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Mountain Grit: Meet Jim

For all you medical fitness professionals out there, meet Jim, 75. Jim exemplifies the mindset towards aging that we all can emulate.

From urban to suburban, rural to remote, the glass is half-full – so lets fill-it-up’. SPIRIT truly can change the way and the pace at which we age.

[Excerpted from The Training Corner column in the Lone Peak Lookout]   

Q: Hi Pat!  I am sick and tired of my family members and friends telling me to slow down.   

I am 75 and in pretty darn good health. I was blessed with some good genes. Both of my very active parents lived well into their 90s. I’ve never gotten fat, and I quit smoking and heavy drinking back in my 20s. I drive my wife crazy because I am one of those ants-in-pants guys who just can’t sit still until the day is done. OK, I have some aches and pains, wear a hearing aid and need glasses just for reading. No big deal!   

Right now, I am in the throes of remodeling my daughter’s kitchen. I thrive on projects. They are a challenge, so I am always looking for something to fix. I am also the go-to guy when my neighbors need a helping hand. My true passion is calf-roping, so I mentor and teach the younger dudes. Yeah, I can still do it, but I lost my favorite horse last year, so I coach instead. My wife and I love the outdoors, and enjoy hiking, fly fishing, skate skiing and snow shoeing 1-2X/week.

We do all of our own outdoor maintenance, too. If for some reason, my day is void of physical work or play, I walk for 30 minutes, just to keep the pump pumping.  

I did construction all my life, and my back and shoulders act up on occasion. But over the years, I have collected a bag of maintenance tricks from various physical therapists. I have a morning routine of breath-work with tai-chi like moves, and some core preservation exercises. I use that foam roller with the bumps, too, my best friend for about 10 years, now. This regimen seems to work.  

Pat, am I just plain oblivious to this aging thing? Isn’t the body in motion the best brain and overall health potion? I am confident in my skills and abilities, so why would I slow down?  Any suggestions on telling the naysayers to put a sock in it?

Jim, 75

Pat’s Answer:  Hi Jim!  No, you are not oblivious. Yes, a body in motion is the best path to aging younger. Continue to get up and get after it every day. You have purpose, passion, meaning and relevance in your life. There is no need to slow down. You are thriving at 75, and are inspiring others. Keep up the pace, unless something rocks your competence and confidence. We CAN continue to learn, grow and discover throughout our lifespan, if we avoid ruts, complacency and stagnation.

Here is some ammunition for you:

  • Traditional retirement is dead. We reWIRE!  60+ is the time to wind up, not wind down. Act III is ripe with opportunity, adventures, vocations, projects, dreams and sharing the wisdom. You chart your journey.
  • The way and the pace at which we age is malleable. It is deeply rooted in Hardiness and GRIT, not talent. When we invest in our 5 Pillars of Hardiness (Purpose, Movement, Diet, Rest-Recovery-Regen, and Stress Ops), through DAILY habits, patterns and practices, we fortify our resilience, durability and robustness for the long haul. Aging is NOT a disease. It is an accumulation of how we react and respond to the ‘ups and downs’ of life, how we adapt to and bolster our reserve capacity.
  • Aging is living life to the fullest, a journey. 35 is seasoned, that is we have reached our peak biological development. This does not mean that we cannot continue to learn, grow and discover, nor set personal bests in physical endeavors. Check out the Senior and Master Games.   
  • We are individuals. We age at different rates. We are unique in personality, upbringing, physical work-play experiences, life lessons, and ‘what makes us tick’. “If I choose to climb a ladder and clear snow off the roof, quit barking at me. I know my limits, after doing it for 40 consecutive years. And by the way, I take no MEDS, so my balance is pretty darn good.”  
  • “We don’t live life to be safe and healthy; we live safely and healthfully to live life to the fullest!”

From Albert Einstein, and so relevant today, “A ship is always safe at shore, but that’s now what it was built for.” Reasonable risk is the springboard into learning, growth and discovery. Push out of the comfort zone, or slide backwards. A fool-proof safe, static and secure mentality can lead to stagnation, apathy, and even depression. 

