Creating Your Own Blue Zone – Part 1

In our new transition guide we outline ten key life categories that will increase the chances for a long, healthy, low stress, and fulfilling life. A focus on improving in these ten categories will lead to a pretty good life! It can be as simple as that. In today’s blog I will share some thoughts on the first of these categories – Health and Fitness.

Health & Fitness is # 1

Originally, I ranked Relationships ahead of Health and Fitness in terms of retirement satisfaction, but after some internal debate I moved Health and Fitness to the top of the list. It’s hard to enjoy anything with poor health. You need to be healthy so you can enjoy the activities and people that you love now and for years to come.

It’s All About Freedom

You hear us preach a lot about the importance of having purpose, a good reason to get out of bed in the morning, but having a reason is useless if you can’t physically get out of bed! Our health is one of the greatest gifts that we will ever receive as it gives us the physical freedom to do whatever we wish to do. We talk a lot about financial freedom but financial freedom is no good without health freedom. You won’t enjoy one without the other.

Aging Well

Many people neglect their health while they climb the corporate ladder. Late nights, early meetings, relentless travel, alcohol and carb rich lunches/dinners with clients and colleagues, all add up and compound over time. Back at the office they sit and then when they finally get home they end up sitting in front of the television trying to decompress. You have probably heard – sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting has been linked with health issues including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even depression. So you gotta move!

The Truth Hurts

The effects from not exercising and poor nutrition is cumulative and will eventually force you to pay a “the price”, the price only goes up as you get older. In a recent Nationwide Retirement Institute survey, a third of recent retirees said that health problems were impacting the quality of their retirement. You can avoid being part of this group by taking action and by that we don’t mean just increasing your medication. Exercise and eating right are the miracle drugs that you are looking for and if taken on a regular basis you’ll live a longer healthier life. You’ll sleep better, your mood will improve and you will have more energy to do what you want to do. An added benefit you will lower the risk of developing a myriad of chronic disease when you commit to a healthy lifestyle and do the work.

Why die younger than you should?

Instead of following the historic pattern of getting a little slower, fatter and weaker each year we can decide instead to get fitter, healthier and stronger. At some point sure we will slow down but why not push that time out to our eighties and beyond.
In the book “Younger Next Year” written by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D., Dr Lodge states “that over 50% of all illnesses in the last third of your life can be eliminated through lifestyle change. In fact 70% of the normal decay associated with aging, the sore joints etc. can be pushed off until near the very end”. Sounds good to me. Their message is that exercise will keep you from dying prematurely and even better it will help keep you young longer.

“The More You Do, The More You Can Do”

Every time I go to the pool and gym I’m reminded of the message in “Younger Next Year.” I see a lot of people older than me but also fitter than me in their seventies and eighties, seeing what they can accomplish gives me hope for the future.
I love their “Don’t give a damn” attitude and zest for life. I smile knowing that they would give the average forty year old a good run for their money. Some of these are the people celebrate their eightieth birthday by signing up for an Ironman just because they can, and who talked me into attempting my own Ironman when I turn 65 in 2019. It’s hard to argue with someone that something is impossible when they are already doing it. They just get it and have made healthy living a big part of their lifestyle and they will reap the returns on that investment for many years to come.

Lessons learned from the Contessa’s  trip to Italy

There is so much conflicting health information coming at us on social media that it makes the head spin. We need to stop searching for a magic pill or one of those quick-fix fad diets that are all the rage these days. What the Contessa learned in Italy was the importance of following the tried and true. Why make things more complicated than they need to be?

We need to reduce stress

Instead of sitting around worrying about our health we can lessen our stress by taking action and doing something about it.
Exercise and eating well is an anti-aging strategy with a lot of science supporting it and incorporating an exercise routine into your life is one of the most powerful prescriptions you can write for yourself. It will give you more energy, help you defend against depression, improve your mood and give you a better outlook on life.
Having good health boosts your self esteem. When you feel/look good your happier, and when you feel good you don’t worry about your health so guess what, there is less stress.

