Would You REALLY Work Out Once You’re Retired?

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Would You REALLY Work Out Once You're Retired?I hate to work out.

When talking to gym-addicts, they love to tell me things, “oh, you’ll learn to enjoy it over time.”  I chuckle.

I don’t think so.  I hate knowing that it’s time to go work out and I hate the actual workout.

“Yeah, but you feel so much better once you’re done, right?”

Um, no.  I’m glad it’s over, but no, I don’t feel better or refreshed at all.

Look, I’m just keeping it real.  I do it because it’s healthy and something I should be doing and that’s about it.

And honestly, it was the first thing I’d always cut out of my day when in a time crunch… which happened a lot.  It’s all about priorities and it really wasn’t one for me.

I’d tell myself that once I was no longer working and had more time, I’d focus on getting in shape.  Not only that, but I was looking forward to it… not the actual workout per se, but being in better shape.

Well, here I am one year into retirement… did it happen?


Starting off strong

I retired from my job at the end of 2018.  A couple of weeks into January 2019, I started working out – sometimes with Lisa and sometimes by myself.

We were living in an apartment in Ohio at the time as we were wrapping things up before our move to Panama.  That worked out well because the apartment complex had a fitness room.  I call it a room because it was just a handful of pieces of equipment in a room about the size of a regular living room.  Nonetheless, it worked well enough for us!

I was planning to do another backpacking trip with a friend in early summer so I was putting the pedal to the metal for the first few months of the year.  A lot of walking on the treadmill with a full backpack…

Additionally, I was lifting some dumbbells each time I was there.


Falling off the wagon

And then things started to go downhill.

The backpacking trip ended up falling through.  That was nice though because I was able to lose the backpack while walking on the treadmill.  Holy cow, that was so wonderful!

Buuuuut… once that end goal was gone, I started to get off track.  I didn’t have the same motivation anymore and slowly started missing some workouts.

And then late spring rolled around.  We were selling more stuff for the move through different apps like OfferUp and Nextdoor.  That meant meeting people here and there and everywhere (part of the fun of getting rid of everything you own!).

That slowed things down even more.  And then we moved.  First, we had our July adventure and then we left for Panama.

This might surprise you, but moving to another country is a little bit of a change.  It throws off your routines slightly.

So that was rough.  Even though I’d find an opportunity here or there to get in some exercise, I think we should just call it a failed mission.  I’ll say that I lost about 3 or 4 months of working out… ouch.


Time to work out again!

Eventually, we made it to Boquete, Panama in August and then moved into our new place in September.  It was time to get back on the workout train.

Now here’s the great thing… the gated community we moved into has a full gym as an amenity.  It’s just under a half-mile walk to get to it from our apartment and it’s 75 degrees out every day.  There are rarely more than one or two people there and this place has every piece of equipment you can imagine…

Seriously, I don’t have any more excuses not to be in shape!

I’m going to pat myself on the back for staying consistent for a couple of months in the fall.  But then we went back to the U.S. for a while and I slowly let exercise go by the wayside again.

Now that we’re back in Panama though, I’m hoping to stay the course and go to the gym about 5 days a week.


My workout

Before you start reading on, know that I really don’t know what I’m doing.  I probably should do some more research or get a trainer just for a little bit to find out what makes the most sense for my body and my goals.

But for the time being, here’s what my small workout consists of while I’m at the gym.

Exercise #1 of the Work Out: Pull-ups?

I put a question mark next to pull-ups because I don’t know what you call them on this bar.  Chin-ups have your palms facing in and pull-ups have your palms facing out.  What do you call it when you’re palms face each other on the bar?

Anyway, this is the first exercise I do each time.

Work Out Exercise #1 - Pull-Ups
Look at those bulging muscles… the Hulk’s got nothing on me!

Right now, I can do about 10 reps in a set.  Not bad, but I’d like to get that up to 15 or 20.


Exercise #2 of the Work Out: Abdominal crunches

Like a lot of men in their 40’s, I’ve developed a slight gut.  It’s not huge, but it’s still something that I don’t love seeing in the mirror.  And because I do like an occasional beer or seven, I need to do something to keep that in check.

