The Ultimate Long-Term Fitness Goal Is To Be an “Old-lympian”

If you’re looking for a long-term fitness goal that will motivate you to make the best decisions for your health and well-being, consider training to become an “Old-lympian.”

Forsaken Fitness Goal #1:

Be the Best

Ian Thorpe celebrating gold medal
I didn’t reach this goal. (Image source.)

When I was a kid, I wanted to be the best.

My dream was to become an Olympic swimmer, Ironman-winning Triathlete, MLB pitcher, and NBA basketball player.

And I was the best!

…Until I wasn’t.

I won my last gold medal at age 11. Things when downhill from there.

Forsaken Fitness Goal #2:

Be a Beast

Terrell Owens doing sit-ups during interview.
I didn’t reach this goal, either. (Source: USA Today)

If I couldn’t perform at the level of a world-class athlete, I wanted to look like one at least.

I wanted to be the strongest and most jacked.

Specifically, I wanted a body like NFL receiver Terrell Owens.

So I swallowed shovels of protein powder and spent hours every day picking up and putting down heavy metal in front of mirrors alongside other grunts.

It was lots of testosterone-filled fun. While I never got as beastly as Terrell Owens, I was proud of my male chest cleavage. So I kept pumping toward this superficial fitness goal through university and into my corporate career.

Forsaken Fitness Goal #3:

Be Functionally Strong

I haven’t progressed this far. (Source: Frank Medrano)

I may still be prioritizing pumping iron to pump up my muscles if my employer hadn’t relocated me to Panama.

After a quarter-century of living in cold climates, Panama’s tropical sun drew me outside from the air-conditioned gym. So I started working out a lot at Parque Omar.

This got me into “street workouts.”

Instead of trying to be Terrell Owens’ melanin-deficient body-double, I began to idolize calisthenic athletes like Frank Medrano.

I wanted to be functionally strong.

Rather than measure my strength with plates and bicep circumference, I measured it with progressions toward doing one-armed chin-ups, strict muscle-ups, front levers, and shrimp squats.

Forsaken Fitness Goal #4:

Feel Awesome

Pretirement cover image of Chris on the beach
Tropical beach sunsets also help me feel awesome.

At 27, I “pretired” from my corporate career to factory reset and upgrade my life. As part of those upgrades, I made two major fitness-related moves:

  1. Eating better. Kim moved in with me and wasn’t content with a diet consisting of chicken breasts, bagels with cheese, and “Daddy’s lasagna” pasta.
  2. Eating less frequently. I cut down to one or two meals a day and started doing multi-day fasts.

Since I already looked fit, these dietary changes didn’t make much physical difference. My DEXA scan measurements barely budged and my handstand pushup progressions didn’t progress.

But changing what and when I ate made a huge difference mentally.

This, along with the fact that I was no longer single, shifted my fitness goals. Instead of wanting to look the best, I wanted to feel my best.

And did I ever! I was in my physical prime.

Fitness Goal #5:

Feel Awesome for as Long as Possible

Your future self cover image of me and future me smiling and high-fiving
Earn more high fives from your future self.

My friends and family frequently questioned my “strange” eating habits, so I researched fasting to find the answers.

This led me to Valter Longo’s book, The Longevity Diet.

Unlike me, Longo didn’t put much stake into the short-term benefits of fasting. He focused on fasting’s long-term rewards instead.

And reading about Longo’s research shifted my focus, too. It got me thinking more than ever about my social responsibility toward my future self.

So my fitness goal’s horizon extended.

I wanted to feel awesome for as long as possible.

But some things that make me feel awesome now can make me feel crappy later. And some things that will make me feel awesome later can be unpleasant in the present.

This meant finding the right compromises.

Fitness Compromise #1:

Cardio

Chris running up the dunes for an outdoor workout in Lamu, Kenya.
Sand dune hill sprint SHIIT in Lamu, Kenya.

If I was serious about feeling awesome for as long as possible, my favorite pastime, basketball, wouldn’t cut it for cardio. I had to think about adding boring time-wasters like jogging or cycling to my training regime.

