Mountain Grit-Training for the long haul


The Simple 7 Buckets That Build My Buffer: Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills -Agility, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit

“Experience the unexpected. Tap all the senses a different way every day!”

Healthy habits, patterns and practices are maintenance magic. Ruts, on the other hand, rust the spirit, mind and body. Bust a rut, every day.

As you repair and refill Buckets #1-2, while upping your balance game #3a, note the progression of working from the inside-out, from small to large, firing and re-wiring brain circuits [neuroplasticity] as we go. We fix what needs fixing, then beef up our personal buffer.

Bucket #3, the physical literacy skills bucket of agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction, and speed gets hit the hardest with aging.

For Mountain Gritters in it for the long haul, the SKILL bucket needs to be robust and resilient enough to take unexpected hits, inherent in our outdoor pursuits. Either we do our favorite activities regularly OR we TRAIN to keep them. If neglected, this bucket declines in our 40s, accelerates in our 50s, and sets us up towards forfeiting the activities that make us tick.

“We adapt to what we do or don’t do!”

As kids, we played tag, dodge ball, and keep-away, and got pretty agile. We sharpened our skills by playing sports, on the grass, court, snow, ice and water. Some chose dance, gymnastics, rodeo, martial arts and adventure sports. Whatever it was, agility in one form or another came to PLAY.

Bucket #3b is AGILITY

Agility has been cited as the champion of athletic abilities. It is the ultimate integration of balance, coordination, reaction, power and speed, with strength as the underlying foundation [Bucket #4]. Agility allows us to ‘read and react’ to a stimulus, and respond with a coordinated, controlled and efficient movement.

Elite athletes epitomize this with fluidity and complexity, at lightning speeds, with explosive power. It’s poetry in motion, and they make it look easy!

Yet beneath the surface, the brain is reading and processing signals from the visual, auditory, vestibular [inner ear gyroscope], and joint, skin, muscle and fascial sensors. It then orchestrates the right movement(s) at the right time within milli-seconds, so we can perform at home, work or at play.

Can we preserve agility for years and decades to come? Maybe not to the level of our prime, but certainly enough to keep us in our game of life.

It’s about that sweet spot, that dose of stimuli, that sits somewhere between rusting out, NOT moving enough, AND wearing out, moving too much on a vintage vehicle in need of repairs and maintenance. The spice, the new or different tweak, IS brain fertilizer, sprouting and fortifying new circuitry, the stimulus cog in the learning wheel of growth and discovery at any age.

For the seasoned Gritter, we CAN navigate and maneuver, from task to task, position to position and most importantly, season to season, with competence and confidence.
That is ... IF we can do enough to deny the slide, and not too much to ruin our ride.

So agility is NOT just ladder drills, nor is it just for athletes. It IS about reading and reacting, adjusting and correcting, indoors and out, in predictable and random environments.

Loss of agility is NOT part of aging, per se, but like with our other skills and abilities, we use them or we lose them! This is not to dismiss accidents, concussions, serious medical conditions, or just plain bad luck.

We CAN be nimble. We can be quick .... IF we keep igniting, and leaping over and around the candlestick.

Bucket #3b ‘Amp Up Agility’

Why should I care?
• Agility is the freedom and confidence to enjoy the trails, snow, river, ranch, court or field.
• It is the optimal integration of balance, coordination, reaction, power and speed, built on strength [Bucket #4].
• It is the #1 line of defense, a fortress against tripping, stumbling and falling; it allows us to read & react to random disturbances in terrain, surface, crowds, or weather. It keeps us UP, and in control.
• The more agile Gritter is more adept at changing positions; like getting into and out of a kayak, crouching, crawling and climbing at the job site, or stalking prey on a hunt.
• It is QUICK adjustments and corrections, from stop-start, to shuffle, pivot, X-over, turn, reach, dodge, lift and carry, to throw, catch, strike or shoot.
• It is critical to running or hiking on rooty, rutty, loose gravel trails.
• Regardless of the speed and challenge of play, all sports, riding, gliding, biking or paddling activities, are packed with a steady stream of read & react.

