Hardcore FlyFishing

Hardcore FlyFishing

90-degrees, 78% humidity, all-day to find & land!

Most fly fishers I talk with have one thing in common. They are not hardcore flyfishing because of physical deterioration. How do I know they are declining by just talking? Well, they all share their ‘specific’ issue that limits their ability to fly fish the way they would like—hardcore, for extended periods. Thing is, they’re not that specific: back pain, shoulder pain, stiffness, declining stamina and reduced balance are all too common. Every fly fisher has the same ‘specific’ issues because every fly fisher is aging. There are no exceptions. 

Now, let me be direct. Do you think as you get older the aches, pains, stiffness, stamina and balance issues will improve from you feel now? Of course not! That’s why I usually begin with, the one thing that could keep all of us from flyfishing with vigor into our 90s is aging. It could, it might, maybe; if we act now, it won’t. 

If you are experiencing physical limits on your flyfishing now, consider what will your physicality be like in 5,10,20,30 years? 

Hardcore Flyfishing Requires Effort

It’s a fact that after middle age (beginning around age 30) we lose muscle estimated as a 12% loss in 60-70-year-olds and 30% in 80-year-olds. This muscle loss is caused by an imbalance between signals for muscle growth and signals to age. Age-related muscle loss is critical. Trying to keep up the same activities with muscle loss going on at the cellular-level causes pain, strain and if left unattended, could advance and put you on the ‘treatment treadmill.’ 

Prevention is your best option. Muscle not only produces movement, it’s life-giving. Better muscles mean better health, immunity, metabolism and energy. That’s right. The quality and quantity of mitochondria—tiny organelles in your muscle cells—decline along with muscle. Mitochondria are energy packets that burn fuel, glucose (blood sugar) and fat. More mitochondria mean more fuel is burned and more energy. It goes the other way too.   

The major, 21st century concern is a sedentary lifestyle speeds up muscle loss. We’ve known this for a long time (Plato knew it). Researchers have three millennia of data that show a causal relationship with physical inactivity and reduced functional capacity (ability to perform tasks) and health. “Three millennia of evidence exist to indicate historical recognition that physical inactivity is detrimental to health by reducing the functional capacity of most organ systems in humans, mammals, and rodents.”

We now know premature deterioration, early death and crumbling with age—think arthritis, diabetes, falls and strokes are all lifestyle-related. Inactivity unnaturally speeds up the aging process. Conversely, when heart health goes up aging goes down.  This is the becoming functionally younger translation!

It is not a stretch to say that 100% of scientists, researchers and medical professionals agree that inactivity is the underappreciated cause of almost all chronic diseases and decrepit conditions. One millennium of data equals one thousand years! 

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it.” Plato (427–347 BC)

These bleak numbers of muscle loss are only accurate if aging and deterioration are winning. The aging process is always there. It’s relentless. But the signal is soft and, in the background, easily overridden and dominated by signals to grow. You trigger the overriding with exercise. The casual movements of daily life are not enough. To initiate growth, it has to be exercise. You can prevent and even reverse muscle, mitochondria and immune system decline at any age. My doctor/trainer friends tell me they have seen 90-year-olds improve their musculature and physiology.  

Starting an exercise program is easier than many people think. If you are new to exercise, you can relax. Many people begin a fitness program in midlife or later. They have figured it out. This is not sports or gym class. It’s way more fun because natural athletic ability and skill are not required. You control and determine your success through effort. That’s it. Work at it and you’ll get it. Growth is guaranteed.

But keep in mind the goal: we don’t want to just play bridge and garden. We want to wade in cold, fast, dicey water, get in and out of boats, mid-stream and land and release fish unharmed in all sorts of weather and conditions.    

Aerobic Exercise

Begin with aerobic activity because hardcore flyfishing requires stamina. Walk, jog, cycle, swim, row or ruck, indoor or out, use an elliptical trainer or a stair stepper to get your heart rate up to 60-65% of maximum. Your maximum heart rate (MHR) is 220 minus your age. So, a 50-year-old should do aerobics at a heart rate of 110 beats per minute to hit 65%. You can get a heart rate monitor for exact measurements or do the ‘talk test’ where during exercise you can talk to someone, but it’s strained. You know, say a few words, breathe, repeat, repeat……Some people like a heart rate monitor because they can adjust their level of effort in real time. It’s fun to watch the control you have and increase your “RPMs.” The best case is to do this kind of aerobic training for 45 minutes to an hour. 

If you can only do 10 minutes, do that. Then return the next day and do the same thing or maybe a little more. Work your way up to fitness a bit at a time. You can do aerobic training every day. The ideal is to do aerobics 4 days per week. Long, slow aerobic training works to fortify your type 1 muscle fibers where most of the energy burning mitochondria live. 

