Retirement a Flyfishing Rebirth

Retirement a Flyfishing Rebirth

Make retirement a flyfishing rebirth. It’s a big shift for some, impossible dream for others but, It doesn’t have to be that way. Give it some thought. What is easy to grab, the low-hanging fruit?

Take a walk, watch the sunrise, contemplate and think. After you return, take time to read this post. It’s alarming what aging can do so quickly. On the other hand, it’s astonishing what you can do to combat aging and get in the best shape of your life. And then, take an arduous flyfishing adventure in the wilderness!

Would You Make Retirement a Flyfishing Rebirth if You Were in the Best Physical Condition of Your Life?


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.

I am here to help you grow the most important kind of wealth, the kind you’ll rely on every day. Not to make you fit but to guarantee you know all that is needed to keep yourself fit—flyfishing with vigor into your 90s.

Aging is a natural biological process but it is shaped and driven by society, mass culture. So, the feel and emotion around aging is skewed. The stories, jokes and sayings we hear are not “normal” or “natural aging.” The script we follow and convert to action must be serious, accurate and based on reality not story.


Let’s put social influence in its place. Nature runs the program. The biology of aging involves every molecule, cell, organelle and organ system in the body. It begins to occur quietly, deeply buried in the tiniest human matter—molecules. Slowly expanding at minuscule pace to cells then organs and eventually organ systems. We may begin to feel some manifestation of aging in our 50s, 60s. It’s more obvious in some and less so for others but usually by age 65 the process is in full swing.

Natural aging is a slow process. Inactivity speeds it up unnaturally. Researchers have three millennia of causal data linking inactivity with reduced function, disease and premature aging.

Our soft, cushy, modern, marshmallow life goes against biology, our lineage. We are descendants of hunter-gatherers who were evolutionarily optimized for endurance, lifting and carrying. To earn a living as a hunter-gatherer you ran, walked and foraged, carrying babies, tools and food every day. You were energized, curious, and alert searching for food and opportunity. You were optimistic that the next day you would have even better success and you continuously sharpened and honed your skills to that end.

The human body is unchanged from primitive times. Our DNA is still connected to Nature. It’s tuned-in and “listening” for signals from the environment. Everything you do, your choices and lifestyle send coded (cellular-level) messages to your body. Idleness sends the message that times are tough, it’s a drought, winter, a time of scarcity, time for the body to shut down, enter quiescence, atrophy. Our brain and body misinterpret idleness combined with a full belly and the aging process gets out of whack. It speeds up.

We sit idle in our cushy, temperature-controlled modern world to our detriment. To rebuild vigor, we have to get active, move, exercise, care and commit—whole-person style. Exercise and engage in the world every day because it’s who we are. Human biology is older and deeper than anything we know and it’s in our best interest to re-connect with our roots.

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it. Plato

Muscle Loss

Age-related muscle loss begins around 30-years-old and progresses to an estimated loss of 12% in 60-70-year-olds and 30% in 80-year-olds. This poses the biggest threat to our flyfishing. Type-1 muscle loss (slow-twitch) involves endurance muscles. Loss here means reduced stamina, lower ability to thermoregulate, and reduction in the quantity and quality of mitochondria—tiny organelles—known as “energy packets”—that burn fat and blood sugar (glucose). Less mitochondria means less energy and an overall decline in health.

Type-2 muscles (fast-twitch) deliver power, strength and coordination. These muscles require less oxygen and support short, intense power moves like climbing, carrying and lifting. Atrophy of type-2 muscle occurs at a faster rate than type-1. Loss here reduces strength overall and weakens (deteriorates) coordination that comes from muscle-neural connections at proprioceptors—tiny sensory receptors. As we lose muscle, this mind-muscle connection quietly fades. It goes into “hibernation” and mastery over our fine motor skills declines. It’s so subtle we don’t notice until it’s too late.

