How to Stay Active at Any Age

Backroads' Tom Hale in South AfricaI recently tore a ligament in my ankle while skate skiing. And while I've had dozens of injuries over the years from overdoing athletic endeavors, this one required my first surgery ever. I went from 60 to zero immediately--quite the shock to my lifestyle. The downtime was an opportunity to get into even more "work overdrive mode" than usual, and I probably drove a few people over here at Backroads nuts with all my "insight."

It turns out that the injury was not only great for our company R&D, but it also reminded me how grateful I am to live an active lifestyle. I was able to recover much more quickly than my doctors thought possible. Of course, an upcoming bike trip through Brittany and Normandy and hiking trip in the Alps might have given me extra incentive to get moving again.

I truly believe that an active lifestyle has a profound impact on overall health and our ability to rebound from setbacks. So, what are some of the easiest ways to stay active, regardless of age or ability level?

  • Surround yourself with active people. They're great motivators and may introduce you to new activities (yes, like skate skiing) that inspire you to keep moving.
  • Multitask. My wife Liz and I get in that much-needed quality time with each other and our kids on trail runs and local biking outings.
  • Insert activity throughout your life. Of course I highly recommend active vacations like those Backroads offers. But it's also the sum of simple actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator that make a difference.
  • Backroads Active EmployeesWork somewhere that encourages its employees to be healthy. Easier said than done, I know. But if you have the option, go for the place with the lunchtime yoga classes, bike rides and free, healthy snacks in the lunchroom. The more healthy choices become ingrained throughout your day, the easier it is to remain fit and healthy. Better yet, work for a company whose annual employee outing is a bike trip in destinations like Vietnam or Spain. I invite you to find out more about working at that company.

As I head off for my trips, I expect that biking 50 miles a day through France might be a little more challenging for me now than it was before my accident. I also anticipate that sitting down at the end of each day to a Michelin-star meal and glass of red wine will be just a bit more gratifying this time around, knowing what effort it took to recuperate.

I'd love to hear your tips for remaining active or recovering from an injury for additional inspiration!

Tom Hale and Son on bikes

39 Responses

  1. Lori Bregger

    What a fantastic concept, active vacationing!! My husband and I are taking our first trip with Backroads in September to France! We live in a very active mountain town, and the idea of “working out” sounds foreign. We hike, bike, golf and ski, in other words, we play!! The one thing I have done for years, is park as far away as possible when I go to the grocery store or any type of shopping. It’s a win win, my car is less likely to get a door ding and I get in a few extra steps! Wishing you a speedy recovery!!

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Lori–Love this! You’re right. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean hundreds of squats at the gym. It’s got to be fun or it becomes a drag.

      Please let us know how your France Backroads trip goes. Can’t wait to hear about your first-time experience with us.

  2. patricia

    My husband Jon and my children Dillon and Jonny and myself enjoyed the Burgundy trip last year at this time. My husband did it with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis . we had the best time! Just amazing! Jon forgot his reality for 6 days! thank you back roads. can’t wait to do another one when Jon is able.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Patricia,
      I’m very touched to hear that you were able to focus on nothing but enjoying the moment during your Burgundy trip. Here’s to many more Backroads trips over many years for you and your family.

  3. Dawn Beavis

    16 months ago I had an accident and suffered a pretty horrific fracture of my L1 vertebrae. 3 months in back brace that prevented any bending or twisting or lifting meant we had to cancel our Backroads hiking trip to Alaska. We rescheduled, and have just returned from the rebooked hiking trip – it took a lot of determination and hard work but I did that hike up the Exit Glacier, almost to the top of the Harding Ice Field trail, and 5 more days of epic hiking. Our guides made it the best vacation of my life!! Thankyou Backroads

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Dawn,
      And how much more meaningful was hiking that glacier after overcoming your injury? I can just imagine your sense of accomplishment. Congratulations!

      And yes, I agree that our guides make every trip the “vacation of a lifetime.” They never cease to amaze me, even after almost 40 years.

  4. Maryam Fowler

    My son and I just did a backroads hiking trip to Switzerland ?? for his high school graduation. It was magnificent. Our leaders Annie and Heidi were truly amazing and took such great care of all the guests. We hiked everyday with breathtaking sceneries, stayed at a few different cities and backroads took care of everything along the way. Can’t wait to do another backroads trip again.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Maryam–I also just returned from an Alps hiking trip and will blog about my top moments. Would love to hear your favorites and compare notes.

