Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Late Fifties - Old or Young?

I had a bit of an epiphany today - it had to do with being old. Because of my clock and dulcimer fascinations I get a chance to talk to quite a few people. There are times I get into some really good discussions.

Today I was discussing a rather wide range of subjects with a well educated, erudite gentleman who had done a lot of interesting things in his life. As part of the discussion I found he was in his late 50's. In truth, I am sure he did not mean for me to get the impression I did, but when he told me he was in his late 50's, I had the impression he was explaining why he couldn’t exercise as much as he might have at one point - when he was younger.

It was a really weird moment - I pictured this gentleman as fairly old, and slowing down - for a variety of reasons not doing the things he used to do. It was not pretty.

It was like I was 30 again, and picturing someone in their late 50's as being not only old, but slowing down - not able to do what they once could. Yech!

And then I remembered that I was in my late 50's. That’s when I had this epiphany thing. Either I had never really accepted that I was in my late 50's, or somewhere along the line I decided being 57 was in fact young.

I guess I haven’t been thinking about what it really means to be in my late 50's. Why? Because I am so much more fit today than last year I suppose - or because my doctor tells me I have the body of a 40 year old perhaps. So, how is this being old???

Flip side, I also meet people at the gym who are in their 50's and 60's. They don’t ask to work out with me very often. And, if they do, they usually only last a day or two. One gentleman in his 40's lasted two days. He told me a week later (when he had recovered and could work out again) that his wife made him promise not to work out with me. Ever.

Honestly - I try to look out for the people I work out with - I keep the weights light and the reps reasonable. But, if they don’t usually work out very hard, even 30 or 40 pushups can leave them pretty sore. Which makes push-up day an interesting thought - in that we do upwards of 400 push-ups, including 90 of the one arm variety.

Of course, I can also remember the day I did a leg work out with this rather fit 40 year old baseball player back in OKC. Walking was virtually impossible the next day. Stairs were in fact not possible. And, if I had not gone right back and done the same workout a week later, I suspect today I would not be where I am.

Sort of like waterskiing - which I only do once a year on average. The next day is really not pretty.

When I first moved to Portland and started into the gym here I thought about how neat it would be to get a class started for folk on the north side of 50 - because I was so excited about the progress I was making. The class would focus on the core and balance exercises that I believe are so critical for protecting aging backs and joints. I plan to start discussing these exercises in future posts.

But, for my daily workouts, I am finding that I am gravitating toward working out with people in their teens and twenties. Don’t get me wrong, I know a couple of fit older people at the gym, both men and women, who I hope to slowly work into some of my routines. But, for a balls to the wall workout nothing beats a young wrestler, soccer player, football player, well, you get the idea.

In case you are curious, “balls to the wall” is a term used by pilots. When accelerating quickly, the throttle is pushed all the way to the panel and the throttle lever (ball) actually touches the panel (wall). Hence, balls to the wall.

One of the things that I love about working out with young fit people is they understand that muscle soreness is part of growth. Many have reached a plateau in their workouts and welcome the chance to work out hard enough to see real results - as in be sore the next day. And they truly understand why I am excited when I find a new routine that leaves me with a muscle group that is screaming uncle. NOTE - we are talking muscle ache here - not sharp pains associated with damaged joints or torn ligaments!

None the less, I also discuss with both young and older folk the risks associated with some of the exercises I do, and do my best to make sure they don’t over do it so badly they really do hurt themselves.

This all comes right back to the premise I have based this blog on - finding satisfaction and happiness from doing things. Or, in my case, going to the gym and doing incredibly difficult exercises until it hurts like crazy and I have to stop!

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