This effort will spawn new mitochondria, giving you renewed energy and better stamina. It will also fortify your immune system. Consistent training over the long-term (months and years) will enhance your circulatory system, delivering more blood and burning even more fuel. Better circulation enhances your ability to thermoregulate—stay warm while wading. Long and slow aerobic training is a standard practice for Olympic athletes, Tour de France riders and marathoners. You’re in good company.

I hope you can see the potential to really transform yourself into a fuel burning machine. Long and slow aerobics builds your muscles, heart and circulatory system and activates fat storage into fuel while reducing (modern living) inflammation. You can turn it up with high aerobics.

Over time, long slow aerobics will build you a bigger engine. Then you can shift into high aerobics, pushing your heart rate beyond 65% (upper limit is 85% of MHR) and burn a different fuel, glucose. Fat still burns in the background, but now you’ve added rocket fuel and created a big metabolic up-shift. You’ll get strong, fast, and powerful from your brain to your feet.  

You will hear me talk about merging a personal approach with science, art, and creativity. What I mean by that is use books, research and workout info as a guide, a framework. Bring the innovation you have for flyfishing and tying to exercise; get creative and play. You could incorporate high aerobics into your long and slow workout. At your pace, add short bursts of speed when you feel comfortable and want an extra challenge. You make the rules. 

Hardcore Flyfishing Requires Muscle

If you want to do hardcore flyfishing, you have to get serious about building muscle. I recommend a trainer for resistance, (strength or weight) training because it is more specialized. You have to know a little bit of what you’re doing. Unlike aerobic training where you recover overnight, resistance training needs a 48-hour repair-rebuild cycle. Two days per week is adequate for resistance training, the maximum is three. Also, you have to know how to break-down your muscles in a good way by exhausting them without damaging them by overloading them or damaging your joints. People hurt their joints then self-diagnose, they have ‘weak joints.’  

Resistance training is serious business. You only get one body. If you go at it too hard, with too much weight too soon, powerful muscles can pull and damage weak joints. Further, joints will not grow strong as quickly as muscle. They don’t receive the ample blood flow of muscle. Specific movements and patience are required to strengthen ligaments and tendons that support the muscles you are building. Knowledge, finesse and extra careful time and attention will serve your efforts to grow pain and injury free. 

I consider joints and back as sensitive, too easily strained and damaged. I take it slow and methodical. Less weight (just using body-weight) is best. Limber, pain-free range of motion is more important than how much weight you can move.   

Typically, we don’t resistance train two days in a row. But, if you work different muscles—chest, shoulders, triceps one day, the next day you could do legs, back and biceps. But you need to know what you are doing. Start out with just body-weight and hire a trainer until you get comfortable with resistance training. A trainer will get you up to speed quickly with technique, form, and a routine. It won’t cost as much as a good fly rod and they’ll love getting a call from a fly fisher saying, “I want to get in condition to do some hardcore flyfishing can you help me with resistance training?” They’ll answer all your fitness questions better than any app. 

Work large muscles to maximize release of growth hormone and engage the growth pathways: chest, pushups (bench-press), back, deadlift, row, quads (front leg muscles), squat, leg press. Use only body weight until you develop form and a baseline of strength.

Resistance training has extensive benefits for hardcore flyfishing. It’s where the hidden benefit of increased coordination (you’ll need this) grows along with strength. Also, conditioned muscle is metabolically active, and it confers these adaptations on non-muscle tissues. You may not know all the benefits, but you’ll feel them, especially when staying out all-day, hard core flyfishing and contorting yourself to land big, heavy fish!

A little-known miraculous benefit of muscle is you burn most of the calories after your workout, even when you sleep. Sedentary men gain weight, consuming 2,000 calories per day. Athletes lose weight, consuming 4,000 calories per day. Rest in the trust and the power of exercise to spawn systemic growth—beyond what you can imagine. It will transform you, your life, and your body. And a muscular body is an efficient body. For every pound of fat lost, you increase available oxygen by at least 1%. 

This is how I designed my own fitness program, personal to me—flexible, ever changing, pushing my body and mind. My friends who owned gyms and were in Police and Firefighter Olympics. They got bored, stopped or reduced workouts to a trickle. I enjoy it 7-days a week going on 42 years. The body, exercise and growth; life is so dynamic. Make fitness a 360-degree growth experiment and I promise you it will never become stale.

Above all, be safe. You don’t have to do killer workouts every time out. Rather, do everything to stay in the game. Sidelined equates to coasting, that’s not good. I’ve had only one injury related to exercise. I over did it once, only once! 

Get your doctor to clear you for aerobics. Get a stress test (I’ve had several). Many people say, “I’d know if something were wrong” Please believe me, you will not. Don’t gamble with exercise and don’t gamble with aging. Use your wisdom. Live better and age better. You could become functionally younger while loving hardcore flyfishing! 

Free download, my Strength, Stamina and Sturdiness e-book

Note: The information herein is meant to be general guidance on fitness. It is not a substitute for consultations with healthcare professionals. In fact, professional consultations are required for success with exercise. Always have a physician approve your planned activity before making changes.

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