Fit to Last

The big picture

Laird Hamilton

Lasting fitness depends on more than weights, running, and a sensible diet    Photo: Kurt Markus

EXERCISE PLANS TEND TO BE conspicuously lopsided. When I cavalierly leapt into my fit-a-thon a few years ago, I saw only one thing: me, ripped, on a board, cutting frontside arcs on a four-foot North Atlantic swell. Rest was for sissies. Don't even get me started on yoga.

I'm different now. Enlightened. My Shape of Your Life odyssey revealed nothing if not the understanding that lasting fitness and a resilient, balanced musculature depend on more than weights, running, and a sensible diet. Of equal if not greater import are mindfulness and flexibility. We delve fully into flexibility by way of yoga during the third month. Why yoga? Not only has it gone mainstream—15 million Americans, including the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, now practice yoga, up from six million eight years ago—but an expanding body of research touts the importance of the mind-body connection.

"People probably have a genetic set point for flexibility," says Ed Laskowski, codirector of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. But that set point may be unrealized by some. Laskowski recently led a study that found the range of motion among those who suffered from chronically tight muscles changed significantly under anesthesia. "It might not be the muscles which are tight, but something about the nerves energizing the muscles," says Laskowski. "If people learned how to relax mentally, that might improve their flexibility."

This is where we come in. In the first month, The Shape of Your Life introduces traditional, one-minute postworkout static stretches to aid your recovery. During month three, we'll add dynamic power-yoga movements to help increase your core strength and flexibility, and—perhaps the most enduring asset of yoga—fine-tune your ability to monitor and adjust mental and muscular tension.

The final two months of the program are devoted to speed and power, balance and agility. We'll max out the intensity during the fourth month, then turn you on to some multipurpose dexterity training during the concluding four weeks.

And there you have it: endurance, strength, flexibility, speed and power, balance and agility—the building blocks for The Shape of Your Life. Mix in a few cups of nutrition, sprinkle on some motivational tips, add a dash of how-to, and serve on a bed of fun and adventure.

Had I known all this three years ago, who knows what I might have checked off my wish list by now. A surfing safari in Indonesia? Climbing Mount Rainier? Mountain biking across Chile? (We can all dream.) Hell, I might even have my original wedding ring. Which leads me to my final admonition: Look forward, not back. Put our plan in motion and see it through to the end. When you've reached that end, head out on the grandest adventure you can dream up. I can assure you of one thing: You'll be ready for it.

From Outside Magazine, May 2002 Get the Latest Issue

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