Picturing yourself 20, 30 or 40 years from now will make you save more for retirement and it may also help you adopt other healthy habits.

When I returned from Mount Rainer, it was clear that my body needed a break. Even with the use of custom orthotics, running on pavement every day took it’s toll on my knees. Surgery was inevitable if I kept running.

One day I was flipping through fitness magazines at my favorite book store for inspiration and luckily saw the picture of an 80 year old speed walker. She looked fantastic – not fantastic for an 80 year old – fantastic enough to inspire me to try speed walking as a sport. I found a speed walking group in the area to join for a walk.

Long story short, speed walking is harder than it looks. I walk fast and have the potential to walk even faster if I put the effort into learning the technique – but for what? I was still fantasizing about going to the Olympics but quickly realized after the first group walk that the Olympics were in my rearview mirror. I was more interested in the health benefits of walking anyway rather than competing. So I started walking on my own and discovered that I loved it even more than running.

It might be hard to believe especially for those addicted to the runner’s high, but walking is refreshing. Similar to yoga, it provides the opportunity to slow your mind down, tune into your breath and collect your thoughts for the day ahead or to unwind after a long day. The big plus is that it doesn’t hurt your knees even if you walk fast.

My whole attitude towards fitness changed just from seeing that picture. It was no longer about feeling the burn, lifting my bottom, sculpting my abs but rather conditioning and preserving my body. Without ever really saying it, longevity became my goal. I wanted the energy and mobility needed to enjoy every minute of life right up to the end. All the other benefits of working out are a plus and what I like to refer to as the nice side affects.

I’m often trying new workouts and activities but every week I cover the basis needed to maintain my health. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your life too, here’s what you need to do:

Cardio: Most days I start or end my day with a 60 minute walk which puts me over the recommended 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week [or 75 minutes of intense cardio]. Plus riding on the weekend puts me way over the minimum. A typical ride in the Bay Area is like doing 4 spin classes.

Strength: On average I do Pilates 3 times per week to meet the recommended 60 minutes of strength training per week. Pilates [aka: controlology] is my favorite for strength and flexibility. It’s very form focused which is likely why I’ve never been injured while doing it. Close seconds are Redcord, Barre, TRX and strength training. Mixing it up a bit never hurts if you invest enough time to learn the proper form.

Flexibility: My pilates practice is enough to cover the recommended 20 minutes per week but my body usually needs more. Aging and sitting is definitely not making me more flexible. I need to start stretching and rolling more. 

Inner Peace: There is no recommended minimum but there are studies now supporting the mental health benefits of yoga, Ti Chi and Qigong. Yoga was another activity that I took up after Rainer to rebalance my body and life. And did it ever pay off during the darkest days of the dot com bust and the recession that followed. I always left the classes feeling supported and at peace with the day. The right teacher, the right group and the right type of practice can make all the difference.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to keep the picture that inspired me. I’m guessing she may have inspired others because there are so many more pictures of people who have aged well. Do a google search and pick an image that resonates with your vision of your future self or browse the magazines at your favorite book store.

Join us on Hello Workout for help covering the weekly minimum requirements for good health, advice from professionals and other tips to help you get the most out of your life.

~S