In the end, if you're still just there, doing it, you win.
In the end, if you're still just there, doing it, you win. (Peggy Sirota)

Assets Management

Think of fitness like your portfolio: don’t let short-term thinking limit long-term gains.

In the end, if you're still just there, doing it, you win.
Peggy Sirota

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No matter your age, we've developed a balanced investment strategy to help you achieve the shape of your life—and maintain it for years to come.

The Payoff

Neither rain nor sleet: Lab Rat Nick Heil working out near his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Neither rain nor sleet: Lab Rat Nick Heil working out near his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Tom Fowlks)

Train with purpose, pack your calendar with challenging events, and something remarkable happens: Fitness ceases to be a chore and becomes part of your life. —By Nick Heil

My arms and legs were tingling, and black vines were creeping into my peripheral vision. When I felt certain I was going to projectile-vomit on the monitor in front of me, I hopped my feet to the sides of the whirring treadmill and collapsed against the rail.

“Dark in there, isn't it?” said Neal Henderson, sports-science manager at Colorado's Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Henderson was alluding to one of his favorite metaphors, the pain cave, from which I had just emerged after my seven-minute VO2-max test. “That was good work,” he continued, leaning forward to study the data displayed onscreen. “I think this is going to be a great result.”

It was a cold, snowy day in January, and I'd returned to BCSM after five months of formal training to see what kind of progress I'd made. Henderson, a former nationally ranked triathlete and currently a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist, had been coaching me since September via daily e-mail prescriptions of running, cycling, weight lifting, and rest. (The latter, at times, seemed the only facet of my workouts at which I truly excelled.)

But even while micromanaging my day-to-day training, I knew the real secret to long-term fitness lay elsewhere: the calendar. Mine was currently marked with a series of events, starting in February with the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon a punishing 40-plus-mile multisport race that involves cycling, running, skiing, and, finally, snowshoeing nearly 5,000 vertical feet to the 11,301-foot peak near Grants, New Mexico, then reversing the stages all the way back. Next was March's Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race in Colorado, from Crested Butte to Aspen. Then in April I was heading off to Mount Everest, where I intended to climb to the North Col, elevation 23,000 feet, more than 5,000 feet higher than I'd ever been before.

It was an anxiety-inducing schedule, to say the least, exacerbated by the fact that I'd turned 40 and had spent many recent nights lying in bed, fingers laced behind my head, pondering some of life's deepest questions. Was I too old to date Scarlett Johansson? Should I abandon my dream of playing professional soccer in England? Was it still cool to wear my sleeveless Black Sabbath/Blue Oyster Cult World Tour '80 T-shirt?

Statistically, turning 40 plunked me almost squarely in the middle of the average American male life span, and the research I'd seen on this turning point was mildly troubling: Resting metabolic rate slows down, weight goes up, shiny sports cars appear in the garage. I kept thinking of that old Chinese proverb, “The sun at noon is the sun declining.” But, athletically, had I really reached high noon?

I mentioned my concerns to Henderson, but he was more circumspect. “A lot of available data represents the way things are, not the way things necessarily need to be,” he said. “Think of training like a savings account with compounding interest. The difference is that, with your body, when you stop investing, you also start automatic withdrawal.”

This process, called “detraining,” affects the lifelong ebb and flow of fitness. The bad news is that at any age, you detrain, or lose fitness, about twice as fast as you gain it i.e., it takes two weeks on to make up for one week off. The good news, however, is that fitness gains can continue well into your seventies and beyond and the sooner you start investing in your body, the bigger the dividends you can expect. Henderson showed me data on a 70-year-old runner who'd seen a whopping 20 percent improvement in his lactate threshold after about six months of training. So if forever young wasn't in the cards, maybe forever fit was within reason.

The results from my own recent BCSM test were frustratingly ambiguous. Since my initial test in September, my VO2 max (a measurement of the oxygen your muscles can process) had climbed from 50.1 in September to nearly 54 in January a respectable gain. But my LT, or lactate threshold the point where your muscles produce lactic acid faster than they can process it, and perhaps the best indicator of endurance was identical, right down to the decimal point. This wasn't entirely surprising. My training had been fraught with setbacks, including a shoulder injury during a December ski trip that had knocked me out of doing much of anything for nearly a month. As Henderson and I looked over my data, I wondered aloud if my VO2-max result was just an aberration, an example of mind over matter and thus less promising than it appeared, but he was reassuring. “You have to be either more capable of suffering or more willing to suffer,” he said. “Both will benefit performance, and either way you've gained.”