Proprioceptors are embedded around joints and in subcutaneous tissue like muscle and tendons. They provide detailed, subconscious intelligence on body position. A continuous feedback loop with proprioceptors, your nervous system and body give you the miraculously fast ability to move, correct your balance and prevent falls without thinking about it.

Research confirms, we don’t necessarily fall more as we age. We lose the ability to react without thinking about our next move. We become slower at catching our balance and recovering in a split second. Downward momentum powered by instability, muscle weakness and gravity act together to make recovery almost impossible, especially while wearing bulky waders, carrying gear, and flyfishing in a hazardous stream. We seem to lose type-2 muscle the fastest so keen attention should be given to strength/resistance training.

The Aging Process is Forgiving

Biological aging is forgiving, almost nonthreatening in the beginning because it’s programmed to be slow. You can remain vibrant for a time. Physical decline (differs for everyone) usually begins to rear its head around age 50. Then the decline speeds up progressively with each decade.

It’s as though Nature is giving us a grace period to prepare, adjust and redefine priorities. Well, it’s even more forgiving. Not only is the process slow, the signal to age is weak and easily overridden.

With enough activity, your exercise efforts can dominate over the aging process. Some things are immutable—gray hair, wrinkles, reduced maximum heart rate and calorie burning slows down. But you can keep (and even increase) your strength, your aerobic capacity and overall physical capacity from declining with exercise. Our objective is to increase activity enough to reflect how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. Not exactly to the “T” but our version. What we have going for us is, the aging process is slow and weaker than the power of exercise. That’s power and latitude over aging.

Exercise Overrides Aging

Exercise triggers the signal for growth. The part of your brain that controls exercise is the hindbrain and it sits at the top of your spinal cord. It is a miraculous work of unchanged evolutionary precision. It communicates at the cellular level, not through conscious thought or speech but primitive biology, cellular pathways.

When you exercise, your brain-body complex sends multi-system signals that gear your cells, organs and tissues to the immediate energy demands of the moment. Think about when you climb stairs. As you step, your hindbrain engages and your heart rate increases automatically. Your muscles’ demand for increased blood flow and oxygen is met with a perfected response. The hindbrain continues to monitor your body’s metabolism and movement (communicating with other parts of the brain) in perfect harmony.


Exercising causes the micro-breakdown of muscle at cellular-level which releases messaging proteins called cytokines into the bloodstream and they trigger growth—the creation of new infrastructure and mitochondria. It’s a growth pathway that signals other chemicals to join the dance—growth hormone, “growth factors,” insulin, testosterone, serotonin, adrenalin and dozens of others.

About one hour after you exercise inflammation (the good kind) peaks and that automatically turns on the repair, renewal process. A different set of cytokines then release repair and rebuild chemicals & hormones—throughout your bloodstream. Everything, not just muscle; your veins, arteries, joints, bones, organs and brain is bathing in the repair, rebuild juices for hours.

The power of muscle to transform cannot be overstated. You don’t need to count calories. You can count on the fact that they will burn while you sleep. Sedentary men gain weight consuming 2,000 calories per day. Athletes lose weight consuming 4,000 calories per day. Trust exercise to bring results. The growth is systemic—beyond what you can imagine. It will transform you, your life and your flyfishing.


Developing aerobic capacity, will make your heart stronger and increase your endurance. You will build the stamina to wade and flyfish, not just for longer days but for a lifetime. Once you have a solid foundation of aerobic capacity along with strength and coordination established, you can tune-up your fine motor skills with stretching, balance and stability exercises. Your body will transform into a strong, sturdy and enviable frame.

Exercising in specific ways, will “turn on” specific pathways of growth. Long and slow aerobic exercise builds your type-1 muscles, heart and circulation, burns fat and enables your body to heal; and gives you stamina. Numerous studies have reported that when heart health goes up, biological aging goes down. This foundational endurance training is essential for every Olympic hopeful and Tour de France athlete. It’s also a necessity for fly fishers who wade in cold, slippery streams. You are in good company.