For a long time, I was doing sit-ups.  The problem was that they hurt my neck when I’d do ’em.

Eventually, my fallback became leg lifts where I’d lay on my back, lift my legs maybe 8 inches off the ground, and hold that position for a bit.  That worked well and I could feel my stomach muscles at work.

But then, when I got to this gym, I ventured across this awesome piece of machinery for abdominal crunches.  I could set the weight to whatever I wanted and not have to deal with pressure on my neck like sit-ups.

Work Out Exercise #2 - Abdominal Crunches

I like this machine a lot!

Right now, I have it set to 80 pounds and slowly do 15 reps in a set.


Exercise #3 of the Work Out: Dumbbells

Back at the apartment in Ohio, I was lifting dumbbells in the fitness room.  Once we hit the road, I started using a great yet inexpensive resistance band set I had bought.

When we settled in the community where we’re at in Boquete, Panama though, I was able to go back to using dumbbells.  Am I using a lot of weight?  Not so much.

Right now, I’m at 20-pound weights and I’ll probably increase it a little more over time.  But I’m not looking to get huge – just to get toned up with a little bit of muscle.

Work Out Exercise #1 - Dumbbells
Yes, I know – 20-pound weights make me a wuss. But I’m building it up and I’ll be at least moving up to 25 shortly.

Shout out to Pete at Do You Even Blog for the most comfortable shirt I love to wear everywhere!  He gets more free advertising out of me with this thing – I need to get on the payroll!

Anyway, my set is 15 reps and again, I try to do them slowly with good form to get the most out of each lift.


Exercise #4 of the Work Out: Leg extensions

I probably don’t need to do work on my legs too much considering how much walking and hiking we’re doing here.  Nonetheless, I have leg extensions in the routine just to mix it up.

Work Out Exercise #1 - Leg extensions
Wow, I look way too serious lifting only 70 pounds… I need to lighten up my attitude a little!

I’m currently doing 15 of these in each set.  With 70 pounds of weight for this, sometimes I feel like that might be a little much for me, but no pain no gain, right?

I’ve also just started toying with replacing this with the seated leg press instead.

Exercise #4 of the Work Out: Seated Leg Press
It’s hard to pull off a selfie while doing this!


The routine

All I do is 15 reps of each exercise (10 for the pull-ups) and then move onto the next one.  Once I get done, I start from the top and do it again.  In total, I’m doing 3 sets with each exercise.  I spend about 30 minutes in the fitness room plus the 0.4-mile walk there and with an occasional jog back to our apartment from there.

Is that enough?  That depends.

It’s good that I’m doing something and I’m glad that I’m not just sitting on my keester every day.

Am I going to get ripped from this?  Haha, no way.

For all you gym-nuts out there, if you have recommendations on what I should be doing instead, feel free to let me know.  If there’s something that makes more sense to do based on all the equipment we have here, I’d be happy to switch it up.  The key though is that I need to keep it simple.

My goal is to find a happy medium.  Remember when I said that I don’t like going to work out?  Well, if I start adding more time and complexity to the mix, I know me.  I’ll start making excuses to periodically skip going until eventually, I’m not going at all.

I’m not looking to get huge though, I just want to be in better shape with a little definition.

And bear in mind that in addition to the time in the gym, we spend a lot of time walking all over town since we don’t own a car.  And in between, we’re going on regular hikes, swimming, and playing some racquetball.


The “before” and the “ongoing work of art”…

Ok, you’re about to see a before and after picture of me with my shirt off.  Hopefully, this doesn’t blind you or scar you for life!

Also, keep in mind that this could easily be referred to as a “dad bod” so try not to make fun of me too much…

Hmm, not as good as the before and after pictures you see on the commercials, right?  In fact, not too much noticeable difference in my before and after at all.  And, yeah, yeah, I know – get a tan!

But still, look at this gun!

Work Out Gun
BOOM!!! Hope that didn’t make you feel bad about yourself!

Ok, you’re right – not very impressive and a two-year-old could probably kick my @#$.

Regardless, I do feel like I’m on the right track.  I’m at least doing something and not sitting on my butt in an office anymore wasting away – I hated that!

