CARVILLE: Human experiment part II: Motivation |

CARVILLE: Human experiment part II: Motivation

Phil Carville
Fitness Columnist

Last month's column described a "human experiment" in which I was to train a senior friend of mine so that he could add muscle and lose weight.

He is 77 years old, is experiencing the loss of muscle mass and the changes that result: gaining weight, wrinkly crepe-paper-like skin, reduced flexibility and the general aches and pains that come with aging.

His goal was to get started and I was to publish his progress in this "Senior Fitness" column.

Human inertia

Despite all the good intentions, he had trouble getting started.

He had the desire, but his lifestyle was comfortable and satisfying. A "small party" with wine, French bread, nice cheeses and salami before dinner. Then dinner with an additional glass or two of wine. Dessert? … well, yes, on several nights.

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It is hard to break satisfying habits. Inertia is the major reasons we find it difficult to make any changes in life.

Baseline for change

We took his base line measurements: weight, inches of waistline – thigh – biceps, etc. We took the functional movement measurements. So we have the starting points. We know where he wants to go. The obstacle he faces is the pleasant inertia of daily life.

My friend and I discussed the problem. He needed to get off the dime.

Daily Exercise

First, exercise each day. He has committed that he will do the following each week at the club: Lower body exercises on day one, upper body exercises on day two, swimming in the pool day three, 30 minutes of outdoor exercise on the courts on day four (dribble a basketball, play pickleball or tennis) and 30 minutes of indoor exercise (cardio machines) on day five (yet still watch the Warriors in the NBA Playoffs).

Light exercise each day will be a new habit. Just put it on his calendar. As Nike says, "Just do it."

Food Quantity

This takes a different type of discipline. Most overweight people eat a few too many calories each day. It is easy to do.

He is going to tell his family that he is on a diet to get support and encouragement. He is going to respect the wisdom of the author, Michael Pollan, who said in seven pithy words, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Stop reading for 30 seconds and contemplate these wise words.

Mental Kickstart

Most of us know that not everything goes as planned on the first try. We have to realize that and make sure that we do not give up.

If the goal is worth the effort, we just have to "get up, dust ourselves off" and try again. This is the most important issue to recognize as we seniors attempt to arrest or reverse the forces of aging.

More than an exercise program or a diet plan, it is our minds that we have to master first. Remember a Carol Burnett quote, "Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me."

Having Fun

The wonderful news is that each time my friend works out, he tells me how good he feels. Lighter on his feet, more energy, a positive mind set … even "younger." He is feeding his limbic mind — basic emotional enjoyment is there.

My friend has rededicated himself. If there is no backsliding, next month we will have a report for you.

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He welcomes comments and will answer your questions. You can contact him at

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