Arnold Schwarzenegger is turning 74 in a month. He is still in very good shape. Every year, the man makes the news for some age-defying feat of fitness — like maxing out the lat pulldown machine, or absorbing a “flying sidekick” from a rabid fan without even flinching — and in the latest edition of his newsletter, he revealed some of his secrets for staying so energetic so late in life.
A 52-year old reader determined to get into shape asked Schwarzenegger what he does to start the day. The Terminator wrote back: “I find my energy by doing things I love and that bring me closer to my vision. I can be reading a script and I will fall asleep. But then I play a game of chess, which I love, and I’m wide awake and can finish the script. This morning, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to have a Zoom with the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. That’s even early for me, but I was wide awake because I have a vision of making my environmental summit in Austria a huge success. So find your vision and you’ll find your energy.”
It’s great advice, and reminiscent of that old, trusty tip to get up and walk around anytime you can’t focus on getting a task done for work. It can seem counterintuitive — shouldn’t I just put my head down and grind through everything? — but productivity flourishes when work isn’t sabotaging all your passions. Make room in the day for things you actually want to do, and you’ll be in a better mood to accomplish the things you need to do.
Still, like so many other people devoted to wellness, Schwarzenegger’s main advice boils down to routine and repetition: “As far as what I do to start my day, I don’t think. I just do. I get out of bed, have my coffee and read the newspaper, then I immediately go on a bike ride to Gold’s Gym, have my workout, and then ride my bike to get some breakfast. At that point, my mind is clear, the hard part is over, and I can focus on work for the rest of the day.”
“What has kept me consistent is that I never have to think about this,” he continued. “It’s a routine, so it is ingrained in me. There is no thinking, no ‘should I skip the gym today?’ I get out of bed at 5 a.m. and everything starts. The next three hours are automatic.”
He’s right. The body does get better (bigger, faster, what have you) when “shocked,” but that shock should come during the workout, with an assortment of moves, or variance in weights and repetitions, that registers as challenging and unfamiliar. The shock shouldn’t hinge on “So when am I working out today?” The logistics of wellness — from workout time, to sleep habits, to daily nutrition — are best kept simple, consistent and, as Arnold says, “automatic.” It might sound boring, but it works. Energy derives from expectation. And when the guy giving the advice can still do this, we’re not in any place to argue.