I hadn't followed a training program this seriously since I'd played college soccer, but I realized that things had changed a bit in the past 20 years namely, I'd gotten a life, as most of us do, and it had an annoying tendency to get in the way of my workouts. Travel, deadlines, friends, family, injury, illness, a weekend watching HBO's Sopranos-a-thon each had threatened to derail my aerobic and strength improvements. The key, I learned, was to not let short-term downs derail long-term ups. “Consistency is everything,” Henderson told me. “My athletes that put in the daily work over several years are the ones who see the best improvements.”

I was particularly bummed when, a few days before the Mt. Taylor Quad, I caught a nasty bug that not only put me out of the race but floored me for days, like a right hook from Wladimir Klitschko. By the time I was back on my feet and training again, I'd lost three weeks and was starting to panic about the fast-approaching Grand Traverse. I'd participated in this event five years earlier, crossing some of the burliest terrain in the Rockies, and it had taken me a humbling 13 hours.

By the time my 33-year-old teammate and I lined up at the start (you're required to race in pairs), I wondered if my time in the pain cave at BCSM and during my workouts since had paid off. It's not like I expected to win the thing, since the field included some highly accomplished endurance athletes, but I was keen to see if I could improve on my previous time when I had trained more but arguably not as well. In a way, this drilled to the core of what lifelong fitness meant to me: It was less about vanquishing my opponents (though that's always nice) and more an internal competition to see if I could identify a goal and then do what it took to get there. Me vs. me.

Starting at midnight, we skied through the night with 240 other racers, over 12,000-foot passes, in blowing snow, heads bowed into a fierce and frigid gale. Whenever I could manage, I'd sip an electrolyte beverage and gag down a packet of energy gel. I thought of what Henderson told me after I had bailed from the Mt. Taylor Quad: “The hallmark of a lifelong athlete is not his ability to focus but to refocus.”

By the time we were swooping down Aspen Mountain toward the finish line, I was exhausted to the soles of my blistered feet, but I felt great, as fit and powerful as I'd ever been. Better yet, I knew we'd skied a smart, strong race. When we skidded to a stop in front of the cheering throng at the base, an official handed us a card with our time: 12:41 44th place and 20 minutes faster than our previous best, through some of the toughest conditions in the event's ten-year history. The winners, Stephen White and Mike Kloser, had finished in an astonishing 8:46. Their ages: 39 and 47, respectively.

Athlete, coach: Chris Carmichael on a training ride in Buellton, California.
Athlete, coach: Chris Carmichael on a training ride in Buellton, California. (Tom Fowlks)

The Forever Workout

Build whole-body strength and prevent joint injury—lifelong goals for athletes at any level—with this no-excuses training program. —By Chris Carmichael

Understand one thing right now: Your body needs your attention. Despite what the infomercials say, not even hair is replaceable, so no matter your age, your long-term fitness plan had better start today. There are three keys to keeping your system working— and winning— for decades: (1) Protect your joints, (2) maintain muscle mass, and (3) accomplish numbers one and two with a realistic training program— like the one I've devised here —that jibes with your busy life.

Why focus on joints? Where you bend is where you break. Your hinges are your body's Achilles' heel: When allowed to weaken, they become unstable and susceptible to an injury that will leave you unable to train hard and stay active. That in turn causes you to lose the lean muscle mass that keeps your metabolism high and the midlife pudge in check. And becoming overweight and out of shape leads to bad habits that cause your fitness to slide even after an injury heals. Maintain joint health and you'll prevent this vicious cycle from ever starting.To keep your hinges as strong as a vault's, you need a workout that simultaneously engages multiple parts of the anatomy. Biceps curls and calf raises are out, overhead presses and squats are in. Working several muscle groups at once means strengthening your connective tissue in the ways you actually move, which stabilizes and protects joints. At the same time, you fight off the natural lean-tissue loss that starts at around age 35. Core strength protects the complicated mechanics of your lumbar and pelvis, preventing lower-back pain, which is why crunches and planks are also included.

The following workout is intentionally low-tech, so you can do it at even a minimally equipped home gym. Two to three times a week, cycle through the full set of exercises, resting for 45 seconds between each, and then repeat the sequence. Go light for a week or two until your body adapts to the range of motion, then increase weight, using enough resistance to make the last rep of each exercise strenuous (but not impossible). As you get stronger, add resistance or time to the exercises so you keep progressing.