But just as I was about to fork out for some funky-colored runners and spandex, a podcast episode came to the rescue:

Tim Ferriss’ interview of exercise physiologist Martin Gibala.

That episode, and my subsequent reading of Gibala’s book, The One-Minute Workout, introduced me to a more exciting and time-efficient version of cardiovascular training:

Super high-intensity interval training (SHIIT).

Doing SHIIT involves:

  • Pushing as hard as you can for a minute or two
  • Resting for a minute or a few
  • Repeating ten times or so

The pantathlon workouts I invented during lockdown are my favorite example.

While adding these workouts benefitted my long-term heart and lung health, I felt I was falling behind on my long-term fitness goal.

Painfully so.

Fitness Compromise #2:

Mobility

doing a daily mobility routine is the same as brushing your teeth
My wife Kim being extra time-efficient with simultaneous tooth and body brushing.

As I slid into my thirties, tight shoulders, wonky knees, an aching lower back, and various other niggles started to become “the usual.”

Not acceptable. If I wanted to feel limber at three times my age, I needed to stop playing so fast and loose with mobility.

I’d given yoga a go before. I’m from Vancouver, after all, the birthplace of Lululemon. But as much as I enjoyed breathing deeply while bending my body amongst beautiful babes in tights, I had the same problem with yoga as with cardio: It was too time-consuming and slow.

Lucky for me, as happened for my cardio problem, a podcast episode came to my rescue with a solution:

On The Model Health Show, the guest, coach Luka Hocevar, suggested I brush my body like my teeth: with a daily mobility routine.

Quick, efficient, and practical.

It was just what I needed.

I made mobility as much a habit as tooth brushing and flossing and started feeling as physically fresh as toothpaste.

Fitness Un-Compromise #1:

Finding a Workout-Life Balance

My fitness lifestyle feels wonderfully balanced.

Mobility, SHIIT-y cardio, calisthenics, and healthy eating had me feeling like what coach Kelly Starrett calls a “supple leopard.”

Or like my baby son Zac.

He seems to enjoy moving for movement’s sake. I’ve learned to do the same:

  • Walking instead of driving whenever possible
  • Going hiking
  • Playing sports (mostly beach volleyball these days)
  • Sleeping on the floor
  • Blogging in all sorts of seating/standing/lying positions

Even working out is fun for me, now that I’ve developed a fitness un-routine.

It’s just like Katy Bowman prescribes in Move Your DNA. Working toward my long-term fitness goal of feeling awesome for life has ceased to feel like work. I’ve found a happy, sustainable workout-life balance.

The Ultimate Long-Term Fitness Goal:

Be an “Old-lympian”

Everything coalesced for me with an idea from yet another podcast episode: one of Tim Ferriss’ interviews with Dr. Peter Attia.

Funny enough, it brought me back full circle to my first forsaken fitness goal: to be an olympian.

But this time around, it had a twist:

The Centenarian Olympics.

By this, Attia means training to be the fittest 100-plus-year-old possible—or, as I like to put it, become a world-class “Old-lympian.”

This framing helps keep me focused on the only fitness goal that matters. It also makes it kind of fun. And it almost feels like something to look forward to.

It’s Inevitable?

What do you think about the ultimate long-term fitness goal of competing in the Centenarian Olympics as an “Old-lympian”?

Maybe you rather target being the best/strongest/fittest/sexiest/whatever for now. Or maybe you rather focus on short-term fitness goals like to lose a few pounds or to run a marathon.

If so, good for you.

But I suspect your fitness goals, and how you work toward them, will evolve like mine. As long as you don’t fall apart before you get the chance, you’ll eventually land on the same logical conclusion as me: trying to feel as good as possible for as long as possible.

On that note, I wish I had arrived at my Old-lympian objective sooner. If so, I’d be an even supple-er leopard today.

Nevertheless, I’m grateful I arrived at it in my mid-30s. It’s not too late for me to work toward getting my 100-year-old self into the shape he needs to be in to kick the other Old-lympian’s wrinkly butts.

Like yours, maybe?

Keep your perspective fresh into your 100s, too.

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