My struggle has been all the changes over this past year.  Between our fun summer, everything involved in the move to Panama, and our visit back to the States in November/December during holiday time, I really went downhill on this stuff.

However, we’re pretty much settled completely here in Boquete, Panama now.  If I stay on track here (which shouldn’t be a problem), I should be on a roll over the first half of this year.

And when we head back to the U.S. in June for a month, I think I’ll be able to stay consistent on my fitness regiment.  I’ll pack the resistance bands that I brought here to Panama.  I got them from Amazon last spring and like the set a lot…

I’ll also head to our storage unit and pick up the portable pull-up bar I have there.  It’s very similar to this one and it’ll allow me to keep the routine rolling with some chin-ups every day…

Plus, it should be nice out during that time of year which will make it a little more encouraging to get outside and walk.

Again, I apologize for you having to see pictures of me with my shirt off.  I’m no Matthew McConaughey yet!

But the takeaway is that retirement can provide that extra time to work out and that’s a great benefit.  I’d like to say that I would have done it more while I was working, but it just wasn’t a priority.  Now it is and I’m going to keep at it and make it a regular part of my day.


Do you put off working out because you’ll do it “when you have more time”?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

28 thoughts on “Would You REALLY Work Out Once You’re Retired?”

  1. I think what people mean about “you’ll enjoy it eventually” is that you’ll enjoy the results. Few people are enamored by the process, they are enamored by the results. 🙂

    I never like *going* to the gym but I really enjoy it when I’m there. I’ve found that just doing the minimum of exercises is enough to maintain pretty good strength and my trips are often just 15-20 minutes long. It’s longer if I throw in a few more exercises that aren’t part of the core routine.

    The fun is that the work is in front of you, you do it, and then you’re done with a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a lot different than a lot of things in life, such as running a business or blogging, when the work is amorphous, the results are impacted by so many factors outside of your effort, and any gains are only seen at a much later time. I like lifting because you pick it up, you put it down, and you’re done and you know you did the work. 🙂

    As you look to do exercises, be wary of those that stress your joints (injury). Leg extensions put a lot of stress on your knee and you rarely use your legs that way.

    1. I’m definitely looking forward to the results, Jim. I know you were nervous that I’d be matching your guns sometime in the near future, but I’m guessing those pictures of me set your mind at ease… for now! 🙂

      I can see that the feeling of accomplishment of being in shape can be a big part of the enjoyment. I do know a few people who actually love the idea of going to the gym… to each his own though! I’m glad to hear your trips are pretty short too – that makes me feel a little better.

      Thanks for the tip on the leg extensions. I ditched that and went with the leg press today (I like that better anyway!). I don’t have the best knees right now anyway so I don’t want to put unnecessary stress on them.

      1. If you don’t mess around, it doesn’t take long in a gym. Your body can only do so much so put the work in, recover, and then go back. 🙂 Your arms will be huge before you know it!

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head in the first line of your post. You hate to work out. You probably hated to work out when you had a full time W2 job. Now that you do not have a W2 job, no surprise, you STILL hate working out.

    I suspect that FIREing likely does not change the core of who you are. I think everyone expects this grand transformation like a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. Unsurprisingly, that may not take place.

    My advice, find activity, that is – exercise, that you enjoy and leverage those efforts.

    I hit the gym most every day. On weekdays, I get there before 5:00am to get in some effort before my W2 job. I like it. I like it a lot. So for me it is not a chore although I do look forward to going to the gym at say 6:30am after I FIRE. 🙂

    Love watching your Panama journey!

    1. Thanks, Crusher – maybe at some point I’ll enjoy it as much as you do. Even if it’s not something I’m thrilled with doing, I’m going to keep pushing forward.

      We are getting in some good activity on most days like walking, hiking, and swimming. I’ve just met a couple people interested in racquetball as well so I might be able to get that going soon, too. I just feel like I need a little bit of strength training in the mix as well… love it or hate it! 😉

  3. I too hate to work out and find excuses are plentiful when working full time. When I retire I plan to do more exercising but not in the traditional sense of gyms, etc. I enjoy walking and want to expand that to hiking, snowshoeing, etc. I will be living on a lake and therefore will be taking advantage of my kayak and swimming. The local library offers weekly yoga and fitness classes. I don’t see myself doing crunches but I do see myself moving more. Thanks for the post.