(Jason Lee)

1. Squat

What It Works: entire lower body, lower back, core 

Form: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and extend your arms for balance. Lower your hips, as if you're about to sit. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground, then rise back to standing. Keep your torso as vertical as possible throughout so you feel your weight centered over your heels, not over the balls of your feet. 10 reps 

Advanced: Add resistance with dumbbells, a barbell across your shoulders, or resistance cords.

(Jason Lee)

2. Shoulder Press

What It Works: shoulders, upper chest, triceps, back muscles, core 

Form: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with dumbbells in your hands. Raise hands to your shoulders, palms forward. Press hands straight up, pause, then lower to shoulders. 10 reps 

Tip: A standing shoulder press is better than a seated one, because you have to engage muscles from head to toe.

(Jason Lee)

3. Pull-Ups

What It Works: lats, back, shoulders, biceps, forearms 

Form: Grasp the bar, palms facing forward, with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart. Pull your body up until your chin clears the top. Lower yourself until your arms are straight, but don't lock your elbows. Aim for 10 reps, or as many as you can complete in one minute. 

Gym Option: You can substitute a lat pull-down for this exercise.

(Jason Lee)

4. Upright Row

What It Works: shoulders, back muscles that stabilize the spine, core 

Form: Use dumbbells, a resistance cord, or a barbell (hands close to the center of the bar). In all cases, your palms face inward. Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent. Keeping your back straight, chest high, and head up, pull up with both hands simultaneously. Keep hands close to your body and elbows high as you bring your hands to mid-chest. Lower your hands back down. 10 reps

(Jason Lee)

5. Reverse Lunge

What It Works: hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, hip stabilizers, lower back 

Form: Standing with feet together, step back with your left foot and drop your hips until your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and positioned above your right ankle. To reverse, push off with your left foot and drive with your right leg. 10 reps, then switch legs and repeat 

Advanced: Hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders.

(Jason Lee)

6. Twisting Crunch

What It Works: Obliques and transverse abdominal muscles 

Form: Start by lying on your back with your knees raised and your hands behind your neck. Crunch your left elbow toward your right knee, bringing them together over the center of your body. Return to the starting position and repeat with your right elbow toward your left knee. Alternate nonstop for one minute.

(Jason Lee)

7. Plank (Side and Prone)

What It Works: Your entire core and lower back 

Form: Lie on your left side, with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up on your left forearm so your elbow is directly under your shoulder. Lift your hips off the floor so you create a straight line running from your right shoulder to your right ankle. Alternate sides. Prone version: Start by lying on your stomach. Support your upper body with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground. Hold your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold each position for 30 seconds to a minute. 

Advanced: Use your hand(s) for support. This also works your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Carmichael Training Systems founder Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong's former coach.

Cardio, Simplified

Man cannot stay fit on muscles alone. You need endurance, too. Keep your heart and lungs in top shape by doing two interval-training sessions and one moderately paced endurance workout each week. This all-purpose plan is designed for running, cycling, swimming, or any cardio activity.

Interval Sessions (twice a week): During a 45-to-75-minute workout, complete two to three intervals of 10 to 15 minutes each. Perform intervals at the highest pace you can hold for the entire time (about a 7 or 8 on a 1-to-10 scale), which should put you right at or just under your lactate threshold. Intervals of this length build all-purpose stamina. Rest 10 to 15 minutes between intervals. 

Endurance Session (once a week): For one to three hours, maintain a pace that’s challenging but not so fast that you have to slow down by the end—about a 6 or 7 on a 1-to-10 scale or 60–80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

“We start going downhill as soon as we stop taking risks,” says Hamilton, shown here paddleboarding near Malibu.
“We start going downhill as soon as we stop taking risks,” says Hamilton, shown here paddleboarding near Malibu. (Peggy Strota)

Laird's Laws

Seventeen commandments from water god Laird Hamilton, who says fear is good, failure isn’t bad, and you should treat your body like a truck, not a temple. —As told to Michael Roberts

