.  On Monday, I pedalled the world’s slowest bicycle, a Thorn xTc tourer, for 28 miles, including rough, forest roads, at 12 mph.  That’s the fastest sustained ride my Thorn has ever managed.  The only change preceding these improvements was to begin exercising before breakfast.

This is anecdotal and definitely not a well designed experiment.  As well as just five days of exercising before breakfast, the weather has been glorious.  Light levels have been higher and wind speeds lower than last week here in the far north.  I’m sure an expert could identify many other variables.  Nevertheless, the anecdote is worth pursuing.

For years, I’ve been reading articles in cycling comics which touted the fat-burning benefits of riding before breakfast.  Given the state of Britain’s roads, I haven’t been tempted.  Full alertness is essential and that is more likely after a decent breakfast than before.  Runners also claim that getting out before eating will enhance fat metabolism but I find running very hard and prefer to set off with a nice concentration of sugar in my bloodstream.  So, getting the miles in early had little appeal.

Luckily, I remembered the Michael Mosley TV programmme in which he claimed that short bursts of high intensity exercise build stamina at least as effectively as long, slow distance.  Twaddle, I had thought at the time.  No gym work will build the muscles in the sides of your legs that you need for control while backpacking.  He was looking for a short cut, I decided – a magic bullet which would instantly sort out problems caused by years of abusing his carcass.  I’m right about the leg strength issue.  Only hiking miles of rough ground will do, but, this week, I have discovered he was right about general purpose stamina.

All I’ve been doing is drinking two cups of tea and then cranking into standard physical jerks for between three and eight minutes.  I eat afterwards.  Several apps on my phone help.  They provide timers and advice on how to do the exercises properly.  An app which is both useful and free is the 7 Minute Workout from Johnson and Johnson.  There are many others.  Please don’t ask me why it’s called the 7M Workout because I don’t know.  Twelve exercises lasting for thirty seconds with 10 second rests do not take 7 minutes.

Whichever app I use, and I vary them, the activity periods are short so I do the drills as fast as I can while maintaining good form.  This means going anaerobic.  After five days, my muscles were aching, which is why I took a break from the apps on Sunday and Monday, for running and cycling.  Today, Tuesday, I worked through one 7M Workout set before breakfast, achieving 16 press ups in the thirty seconds devoted to that exercise.  I think that’s as fast as I can do good press ups so I may have to consider doing two sets.

So far, I’ve focussed on fitness but note the bit where I mentioned taking in my belt a notch.  Fat around the waist is considered more harmful than fat elsewhere.  Experts claim it isn’t the fat you can see which predicts diabetes and heart trouble – it’s the fat around the organs so reducing the circumference of my waist suggests that exercising before breakfast may have brought actual health benefits.  (I don’t think Michael Mosley mentioned time of day but I vaguely recall he didn’t eat as he was worried about puking.)

I’m not the most conscientious person in the world.  My haphazard approach to fitness had left me on a plateau where I had begun to wonder if a man in his early sixties really could make much progress.  For example, this Spring I had walked more than 400 miles from Kintyre to Cape Wrath and, at the end of the walk, I was still slower than younger walkers.  However, a couple of hours after breakfast today, I went out for a 7 mile run and that is my longest run of the year.  A personal best and two season bests in three days.  I may have discovered the secret of eternal youth!


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