In summary, Jim, keep moving, working and playing ‘til you can’t. Vintage vehicles need DAILY maintenance to run well, so continue your morning regimen. If you notice that you are losing strength, you may need to tweak your training for strength and power gains. Mentor and lead by example. No need to preach to the naysayers. Just ask them, “What makes YOU tick? Ok, I’m not YOU.” 

In the soon to be released, Cardiac Rehab Fitness Specialist course, be prepared to rethink your approach to coaching people up to living life to their fullest. In my Pillars and 7S Buckets approach to reclaiming, restoring and rebuilding Hardiness for the long haul, you will be inspired to change the way and the pace at which you age. Jim has the Spirit, and Hippocrates had it right…

“Know the person who has the disease; not just the disease who has the person.”  —Hippocrates

Patricia ‘Pat’ VanGalen, M.S. brings a unique blend of education, practical experience, common sense application, science and research to her lecturing, teaching, training and coaching. She launched her professional career 40+ years ago in physical education and coaching, then spent the next 10 years in corporate-industrial fitness, health promotion, cardiac rehab and injury risk reduction programming design, implementation and management. Visit her website, activeandagile.com.

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The Simple 7 – Bucket #7: My Spirit, Inspired to Aspire

The Simple 7 Training Buckets That Build My Buffer: Suppleness/Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit

Let’s focus on spirit. My soul, my psyche. My purpose, meaning and relevance. My reasons to get up in the morning. My attitudes, perceptions and mindset that take charge of my day and my life’s journey. In this context, a wise and ‘seasoned spirit’, a gritty spirit, one that is tenacious, persistent and committed to prepping and pre-habbing for the long haul; one that drives the mindset of invest early to earn our healthspan, to nudge it up tight to our lifespan.

The New Map of LifeTM, created by the Stanford Center on Longevity supports this ‘spirit’ through six principles:

  1. New roles and opportunities must be created so that people experience purpose, belonging, and worth; relevance.
  2. Education must be a lifelong pursuit; not necessarily FORMAL.
  3. Working longer should occur in multigenerational contexts; if by choice.
  4. Money. Opportunities to earn and save must be available throughout life to ensure financial security; plan for a 100-year lifespan.
  5. Advances in the science of aging must be distributed broadly in the population; we need to stay knowledgeable and own our decisions.
  6. Physical health and the prevention of disease is critical to achieving the promise longevity presents; fortify our buffer. . .

The New MapTM encompasses the physical, social, intellectual, emotional, environmental, spiritual, and vocational/occupational dimensions of well-being. They are inter-related, rarely in perfect balance, and evolve with life lessons and experiences. Like the Simple 7 Buckets, each one plays a significant role in surviving and thriving. All require cultivation through daily practices, habits and patterns AND stimulating growth opportunities.

This column focuses on the physical dimension. The FIVE pillars of:

  1. Movement,
  2. Food-Drink,
  3. Rest-Recovery-Regeneration,
  4. Stress-to-Survive+Thrive, and
  5. Purpose-relevance-meaning all bolster the 7 dimensions of overall health and wellbeing.

Our Movement pillar is grounded in the Simple 7 buckets of Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity and Spirit, all of which boost my BUFFER, that space, that barrier between succumbing to the effects of aging per se, and pro-actively resisting and retaliating. It’s also the cushion between the GO in my chosen activities, and the BLOW, injury.

6 principles, 7 dimensions, 5 pillars and 7 buckets … we’ve got it! As we restore and refill Buckets #1-6, let’s shift our focus to Bucket #7, the most potent of all.

Bucket #7 is SPIRIT

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. Don’t be the first to grow old!” I’m not sure who said this, but it resonated with me over 30 years ago.

FUN is not frivolous, nor is it just for kids. Activities that bring joy and learning fertilize the brain, neutering boredom and stagnation.