  1. I base everything on how I feel. You can tell me, if you're 43 years old and six foot this, that's going to do that to you, this will do this but your body is the best instrument for reading how things affect you.
  2. You want strength that you can actually control and apply. When you sit down on an exercise machine, with your back against a chair, you tend to shut down the rest of your body. When you stand up and your body has to hold a position to actually support the weight, you'll have a hard time. So you need to incorporate other elements. I'll do machines where I hold my legs up, or stretch while I'm on them, or add leg lifts while I'm doing presses.
  3. It's really about keeping in shape for life. Think about your body like a car. Once you park a car, it might not start again. But if you just keep driving it, it'll keep going. It likes to be driven.
  4. If it's potato chips in, it's potato chips out. You eat garbage, you're probably going to perform like garbage.
  5. Vacation is an opportunity to get in a good routine. It's like mini boot camp. I just got back from a heli-snowboarding trip in Alaska. I'd been wanting to work on my legs, so I go up there and board all day for 12 days. If we didn't get enough, we'd chop firewood or take hikes in deep snow. I come out of that and my legs feel strong.
  6. This is something I'm trying to learn: how to rest. Going full steam ahead all the time is not always the most productive approach, because then you're always trying to play catch-up with recovery.
  7. You have to go and try different stuff. The thing is, when you reach a certain level in any sport, you become so efficient at it that the effort level is really diminished. Your body has adapted. So what are you getting? Snowboarding has helped my surfing. Windsurfing has helped my surfing. Biking, for sure, has helped my surfing.
  8. Above everything, sleep. I'm an eight-to-ten-hour guy. Not that I can't operate with less, but for my overall well-being, I gotta have at least eight.
  9. I like espresso. It's good stuff.
  10. I have friends who eat healthier than anybody, but it takes them all day. And if they don't have their sprouted bread, they go into a seizure. I can eat a Big Mac. I'm not going to love it, but it won't put me into toxic shock. It's like if a car is too high-performance, then it's sensitive to any kind of fuel. I like being more like a truck. If a little diesel gets in there, maybe a little water, it'll cough and burp a bit, but it's gonna get through it and keep running.
  11. Chew more. That'll probably do more for your ability to absorb nutrients from your food than just about anything.
  12. It's always more enjoyable to train with other people. It's going to be more stimulating, but it also pushes you because you have accountability. You can't just think, Oh, that was enough. Your partner will say, “That was only 29. I thought we were doing 30.”
  13. Fear is an unbelievable motivator, but it also makes people freeze in their tracks. Once you start to understand it, fear becomes something you can tap into. Fear comes from the understanding that you can die. It usually makes me make really good decisions and gives me power.
  14. If you aren't able to be scared, you either haven't been hurt or you're completely ignorant.
  15. We are each our own greatest inhibitor. People don't want to do new things if they think they're going to be bad at them or people are going to laugh at them. You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you've never done in order to be the best you can be.
  16. In the end, if you're still just there, doing it, you win.

Aqua Man: Pool pusher Marv Marinovich says his water workout lets you train harder and more frequently without injury.
Aqua Man: Pool pusher Marv Marinovich says his water workout lets you train harder and more frequently without injury. (Tom Fowlks)

Hydro Power

Explosiveness is key to every sport. Tap your inner dynamite with this revolutionary water workout. —By Roy M. Wallack

In the shallow end of a pool in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, former Stanford running back and current NFL free agent J.R. Lemon, 23, gasps for breath as he works out with aquatic dumbbells that look like wiffle balls with fins. Wearing matching widgets on his ankles, he thrashes his hands and feet back and forth so fast the water bubbles like a spa. Then, grabbing a thick elastic band tied to the pool ladder, Lemon leans back, loads his calves and quads, and explodes rearward before the taut band flings him back. When the 30-minute workout ends, Lemon is exhausted. “In the water, the harder you push, the harder it resists, yet I feel great—not beat up like with weights,” he says. “You can't push this hard in the gym—you'll get hurt. It's definitely helping my first step get faster. Just like Marv said it would.”

That would be Marv Marinovich, 67, a former Oakland Raiders conditioning coach who advocates explosive stop-start plyometric movements in lieu of conventional weight training. “Power isn't just strength, and it isn't just speed,” he says. “It's strength-speed—how quickly you can apply your force. It's what you need to change direction to avoid a tackle, to swerve away from an open car door when you're on your bike.” Marinovich's method exploits the principles of plyometrics: Stretching a muscle right before you contract it fires more bundles of muscles at once and capitalizes on elastic energy produced by tendons and ligaments, generating a higher jump or quicker cut than if you started from a static position. Proof that it works? Since Lemon began Marinovich's program last August, he's added four inches to his vertical leap.

Marinovich became an instant aqua convert last summer when he saw the water dumbbells made by Aqualogix. “I have seen nothing that facilitates my training methods like this,” he says. “Nothing else lets you do such real-world movements.” Translation: Dragged through the water, aqua-bells provide resistance in every direction. To help you reach your maximum potential, Marinovich has devised the ultimate high-performance, low-impact training plan. It builds strength, speed, agility, and power—while putting the least stress on your body. Perform each exercise in short, high-speed, back-and-forth bursts. Work until you can no longer maintain correct form, then shift quickly to the next exercise. Continue to cycle through as long as your form lasts. Do the program at least three times per week. And after you see the results, you'll have one more reason to put a pool in the backyard.

