As we get older, exercise seems to be less and less fun. For me, exercise has been at the bottom of my list of fun things to do for a good 20 years now. Throw in the daily stresses of life; work, family, children (now grandchildren) and exercise gets further and further from my mind. Couple that with a host of injuries throughout my life dealing with the dregs of society and I have plenty of excuses to just sit on the couch, much like I'm doing now, rather than exercise.
Then I remind myself, "Self, you're only 44 years old. Yes you feel 55, but you act like a 25 year old." For me, my biggest battle is the on again-off again smoking. Which seems to be more on than off at times. My other unfriendly ally is the 50 extra pounds I really don't need. I suffer from a genetic disease in my knees that has affected me since I was a teen. So I hate to run, though I've done my fair share of it. I am missing the A.C. Joint in my left shoulder from a fight taking someone into custody. And recently, I broke my arm assisting the sheriff's office taking a 16 year old girl with a felony warrant into custody. So really, exercise and I have all but divorced.
What I have found, is the significant improvement in my energy levels when I'm not smoking. As well as an almost immediate increase in my ability to breathe. My preferred method of getting some cardio-vascular workout is bicycling. Yep, bicycling. I loved to ride my bike as a kid and found, I love it just as much now. It is low impact and easy on the joints, get's you places quickly and is cheap. After a couple of weeks of no smoking, I find myself gaining stamina, increasing my energy levels and the ability to actually breathe. Go figure.
The other reason I like the bicycle so much is this; It has great potential for a bug-out vehicle* and allows you to move around stealthily in your environment. I work as the Head of Campus Security at a high school (and also as a Reserve Police Officer on a local indian reservation). Our campus sits on 29 acres of heavily wooded area with lots of trails in a rural community and is surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of more acres of woods and wetlands. I began using my bicycle to patrol the campus. The reason is two-fold; 1. I'm not stuck in my office if I don't want to be and can spend hours just doing laps around the campus, off and on-road (getting lots of low impact cardio) and, 2. I can't count how many kids I have literally ridden up on, within feet, before they even knew I was there. They don't even try to run. Whats the point? My top speed is 15 miles an hour for several minutes. The best 17 year old Cross-Country Runner can't out-run or out-distance me.
*Bicycles for bug-out have a lot of flexibility. You can tow things with them; the little carts you see people pulling their small children around in make great supply trailers. They can be outfitted to hold weapons; Hunters outfit bikes all the time. It allows them to quickly and quietly get into areas that motor vehicles aren't allowed to go. You don't have to worry about fuel. They're easily concealable behind bushes, in ditches or wherever you happen to be. They are easy to work on with a few simple tools and, with a couple of specialized tools, there is nothing you can't do to them. Bikes are everywhere and spare parts, such as chains, tires, wheels, inner-tubes, brakes, bearings etc., are easy to come by, or, a whole 'nother bike if that's what it takes. They're great for quickly and quietly moving through, or, in and out of areas that you don't necessarily want to attract attention, especially at night. And, if you really need it, you can buy a kit for less than $250 and mount an engine on it for emergencies (creating distance) or those really steep hills that you just don't feel like climbing. These engines get about 150 miles to the gallon and, depending on overall weight/load and gearing, you'll see speeds of 15 to 30 mph. As I said, my top speed is about 15 mph, maybe a little more. My cruising speed is about 10mph, at a nice gentle pace I enjoy. I can only maintain that for so long. Lance Armstrong I am not. But that little engine can maintain that as a minimal speed until it overheats or runs out of fuel. So bicycles not only provide me with the exercise I need, and make it mostly enjoyable, but they also meet my "get the hell out of here" needs.
For me, cardio is more important than strength training. I am more concerned with endurance, especially in a bug-out situation, than I am with bench pressing my weight. If I need to flee an area due to some sort of SHTF scenario, or fight for my life, I want to know that I have the ability to reasonably continue on. In my experience, more often than not, it is simply the ability to outlast the attacker/bad-guy more than the ability to over-power them. Am I a triathlete? Nope? Can I run a marathon? Nope. But I can get my groove on when needed.
While I don't completely discount strength training, I can no longer use free weights. To many things that can let go physically make it unsafe for me to do. Until I broke my arm, just a couple of months ago, and due to my shoulder, I did modified push-ups using the back of my couch. This worked my shoulders and biceps. I used 10 to 20 pound weights to do curls as well as these elastic band things that I haven't fully figured out yet for resistance training. For grip strength, I use the old school grip springs that you just squeeze. Now that I am rehabilitating my wrist due to the broken arm, I have whole new series of exercises I do to increase mobility, flexion and strength. Which, I recommend using these kinds of therapeutic exercises on all of your joints.
Point is, there is no need to be able to do the Iron-Man, unless you want to. There is no need to push yourself to maintain some pre-determined heart rate for a pre-determined time or count calories at every meal. There is no need to run 5 miles a day if you can't. Running is a discipline and must be done correctly to gain from it. I have no desire to spend the money, or countless hours, in the gym. And honestly, without a trainer who knows what they're doing, you are wasting that time and money as well as risking injury. A trainer helps you get the most out of your time and effort. But we need to move. We need to keep the fluids moving. Even the old car parked outside gets started once in a while.
We need to do what feels comfortable and push that comfort zone every so often. Let's face it, anything we do that makes us feel uncomfortable, even hurts, we have a tendency to stop doing it. Much like sticking your hand on a hot stove. But I recommend getting a bicycle for some exercise. You'll be glad you did.