Of the 7 Training Buckets, the Spirit bucket rules the roost. Our mindset towards aging matters. One of positivity and purpose has been unequivocally shown to extend the healthspan, sometimes more so than the physical factors. Coaches, military leaders and emergency services personnel repeatedly observe that ‘psychology trumps physiology’ even when physically mismatched. Upbeat and positive beats doom and gloom hands-down. Resilient folks bounce back, and some do it over and over again. They resonate hope, are flexible, optimistic, show gratitude and goodwill, accept what cannot be changed, then respond accordingly and do the work. [Chip Conley, The Modern Elder]

Aristotle stated that the body is perfect at 35, the soul at 50. Hippocrates said that we peak at 56 years. He had no clue that we had another 30-50 years to go, exactly why our longevity mindset needs an overhaul.

From Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach, “we’re either growing or dying.” Growth lies in pushing out of our comfort zone, beyond the physical. Our vehicle will eventually call it quits, but we can optimize our life’s ride with DAILY use and regular maintenance, allowing us to deny the slide and ramp up our ride. AND BEST OF ALL, we set the stage for our kids and grandkids, a wellspring into a long and resilient adventure. This is the new spirit of an uncharted journey, ripe with opportunities to care, share, contribute and thrive along the way.

Re-WIREment is replacing retirement today, filling Act III with opportunities to learn, grow and discover. Time-affluence, control over schedules and priorities is a bonus, allowing the 60+er to re-imagine and reboot.

My Spirit Check-Up

YES = 1 point: “I just do it; that’s me.”
NO: “Not in my thought process.”

  1. I more often than not choose the uncomfortable, like walking, climbing, getting off the couch or training, even when I don’t feel like it.
  2. I value the benefits of physical labor and choose it; I rarely hire out for chores like shoveling, digging, landscaping, etc.
  3. I seek out physical projects and work with my hands; it challenges my brain.
  4. I look towards the future with enthusiasm and optimism, and plan to ……; I thrive on ‘what’s next’ and prep and prehab accordingly.
  5. I take reasonable, not stupid risks; guaranteed safety is unachievable and stifling.
  6. I strive to beef up all my dimensions and pillars 85% of the time, but certainly enjoy treats and breaks.
  7. I rely on medications ONLY when absolutely necessary, and only when I have exhausted a full-blown restoration effort of my pillars and buckets.
  8. I get up every morning with a purpose and enthusiasm, and am truly grateful for that.
  9. BONUS: I TRAIN so I CAN do ALL the things that I NEED and LIKE to do year-round with confidence and competence.


  • GREEN: 8+ optimistic and doing the work; in perpetual prep and pre-hab.
  • YELLOW: 4-7 some slips and slides; reverse course now.
  • RED: 0-3 it’s never too late for a mindset makeover, one tiny step at a time; start with the easiest one first. Add 5:00 to walking your dog today.

Why should I care?

  • My mindset towards my future shapes my behaviors.
  • Stuff happens. Murphy WILL strike. Accidents, illnesses and tragedies WILL happen. So, we either boost our buffer system to bounce back faster and stronger, or succumb to the long-term effects of complacency in spirit, mind and body.
  • There is a difference between ‘feeling comfortable’ and ‘being complacent’; complacency breeds boredom, and boredom shuts down learning and growth.
  • Complacency can lead to apathy, or indifference, and is associated with neuron death and brain shrinkage, sadness and depression.
  • I can redirect my aging journey NOW, and CAN have stamina, energy, vitality, vim and vigor for decades to come; I CAN dodge and delay frailty, lethargy, fatigue and lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and fire up my ‘seasoned spirit’.
  • People, 80%ish, quit doing what they love to do, because of joint-muscle-soft tissue reasons and loss of movement confidence, not disease.
  • Then there’s this: “You are too old to ….……. you’ll get hurt. You’re NOT 25 anymore, ya know! What are you trying to prove?” If you are competent and confident, don’t let anyone break your wise and seasoned spirit. “We don’t live to be safe; we live safely to LIVE life to the fullest.”
  • What fires together, wires, together. What syncs, links. Keep doing what makes you tick. Fertilize the brain with the NEW, to knock out boredom from the same old.
  • Movement and exercise are the closest thing to a magic bullet in the anti-aging arsenal. Our gero-scientists look to the basic mechanisms of how exercise functions to facilitate good health, steering anti-aging pharmaceuticals onto a similar course