My Agility Check-Up

I will NOT self-inflict pain or injury just to prove I can do it.
YES [1 point]: I do it automatically with ease NO: I struggled or felt pain

I CAN ...
1. Dodge and weave in the airport or crowded place with confidence.
2. Crawl or duck under a fence, then stand up and climb up and over a barrier.
3. Tromp around my property, carrying rocks, feed, dirt or kids with confidence.
4. DH ski a variety of terrain, check my speed, and turn quickly, smoothly and efficiently.
5. Chase my dogs or kids in a game of tag.
6. Hopscotch, carioca, shuffle, X-over, leap, jump, skip, bound, sprint and cut.
7. Run, hike or ride downhill on the trail, with confidence.
8. Stop on a dime, pivot and reverse direction.
BONUS: I regularly play a racquet sport, team sport or participate in an activity during all four seasons, that keeps me agile, or I train to keep it.

Scoring for Bucket #3b:


8+ holding your own, and denying the slide.
4-7 have started to slide, reverse course now.
0-3 it’s never too late to start the restoration and re-learning

*Let’s use the analogy of a restored mountain bike. Moveable parts are now moving. Stable parts are stable. The frame is solid [strength], and the shocks and springs [elastic strength] are able to absorb impact and transfer energy to change direction. My human vehicle needs to read & react quickly enough, too. If I’m slow on the draw, I may to need to ‘rewire’, not retire my vehicle.

*A heads-up to former athletes, who have taken a hiatus from quick, explosive movement ... motor memory is a real thing. The brain remembers, but the soft tissues may not be able to handle the forces produced. Think hamstring strains and Achilles ruptures. Yes, to GO, but ease back in so you don’t BLOW.

Common Sense Solutions:

Continue doing the things that make you tick! Restore and maintain your vehicle, so you CAN.

Timely Tips

• For the best available signaling, sharpen vision, hearing, and the inner ear gyroscope with aids and restorative procedures.
• Medications, specifically multi-med interactions ARE a major risk factor for falls, and can slow our read & react processing times; share your physical activity repertoire with your doctor and pharmacist.

DAILY, walk, and walk BRISKLY, on a variety of terrain. Spring UP stairs, every other step, whenever possible. OWN and KEEP these abilities!

Bare feet remain smart. Daily, expose the sensory-rich bare foot to different surfaces. Walk barefoot at home or elsewhere at your discretion. Wear minimalist shoes when appropriate to reduce the ground-foot barrier.

At HOME, perform all house work and in/outdoor maintenance involving multiple position changes, tasks, surfaces and tools. Carry stuff outdoors, while negotiating lumps, bumps, and slopes.

At WORK, break away from the chair and the screen every 30 minutes. Consider a vocation change, one that gets us off the screen and into a movement-RICH environment.

At PLAY, its’ all seasons, GO! Summer is here! Backpack, hike, camp, paddle or golf. Yes, golf, where sand, rough, slopes, and terrain changes, while carrying our bag, amp our agility.

Racquet sports [pickleball is booming], team sports, and anything physical, you deem fun, exciting and stimulating, do it! The Senior Games are growing leaps and bounds. See for more details.

Dance IS footwork, whether it’s line, ballroom, ballet, or folk. It may not be as reactive or explosive, but the brain directing the feet, is a form of agility. Dance demands dynamic balance, some spring, coordination, and cognitive skills. We learn the steps and go!

Anytime we cross the midline with an arm or leg, as in spirals and diagonals, that’s brain candy!

TRAIN on our feet. Tai Chi, and other mind-body practices improve dynamic balance, and are good pre- requisites for faster, more explosive movements later on. OWN strength in the squat, lunge, hinge, carry, pull and press first.

ALWAYS include skips, jumps, leaps and bounds in all directions when warming up. Skipping rope, shadow boxing, ladder work and reactive eye-hand drills are big-bang moves.

A TRAINING BENCHMARK: Train to complete, or compete in The Rut or a Spartan race, the Senior Games or NASTAR.

If you need a jumpstart, seek out a movement professional that can safely and strategically get you on your way. Join small and large group training sessions remotely or live.
See for Pat’s class on Thursday at 0930.

In closing, ponder this: “Everything is easier when I am stronger!”

Next up on GRIT: Bucket #4 Strength

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