Lou Schuler

Author, Journalist, Presenter

Posted 04/25/2012

The Game of Life

There are days, I confess, when I just feel old.

Those days seem to accumulate when I’m about to publish a new book. Every little twinge  in every little muscle fills me with dread that I’m some kind of fraud. If you could hear my internal dialog … well, okay, if you could actually hear my thoughts you’d get your ass to the nearest neurologist, and I wouldn’t blame you. But if I were to attempt to transcribe my thought process, and you happened to read the transcript, it would go something like this:

Great. Another abdominal injury. The guy who wrote a book about core training can’t keep his own damned core in one piece. What’s the matter with me? Maybe I’m just too old for this …

At some point I shut this pointless prattle down (I’m a big fan of thought-stopping). My go-to move is to remind myself that I’m 55 years old, I’ve been lifting weights three times a week since I was 13, and of course I’m going to tweak, pull, and occasionally tear a muscle. I’m never happy about it, but if nothing else it shows I’m still trying.

Then again, “trying” is the wrong word. As my favorite philosopher famously said, “There is no try.” I’m not trying. I’m training. This is one of my favorite passages from NROL for Life:

The hierarchy of physical training goes something like this:

1. Physical activity is everything you do when you aren’t at rest. It’s basic movement, with no goal beyond getting from one place to another.

2. Exercise is movement you do on purpose. It includes sports practice, jogging, yoga, backpacking, swimming, cycling, or anything else you think is important enough to take precedence over all the other things you could be doing at that moment. (New Rule #2a: If you can operate your cell phone while exercising, you aren’t actually exercising. You’re just proving you can walk and chew gum at the same time.)

3. A workout is an exercise session that’s deliberately strenuous. You start with the goal of working up a sweat, pushing your muscles and your circulatory system toward their limit, and giving your body a challenge from which it will have to recover.

4. Training is a system of workouts designed to achieve specific biological adaptations.

The more physical activity you get, and the less time you spend sitting, the better. Some of that activity should be purposeful enough to qualify as exercise. More exercise is generally better than less. A workout is even better, but there are only so many true workouts you can do in a week, a month, or a year. A workout that’s also a training session is usually best of all, because you aren’t just testing yourself to see what you can do now. You’re forcing your body to make adaptations that will produce better performances in the future.

I admit I should get more exercise. It really is  wrong for a guy who writes about fitness for a living to spend so many hours sitting in front of a computer. But when it comes to training, I don’t have many regrets. Sure, if I could go back in time I’d change all kinds of things. Since I can’t, the best I can do is have a solid training session today. That’s how I felt about Monday’s workout, and how I think I’ll feel about Friday’s.  The workouts change, but the goal remains the same: to get better at something.

That’s why Alwyn and I continue writing workout books. He’s always looking for better ways to train his clients, and I’m always looking for better ways to train myself, along with better exercises, methods, and techniques to share with readers.

I explain the genesis of NROL for Life in this excerpt on Facebook, noting that readers like you had to talk us into doing a book for older, increasingly broken-down lifters — that is, for people like me.

It’s all true. But it’s only part of the story. The part I left out is the ulterior motive I just described: I need new ways to keep my 55-year-old body from falling apart. That’s why NROL for Life has more exercises, more information, and more training options than any book in the series.

My internal dialog scolds me for saying such a thing, knowing I’m going to saying something similar about the next book, and perhaps the one after that.

In my defense, though, I mean it every time. Each book starts with a training program from Alwyn that surpasses its predecessors. Then I force myself to write a book that’s a worthy vehicle for those workouts. I do it for a living, yes. And of course I do it for you; there’s nothing more gratifying than hearing from readers whose bodies and lives have been transformed by the magic of a great training program. But I’d be lying if I failed to disclose that I also do it for me.

Sometimes I get a little too ambitious with these new programs, and force asunder parts of my anatomy that would otherwise have remained intact. But I’ll accept an occasional boo-boo if the reward is more ability this week than I had last week.

That’s a fair trade, I think.

If you agree, I hope you’ll check out The New Rules of Lifting for Life. I’ll thank you now in hopes that you’ll thank Alwyn and me later.




  • Trainer1949

    I’m turning 63 and just went independent as a part-time personal trainer. After being a Marine military pilot, banker (17 years) and then hit by the recession I went back to what I’ve always enjoyed, helping people feel better about themselves. Now after 10,000 coaching and training sessions I’m a startup business and enjoying every challenging minute of it. But through it all I’ve enjoyed your entire library of books. You and Alwyn (also Ian King) have inspired me to do things in a big box gym that no other trainers were doing. I foam rolled my clients, used thorasic flexibility exercises, regressed my exercises to match each client’s capabilities. All learned through the blogs and books read. Thanks for helping me continue my movement patterns into my 60’s deadlifting 350 lbs still and feeling I can do even more.nn1

  • rusty1

    I am a 42 yo woman who began training a year ago with an EP to recover from a back and neck injury that had laid me up for 4 years. Between muscle soreness, injury pain and arthritis I often hurt everywhere. When I was learning to do pushups I fart arsed around and pulled a ligament – off push ups for 3 weeks. Disheartened. Last week chasing my kids in playground, swung from a bar and pulled something, now can’t do chin ups. Was only up to 2 BW chin ups and was so keen to make 5. Currently devastated again. This article cheered me up. We’re getting on, train hard, live a life…yeah sometimes we ‘pull something’. I just have to remember that even though I was laid off push ups for 3 weeks and had to restart from beginning I now do weighted pushups, and incline bosu ball pushups on one leg. There is hope after all…

    • Welcome to the club! Isn’t it amazing how our old(ish) bodies recover from these things that seem so devastating when they occur?