The Gear

  1. Aqualogix Bells ($59 per pair) and Fins ($49 per pair);
  2. Resistance band Inch-thick type found at any hardware store, $10
  3. AQx aquatic training shoes Water-specific shoes that protect soles, add grip, and have “gills” that add resistance. $80;
(Jason Lee)

1. Hip Flexion and Extension

What It Works: hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings 
Equipment: fins 
Form: With hands on the pool's edge, extend one knee up to your chest, then thrust the leg back and as high as you can, keeping it straight. Alternate legs. This addresses two of the most significant speed-stoppers in athletes: weak hip flexors and tight hamstrings.

(Jason Lee)

2. The Mermaid

What It Works: obliques, lower back 
Equipment: fins 
Form: Stand six inches from the edge of the pool in chest-high water. Hold the edge and put legs together as one unit (think mermaid). Then, bracing your hands, arms, and shoulders against the edge, swing your legs from side to side without pausing. Try to keep them parallel with the side of the pool, like windshield wipers. Swing legs as high and as fast as you can. To work the obliques at different angles, alternate between bent and straight knees.

(Jason Lee)

3. Short Kick

What It Works: lower abdominal muscles 
Equipment: fins 
Form: Stand on one foot and lift your other foot barely off the pool bottom by slightly bending your knee. Swing the free foot forward six inches and then behind you six inches. Keep it as low as possible without scraping bottom, and move it rapidly back and forth.

(Jason Lee)

4. Scissors

What It Works: groin, hip lateral movements 
Equipment: fins 
Form: Hang your body off the edge of the pool in water deep enough to keep your feet off the floor. Hold on with your hands, or place your arms on the edge, if that's more comfortable. Split your legs as wide as possible, as if doing a jumping jack, then quickly and powerfully bring them back toward the center and cross them, left leg in front of right. Next round, do the split, then cross right in front of left. As you alternate, put equal effort into the push-out and pull-in. Don't bend your knees.

(Jason Lee)

5. Torso Twist

What It Works: Obliques, hips, core 
Equipment: bells 
Form: In the shallow end, stand on the balls of your feet and bend your knees. Put your arms out to your sides, with hands just under the surface. Twist your trunk and head quickly to one side while moving the bells through the water. Twist in the opposite direction. Repeat.

(Jason Lee)

6. The Spring

What It Works: feet, ankles, calves,legs 
Equipment: bells, four-foot elastic band 
Form: For the vertical version (shown), stand straight up in chest-high water while holding the aqua-bells at your sides. Rise up on your toes. Slightly bend legs, then blast straight up like a rocket, with feet leaving the floor. Land back on your toes and blast off again and again. For the horizontal option, tie the band around the pool ladder in any depth of water. Hold on to the band with both hands a foot apart at waist level. Lean back with face up and put your feet against the pool's edge. Aggressively push off the wall with your toes, staying off your heels and midfoot altogether. Repeat.

(Jason Lee)

7. Crossover Fly

What It Works: arms, chest, shoulders 
Equipment: bells 
Form: Standing in the middle of the pool with water at chest level, hold the bells in each hand, with arms stretched horizontally at the sides and the bells just under the water's surface. Holding arms and elbows with a slight bend, sweep arms forward and cross them in front of your body. Then sweep them backwards quickly. On the backswing, push your wrists against the resistance and bend your elbows, which allows the shoulder blades to converge, giving you greater range of motion.

(Jason Lee)

8. The Prisoner

What It Works: wrists and hands 
Equipment: bells 
Form: Squat in the shallow end of the pool so the water is chest- to neck-deep. Hold an aqua-bell in each hand and place your hands in front of you at navel level, elbows firmly at your sides, bent 90 degrees. Your hands should be only an inch or two apart, like you're wearing handcuffs with one palm up and one down. Keeping your hands the same distance apart, elbows still at your sides, move hands as if tracing a sideways figure eight in the water, forming circles about the size of a volleyball. Your elbows should bend and open but not leave your sides. If moving two arms at once is difficult, work one at a time.