Eat right

Watch what you eat. Diet plays a very crucial role and you need to eat food that will help fuel your body not harm it.
The best diet to adopt is the one you believe in and can stick to. We have decided to take a lesson from the Contessa’s relatives and now practice a Mediterranean diet. We don’t spend a lot of time counting calories but just focus on having smaller portions that include a lot of vegetables and olive oil, more whole foods, less added sugar and refined grains, smaller portions of dairy and meat products and moderate amounts of alcohol. Let’s just say more fish and chicken and less red meat.
It’s simple, I understand it, and I have faith in it because it works for her family over in Italy.

Stay active  mentally and physically

Her family in Italy walks a lot more than us and as a result they are healthier. This jives with a study by the American Council on Exercise who studied 13,000 people over an eight year period and concluded that people who just walked thirty minutes each day significantly reduced their chances of dying prematurely, compared with those who exercised infrequently. In addition it has been proven that regular exercise can help prevent certain health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. For the record her relatives walk a lot more than thirty minute a day. I now try to incorporate exercise into my daily tasks as much as I can, walking whenever possible and riding my bike to do simple errands. I use my iPhone to monitor how many steps I have taken each day and have set a daily minimum of 10,000 steps for myself. If for some reason I don’t hit my number I try to make it up in other ways by either swimming, riding my bike or rowing my boat when out fishing. It all adds up and just proves that you don’t have to join an expensive club to get healthy.

Helpful Mantras

Below are some simple mantras that I use to help me be mindful of what I eat and drink, and my commitment to daily exercise:

  • “Don’t eat crap.” (fast food, processed food)
  • “Use it or lose it.” (Applies both to your muscles as well as your brain)
  • “Just Do It.” (Stop sitting around thinking about things and just start)

The “Don’t Eat Crap” mantra came from Chris Crowley’s book. It’s simple and powerful and results in me making the right choice whenever I’m tempted to eat and drink stuff that I know is unhealthy for me especially barbeque potato chips. The added bonus is that it makes me laugh whenever I think about it and laughing is a very good thing.


Improving your fitness, and eating right will make you happier and is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your life. When you transform your body, a bonus is the mental transformation that takes place in sync with the physical changes.
I’m tired of feeling like a stuffed sausage all day and I know my attitude and self esteem will improve when I look in the mirror and start to see me drop some of those extra 46 lbs that I’ve been carrying around. My clothes will fit better, I will have more energy, and all those little things that usually get to me won’t anymore and that will be a blessing let me tell you.

Since I started exercising I’m now sleeping like a baby. Remember how that feels? I don’t need to take Gravol to help me sleep anymore and as a result I don’t wake up feeling irritable, tired and sluggish like I used to. And the benefits don’t just stop there. Fitness can help you get a job because your energy will be higher and you will feel more confident during the interview. When you feel good about yourself and look sharp in clothes that fit people notice and they are the people who will be hiring you.
And when you do get hired they will be impressed because the quality of your work will be better than most because your positive, have more physical stamina, and mentally your more alert than ever.

The bottom line is that health and fitness will positively impact every facet of your life, and if you work at it you will feel better in your sixties and seventies than you did in your forties and fifties.

Not a bad deal is it?

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2 thoughts on “Creating Your Own Blue Zone – Part 1

  1. Kory Fairell Reply

    Great article…I needed to have read this 20 years ago! I’m turning 70 this June…25 lbs overweight, sore joints, Type 2 diabetic and on medication for high blood pressure. I’m now watching what I eat, own a fit bit and – don’t judge me – working out every day to the Richard Simmons’ Sweatin to the Oldies tapes. In six months I hope to be “younger” and healthier. Love your blogs

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      Thanks for the kind comments Kory. Keep doing what you are doing and life will soon get a whole lot better and don’t be embarrassed about those Richard Simmons tapes as long as it works for you. If we work hard at this and are disciplined chances are good that we both can get off our HBP meds. What a beautiful day that will be!

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