65 and Fit.

Joe Powell and Sharon Terhune

I turned 65 years old today.  That is an accomplishment for the males in my family.  My father died at 64 and his father died before he was sixty.  I, however, feel stronger and fitter than I have ever felt.  As a matter of fact, I rummaged through my storage a few days ago and pulled out my old dress blue uniform trousers.  When I say “old” I mean they are really old.  I bought them 40 years ago when I was a 25 year old officer of Marines.  I was utterly astonished to find that they fit perfectly.

I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I have kept myself in great physical condition for the past 40 years.  The last time I tried those trousers on was maybe three years ago and I would not have been able to button them even with the help of a block and tackle.  Since I left the Marine Corps 36 years ago I gained, on the average, a pound a year and my waist size ballooned out from 33 inches to 38.  I, however, never thought of myself as fat or out of shape.  In my mind I was a “big” man.

I had a major paradigm shift about a year and a half ago.  I had just gotten married and I was looking at the wedding photos that my wife and I had just picked up at the photographers.  After marveling at how gorgeous my wife looked, I had a major jolt when I took a good look at myself.  “Sh..!” I thought.  “You’re not just ‘big’.  You’re fat.”  That paradigm shift in how I had perceived myself was soon followed by another shift in thinking.

My regular weekend jaunts into the mountains on foot, mountain bike, and cross country skiis may have kept me from getting totally out of shape,  but going on a hike, ride, or ski  a  couple of times a week had not done much to control my weight.  Fortunately, my wife and I discovered that we were both interested in becoming more fit.  She started working with Jagoe Reid as her trainer at The Elemental Training Center and after a few months I followed her example.  I have worked with Jagoe for the past eleven months and I feel like I have made some major progress.

In the first place, over the past eleven months I have lost about 30 pounds and my body fat percentage has dropped to 11.22%.   Among other things, the weight loss has meant that I have had to get a new wardrobe.   A year ago a 38 inch waist band was snug on me and now I wear pants with a 32 inch waist.  I have also had to get rid of all my extra large shirts because now I wear a medium. More importantly, for the last several years I had been taking blood pressure and cholesterol medication, but at my last physical examination the results of my test were so outstanding that my physician decided to take me off the cholesterol medication altogether and put me a minimal dose of blood pressure medicine just  to stay on the safe side.  My balance has improved a great deal.  My strength may be greater now than it was when I was in the Marines and my stamina is nearly as good as it was then (remember I turned 65 years old today).

Now it is time for a dose of reality.  Making these changes in my life has not been easy.  It has taken a huge amount of commitment and discipline.  In truth, I think learning and practicing and succeeding with the degree of self discipline that has been required of me over the past eleven months has been a greater benefit to me than all the other successes put together.  In other words, I really needed some major practice with self discipline.  Like many Americans I avoided discomfort like it was the plague, but now I understand that in many ways comfort is the enemy.  When we get too comfortable we stagnate.  The best thing about having a personal trainer is that she or he can give us comfort lovers the little nudge that we need to help us to willingly step Into The Arena Of Pain.  Excuse me for being a little over dramatic, but fitness does demand some pain.  More than once I have wondered if my trainer, Jagoe, had worked for the Spanish Inquisition in a past life.  Jagoe has proven that she is the lady with the plan and I am proof that the plan works.  You need to understand, however, that the plan can hurt, sometimes for days.  I work out twice a week with Jagoe for strength training.  I do my foundation strength training once a week on my own. I do three other days of interval training, rowing, or steady running.  I get up every work day, except Friday, at 4:30 in order to get to the gym before work.  In the beginning it took a lot of self discipline to keep up the schedule, but now it has become simply a way of life.

Speaking of commitment and self discipline, I nearly forgot to mention diet.  I have, maybe for the first time in my life, become totally aware of the quality and quantity of the things I eat and drink.  I try to count every calorie, but I haven’t felt deprived in any way.  I am careful, however.  I try to eat foods that will give me the best nutrition per calorie.  Being careful and consistent with a diet also demands self discipline.  I probably consume 1/3 fewer calories now than I did a couple of years ago and I don’t miss any of it.

The fact that my wife and I are in total agreement on our fitness program has been a key element in our success.   I’m not sure if I would have been able to keep my training problem going over time if my wife and I did not have the same training schedule and the same dietary goals.  I know that there are lots of people who do manage to keep up their training on their own.  I admired them for it.  I’m very glad, however, that my wife and I have formed a fitness team.