Jog, walk, row, run, bike at a moderate 60-65% of maximum heart rate (MHR). That is 220 minus your age. For a 50-year-old: MHR=170 x.65=110 beats per minute is 65%. Use a heart-rate-monitor or use the “talk test”—you can converse but in short sentences because you have to breathe. You huff a bit as you walk and talk.

The ideal is to get your heart-rate up to 60-65% of maximum and keep it there for 45 minutes. In the beginning, do what you can. If you can only do15 minutes, do that. If your heart-rate spikes, quit. Do it again the next day. Build on it. Next week do twenty minutes. If 15 minutes is your maximum, do that for the rest of your life. Do what you can every day and feel your body and your flyfishing transform.

Consistent aerobic exercise for months and years will dramatically improve your circulatory system. You’ll grow new capillaries and influence the daily expression of your DNA. Remember, when heart health goes up, biological aging goes down. You could become functionally younger!

I recommend a trainer for resistance, strength or weight training because it is a more specialized effort. 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, 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. Also, overloading can damage can damage (weak) tendons and ligaments.

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 fly fish into my 90s, can you help me with resistance training?” They’ll answer all your fitness questions, better than any app.

Work large muscles to engage the growth pathways: Chest, pushups (bench-press), Back, deadlift, row, Quads (front leg muscles), squat. Use only body weight until you develop form and a baseline of strength.

Resistance training has extensive benefits. It is where the hidden benefit of increased coordination comes along with strength. 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 great!

Manage Chronic Illness

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly half of adults in the U.S. are living with at least one chronic illness. Having one or more chronic conditions is not a reason to avoid exercise it’s a reason to lean in to exercise. The research is undeniable. Don’t allow chronic illness to sideline your flyfishing. Get a physician’s approval and exercise like your life depends on it because it does.

The human immune system is far more powerful than any medication we have devised. Immunologist, Daniel Davis

A 2019 Sports Medicine and Health Science Report stated, “the implementation of daily physical activity and exercise prevention interventions support an 80% reduction in cardiovascular risk, 90% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk, 33% reduction in cancer risk, and in some cases reductions in all-cause mortality.”

You simply cannot get this kind of life-giving, potent medicine anywhere except from exercise. It’s empowering to know you are in control of the most powerful health-giving care available.

Flip the typical retiree life on its head. Bring fitness to the forefront and marginalize doctor visits and disease. Use this contact form to ask about our Virtual Fitness Program.

You can begin to exercise at any age. In fact, many people come to it later. They have realized this isn’t sports or gym class. Supreme skill or athletics is not required. Success is based on sweat. Effort alone will open the door to a full, vibrant life, flyfishing longevity—into our wisest, most influential and productive years. If there were ever a time to seize the moment, this is it. The last decades of your life could be the most significant. You’ve seen a lot. You have amassed the wisdom, skill and patience to mentor, influence and provide the most value helping others. If you can show up in the best health possible, free of anxiety, dread and pain, engaged, caring and involved, that sends a powerful message. Like Ghandi said, “my life is my message.”

Use the graphic below as a guide. The base of your fitness should be aerobic capacity and endurance. From there build strength and coordination. Physical fitness doesn’t mean much without emotional and cognitive health so get involved, be a joiner. Stability and balance training will refine your motor skills, reconnect and enhance those proprioceptors with your nervous system and body. Finally, eat a little less for overall health. We burn less calories as we age so it’s a good habit to eat until about 80% full.

Be patient, give yourself time, adjust, unfold the new you slowly. Stretch those muscles every day as part of your conditioning. You can find numerous exercises online if you want to take any part of your effort further. You are in control, progress not perfection!

Growth is guaranteed, you will grow. You may not add more days to your life, but that’s not the goal. The goal is more life to your days—your flyfishing days!

Download my Quick Guide to Strength, Stamina and Sturdiness and join our Fitness Community for Fly Fishers and Outdoor Types.

How to Retire and Reinvent

Note: The information herein is meant to be general guidance on fitness. It is not a substitute for consultations with a medical professional. Always consult a physician before making changes.

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