  • RazorOrange

    I’m 41 and have been lifting / exercising for the majority of my life. It is amazing how things start to change as we get older: slower recovery, little aches and pains, and the magical wonder of how much longer it takes to get rid of the stiffness when getting out of bed in the morning. However, it seems that as I have gotten older, I have also become more aware of how stimulus affects my specific body…maybe we could call it “body wisdom”. My workouts are much more focused and intense and I recognize how my body specifically reacts to the work I’m doing. I pay much more attention to the nuances and gain much more response as a result. A lot of this has come from simply getting older, trial and error and such…but I have learned a lot from your books, beginning with the Big Book of Muscle. The New Rules books have been great…I will even admit to doing the workouts in the New Rules of Lifting for Women (my wife’s copy) and it was harder than the one for men! I am very excited about this new book and I appreciate the honesty and candor you display in your post…that is something missing from a lot of these internet “experts” who are all to happy to talk the talk without ever walking the walk. So much is learned in the trenches, through doing, and I think that’s why your books have always spoken to me; you share the same struggles as I do, the same stresses, distractions and challenges, yet you do your best and push forward, often with a joke or smile. Thanks for this post, its timing was perfect. I cannot wait to get a copy of the new book.

    Keep lifting and writing; we share the bond of brothers in the same struggle.

    • StillGoing

      To quote RazorOrange above:

      “I am very excited about this new book and I appreciate the honesty and candor you display in your post…that is something missing from a lot of these internet “experts” who are all to happy to talk the talk without ever walking the walk. So much is learned in the trenches, through doing, and I think that’s why your books have always spoken to me; you share the same struggles as I do, the same stresses, distractions and challenges, yet you do your best and push forward, often with a joke or smile.”

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Have all four NROL books – working through ABS and will transition to Life. Getting back into lifting / more exercise for the past 6 months after deciding that yes, I need to do this. Kids are good now and this is important for me. Yes each book may be at times contradict points in the previous book but in my mind mind that means new information has been tested and then shared with us – to our benefit. The basic concepts are what count. They act as the foundation of the series and refinement will / should happen naturally. And as long as the basic tenants still hold true, the journey will continue with as much success achieved as each person puts into it. And yes there will be aches and pains as we “mature gracefully”, but the benefits far outweigh challenges / perceived road blocks. As suggested in the books, we need to keep moving!

  • Amy

    Lou, just a quick note to say I bought your latest book and am looking forward to reading it. It’s right where I am–figuring out how to pursue my fitness goals and at the same time ensuring I’ll be able to do so for a long while. I’m adapting; I saw you had a section on not killing yourself at every workout, a concept few people get. Or have the humility to accept (me).

    Maybe we can do another little interview on my blog some time. All the best.Amy


    • Amy, let’s try for that second interview. The first one was a blast. IIRC, I gave homage to my mom’s biceps, and from there it probably went even farther afield.

      • Amy Scheer

        Sounds great, Lou! I’ll get back in touch once I’ve read the book. Thanks a bunch.

  • Greg Seel

    I thought I found the perfect source for retooling my workout program when I bought NROL. I wanted something I could offer for my wife, so I discovered NROL for Women. Then I read an Amazon review that suggested those books were outdated and I needed to use NROL for life. I’m 59, been in gyms and on diets for a long time and never got long term results like I wanted. So, what is the best source for developing plans for my age that get real results?

    • Hi Greg,

      There’s really 2 answers: For your age, Life would be the best choice. But for a program that gives you those long-term results, you can’t do better than Strong, the 6th book in the NROL series. Alwyn and I wrote it as a follow-up to NROL for Women, but the workouts really have no gender. I’ve done them myself and recommended them for lots of guys.

      Alwyn would agree that the program is the best in the series, and comes to the closest to the current system he and his trainers use at Results Fitness.

      I’m sorry to recommend that you get 2 books when you asked for advice on 1. But you can pick up used copies of Life for a few bucks online, do the program for 3 months to learn Alwyn’s system, and then switch to Strong. The combination should give you at least a year of workouts. If you repeat the Strong program, which many do, you’ll have 18 months’ worth from that book alone.

      I hope this helps, and good luck with whatever you decide to do.

      • Greg Seel

        Lou, thanks for your advice.As you well know, this process can be a bit daunting. I’m 1/3 of the way through NROL, and have committed to diligently read the entire book instead of just picking out what I think is important. The Life book is on the way, so I will start on that when it arrives. I have access to a free weight gym, so I am hopeful that I can start a program that will provide results. Yesterday I turned 59 and I dont want to look and feel this way at 60. Most guys my age seem to have given up and surrendered to the fact that they are just to old to see the results they want. Your books seem to break through that concept and provide a directed plan-so I am optimistic (again) that I will find the correct workout plan for me.