  5. Richard

    Very inspiring story Tom. I’ve had two major athletic injuries in my life. The 1st happened more than 10 years ago during a company softball game when I tore two ligaments in my foot. I couldn’t walk the next day and was on crutches for the next three months but I gradually rehabbed myself by hiking. Go Active! The other injury I had was a brazilian jiu-jitsu injury about five years ago that left with me with multiple herniated discs in my neck. The neck injury has been tougher to overcome but I lift upper-body weights to build strength in my neck.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Richard–It’s a bit ironic that staying active might actually cause some injuries, right? But it’s all about moderation and taking care of ourselves while we’re active, and I’ve certainly gotten better about that as I age (skate skiing accident aside…) Keep up the activity because, as you know, staying fit is the best medicine, both mentally and physically.

      I hope to see you on an upcoming Backroads trip. We’ll motivate you to keep moving!

  6. Scott Hamilton

    Bummer about your ankle, glad it has healed well. Five months after taking the photo of Vernazza that is on page 42 of the 2017 Walking and Hiking Trips catalogue I was hiking in Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV and tore my ACL. At age 64 the option often is to forgo surgery to replace it and settle for rehab and an unstable knee. The ortho doc asked me about my lifestyle and I told him of Backroads, showed him my photo and told him of plans for future trips. That answered the question. Surgery to take out the torn ACL and to replace it happened the next week. Finished rehab in March and was released three months early. Planning to hike 14 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway July 4.
    Mary and I have loved every Backroads Trip we have been on. Leaders Stephanie and Edwardo on the Cinque Terre Trip were terrific.
    Happy Trails,
    Scott Hamilton

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hey Scott,
      There’s proof that a picture is worth 1,000 words. All your doctor needed to see was your fantastic photo to know that you would not be settling for “limited” stability. Here’s hoping your new ACL enables you to keep on hiking for decades.

  7. Kelly

    True insights, Tom and thanks for sharing. Ten years ago this weekend I took my first Backroads trip to Yellowstone/Tetons and I’ve been hooked ever since. Have loved my several trips since then and always been impressed with the superb quality, organization, helpfulness and camaraderie. Scott and Mary (his comment right above) have become great friends from three of those trips. Just want to thank you and your team for creating such a wonderful company and magnificent active trips. Plan to see me on many more!

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Kelly,
      I never stop tiring of hearing comments like yours from our guests. We are so dedicated to quality, and I love it when guests can feel that commitment.

      You raise one of my favorite aspects of Backroads trips–meeting other active people who become great friends. We’re never too old to enjoy new adventures and make new friends, are we?

  8. Thank you all for sharing your words of inspiration and Backroads stories–we’ve passed them along to Tom, who is currently away biking through Brittany and Normandy and hiking in the Alps. We hope to see you out there on the trail or road this summer!

  9. Rob Williams/Motherlode Bike Coalition

    Tom, Glad to hear that you are out hiking and traveling in France. We just returned from traveling with BackRoads in Loire Valley, and Normandy with my wives French Class.
    We have traveled with BackRoads on eight dream vacations and each trip was used as motivation to maintain good health and fitness. My wife and I typically spend several days in the gym each week and on the road cycling to insure that we are prepared for our BackRoads Bike Vacations. We are planning trip nine in 2018 and trip ten in 2020!

    Tips on staying active! I am 63 years old and I have applied several times to serve as a BackRoads trip leader. I thought working for BackRoads would keep me young and I would be the oldest Trip Leader working for BackRoads making dream vacations happen.The news of not being able to work for BackRoads has not impacted my desire to be active. It has made me rethink work, play, travel and what matters in retirement.
    Tip 1 Set a weekly routine that includes exercise, rest, and pleasure.
    Tip 2 Find a cause that matters to you and make a difference
    Tip 3 Set an excercise goal to use as motivation and reward yourself with a BackRoads Active Vacation.
    Although, I’ve never worked for a company like BackRoads that promotes good health, fitness, cycling and walking vacations, I am a loyal BackRoads Traveler.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hey Rob,

      I think I should frame your priority list for my office wall!


  10. Susan wittpenn

    Tom: I am so happy to read this post! I loved the trips I did as a single and hope to take my family one day soon. Love to you and Liz

    Susan Radcliffe wittpenn

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Susan,
      We’ve got great bike options for the really young set! My kids slept like babies (literally) in the Burley trailer.
      Hope to see you out there.

  11. John Wilson

    Four years ago I had a crash on a bike trip to Arizona. Needed surgery to repair my collarbone and a break in my hand. Since I was in my late 50’s they asked if I really wanted to go through all the trouble! My wife and I are looking forward to our third Backroads vacation since then now coming up fast. I certainly hope not to ever get seriously hurt again but, if I do, I will be back. Thanks for your story!

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi John,
      Late 50s is the new 20s! I hope you’re as good as new and keep us posted on your upcoming trip. Have a great time.

