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The New 50

John Platero redefines the term age limit

By Maxine Hurt

Photo by Bill Knapp

 

ohn Platero is a serious guy: serious about life, learning, and lifting the fitness benchmark. And he seriously doesnít look like he was born in 1958.

With a granite hard jaw, shaggy brown locks, and a muscled frame, Platero, the founder and owner of Future Fit, Inc. and the director of the National Council of Certified Personal Trainers, could easily blend in with fist-pumping thirtysomethings at a rock concert. Which he does fairly often, pounding out the beat for his Steely Dan cover band, Dr. Wu.

At the tender age of 50ócompeting in the Huntsman World Senior Gamesóthe avid cyclist swept the road racing events, claiming all four gold medals. When the dust finally cleared, he returned to Ventura County with a total of seven medals heavy around his neck, leaving event organizers to reassess what defines a ďseniorĒ athlete.

As a super fit 50-year-old, what does your workout routine consist of?

My routine is very specific because of my sport, which is biking, and because I have a lot of injuries [from my days as a weightlifter]. I was young and doing exercises in the gym that, at the time, didnít hurt. But eventually, I wore things out and tore ligaments in my knee. I also tore my pectoral muscle. Now, at my age, I canít do many things that I could when I was younger.

Since cycling is not weight bearing, and neither is swimming, I try to swim twice a week. And I cycle pretty much every day. I usually go to the gym to do specific exercises. As a cyclist, I am in a seated, rounded position, so Iím doing exercises at the gym to counter that. Iím also a writer and a drummer, so again Iím in a seated position. All of my exercises in the gym are to activate and facilitate the muscles I donít use at those times. Iím not in the gym trying to pump up. Iím in the gym trying to keep muscle balance, keep certain muscles active, and keep bones dense. As you get older, your bones get softer.

What are the key takeaways from your book, YES YOU CAN: Fitness After 40, A New Beginning?

At age 40, whether you like it or not, you have to deal with your body. You have to be active and start learning about your body. We are misinformed. We have advertisements blaring at us about how you can do XYZ in 10 minutes a day. Itís a joke. If I told you that you could get a college education in 10 minutes a day, would you believe it? This book tries to bring back common sense. You canít get fit in 10 minutes a day. You canít learn an instrument in 10 minutes a day. You canít do anything in 10 minutes a day. Itís bullshit. People are looking for an easy route. This book brings you the science, but then breaks it down into practical application.

What are three things people need to start doing in their forties to keep fit?

First, you have to be consistent; fitness has to be a part of your day, everyday. Second, you need to move. Just take the word Ďexerciseí and replace it with Ďmovement.í You need to move seven days a week. The third thing is that you have to educate yourself. Go online, read a book, watch a video Ö Take responsibility.

What are some of the things people have to be careful about, in terms of physical fitness, as they age?

You still go hard, but you canít do the miles or volume you could when you were younger. You have to learn your boundaries. At a certain point I couldnít run anymore, so I had to learn to bicycle. And if for some reason I couldnít bicycle, Iíd have to learn to swim. If I couldnít swim, Iíd have to learn to dance or something. Thatís wisdom: knowing that you have certain limitations and knowing how to work within those limitations. Sometimes people donít learn and it takes an injury to wake them up. A lot of guys wonít stretch. At a certain point their back will go out. Then they say, ĎOh, maybe yoga class is good.í

Are there advancements in fitness technology or techniques that people over 40 should pay attention to?

One thing Iíve seen in the past five or 10 years is functional training, which is a really broad term. The methodology moved away from just lifting weights for bodybuilding. Now they are looking at things like, ĎHow do you use a lawn mower?í Trainers started moving toward recreating activities in life using balls and bands and pulleys. Thatís one of the reasons Pilates is really popular. Itís funny, because I see fitness in the media more today than ever before. Yet it seems that the more I see it, the lower the benchmark falls.

So you think the mediaís increased focus on fitness has actually been detrimental?

One of my pet peeves is: How much lower can we lower the benchmark? Now itís, oh just park a little farther away from the grocery store and walk. Are you kidding me? When you look at the science for females, they have more endurance fiber than men. So a woman who is, say, 40 or 45 years old is still a vibrant strong female. When she goes and walks for 30 minutesóthatís nothing. If we were living in 1909 right now, do you know how much activity you and I would be doing? Iíd be loading up a horse. Youíd be making butter. There was no washing machine to do the laundry. Weíd probably be doing three to five hours of activity, no problem. So for a woman to come into the gym for a half-hour walk, thatís nothing. In fitness, we keep lowering the standard.

People say that 50 is the new 30. What does that mean to you?

This is my personal belief: At 50, a lot of people are starting things anew. They are getting divorced, or their kids are leaving the house. Maybe, because of the economy, they have to start a new career. Or theyíve done very well, so now they have free time and are doing things they always wanted to do. Mentally speaking, there is that paradigm shift. It used to be that at 50 you were done. Now, for a lot of people, itís a new beginning. Plus, there is increased awareness in the media about health and wellness. We are talking about sleep, Alzheimerís, high cholesterol, diabetes Ö and you have sexual enhancement drugs like Viagra. There is this feeling of, You arenít dead yet!

What was it like to compete and win multiple gold medals in the World Senior Games?

When I went to the senior games, I saw 75- and 80-year-old cyclistsóIím not talking about riding a bike on the side of the street; Iím talking mountain biking over rocks and sand and shale and on trails. That means these guys can ride a bike on the street for the next 20 years, because thatís just a smooth surface. Their balance and coordination is amazing. You talk to them and they say, ĎYeah, Iíve been coming here for the past 12 years,í and they are already talking about next year. Theyíre excited. I think thatís why they say 50 is the new 30, because you can still be active and do new things. Itís not over.

06-01-2009

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