Strategic rest: Ned Overend takes a break near Durango, Colorado
Strategic rest: Ned Overend takes a break near Durango, Colorado (Tom Fowlks)

Aged to Perfection

Three athletes share their formulas for beating the pants off competitors half their age. —By Anne Sasso

Badass BikerNed Overend

With six USA Cycling Mountain Bike national championships, two Xterra triathlon world championships, and membership in both sports' halls of fame, Overend, 51, could retire on top. Instead, he's competing in slick-tire sufferfests like the Mount Evans and Mount Washington hill climbs. In 2006, he finished second in both races, putting the hurt on cyclists 30 years his junior.

Lesson Learned: When to back off. 
Training works like this: Stress your body, recover, come back stronger than before. Repeat. “You need the recovery before you can improve,” says Overend. “So knowing when to stop and knowing how long to recover are important.” To get it right, learn to read your body. If you fall apart on the last repeat of a set of hill climbs, it's a sign. “Stop, go home, and recover,” he says.

Secret Weapon: Cross training. 
Overend says nordic skiing (he won January's Durango Langlauf 30km nordic race), winter trail running, and other sports keep him fit, prevent burnout, and balance muscle groups to protect against sport-specific injuries.

Rapid King: Eric Jackson

A former Olympian and three-time world freestyle champion, Jackson, 43, literally rules the sport of whitewater kayaking. He's been a nationally ranked kayaker 18 years running.

Lesson Learned: Commitment.
Jackson paddles every day. “I never feel like I want to take the day off just because I want to take the day off,” he says. Translation: If you want to be the best, then it isn't enough to love a sport. You need to love doing everything it takes to get on top. That includes training on and off the water, and even traveling to and from competitions.

Secret Weapon: Fun.
Jackson says most people approach sports the wrong way by always focusing on the desired result: the win. “A competition is just to show off how hard you've been playing. If you're doing it every day for the fun factor, the events are just part of the deal. It takes the pressure off,” he says.

Multisport Mutant: Steve Ilg

Breathing machine: Multisport champ Steve Ilg outside Flagstaff, Arizona.
Breathing machine: Multisport champ Steve Ilg outside Flagstaff, Arizona. (Tom Fowlks)

From nordic skiing to road cycling to ultrarunning to rock climbing, Ilg has excelled at more sports than most people have tried. The 45-year-old, with partner Lisa Goldsmith, 42, won the Overall Pairs Division at February's grueling Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon (bike, run, ski, snowshoe) and beat all but one four-person team. His 2005 book Total Body Transformation delivers a detailed plan for integrating multiple training and lifestyle disciplines in one comprehensive program.

Lesson Learned: How to breathe.
No kidding. Breathing, says Ilg, fires up the body's “energetic pathways” and turbocharges your efforts. You need to lay a foundation of real fitness, but yoga and conscious breathing extend peak performance without taking a physical toll. “Enroll in a hatha yoga class,” advises Ilg. “Overcome your fear of the esoterically weird and learn to breathe.” There's nothing weird about Ilg's results.

Secret Weapon: Balanced strength.
Train your body's weakest part and you'll bring it into balance with the rest of your anatomy. Then watch your performance go to a new level.

Coach as counselor: Rick Crawford shares a low-stress moment with pro mountain biker Shonny Vanlandingham in Durango, Colorado.
Coach as counselor: Rick Crawford shares a low-stress moment with pro mountain biker Shonny Vanlandingham in Durango, Colorado. (Tom Fowlks)

Your Next Task: Relax

The mind-body connection is real—ignore it and your fitness will suffer. —By Nancy Coulter-Parker

It's a basic athletic law: What goes on in your head—and heart—is just as important as what happens in the gym. Which means stress in your life affects your athletic performance, and any training program worth following takes that hard truth into account. So says cycling coach Rick Crawford, who's made a believer out of pros like Discovery Channel Team rider Tom Danielson. Last year, Danielson, who credits Crawford's coaching for much of his success, placed first in the Tour of Austria and second in the Tour de Georgia.

Crawford's philosophy boils down to this: Stress, like physical exertion, requires treatment and recovery. “I try to understand what is going on in my athletes' lives,” says the former mentor to Lance Armstrong. “Is there a significant other draining the system? Are finances a problem?” The trick is putting a quantity on these things so you can make appropriate adjustments. Use the Stress Tracker formula below to apply Crawford's holistic system to your own training.

Stress Tracker

Numbers don't lie. Use this formula to find out if you're in the red or black when it comes to stress. The test, which pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer helped Crawford create, lets you keep tabs on daily ups and downs and account for them in your fitness program. Follow the guidelines below, and if you're in the hole after three weeks, Crawford says, “Use the fourth week to balance your credits and debits.”

The Ledger: Balance your training regimen just like your checkbook.

