Me, my Dad, Stein Hoff, and my bother Martin, on our boat “Red Admiral” in the Atlantic, when I was 6 years old. My Dad was 34.
How to be healthy and fit at 70 - from someone who knows : my Dad
I’ve always said that if you are going to take advice from someone on a subject – you really should choose a person who has a proven track record in the field.
It’s like getting a personal trainer because you want to get fit and lose weight – you don’t want someone who is a bit soft and squidgy around the edges – you want a lean, mean, hunky machine right!!?? You want someone who actually demonstrates the reality of what you want to accomplish.
So having just got back from New York where I spent 6 days supporting my Dad, Stein Hoff, prepare for his Solo Atlantic Row Challenge from New York to the Isles of Scilly at the grand age of 70 years old, I thought it might make an interesting blog subject.
The fact is that most men my Dad’s age are not going to be able to sit in a boat and row for a day, yet alone weeks on end. My Dad’s rowing challenge is going to take anywhere between 90-120 days covering around 3000 nautical miles of sea. He has done it before, In 2002, he rowed from Portugal to Guyana in South America, and is on record as the first person to row solo from mainland to mainland across the Atlantic. Now he is attempting a record to be the oldest man to ever do an Atlantic crossing – but this time he is rowing the northern route, which is colder and more dangerous. Dad is also replicating the same feat completed by two Norwegians exactly 100 years ago. He left New York on Sunday the 15th of May 2016, and if all goes well his trip will take him through to end of August/early September before he hits land on the other side. Fingers crossed!!
But the challenge aside – the reason he is able to do this, is because he has his health. He has done what so many people want to do, but don’t manage, and that is to still be in tip top shape and healthy at an older age.
So what is he doing that means he still has an almost identical physique to 30 years ago?
1. Exercise. Our bodies are designed to move. Use it or lose it. You’ve heard it before I’m sure. But there is no way around this. You need to move your body every day. My dad works out 6 days a week for at least an hour every time – cardio and weights. As we get older we need to train the heart, but we also need to use weights to keep up the muscle mass. To keep properly fit you also need to continue to push your body out of it’s comfort zone. It needs to be pushed to repair and build and keep strong.
2. Nutrition. Three balanced nutritious meals a day. My Dad only eats at meal times. He does not snack. He hardly touches processed food and red meat. He eats a very low sugar diet. For breakfast he will have a non-sweetened muesli mixed with banana and berries. He has this with water. He does not drink milk due to the fact that it increases the mucus production in the body and he has had sinus problems in the past. That disappeared when he gave up milk. If he is still hungry he will have a slice of toast or two with cheese and cucumber, or mackerel in tomato sauce (he is Norwegian after all!) or some other mostly savoury topping. He will have black tea or herbal tea of some kind. He also does not drink coffee.
For lunch he has a few sandwiches – always on brown bread, the darker the better, always with an olive oil type spread (never butter) and he usually has savoury fillings – cheese, hummus, tomato, cucumber, sprouts….maybe some salad with it, sometimes some fruit to finish.
For dinner he will always have a salad on the side and a white meat, fish mostly, occasionally chicken and some potatoes or rice and vegetables. Often a creme fraiche (low fat) sauce or pesto. After dinner he often has a few crackers (oat cakes, or rye crisp-bread) and cheese (blue cheese, white cheese or Norwegian brown cheese) and some nuts and dried fruit with a cup of tea. He eats dinner at around 6pm – so the meal has lots of time to digest before bed time. If he stays up late, he will sometimes have another cup of tea with a banana and some nuts or a slice of bread.
3. Water is his dominant drink. He also drinks a lot of black unsweetened tea. No added sweeteners or milk. My Dad does not drink any sugary or diet drinks or pop of any kind. He rarely drinks fruit juice, he might sometimes have a small glass of orange juice.
4. Limited alcohol. Dad has a few glasses of wine with dinner a few times a week. That is it. He does not go to the pub, and does not drink alcohol on an empty stomach. (But he still manages to have a good time! And a little additional thing to consider: alcohol is often used as an escape tool when we are not doing what we want to do)
5. Follow your dreams. My Dad is someone who is a doer – he follows his heart and does what he wants to do. He has realised his ambitions whether it is to sail around the world, complete Marathon Des Sables, or row across the Atlantic. He is also an optimist – he stays positive and has learnt to not listen to other’s negative comments – or the doubts that we all sometimes have arising in our own heads….
6. Have a supporter. We all need love and support. My Mom has always been there for my Dad, she is his best friend and confidant and has always backed him in doing what he want to do because she knows that we all need to fulfil our ambitions, or at least give them a go, to be truly happy. And she is fit and healthy too.
7. My Dad has heathy habits. We need to create habits that support health. As humans we are habitual creatures. We get used to what we do every day. So to be healthy we need to create the habits that will support health. If you go to the pub every evening, that habit could be replaced with going to the gym every evening. After a month it becomes easy to do, and you will have built a new social circle around that habit. What you do every day is what matters – what you do once a month as a treat and reward does not. Every now and again I see my Dad having that extra piece of cake or another glass of wine – but he only does it occasionally.
That’s it! Until next time – I hope it’s inspired you in some way. If you were looking for a quick fix it’s not good news it is – I’m not sure there are any. Personally – I’m going to up my exercise and work on cutting down on the snacks…
My Father rowing past The Statue of Liberty when leaving New York on the 15th of May to start his Solo Atlantic Challenge.
If you are interested in following my hif Atlantic Rowing Challenge you can check out his Facebook page:
and you can also track his progress on The Ocean Rowing Society’s website here: www.oceanrowing.com