    1. I didn’t know some libraries offer yoga/fitness classes – another reason libraries are so awesome!

      Your plans to do all those outdoor activities are great. It’s such a weird thing to feel like you just don’t have time for those things while working. I know it’s just a matter of priorities, but either way, you’re gonna love having the extra time and being forced to eliminate the excuses! 🙂

  4. The real key to it is – – find something physical to do that you really enjoy doing. For me it’s easy. I always loved the water and I always loved riding my bike. In retirement, I’ve been swimming between 1/2 mile and (my all time high of ) 4.2 miles every single morning – 7 days a week. Weather permitting, beginning last September I bought myself a good 23 speed bike (Trek Verve 2) and I ride between 7 and 32 miles, again, every single day – weather permitting. Since taking this up – I’ve even given some serious thought to doing an Iron Man….nothing officially sanctioned, I plan to just get up one day and do it. Iron Man is 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 mile bike followed by 26.2 mile marathon. Will I ever be able to do it? Who knows. I don’t ever tell myself I can’t do it. I just enjoy working towards it. <–the bottom line – do something you enjoy.

    1. Rich, I’ve told you before – your transformation has been incredible. It’s amazing that you just started one day and have been able to go full steam ever since! If you had even mentioned the words “Iron Man” just a couple years ago, it could only have been in reference to the Marvel movies. Now you’re crushing it – congrats!

  5. Jim, did you REALLY have to share FIREPorn pics on your site? Haha. It’s totally reasonable that your routine got messed up when went through the move, came back Stateside, etc. etc. I’ve been incredibly consistent by getting involved in scheduled classes at my local gym. Even with that, it’s hard to maintain consistency when we’re traveling in our RV (tho, mountain biking, hiking, and swimming do pick up the slack). I’d suggest you throw a bit of cardio into your routine, either a few miles on the treadmill, or (if you’re really brave) start with 10 burpees every rep and build it up from there. Burpees are a staple in my CrossFit class, and they’re one of the hardest parts of our class. Google it, try it. THAT will improve your porn shots to where folks may actually look at your body in awe. Smiles.

    1. Haha, “FIREPorn”… I think you just invented a new term for the personal finance community, one in which no one is probably ready for! 😉

      I like the idea of throwing Burpees into the mix. That’s nice because I can just do those from our place, too. Thanks, Fritz! Let us know when you’re putting up FIREPorn pics on your site – we can start a new chain post! 😛

  6. Great job so far. Last year was a tough year for me too. We moved and I canceled my gym membership. I got a few things and work out at home now. Once my son got out of school in the summer, that disrupted my routine and I stopped working out. I got back into it when school started, but then we went to Thailand. It’s hard to exercise when it’s not in the routine.
    I’m with JW, if you get any joint pain, cut back a bit. 10 pullups per set are really good already. When I tried to do too many pullups, my elbows got hurt.
    Keep at it!

    1. You nailed it when you said that it’s hard to exercise when it’s not routine. I think this is my year though – we have the next 6 months here before we head back to the U.S. for a month. Hopefully, it’ll be automatic by then and I can keep it going while we’re there.

      Are you doing pullups or chin-ups? I doubt I could do 10 actual pullups (not sure what those sideways things are that I’m doing!). I’d pick up a portable pull-up bar to use in the apartment for chin-ups but we don’t have door frames – it’s all concrete pours for the walls and no frames.

  7. Might I suggest that you forego the gym entirely and just workout outside? You live in Panama after all. Nature is beautiful and rejuvenating, gyms are smelly and confining. Most people fail at fitness because they feel it has to be done in a gym and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m proof, I’ve never belonged to one and have worked out in a gym maybe 20 times in my life.

    Obviously you can run and cycle outside, but you can also lift. Get some good exercise bands – they’re cheap and portable. Do pullups on trees, that’s what I do. Take a few kettlebells in your backyard. I think you’ll find you like it better.

