The Secrets of an Aging Athlete

Bestselling author and fitness guru Brad Kearns joins Get-Fit Guy, Brock Armstrong, to explain how we can stay fit now, and well into the future.  

Brock Armstrong
4-minute read
Episode #425

What do we mean when we talk about aging gracefully? I mean, most of us have a basic vision of it, but how do you achieve that exactly?

To some people, it simply means making sure that our final years are good ones. For others, it means avoiding health issues like dementia, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, or basic immobility. For me, it means maintaining a basic level of fitness that allows me to continue to do the activities I love for as long as possible. And that means being aware of where mobility deficiencies are starting to creep in and, like a game of mobility whack-a-mole, swat them as they appear. It also means that I will never allow the thought "Well, I am X years old now, so what do I expect?" to win.

It also means that I will never allow the thought "Well, I am X years old now, so what do I expect?" to win.

To discuss this idea of aging graceful in more detail, I asked my friend Brad Kearns to join me on the Get-Fit Guy podcast. Brad has managed to stay fit enough to recently set a Speedgolfing World Record some 20+ years after he retired from being a professional triathlete. 

Brad Kearns

Brad Kearns is The New York Times bestselling co-author of The Keto Reset Diet, host of the Get Over Yourself podcast, the Primal Endurance podcast, the weekly keto show on the Primal Blueprint podcast, and the Primal Blueprint online multimedia courses. He is currently a top-20 world ranked and Guinness World Record setting professional Speedgolfer, a former US national champion, and #3 world-ranked professional triathlete. He is 53-years-old and obviously still at the top of his game.

To get the full story from Brad himself, you'll need to listen to the podcast but in a nutshell, we start the conversation by discussing his life as a professional triathlete. It consisted of a lot of sleep and recovery time between each workout (and not much else). In fact, recovery played a bigger role in his life than almost anything else. He would have a custom smoothie and a nap after a hard workout, not rush off to a day job. “I was asleep for half of my life when I was a professional athlete.” And because he wasn't rushing off to a 9-to-5 every day, he experienced lower amounts of stress than a "weekend warrior."

Cut to 25 years later and Brad is still in amazing shape. How does he do it? Here are his 4 essential tips to maintain your fitness and allow you to continue to perform at your best as you age:

Tip #1: Emphasize recovery instead of volume, or quality.

  • Recovery was a focus to get an advantage in his sport but now it is a focus to stay healthy and reap the benefits of his workouts.
  • Stress creates fitness - if you recover properly. Fitness is built through a combination of stress and rest. The key component being that you must recover properly, rather than just constantly adding more stress (whether that is life stress, work stress, or physically taxing workouts).

Check out Supercompensation: Why a Break in Your Training Is Necessary

Tip #2: Short and frequent workouts instead of long and infrequent.

  • Endurance sports are not aligned with good health especially as we age.
  • Brad's big picture is to have a more broad-based fitness now than when he was simply a triathlete. Instead of simply being good at swimming, cycling, and running quickly in a mostly straight line, he is focussing on being a well rounded mover, lifter, and shaker.
  • Polarized Training is key: which means he is either jogging slowly or really going hard.
  • Avoid the “kinda hard” effort level. 

Check out Can You Run Faster by Training Slower?

Tip #3: Listen to your body.

  • Brad thinks it is important to cultivate an intuitive approach to your fitness goals. For example, if you've been pushing your workouts hard all week, your instinct may be to continue on with the good streak. However, your intuition may remind you that recovery is also important. In the end, your body will tell you if it's ready to keep going or needs a rest.
  • Suppress the demands of your ego to crush every workout every day.
  • "You can tell when you are ready to 'blast some sprints' and when you don’t. It's OK to take a rest."

Check out How to Use an RPE Scale and Unplug Your Workout and 6 Reasons Recovery is Essential to Your Exercise Routine

Tip #4: Focus on creating a varied and active lifestyle, instead of rote and regimented workouts.

  • Live a high movement, active lifestyle.
  • There is a desperate need for more general daily movement.
  • Cultivate the mindset of being someone who is more active throughout the day.
  • When it is time to go hard, go hard - and then go home.
  • Watch the video of Brad Kearns Morning Routine
  • Don’t be an “active couch potato.” This is someone who completes a hard workout for 30-90 minutes but then uses that as an excuse to be sedentary for the other 23 hours of the day.

Check out The Easiest Way to Get Fit? 'Incidental Movement' is Key

For more aged info, fit at fifty tips, and to join the over the hill conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy, twitter.com/getfitguy or BrockArmstrong.com.

Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.

Photo courtesy of Brad Kearns.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.