On Getting Back into Shape at Age 71

Oh the humanity!  Getting out of shape was easy…it just happens.  Getting back into shape…not so easy.  So here is my story…

I am active.  I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  I am five foot eleven and weigh between 180-185…not anywhere near perfect, but not too bad.  I was an athlete and ran marathons well into my 60s.  And then…I just kind of stopped doing any consistent exercise.  Cause of this change…absolute pure laziness.  Result…not in any kind of decent shape.  Lost what muscles I had left.  Lost energy.  Look like crap.

Next thing you know I get a blood test showing borderline diabetes.  My dad, sister, grand mother, aunt and on and on had or have diabetes.  My dad got it when he was 90.  It is in my family and I need to be aware of that fact.  Instead, I just kept eating a huge amount of candy…which helped ruin my teeth and has cost me a fortune to fix…and let myself go until the warning whistle blew.  Well…it did wake me up. So here I am at 71…and the ball is in my court.

I’ll work with my doctor on the medical side of things.  On the “get back in shape”…happy to say that I have already begun.  I started off doing a two mile walk on our steep hill every day.  Pretty easy going downhill.  Not so easy on the return.  Did that for a couple of weeks.  Next, run half and walk half.  That has gone ok…so far so good.  Next, do that twice a day…which I have now done for a couple of weeks…so about four miles a day of walking.  Need to do more and need to make more of that running.  I run a ten miler every New Years Day and have done so for decades.  Last year I kind of stumbled the whole length of the ten miles.  This year will be ‘mo better, as we say in Hawaii.

I have two Bowflex machines in my garage.  One I have had for a couple of years…kind of a weight lifting thing. The other is new this year…kind of a arms and legs stair climbing thing.  I have to admit, Bowflex makes one of the best clothes drying things ever…cause that is all I have ever used either one of those machines for…hanging my wet clothes on them to dry.  I tried the stair climbing thing just once.  The video said it would get me in shape in 14 minutes a day.  Sounded pretty reasonable.  I lasted four minutes.  After that…clothes dryer.

So…I have now mixed in some mild weigh lifting and some stretching.  I have not missed a day in a month.  I am dedicated to getting back into some kind of shape…improving my cardio, adding a bit of muscle, adding to my energy level, fighting back against the diabetes that is lurking…in other words…not giving up and going to give it a big effort.  I still have lots of hiking and surfing and swimming I want to do…and I want to be able to do it.

And yes…I do plan to remove the clothes from my Bowflex machines and see if they can actually help me.

There are two mighty enemies that I must manage or conquer.  The first is the inertia that keeps a body at rest…at rest.  I think I have that one covered and I am off my butt and doing something positive…counting that as a win for now.  The second is injury.  I recall calling an old friend of mine…a guy who had been the President of Allstate…and an old marathoning buddy.  He has always been a great athlete…skier, runner, tennis player…you name it…and a disciplined guy.  However, he, like me, got old…he is about my age.  I asked him in his retirement if he was still running.  His answer…”Yes…between injuries.”

So far, I have started back up slow enough to avoid injury in these first couple of months.  Will that last…I am sure it will not.  I have always been the kind of fool that thinks “If I can lift 200 pounds…wonder if I can do 210?”  Turns out I can…part way…and then something breaks or hurts or otherwise tells me I have gone too far.  Usually followed by months of recovery…which leads to inertia…which puts me right back where I started.  So…I am going to try to avoid that reoccurring nightmare this time around…go slow…build up slowly and not try to go too hardcore…just enough to keep fit and enough to let me do the things I love to do.

How about you?  No one is looking and you need not reply in writing or verbally…just asking you…have you let yourself go to hell physically?  Are you now officially a couch potato?  Have you given up because you are now old?  No shame in it…it happens.  So this is a challenge…for you to get active again or to stay active for the rest of your life.  Retirement is great…if you can stay mobile…and staying mobile is hard work.  Good luck in your efforts.  You can do it…and so can I.









  1. Anita Bourke on November 30, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Don – Love your blogs. The physical challenge of growing older is considerable but you’ve got it right – Keep moving. I waited to retire until 70 and now one year later I am enjoying it immensely – But all that could change tomorrow. Health is a tenuous thing as we both know. I have become more active now than when I was working. I watched both my parents “retire from life” both physically and mentally and the effect it had on them. This made me realize how important staying active is. I have invested in a trainer three days a week to keep my strength and balance. I am dancing one or more times a week and practicing for a Cha Cha performance in two weeks (yikes!). To my amazement I finished a 200+ mile bike trip from Venice to Croatia with an energetic group of friends who encouraged me all along the way. You are right to be concerned about injuries as you are returning to an active life. I had not ridden a bike since I was a kid. I trained to strengthen my legs for the trip and rode a number of 10, 15, 25 mile rides before the trip. Finished without injury through focus and not exceeding my abilities. You are always an inspiration to me. You have given me the courage to eventually try new adventures after watching all you have accomplished – Wishing you many more years of fun and adventure!

    • Don Hurzeler on November 30, 2018 at 11:49 am

      You have always been a gutsy person. Going out with us on the lava boat when it was very active out there…not everyone would do that. Proud of you always. Come see us again when you can. Aloha.