Common Sense Solutions

My game of life, my prep and pre-hab! I CAN bend the trajectory of my aging curve. I buy-in, or opt-out. “I will see and feel change, if I make change.”

If I want to feel younger, I can choose to MOVE and DO. Movement is as vital to surviving and thriving as food and water. Movement sabbaticals are out, unless I am ‘dog-tired’ from physical labor, or struck by illness or injury.

Check-in with the doctor and dentist. Do everything possible to preserve vision, hearing and that inner ear gyroscope, those senses necessary to move freely with confidence.

Continue doing those things that make you ‘tick’. Add some new ones, too! TRAIN so you CAN!” Repair and refill all 6 training buckets.

DAILY, WALK a lot and often. Accumulate 6-10K steps per day. Include 30:00 of continuous BRISK walking. Walk tall with a springy step.

At HOME, do chores and tasks willingly. Include multiple positions, speeds and loads. Do the inconvenient and uncomfortable sometimes. Go barefoot to keep the feet smart.

Screen-bound, break away every 30 minutes; reach up, bend and rotate; counter text-neck.

Physical labor with a positive attitude gives us a huge bang. The trades, service vocations, shoveling snow, chopping and stacking wood, or raking stone and gravel all get the heart pumping, the whole body moving, and the brain firing and re-wiring.

At PLAY, its’ all seasons, GO! Choose something that provides joy, that keeps you moving. Mountain bike, hike, skate-XC ski, snowshoe, golf, DANCE!

TRAIN to fill gaps and holes. ‘0’ physical labor and no physical hobbies, interests, sports or activities combined with the ill-effects of screens, sitting, tech-postures and a soft, cushy lifestyle is a recipe for disability and dependence.

The purpose of training is to move, feel and perform better now, and for the long haul. It must transfer first to my overall health and well-being, and secondly to the robustness of my buckets for MY game of life, care-giving and emergencies. So TRAIN and change!

In closing, ponder this: “It’s never too late to start, but it’s better to never stop.”

Hardiness of Heath: My Top 10 Tips – Join me for my upcoming webinar

Nurture the cardiovascular system through fortifying the five pillars of resilience, durability and robustness for the long haul.  We strive for the heart to go, the blood to flow, the brain to know, so that we can continue to grow… optimizing our health span for our game of life.

Let’s remember that the cardiovascular system is ONE of seven integrated systems, and that you and your client are a sum total of spirit, mind and body.  Keep your focus on filling-up a glass that’s half-full, not half-empty.

Join me in an update on the most impactful DAILY habits, patterns and practices that fortify and preserve our hardiness pillars.  Our stamina, our cardio-respiratory fitness is our energy bucket. It gives us our GO, our vim, vigor and vitality for living our lives to the fullest, for decades to come.  This presentation is packed with dynamic DOs, not doom-and-gloom don’ts.  Pack that mind-space with positive buffer-boosting DO-ables to become more hardy of heart, mind and spirit.


Article reprinted with permission from Pat VanGalen.

Pat VanGalen, MS, launched her professional career 40+ years ago in physical education and coaching, then spent the next 10 years in corporate-industrial fitness, health promotion, cardiac rehab and injury risk reduction programming design, implementation and management. ​In 1990, Pat expanded her services to designing and teaching personal training and group exercise certification courses. ​Pat has been a trainer and instructor prior to the existence of certifications. Her rehab-to-performance experience makes her a dynamic, informative and very inspiring speaker, trainer, teacher and coach.