    Jim Wang commented above that “Few people are enamored by the process, they are enamored by the results.”. That’s because they go to gyms!! I’m enamored with the process, and I think you’ll find most cyclists, climbers, and mountaineers are too. And even some runners 🙂

    Good luck!

    1. You’re another one of those guys that inspire me for sure, Dave! And your response makes sense considering it’s 75 degrees here every day of the year! The good thing is that we’re already doing pretty good on the outdoors with so much walking, hiking, and swimming. I love your ideas on doing pullups on trees – I’ll be looking for the right tree in the area over the next few days for sure!

  8. i got fit running last winter/spring and then the routine went away once vacation times started so i can understand that one. routine is key for me and we have a gym at work so there really isn’t much “no time for that” excuse here.

    i agree with what dave said. if you make it fun then it won’t feel like work. riding a bike is fun and shooting a basketball around with a few people has merit. when i did best at this in life it was a social activity. good luck.

    1. Thanks, Freddy! Yeah, unless you love it, it really has to be routine or it’s not going to work. We’ve talked about getting bikes here, but there aren’t a lot of good places nearby for biking (no sidewalks and bad, narrow streets).

  9. Leg lifts (where your upper body is hoisted up on a high bottom-less chair type apparatus) are also good for abs and don’t involve forward crunching, or you can lay down on the floor and do the reverse crunches for a similar effect. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t enjoy that gym very much either – no social interaction, maybe no music blasting over the speakers… I go to group classes instead. It’s socialization, exercise, and I did it so much I turned into an instructor 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip on the leg lifts, Kim! I’ll give those a try and maybe use those as a backup for the abdominal crunches if I’m exercising at home instead of the gym.

      I might be the opposite regarding the gym – I love it when I’m the only one there and it’s just me and my earbuds listening to podcasts (personal finance, of course!) or some good music. 🙂 That’s a smart move becoming an instructor – it almost forces you to be there on a regular basis.

  10. Hey good on you for working out Jim! (Even if I have been blinded by pics of your nakedness) I still haven’t found the time for a workout after 5 years without a regular 9 to 5.

    You’re doing better than me on that front!

    1. Yeah, sorry about ruining your eyes! 🙂 I’m surprised you’re not a workout kind of guy – you strike me as the guy who’s on top of everything! Even so, I’d bet that you eat much healthier than I do. Those meals you post about not only look delicious but I’d guess lean toward the healthier side.

  11. Hi Jim,

    I totally agree that one will be able to work out and keep fit when he/she does not have the full-time employment which takes more than half the waking hours. Full-time employment took 18 hours of my day before I called it a day sometimes in early May 2019. After my exit from the full-time employment, the first things I focus on, is the exercise. I do not go to the gym. I go for a slow jog which covers about 10km a day and took me two hours to complete on a daily basis. This is indeed better than the sheer hours which I had to put during the full-time employment.

    I feel more healthy and less prone to illness at the present moment. This is accredited by the exercise.

    Take it slowly, one step at a time. I believe that you will reap the juicy fruit of reward for your effort in the workout.


    1. Wow, a two-hour jog every day is impressive! But you’re right – it’s much better than needing to spend those hours at full-time employment instead! 😉

      I’ll definitely be continuing on for the benefits you mentioned, but it doesn’t mean I’ll like it! 🙂

  12. Hi,
    I know what you mean. While I was going to work 2 years ago, I used to have great routine. Every lunchtime I worked out (at least 4 x per week). That was awesome. Once I retired it is hard to get motivation. I have bench, weights and pull up bar but all is getting bit dusty. Luckily I do soccer usually once a week and couple of times a week brazilian jiu jitsu. I have probably smaller muscle than as an office rat I used to be, but at the same time I spend less time sitting which should be good for us.

    Good luck and keep it up.

    Mr Why 925? from whyninetofive.com

    1. Doing soccer and jiu-jitsu is fantastic! Maybe it’s not the same as lifting weights, but that’s three days of good, solid activity every week… that’s great!

      I’ve been on a roll of 5 days a week of going to the gym since this post came out. Fingers crossed that I can keep it up. Like you, at least I still have activity in the mix (a lot of walking and hiking for me!).

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