Vail Daily health feature: Helping baby boomers stay healthy with interval, strength, mobility training |

Vail Daily health feature: Helping baby boomers stay healthy with interval, strength, mobility training

Rod Connolly
Special to the Daily
Cycling Coach Rod Connolly working on hill intervals with his client David Helfrich.
Special to the Daily |

in 2014, a poll conducted across the United States questioned various demographics about their commitment to health, fitness and vitality. The results showed that the baby boomer population had a much higher interest in health and wellness than millennials, gen-X’ers or traditionalists. The Vail Valley is home to many retired baby boomers. This population is drawn to the high quality of life, often purchasing a retirement home and embracing Vail’s healthy lifestyle. I wonder if the local baby boomer population is among the healthiest in the country?

The baby boomer population is characterized by a strong work ethic and analytical outlook. This group not only has interest in their health but they actively seek instruction on how to maximize their quality of life. As the Vail Valley gets into the swing of summer, baby boomers are arriving and looking to participate in outdoor activities. They want to hike, bike and golf, as well as enjoy positive social interactions. In short, Vail baby boomers are here to live life to the fullest.

From an exercise physiology standpoint, I assess the primary demands of this population to help them perform at their best and minimize injuries. As we get older, certain aspects of fitness degrade more rapidly unless we apply specific training interventions. Qualities such as mobility, muscular strength, motor skills and posture decline as we age, but cardiovascular endurance stays more stable. Ironically, the type of independent training most older people undertake is steady-state cardiovascular training, but there are better ways for baby boomers to train in order to maximize benefit while staying efficient with their time.

Read on for some of my suggestions. As always, I recommend you consult your physician before attempting any of the following exercises.

Cardiovascular: Don’t be afraid of the interval

At different cardiovascular intensities, we activate different energy systems. If you have a long-standing workout routine, it’s easy to fall into what I call “third gear training.” At this level, you’re moving at a pace where you feel like you’re working, but you never go really hard, nor do you go easy enough to recover. While third gear training can feel like you’re doing something positive, you never actually make much cardiovascular fitness progress.

An effective cardio workout for this population can be a “five times 5-minute” interval workout. This can be done while hiking, on a bike or on an exercise machine. After a good 10-minute warm-up, execute five 5-minute hard intervals where you are working at a level 8 on a 1-10 perceived exertion scale. Really challenge yourself! Take easy 3-minute recoveries in between each 5-minute interval. Warm down for 5 minutes after the last 3-minute recovery.

Mobility: Relearn how to move

The human body gets set in the patterns it most frequently visits. This often leads to movement dysfunction that manifests as injury or chronic aches and pains. This is where instruction from a qualified functional movement trainer can be extremely beneficial. The trainer can take you through a movement assessment to help determine the areas of dysfunction. This information will be used to create a movement routine specific to your needs. Foundational movements in this training often include: proper squat technique, hip hinge technique and shoulder, spine and pelvis stability drills. Visit this story online at to see two videos of a basic body weight squat as well a hip hinge. Yoga can be great for the mobility of baby boomers, too. Contact a studio that is well respected and find out which teachers specialize in posture and alignment. If you are new to yoga, ask the studio what classes are best for beginner practitioners.

Strength: Don’t be afraid to move something heavy

Our musculo-skeletal system can degrade at a rapid rate if we don’t effectively train for strength. This is often counterintuitive to the older population. Without proper strength training, we run into problems including decreased bone density, impaired metabolism, chronic postural pain and endocrine issues. Proper strength training is another area where a highly-qualified trainer can be valuable. Select a trainer who will first help you learn the proper way to perform basic movements. Once you have learned these, a trainer can instruct you on how to use weights and loads with good movement mechanics. Strength training is essential for maintaining quality of life as we age. I recommend that you are very selective in hiring a trainer. Choose someone who is a stickler for detail and form, and someone who is highly committed to your improvement.

The power of a support network

The world’s populations with the highest percentage of centegenarians and a high quality of life have something in common. These societies all have a strong sense of community, and people approach their daily activities with a sense of purpose. In the Vail Valley, we have a great intrinsic support network. The natural environment is also very uplifting. The variety of organizations ranging from the arts such as Bravo! Vail, to health education such as Living at Your Peak, to fitness communities such as ours at Dogma Athletica are great ways to interact with other vibrant people to develop camaraderie and purpose. These support networks are wonderful for helping you move out of your comfort zone to stimulate yourself physically, cognitively and emotionally. This is key for the well being of an older population.

Rod Connolly is an exercise physiologist, USA Cycling Coach and owner of Dogma Athletica, a fitness center in The Riverwalk in Edwards. Visit, or call 970-688-4433 for more information.

Support Local Journalism