I regret that I didn’t realize years ago that fitness training has to be frequent, consistent, and intense to really be of value.  Because I do feel better today than I have felt in the past 35 years.  Fortunately, it seems that it is never too late to get fit.  Did I mention that I turned 65 years old today?

Stay Hungry

“Stay hungry” is one of my favorite sayings. It applies to our athletes in two ways:

First, it tells them to keep from eating too much, that excess intake is just more work down the road. We’re not talking starvation, either. We’re just talking about avoiding huge binges and excess empty calories.

On top of that, You’ve got to stay hungry for your goal. Keep working toward it at all times, no matter what. Keep in the front of your mind how badly you want it and how good you’ll feel when you’ve arrived.

Every athlete gets “flat.” Everyone is tired at the end of the day and everyone breaks. All you’ve got to do is make sure it happens less frequently, and when you can go hard, go all the way.

Is this sugar, Sugar?

Adam Campbell’s “Big Book of Exercises” is a good read, and it’s full of useful things that aren’t exercises, too. A real gem is the list of ways that sugar hides in your food. Trying to get skinny? Rule #1 is to kick sugar out of your nutrition plan. Here’s the list of sugar’s aliases (by no means an exhaustive list):

barley malt

brown rice syrup

corn syrup


evaporated cane juice invert syrup


fruit juice



granular fruit grape juice concentrate

high-fructose corn syrup




maple syrup


organic cane juice




Elemental Winter Bouldering Comp Results


1. Sarah Skinner

2. Nick

3. Hannah Skinner

4. Jake Skinner

5. Richard Ellis

6. Anna Ellis

Women Advanced

1. Sam Kelly

2. Ashley Lloyd

Women’s Intermediate

1. Becca Skinner

2. Katie Rice

Men’s Recreational

1. Joe Ashurst

2. Dustin

3. Rob Pharies

4. Mitchell Fyock

Men’s Intermediate

1. Jacob Killibrew

2. Chancey Headley

3. Cody Headley

4. Aaron Steele

Men’s Advanced

1. David Lloyd

2. Sam Anderson

3. Justin Iskra

Men’s Open

1. CoFro

2. BJ Tilden

3. Chris Marley

4. Micah Rush


If you’ve ever tried to achieve a goal, you know it’s not easy. The things we really want are usually not that simple to attain. Very rarely to we set a goal of “making 25 cents” or “putting on my pants.” Goals, as most of us define them, are hard to attain and require some intense effort. It’s more than natural to hit some rough patches along the way, and when this happens, it’s also natural to get discouraged. It’s what we do when we’re discouraged that really determines our chance of success.

The primary psychological factor in being successful is self-perceived competence. If you see yourself as competent, you’ll keep trying new things, working hard on projects, and “bearing down” when things get tough. On the flip side, if you see yourself as incompetent, you’ll constantly shy away from challenges, sure that you’ll fail. One of the greatest joys a human can experience is the feeling that he has a hand in what happens to him. It follows, then, that the most depressing and discouraging thing most of us could ever experience is the feeling that we don’t matter, that fate has a plan for us and we’re just along for the ride.

A person who experiences much success in life tends to continue to do so because of the feeling of competence. Randall Strossen, a clinical psychologist says that the best way to realize how this works is to turn it around. “That way,” he states, “you’ll know what behaviors to avoid.” It’s the psychological counterpart to being told that snakes are dangerous before you hike through the jungle.

Strossen says to see yourself as incompetent, follow these four rules:

1. Surround yourself with authority figures who regularly correct you or put you down. Make sure you pick pompous, insecure people to spend time with, and make sure that they give you plenty of unsolicited advice. Lots of people get this chance straight from birth, others have to wait until they are in school. If you really want to be ridiculed, find someone that has different priorities, and tell them your goal. They won’t miss any opportunity to say, “I told you so,” when you’re having troubles.

2. Always set yourself up for failure. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to plan on losing at least 20 pounds. If it’s your half-marathon you’re wanting to improve, don’t be satisfied with anything less than a ten minute improvement. And my favorite, take a few weeks off of training, then come back and flat-out expect to be just as fit as when you stopped doing the workouts.