  1. On a calendar, mark each day of a three-week period with a Stress column and a Recovery column.
  2. Stress is the debit column and is broken into three categories: Physical (P), such as a workout; Mental (M), which could be something like prepping for a presentation; and Emotional (E), like that argument with your spouse.
  3. Recovery is the credit column and divides into: Sleep (S), how much, in hours; Rest (R), where watching TV counts; and Therapy (T), anything you find rejuvenating.
  4. Assign a numerical value between 1 (minimum) and 10 (maximum) to each category daily.
  5. Add up your daily totals at the end of the period. If you don't balance out, you need to recalibrate. Excess stress means you need more rest or therapy. A recovery overage is fine, but it means more work could be done.

A Typical Day

P5: Had an OK workout, nothing great
M7: Computer crashed; had to start over on that presentation
E8: Your girlfriend's still miffed that you forgot her birthday
Total: 20

S8: Slept long and well
R4: Caught The Daily Show before bed
T2: Took the dog for a walk after work
Total: 14

Daily Total: Excess Stress 6

The Wounded Workout

No, the best treatment for sports injuries does not involve your couch. Inactivity itself can be mentally and physically draining, says Laura Keller, director of rehabilitation at the Stone Clinic, in San Francisco, and the stimulation from exercise can actually speed healing. Here are Keller's tips for going from gimp to game. ——Megan Michelson

Injury: Torn ACL

Cardio: Use an upper-body bike or swim laps with a buoy between your thighs. 
Strength: Do single-leg squats at less than 90 degrees on your good side, crunches and sit-ups, or seated arm exercises.

Injury: Pulled Rotator Cuff

Cardio: Sit upright on a stationary bike, use an elliptical machine with the good arm, or hike. 
Strength: Do squats (no bar) and lunges or arm exercises, like lateral pulls, on the uninjured side.

Injury: Lower-Back Strain

Cardio: Ride a stationary bike, unloading your back by putting your hands on the seat and pushing up to stretch out your spine, or walk for 15 minutes (the time it usually takes for most lower-back pain to set in) twice a day. 
Strength: Try squats and walking laps in a swimming pool to relieve pressure on your lumbar. Or sit on a stability ball and perform triceps and biceps exercises. The ball will make you engage your core, which releases your back.

Injury: Sprained Ankle

Cardio: Use an upper-body bike or swim laps in a pool with a buoy between your knees. 
Strength: Put your legs on a gym ball and your hands on the floor and do push-ups, holding the plank position on the last one for one minute. Also, try arm workouts while sitting on the ball.

Injury: Tennis Elbow

Cardio: Hike, run, or walk. 
Strength: Dotriceps extensions and biceps curls on the injured arm, with a resistance band over your forearm, not free weights. Stick to your usual lower-body workout.

Eat your vegetables! Grocery guru Monique Ryan is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.
Eat your vegetables! Grocery guru Monique Ryan is the author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. (Tom Fowlks)

Fitness, Served

Peak performance starts with a smart diet. Here are five edible solutions for challenges every athlete will face. —By Monique Ryan

Problem: Loss of lean body mass. Starting around age 35, you naturally lose about 5 percent of your muscle mass every decade. If you don't prevent this loss of metabolically active tissue, you'll burn fewer calories and start putting on flab.
Solution: Do the Forever Workout and ensure you get the greatest benefit with proper nutritional support about 150 to 200 percent of the RDA for protein to maximize muscle building. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein the amount found in three to four ounces of turkey or three to four eggs a half-hour before resistance training. Another great source is whey protein powder, which is concentrated, convenient, and high in essential branched-chain amino acids. Add it to milk or yogurt for a good protein mix. (The carbohydrate found in milk and yogurt also elicits a response from muscle-building insulin.)

Problem: Poor recovery. To get stronger, your body must recoup properly between workouts, a process that naturally gets slower with age.
Solution: Refuel quickly and with the right foods. For recovery eating,you need carbohydrates, with protein playing a supporting role. The best mix is about half a gram of carbs per pound of body weight, and about 15 to 20 grams of protein. For a 165-pound man, these amounts are found in half a cup of granola and 12 ounces of yogurt or one high-protein energy bar and a glass of juice. Rehydrate at the rate of 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during exercise. Water and sports drinks are ideal; add brewed black or green tea during the day for an antioxidant boost.