  12. Jane Irwin

    I heartily agree with the points Tom recommends. Incorporating an active lifestyle into your daily life – with bursts of intensity – is the key to good health and enjoyment of being alive. I took my first Backroads trip (Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon) in the late ’80’s after hearing Tom speak about Backroads in Chicago. An active lifestyle, cycling and Backroads vacations shared with family over the years have contributed to a rich and rewarding life experience that I continue to enjoy.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Jane,
      Hear hear!

  13. ronda finkelstein

    great advice..we cannot wait to get on the road with Backroads in France in august..a good reason to get thru some injuries

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      I could not agree more. Which France trip are you taking? Keep me posted on how it goes.

  14. Faye Blondin

    In 2007 my sister invited me to go on a yoga and surfing trip to Costa Rica. At the time I didn’t do yoga and didn’t surf but with encouragement from my husband off I went. We have never looked back. Now at age 64 and her at 57 we made a pact back then to do an active trip every year. Some people think it a bit crazy but I read a great book called Younger Next Year which made me know we were on the right track. Highly recommend this read. It is true, active is better and riding a bike, surfing, skiing, yoga are all better for you than sitting doing nothing active for two weeks. Some day we will probably register for one of your trips. They always look amazing.

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hello Faye, Thanks for the book recommendation. I always enjoy hearing what other active people like to read. It’s always inspiring to hear from people who thrive on activity and value it for how it makes you feel. Make sure to thank your sister!
      p.s. We’d love to see you on one of our trips–they really are amazing.

  15. Eileen L

    I think one of the keys is to have friends who are willing to help you and perhaps modify their activity to help you do what you can. I was kayaking within a few months after bilateral knee replacements but only because of my friends. They carried my kayak and gear and got me in and out of the kayak long before I could do it myself. I also had to remind myself that if I could not go on that overnight kayak camping trip (yet), I still could go on a day trip somewhere! Sometimes it was hard to make myself do what I could vs sulking about what I really wanted to but supportive friends made it easier. I also looked for beginners who weren’t ready for what I really wanted to do but I could share my knowledge and they would help me with the physical part of it. (Always keeping safety for all of us in mind, of course)

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Eileen,
      You nailed it! Group support is so important, especially as we deal with injuries, stress or the occasional laziness. Surrounding ourselves with people who enable our activity is one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves–and each other. And those people make being active more fun, which is half the battle.

  16. Chris Richards

    Cannot agree more that an active lifestyle is critical for optimum health. As a physician I am promoting this to patients all day, every day. I practice what I preach as well. We’re 3 deep in Backroads trips so far, and counting. 5 days a week at the Tahoe Peaks Athletic Club, all the skiing, biking and extreme landscape maintenance I can fit in, as well as good nutrition have all improved my health and fitness and attitude. It helps that my daughters are athletic and that one of them is your employee!

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Well Chris, you obviously raised your kids right.

      And by the way, that activity in the Tahoe altitude gains you even more points on the “active” scale. Good for you!


  17. Linda Curtis

    Good to reconnect with you here, Tom! I’m not surprised you rehabbed and recovered so quickly from your surgery. A fit body and positive “I can” attitude is key to healing and return to an active lifestyle. I can relate after competing in triathlon for 10 years. I was diagnosed (again) with 3 different cancers within the last year and have just been given the green light to resume all activities!!! What to do first? I will have to add some hiking in my regime 🙂

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Linda–What to do first? Might I suggest thanking yourself for keeping fit and positive, since that has surely helped you earn that green light to get back out there? Stay healthy, and thanks for the inspiration.

  18. Susan Starr

    I recently returned from the French and Italian Alps hiking trip. At 61, I was the oldest person on the trip. My husband and I love hiking and we both stay active at home, where there aren’t any mountains, by working out at the gym and going to the local university football stadium and “hike” the stadium! I have to say that hiking on a glacier, was one of the best moments of my life!

    • Tom Hale Tom Hale

      Hi Susan,
      So glad you got out of the stadium and on to a glacier. Here’s to many more great outdoor adventures!

      • Susan Starr

        Thanks, Tom. Thinking about a winter adventure in the Canadian Rockies! It looked great in the brochure we just received.

        • Tom Hale Tom Hale

          The snow adventure tour in the Canadian Rockies? Our winter trips are magical and the activities–like snowshoeing to dogsledding–are uniquely fun.

          • Susan Starr

            Yes, that’s the one I was referring to. I have never done snow shoeing or dog sledding, but I sounds like fun!

          • Tom Hale Tom Hale

            Susan–I always enjoy trying new activities, and those are just a blast, and in a particularly spectacular setting.

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