3. Rehearse your failures and keep the bad feelings fresh. Our imaginations are virtually unlimited; we can come up with all kinds of reasons to think we suck. Remember how poorly you did last time you rode your bike up Sinks Canyon, or how you fell off the warm-up climb at Wild Iris.

4. Establish unrealistic goals. Similar to setting up for failure, you need to put big plans out there so you’re always worrying about them. Not that goal setting is bad, but planning on winning the Boston Marathon after barely qualifying is probably a bad plan. This is the best way to set yourself up for repeated failure.

The path to engineering competence then becomes clear. You just reverse all the rules above and you’re on the right track.

Start by surrounding yourself with people that will support your efforts and who believe in your ability to achieve your goals. Make sure that these people know that their support role may even require (gasp!) a sacrifice on their part.

Next, be sure to set yourself up for success. Pick activities where you succeed often, and work at stretching yourself from there. Can’t do a full rage squat with 200 pounds on your back? Work your way toward it by perfecting all facets of the movement. There’s nothing wrong with air squats. Make sure you give yourself time to reach the big goals.

Rehearse your successes. Don’t focus on the crappy workout you just had and how weak you feel. Remember how you ran your intervals faster than ever last week? Scale didn’t budge today? Remember how much you’ve lost so far on this plan. You get the idea…

And finally, establish some good, ambitious, and achievable goals. If you reach these goals easily, set the bar higher and attack again. One thing to beware: don’t use “realistic goals” as an excuse to lower your standards.

Belief in yourself is critical if you’re ever going to really get anywhere. Whether you get to the gym or out on the road is really up to you. Whether you’ll make that leap depends on how much you believe in yourself.

Resolution Time

I hate New Year’s resolutions. I hate them in the same way I hate people going to Vegas to make some money. I hate resolutions because they don’t work.

What makes you think that this year you’ll behave any different than last year? Why waste your time (and mine) talking about a fitness goal that you really won’t pursue? You might think I’m being a little negative for a guy that’s supposed to help people reach goals…but you’d be wrong. I’m just saying that resolutions are just the names of very difficult and extensive projects that most of us can’t complete. Are you more fit this year than last? If not, you should scrap your plan from last year and build something all new. Are you smarter? Richer? Younger?

See what I’m getting at? OK, o we know that saying you want to lose 50 pounds by June is fun, but the chances of you really getting there are, well…better just book those tickets to Vegas instead. So how DO you succeed? It’s pretty simple, but it’s a mile from easy.

First, ou’ve got to have a clear and measurable goal. It’s got to be achievable, and it’s got to have a time line…remember, someday never comes. Losing 50 pounds by June meets all of those criteria, assuming you can physically afford to lose that weight.

Next, you have got to have a plan. Goals without plans are wishes. Here’s a hint: Don’t try to lose all the weight in April and May. You have got 5 months, so you have absolutely got to lose at least 10 pounds per month, every month. How will you get there? What ways will you choose to increase caloric expenditure and decrease your intake? Another hint: Walking absolutely will not get you there, nor will “moderation” in your nutrition. Moderation is for congressmen. You are going to war, so you’d better prepare for it. Set a big gaol like this and you’re in the fight of your life.

Third, build your army. Enlist friends to help keep you on track. Get the books and resources you need to help you get the work done. Learn some new recipes. Read the labels of your food. Meet with your doctor or nutritionist or coach and ask for the help you’ll need to get there. I think blogs are great training logs, and can be a great way to share your journey with friends. Write your weight on the wall at the gym, and use your real name.

Fourth, review. Get honest. Look where you’re weak (and you are weak…), and find a way to strengthen those weaknesses. Ask yourself if you can really do it. Then go to work. If you hit some bumps in the road, don’t quit. Get going again, fix the thing that caused you to fail, and don’t let it stop you again.

A couple of final thoughts. First, training has got to take you out of your comfort zone. If your body isn’t being stressed, it won’t adapt. Second, understand that results don’t come overnight. Losing weight, our favorite resolution, is a herculean task. It’d be easier to get most people fit enough to run a marathon than to get 50 pounds off. 1% bodyweight loss per week is screaming-fast.

You’ve got to make profound changes in your behavior if you’re going to see big physical changes. I’ve said it before, you know what you need to do, now you’ve got to act.