Problem: Decreasing bone mass and strength.
Solution: Get adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. Consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (or up to 1,500 for women) of calcium daily, the amount in three to four cups of milk. If you don't like milk, other good calcium sources include yogurt, cheese, kale, bok choy, and broccoli. Calcium-fortified foods, like orange juice, also count. Most of us get enough vitamin D essential for calcium absorption from 20 minutes of sunlight. Spend all your daylight hours in the office? Get a new job! Or add the following to your diet: fatty fish (like salmon), egg yolk, vitamin D fortified dairy milk, soy milk, and cereals. Magnesium, which helps bone formation, is found in whole grains, avocados, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables (the latter are also a source of vitamin K, which is needed for bone strength).

Problem: Frequent illness, which limits your workout time.
Solution: Keep your immune system on high alert with colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds all excellent sources of antioxidants like vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids. Variety is key, but consume plenty of berries they're like little antioxidant bombs. Fresh produce also contains folic acid, which promotes heart health. Round out your disease-fighting diet with plenty of whole-grain varieties of rice, pasta, and bread, plus fiber-rich foods like beans and oatmeal.

Problem: Internal inflammation that could lead to chronic illness.
Solution: Consume healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the form found in fish and fish oil, effectively reduce or prevent internal inflammation. Aim for 1,500 milligrams daily, the amount in three ounces of salmon or one to two fish-oil pills. Other sources of omega-3's include canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and wheat germ. Extra-virgin olive oil also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Fast Food 

Six-time Hawaiian Ironman champion Ken Glah and his wife, Jan Wanklyn, herself a five-time Ironman champ, recommend this quick, nutritious recipe

Orzo Salad
2 cups orzo, cooked
6 chopped shallots
1 cup chopped red, green, and yellow bell peppers
1 cup chopped mushrooms
8 oz yellow corn
Add sun-dried tomatoes, chopped carrots, and raisins to taste; serve with chicken or salmon for a protein boost.

Two parts olive oil to one part soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
3 4 chopped garlic cloves
Juice of two lemons
Mix well.

Grocery List

A 2,600-calorie menu for a 165-pound man who exercises about an hour per day 

1 cup cooked oatmeal
1 cup fresh berries
8 oz dairy or soy milk
12 walnuts

4 oz turkey
2 slices whole-grain bread
3 slices avocado
1 cup lentil salad mix
1 large pear

Pre-Exercise Snacks 
2 scoops whey protein, mixed in water
1 medium granola bar
1 apple 

8 oz low-fat yogurt
1 banana 

6 oz salmon
1 large sweet potato
1 cup steamed asparagus
2 slices whole-grain bread
5 tsp olive oil

Smart Fixes

Be Consistent

  • Don't let short-term downs derail long-term ups. Put in the daily work over several years and you'll see the most improvement.
  • The hallmark of a lifelong athlete is not the ability to focus but to refocus.
  • Whatever the goal, the opponent never changes: It's you vs. you.

Find Your Balance

Complex communications among your muscles, joints, and brain keeps you balanced on a shifting scree field or rocky singletrack. That ability— to maintain balance in the most difficult conditions —is what separates great athletes from the merely good. To make the leap, add instability to your exercises.

  • Examples: Perform squats and lateral dumbbell flies on a wobble board and do lunges with your back foot on a stability ball

Train Early

Schedule training in the morning so that normal daily chaos—long meetings, family demands, traffic—won’t end your workout before it begins. Plus you’ll jump-start your metabolism, meaning you’ll burn more calories—even while sitting behind a desk—and feel better all day (and work more efficiently).

Flex Right

Forget everything you know about stretching. “It’s not necessary at all,” says Stacy Ingraham, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Minnesota who’s spent 16 years researching flexibility and its role in athletics. Ingraham’s work, published in 2003, shows that conventional stretching can potentially increase injury and hinder performance. Instead, she suggests “functional warm-ups” to increase your body’s range of motion. “When you go out to run,” Ingraham advises, “start slow and ease into a faster pace.” For more explosive sports, she prescribes dynamic movements, like butt kicks and high knees. “If you sit around all day and then try to go out and play basketball without warming up, you’re going to get hurt,” says Ingraham, “but standing around stretching will do nothing to warm up your body. You need to be moving.” —Gordy Megroz

Get a Partner

It’s the best way to push yourself. The perfect training companion is a friend who’s good-humored, disciplined, and competitive—and someone you hate losing to.

Train Your Brain

Need motivation? In recent studies, scientists have shown that aerobic exercise can cause the brain to grow new nerve cells. The research, published earlier this year, also suggests that physical exertion could help prevent memory decline and other cognitive disorders.

From Outside Magazine, Jun 2007 Lead Photo: Peggy Sirota

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