What key things can we do to remain fit and lively at this stage in our lives? Recently I interviewed Dr. Cathy Utzschneider to find out. Cathy is the founder of MOVE! (Motivate, Organize, Visualize, Excel), a coaching program with a specific achievement method and now also certifies others to teach the method. MOVE! is based on 7 years of doctoral research on goal achievement and excellence that has been used by beginners and Olympians alike. I myself have used the method for over twenty years to help me climb mountains—and to write a book about my life while doing them: 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains.
Here are 8 things Cathy recommends to reach your untapped potential:
Then choose a goal that reflects that dream. A helpful way to stretch the imagination is to mind map. Take a large piece of paper and in the center write the word “dream” and circle it. Then draw lines to other circled words, anything that comes to mind when you muse on your dreams.
One woman Cathy works with thought she wanted to do a Century bike ride (100 miles) but in the process of mind mapping, realized the thing that made her happiest was swimming because swimming made her feel close to her deceased father. Her goal then became a three-mile swim. It’s important, I’ve found, to choose something you really enjoy because often training isn’t fun but if you dream big (as I did,) that dream shimmering off in the future will keep you going, whether it’s a physical goal or career, family, or personal goal.
Break your dream goal into manageable pieces. I, for instance, having decided to hike the 48 mountains 4000 feet and higher in New Hampshire, used the MOVE! Model to set annual goals of so many peaks per year. Then I chunked these again into each specific hike. Cathy and I could then set up a training schedule for each climb, with particular hopes for the venture and strategies to overcome any fears or obstacles.
Set yourself the task of achieving small goals that further your dream each week, says Cathy. Even the longest journeys begin with one step. And as Cathy wisely insists, consistency with small steps is what drives dream-fulfillment in the end. No one goes from zero to sixty, beginner to winner, overnight. But small, patient, persistent steps can get all of us there.
Write It Down.
Keep a record of your daily activities that further you on the path to meeting your weekly goal and, ultimately, your dream goal. Why? When I review my goals each week with Cathy, I often find I’ve forgotten all I did in the beginning of the week. Keeping track helps me feel and see that I’m making progress towards the weekly, yearly, big kahuna goals I’ve set. It keeps me going, and that’s what’s crucial.
Cathy advises finding a buddy who’ll meet with you, in person or virtually, to go over your weekly progress. Using her buddy approach, I’ve also found it helpful to have a training buddy to do workouts. I used writing groups for the same purpose when it came to working on my dream of writing a book. This “buddy” can be a friend or family member, or a coach or trainer you hire. Most people do better when someone else, someone with whom they feel comfortable, helps them be accountable, says Cathy. It’s also more fun, and don’t most of us desperately need more balance in our lives? Satisfaction comes not only from achieving our goals, Cathy notes, but from our connections with people we enjoy.
Absolutely focus on building strength, recommends Cathy. If we’re not actively working on strength, we lose ½ pound of muscle every year after age 30. And, by the way, cardio-vascular workouts, while important, do not build strength. Cathy’s prescription: make 20 minutes of strength training 3x a week as much a routine as eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Strength training improves our balance, helps prevent falls, and increases bone density. It’s not just a question of athleticism, it’s a question of health.
A relatively intense cardiovascular workout at twice a week wakes up fast-twitch muscle fibers that help connect our nervous systems with our muscles; we need these for balance, sports, and to catch ourselves should we start to fall. If we don’t use our fast twitch muscle fibers regularly, Cathy warns, we lose them.
Stretch and hydrate.
No doubt you’ve read that drinking water throughout the day and during exercise keeps muscles hydrated and helps prevent muscle tears. Stretching also prepares and protects our muscles. Cathy recommends doing dynamic stretches— stretching with movement—before exercising and static stretching, where you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds, after exercise.
Cathy has worked with hundreds of ordinary women to help them become the best version of themselves, and, like me, identify our dreams and reach potentials we never before imagined.She’s also taught these principles at Boston College for 15 years and written two books, Mastering Running and MOVE!: How Women Can Achieve Athletic Goals at Any Age, as well as the John Hancock Boston Marathon Training Manual for participants. She’s a world-class runner, swimmer, and triathlon competitor in her sixties, still taking on new horizons and imagining new goals for herself.