Monday, October 24, 2011

Surviving Your Exercise Routine

Being committed to exercising for the last 30-something years has allowed me to develop a few ideas on what routines are best for me. Granted, I have overdone it a few times, but, for most of the years when I had my day job I pretty much focused on keeping in reasonable shape, doing primarily body-weight exercises.

I am not sure why, but I just didn’t get into doing heavy bench presses, curls, and squats. Instead my focus over the past 3 decades has been on body-weight exercises - chin-ups, dips, push-ups, sit-ups...

Most gyms are centered around the aerobic exercise machines (bicycles, treadmills, stair steppers...), free-weights and exercise/weight machines - the latter (free-weights and weight machines) being focused on specific muscles with the potential for some pretty strenuous exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, 60 pushups is strenuous - but not in the same way as benching 315 pounds, which brings me closer to the point I want to make with this post.

Earlier I was talking to Derek - one of the young men at the gym (35 years old - when did I start calling 30 year olds “young men”???) - when I found out why I hadn’t seen his work-out bud for a couple of weeks. Derek showed me a picture of Lenny’s shoulder - which featured a fairly comprehensive array of blues and purples. Lenny had been pressing 315 pounds when his shoulder sort of gave way. Ouch, double ouch, OUCH.

A quote comes to mind: “When muscles and joints compete - joints loose”. For all of us aging weekend warriors, with each passing year the competition between joints and muscles becomes more lopsided, with muscles in the ascendency.

One of the big advantages of maintaining a work-out regimen is you have a pretty good feel for what will make you sore - what it takes to strain your muscles. In my mind, I have to strain enough that once in a while I will have sore muscles - otherwise I am not pushing hard enough to gain strength and stamina. Those who’s goal is significant strength and muscle bulk gain tend to increase weight instead of increasing reps. Which is great for building musculature and looking truly amazing, but not so great if something lets go.

I suspect Lenny will be nursing his shoulder for perhaps 6 months - the doctor told him it could have been worse - for which he has Derek to thank in that Derek caught the weight before Lenny dropped it on his chest.

I plan to discuss my exercise routine more tomorrow - focusing on how I try to incorporate a core and balance element in all of my exercises. For today I want to make a couple of points:

If you aren’t working out now, talk to your doctor to see if they have specific advice on limitations you need to be worried about. Then get a trainer, agree on a set of goals, and develop a routine to achieve those goals.

If you are working out already, GOOD FOR YOU. As you age, consider shifting your strength training from the weight machines and traditional bench press/curls/squats kind of routine toward more body-weight exercises. And, incorporate as much core and balance work as possible. Don’t forget the aerobic component of your routine - another great quote - this one from the book “Younger Next Year”: “Aerobic exercise does more to stop actual death, but strength training makes your life worthwhile.”

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