Your Retirement Fitness Plan: As Important as Your Financial Plan
The aging process affects us all. It is important to stay active and healthy to be able to enjoy the life you’ve worked hard to achieve. Staying strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you is a process, and one that takes some planning.
It is a fact of life that, as we age, our bodies lose muscle mass, our vision gets poorer, medications can cause fatigue, and our balance worsens. This can lead to falling, which is the most common cause of injury in people age 65 and older. It is, however, possible to slow down this natural trajectory. Research shows that regular exercise is the key.
Exercise can help fight some of the most common ailments associated with aging, including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and hip fractures (from falling). For example, fitness professional Kelvin Thomas, of Studio 373 Health & Fitness, shared with us the way he has helped his clients to grow stronger and more able to enjoy life. Rather than setting fitness goals, Thomas suggests developing a “Fitness System” as a better way to stay on track. The basic premise for this idea is that small, actionable—but not overwhelming—steps can help you generate a lot of daily “small wins.” Daily wins provide momentum and inspire you to continue striving to attain your larger objectives.
We’re much more likely to succeed in changing our habits when we use systems instead of goals. While goals can be somewhat constrictive or single-focused, systems allow us to celebrate small daily wins e.g., a whole day without sugar, eating 5 servings of vegetables a day, or going to the gym for “leg day” and having sore quads.
Here are some of the key reasons Thomas prefers systems over goals:
- Goals can reduce your ability to be happy.
When you’re working towards a goal, such as losing a specific number of pounds, you are essentially saying to yourself that you’re somehow not good enough, and you must lose a certain number of pounds to feel happy. Instead of that single focus of the goal, commit to a system of showing up every day, or just three times a week—things that are 100% in your control.
- Goals can be at odds with long-term progress.
When you’ve achieved your goal, e.g., when you’ve lost those 10 pounds, then what? Most people revert to what they were doing before, put the weight back on, and then decide they need to lose weight again. Wouldn’t it be easier to just focus on eating healthy meals and moderately exercising, rather than chasing some number on the scale? With a daily system you will be able to lose weight without obsessing or even thinking about it. As with the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.
- Goals suggest that you can control things over which you have little or no control.
When it comes to weight loss, most people underestimate how long it will take to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. Midway through a diet, they begin to make choices that sabotage their original goal. This leads to frustration and burn out, and they end up hating the process…so they quit. It makes far more sense to focus on eating healthier every day and exercising for the long term.
Think about systems as “micro-habits.” For example, a poor fitness micro-habit statement might be, “Eating heavy lunches make me feel tired and drain my energy.” Instead, put the focus on a healthy daily micro-habit, e.g., “To combat my urge to eat a bacon cheeseburger when I go out for lunch, I’ll make it a habit of ordering an lighter-appetizer and a salad.”
Thomas urges you to fall in love with a system. While goals might be motivating in the short-term, they’re just that—short-term.
If you’re planning to live a fulfilling retirement, regular exercise is crucial. It doesn’t matter if your objective is to join the growing number of retirees running marathons and triathlons, or simply to walk around the block. The important thing is to stay active and develop systems and micro-habits that you can follow regularly. We’re not doctors, but we suggest that you make your health as big a retirement priority as your financial plan.
Viridian is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with clients across the United States. Viridian offers financial planning, investment management, and tax services (through its sister company, Viridian Tax and Accounting).
Kelvin Thomas is a Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor with his own facility, Studio 373 Health & Fitness in Mukilteo, WA. This article was co-written with Shannon McCarty, Viridian’s Director of Marketing.